In 2011, a talented group of Inglewood brothers known as the WoodWorks excitedly opened up for TDE at the Whiskey a Go Go in West Hollywood, Calif. A young SiR killed his performance, eventually capturing the attention of TDE artists themselves.
Fast forward seven years later, SiR would find himself opening for Kendrick Lamar again, this time, in front of nearly 20,000 screaming fans all the way across the globe in Seoul, South Korea. By this time, SiR has multiple project releases under his belt, and bragging rights about working directly with legends like Jill Scott and Stevie Wonder.
Looking through the rear view mirror years later, the RCA Records signee could have never imagined the heights his talents would propel him to with that very same team he sparked early chemistry with. Fortunately, the timing was right and for SiR, that’s also an underlying theme on his new album, Chasing Summer, released in August.
As a product of an extremely musically inclined family, SiR always prioritizes having thoughtfulness and intention behind his music, especially through his songwriting. His biggest supporter and critic? His mother. “I sent my mom the clean version at first,” SiR laughs, referring to “That’s Why I Love You” featuring Sabrina Claudio, a sultry standout track on the new album. “She then found the other version and was like, ‘Did you really have to say “fuck?”’ But we’ve had conversations about it, and it’s because she’s a songwriter, too. So that’s where I get my thoughtfulness from.”
SiR recently sat down with Billboard to discuss the new album, his touring experiences, and ranks his skills as an engineer, singer, and songwriter. Check out the full interview below.
The album is titled Chasing Summer, but it actually dropped right as the summer was coming to a close. Was this timing intentional?
It’s crazy you ask that — because I wanted to put it out in June, and it just wasn’t ready. It would have been the perfect time and made so much sense. But everything happens for a reason, and I think because we landed on the 30th of August we got a side of it that we didn’t even notice. It’s the end of summer, and we’re not actually in summer, we’re chasing it. We’re trying to make it to summer, so that’s why it’s so much better.
Because things happened the way they did, I realize even sonically, the project fits better with August. This summer was way too turnt, man. The album didn’t fit with the whole Hot Girl Summer thing.
In your DJBooth interview, you said “chasing summer” conceptually means chasing freedom. Was there a certain turning point in your life where you decided to adopt this mentality of wanting to live so freely?
Honestly, I’ve always been the type of person to hate working for people. When I was younger, I just always worked for other people, and that was an ongoing thing for me. One of the last jobs I had, I kind of went crazy — I like, shaved my head to a mohawk, and it was just bad. This was LA Fitness in my early 20s, right before I started doing music for real. I realized that the corporate world wasn’t changing no matter what kind of job I had, it was still the same type of situation.
So I used to work at a bank, that shit sucked. I had to work at LA Fitness, that was terrible. I always had a bad experience working for people. Then, I went to school for music, and that’s when everything kind of shifted to where I was like, “Okay, I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I have to like work for somebody in particular. I want to be my own boss. I want to work for myself.” So I started just doing recording engineering and stuff like that, and that turned into me writing songs for myself, falling in love with that process.
All that happened to make me really dive all the way into just music and musicianship. The artistry came last. I really fell in love with the studio stuff for its work first, and that came from me just not wanting to be trapped in a box be working for somebody every day at the same 9 to 5 bullshit job. I thank God that I went through that, and I had the courage to step out of it. A lot of people want to, but don’t, and they’re stuck in a rut, and I definitely didn’t want to be that man. I’ve taken taken a lot of risks in my life, but that was one of the ones that paid off for sure.
You have a song called “Summer in November,” and your new project is titled Chasing Summer. So I’m getting the sense that you love summer.
I’m from Cali, man. That’s a part of our whole mystique. The weather out there is summer year-round. I’ve realized a lot of us definitely take it for granted, sometimes. I don’t go to the beach all the time and I wear sweaters in December and stuff like that. But the older I get the more I learned to appreciate it, especially because I’ve been traveling a lot and that shit is brutal.
When I was on the road for Miguel, we did Seattle, to Salt Lake City, to Denver, in like, December. Man, when I tell you, that was the coldest time of my entire life. At one point we were driving down this ice road going 5 mph for like 6 hours because it was snowing so hard. It’s not always this glamorous tour life. Tour life is a bitch, and we definitely learned our lesson with that. And I’d definitely say I truly appreciate Cali weather a lot more.
Speaking of traveling, you mentioned in your recent Big Boy interview that out of all of the places you’ve traveled, South Korea was the craziest experience for you. What happened out there?
It sure was. Oh my God. Honestly, I think it’s just Americans in general have a tough time realizing that motherfuckers have fun without us. People live life without us, and have cultures outside of this. We sat down, had some of the best Korean BBQ I’ve ever had in my life… and that was great. We performed at the Olympic Stadium. That was just such a crazy time. I opened up for Kendrick Lamar. Who gets to say they opened up for Kendrick Lamar in South Korea in front of 20,000? I did a song where I was like waving my hand [and] stuff, and the whole fucking crowd did it with me. Honestly, that almost never happens out here.
Many times, people think they are too above it if they don’t know the song, and they just stand there. But no, in Seoul, no matter what, they were so responsive to everything and it doesn’t even matter if they don’t know what you’re saying. They feel it. That experience changed my perception on just touring and people in general. I can’t wait to get back outside of the states and really perform — because I have this thing where whether I’m happy, sad, or angry, once I’m out on stage, I’m shouting my soul out. I’m really giving my all and people that are really paying attention in concerts, they see that and they feel that.
When I leave the States, I feel like I get the response I’m looking for. When I’m in the States, and I do that and people look at me like I’m going too crazy. I still feel like my best show ever was in Seoul and I’ll never forget that.
