Third-year Girls Write Now mentee Najaya sat down with the members of up-and-coming hip hop/Afropunk band Meatloaf Muzik to talk about teenagerhood, music, and writing.
Every year, Brooklyn plays host to the AFROPUNK Fest, a weekend of music inspired by Mathew Morgan’s documentary of the same name. The film shed light on young African-American teens in the indie and punk rock community who refused to fit within a simple box. After meeting with the young men of Meatloaf Muzik, it was easy to see that they’d found the perfect stage for their message and music.
After winning AFROPUNK’s Battle of the Bands, the four Loafs — Kidaf, Shadow the Great, Oso Dope and Shine Sinatra — earned a place on the festival ticket, sharing the stage alongside music’s biggest names including ?uestlove, Theophilus London, Rye Rye and Danny Brown.
I had a chance to sit down with three of the Loafs earlier this summer and learn more about their inspirations, motivations, ambitions and what it’s like to be a teen in the music industry. Here are a few highlights from our conversation.
How did you come up with the name Meatloaf Muzik?
Shadow The Great: We were in Kidaf’s kitchen looking for something to eat. He had a big bowl of ground beef… and came in doing the “stanky leg.” His elbow hit mine, and the meat fell on the stove and spelled out ‘loaf.’
How do you all feel about all of your personalities together in one group?
STG: All of us bring different foods to the table. Oso Dope is a good performer, Kidaf is a good lyricist and I feel like I have a lot of funk and style. That creates the whole meal, the Meatloaf meal.
Why did you guys decide to form a group?
Kidaf: There was so much speculation before we started making music together. I used to do my own stuff. They put out a song and I’d hear it and think that it was hot and that I could do better, so I would put something out. I am usually someone who is in the background but they brought out the fun side of me.
STG: Oso Dope lived on my block and said, “I rap, and you should be down with my crew,” so we started doing music. Kidaf and I used to go to middle school together and he would post stuff on Facebook. I approached him and told him we should get a group together and promote each other. We did one show and have since kept doing shows together.
Would you want to be famous if it meant you had to fit in with other rappers?
K: When it comes to fame, I don’t think that’s true. If I didn’t have mass appeal I would still be able to push my music independently and live out my dreams.
Oso Dope: You shouldn’t aim to be famous; you should aim to be successful.
STG: Everyone has their own meaning of fame. My idea is going on stage in Japan and everyone knowing the lyrics to your song. Most people think of Grammy Awards and Lamborghinis; that’s not my vision of it.
How is your school life?
OD: I’m in my junior year of high school. My best friends are in college, so I get to experience that. I feel like I’m in the wrong age; I just feel so much older all the time. School is something you have to do. It’s the structure in your life, and it keeps you on track.
K: When you know what you want to do (in my case, music), you look at school differently. When I was in high school, it was just something I had to do… it was pieces of paper.
STG: High school was 10% work and 90% socializing. It was like a test to see how you’d survive in society. I was an outcast. Everyone in my school was Hispanic, not into city life and style, and smoking. I was in a different mindset. When I graduated it made me think about it. I go back to my neighborhood and my friends are still on the same corner. It’s a reality check.
OD: Until you learn to adapt and work with different people, it prepares you. It’s about how well you get along with people. If you have good relationships with teachers you get by. The school system is not as good as it should be. You’re in a room with a bunch of people your own age and one adult telling you what to do.
Who do you want to collaborate with?
STG: I would love to collaborate with Lauryn Hill from the 90s, Talib Kweli and Lupe Fiasco.
K: I’d make like a club banger with Erykah Badu on the hook. I’d also like to do a song with Nas.
OD: I think more about producers, like Exile, No ID and Mad Lib. I love production. A beat can tell a story of its own.
Who are your fans?
STG: All three of us have totally different fans. Kidaf has fans in Germany. Our fans are skater kids from the Bronx and Brooklyn.
K: The people who listen to our music have just reached the age of awareness where they know what’s happening, but they can’t do anything because they’re stuck at home.
OD: Older cats relate us to their era.
What’s the hardest part about being a teenage rapper?
STG: Time management. Oso Dope is still young and there are certain things we do that he can’t because of parents, like a studio session until 2am when there’s school the next day. A lot of this stuff is still new to us. We’ve been staying out a lot later, traveling a lot more. It’s a struggle but it’s a cool experience.
OD: The best part is that you’re a teen doing this. I think you embrace more of it when you’re young. When you stress it as a job it’s not fun.
K: The only thing that makes me a rapper right now is that I’m calling myself one. It’s hard to get people to come to shows when you’re a teenager because people can’t come at 11 or 12 at night. You have to have discipline or you’re going to fall back into someone on YouTube. The first show I did was for an 18 and older crowd. My hype man couldn’t even come with me because he was under 18. I had to stay outside before performing and then leave right after because of my age.
STG: Since we’re young, people say it’s a phase. Being a teen you have to prove that this is what you’re doing to be taken seriously.
OD: The hardest part is getting the respect from elders. Being an artist in general it’s hard to get respect. People take being a doctor a career more than being an artist. You just have more to prove.
Are your parents supportive of what you do?
STG: My mom has been around music her whole life, so she understands the struggles.
OD: I had to prove this to my parents since I was young. I invited them to my first show and people kept going up to my parents and saying I was great. As I got older it was easier to prove since I was doing bigger things. As I get closer to college they want to know if it’s serious. As an adult their perspective is how can I make a living off of it?
K: People didn’t realize that this is what I wanted to do until I started to show it. I didn’t get hassled for it. I would come home at 3am from shows. My mom wanted to come to shows. I look up to my brother like a dad. He believes in me and takes on an extra load. He’s the worker and I’m the dreamer. There’s a mutual respect.
What is your writing process like?
K: The way I write music, the sun height has to hit my house the right way. I’ll see one thing on the street and that will spark a whole song. I listen to Pandora and hear an old song and hear one bar and I’ll be saying that over and over again. It will make me start thinking about other ways to say it. I always mumble words. I would say something and it would sound like something else. I would write a whole song out, 16 bars on the page, and I’ll only use 4. By the end of the week I’ll have an undeniable song that’s really saying something.
STG: I can’t just write to any beat. The way I write is freestyle. I don’t like thinking about what I’m writing. I just keep writing. Everything I write down means something.
OD: I will write segments and come back to them. I like coming back to them so it always sounds different. I don’t like when things sound like they were written in the same day.
K: I really do everything to perfection. In the past 3 months I wrote 10 songs and they filled out two 70-page notebooks. I write things over and over until it sounds right. Every 30 to 40 pages is a song.
STG: When I write songs now I put on a dope visual and mute it. We did a song called “Blue Dream” with a funky 70s feel, so I was watching Sensual Seduction by Snoop.
- Check out Meatloaf Muzik’s website to find out where you can see them perform next!