On “Lucy’s Love,” you say “What’s a pastor without a congregation, or a journey without complications?” What would you say has been your biggest complication or hurdle throughout this artistic journey that you’ve been on?
My biggest lesson is me. How do I keep myself sane? How do I stay faithful in a room full of hoes? I can’t say that I was built for this, you know what I mean? I still can’t say that I’m supposed to “be an artist.” I’m not that type of guy. I look like it now, because I’m playing these records. But at the end of the day, if I had to choose between my family and being an artist, there’s no question, I’m going to choose my family 10 times out of 10. I just had to do a lot of my growing up. I’ve learned a lot of harsh lessons early on in my career about how you handle certain things. The biggest thing that I’ve had to deal with is just the company I keep and who I let in to my situation and my circle. I’m very cautious about it now.
I’ve had to let go of friendships and relationships because it wasn’t healthy for me or that person. That’s a tough lesson learned, especially when you got friends that you know for 20 years that you can’t bring around — because they might know how to act, but they might still put you in an awkward position because they’re not prepared for where you are. It’s just not always a good thing. But that’s a lesson learned that I’m happy that I went through what I went through early on and I’m a different guy now for sure.
What would you say is your favorite thing about repping Inglewood?
My history in the city. Like, if you ask me about my history with Inglewood, you’d have to have time to really sit down, and I would tell you all about it for real. My great grandmother bought our house in ‘64 and she raised my father in that house. He raised all his kids in that house. My cousins were raised in the same house as me. We just have a real history and a real love for the city, and the city has a real love for us as well.
That’s honestly just something that took me years — to really like be proud of where I was from. Being where I’m from, a lot of times people hold on to animosity towards each other. It’s a lot of gang activity and stuff like that. I don’t gang bang, but I got relatives that do. So I’ve had to deal with the bullshit my whole life.
Inglewood is such a beautiful place, and I grew up in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Los Angeles. You go to the house I grew up in and it’s literally across the street from a beautiful big open park with tall palm trees. You hear airplanes driving over the city all the time. I got so used to it that I could sleep and there would still be the sound of planes. But when I come back to Inglewood, that’s the first thing I notice — the sound of planes.
Man, I really love my city. I could talk about it a lot because I think that’s one thing that will never change. No matter if I change as a musician, or if I change as an artist, I’m still will be an Inglewood boy. Where you from is where you from.
You got your foot in the door by starting off as an engineer, but then naturally flourished as a singer and songwriter. How are you feeling about your progression in those three areas of your skill set specifically now that you’re further into your career?
As an engineer, I’d give myself an eight. The reason I say that is because I still have to go into studios and learn their systems and stuff. Every studio is a little different and I don’t spend enough time generalizing certain things that I could inside of the setups because I’m like a backpack guy right now. I don’t have a full HD setup and all of the outboard gear and things like that. In my studio, it’s just my laptop. I say eight because I’m very capable on Pro Tools and a lot of things that I do in my process, I can’t even really explain to people because it’s just so personal to me and what I do for my music. I’m a good engineer, though. I could cut anybody’s vocals. I’ll turn any piece into gold. I’ll cut myself some slack. I’ll give myself a B.
As a singer, I’m tough on myself. I’ma have to say I’m a seven or eight. I wish I could be a better singer. I grew up in a very musical family. I think my brother has the best voice like, ever, above all. His ability, he has so much control over his voice, and his range is crazy. I’m being honest, I’m not gonna gas myself and there’s always room to improve.
For songwriting, I give myself a 10.
There it is.
I’m confident in what I say. That comes from me just taking hella time with this stuff. I take time when I know there’s something there and I want to say something. I really want to mean it. For years and years, I would just sit and write without the intention of releasing, just so I can figure out how I should write or what I want my writing to be. A lot of people don’t spend too much time just developing. I did my own personal artist development and I’m happy I had the right people around me to help cultivate my style.
I got a couple of people that were around the whole time. D.K. the Punisher is one. Andre Harris was there. People definitely took me under their wing early to get me right. My older brothers. All of them helped shape me as a songwriter, and we definitely used to build off of each other and [it] made me want to become a better writer. I’m definitely confident in my songwriting. I’d say 10.
My mother is a songwriter, and she likes songs that she can really digest and read and understand and I do a great job of that because of her. I guess that’s where I get it come from because her writing style is very similar to mine. She’s very articulate with how she speaks on songs. “That’s Why I Love You” is a very articulate way to just talk about some bullshit. That situation is one that we’re all in and it’s a fucked up situation. There’s beauty in it, though, and you have to find the beauty in everything. So I think that song specifically was a perfect balance of ratchet and beauty.
What’s one thing about another TDE member that most people don’t know?
Dot [Kendrick Lamar] works out like crazy. He’s not no health freak or anything. I love the gym, too, so that’s something we had in common. It’s hard being out on the road and I think that’s where he developed the habit, I’m not sure. But Kendrick loves the gym and he’s in crazy fucking shape. Crazy shape.
What was happening around you at this time last year? And how does it feel to look back at all the progress you’ve made in just a year?
The Championship Tour. But a year before that, I was quitting my job at Guitar Center and wrapping up November. It feels great, man. I don’t like setting expectations because that leaves a lot of room for disappointment. I like putting my head down and working as hard as I can and being in the moment and things like that. So to look back when I’ve been in the moment for so long, and you’ve been so focused on just developing in your personal growth, it’s phenomenal to see.
I really liked that tunnel vision, and that saves my life in most instances. It also helps you to appreciate growth because you don’t know how much you grow until you kind of like look back. I put my head down and I look up and I’m in the same room and it’s 10 different people around me type shit. I’m definitely blessed and I don’t take that lightly. I don’t take it for granted. I thank God every day.