Madison|LST is not a familiar name yet, but that will all change with the release of his debut album OBLIVION.
I was put on to this extremely talented and conscious lyricist last week, when the music video for his new single, "Even When it Hurts", landed in my inbox. It was as if someone was knocking on the driver's side window of my mind and told me to pay close attention. I did just that. I understood everything that Madison was about by the time the first hook came around.
Madison embodies all the proper aspects of hip-hop that I often find myself searching for in other artists. There is nothing glamorous about the struggle of an upcoming artist, and Madison makes that known. At the same time, he reminds us that the survivors of that struggle are the most beautiful of all. "Love your music first, even when it hurts." A powerful line to say the least. I reached out to Madison|LST as soon as I heard this song and got him to agree to a short interview and premiere of his full length album on EARMILK.
EARMILK: First off, congrats on the album release party for OBLIVION at No. 8 in NYC! I heard it went off. A line out the door? It must feel good to know people are willing to stand behind you and support your music.
Madison|LST: Man, it feels amazing to see so many people you love in one place to begin with, but when everybody's there because they believe in you, and the dream you're chasing ... it's a feeling like nothing else I've experienced. Part of it is because being an artist is such a crazy thing. Your job, essentially, is to put your heart out there for all to see, and then welcome all praise and criticism at once. And I feel like you're never really ready for the response you end up getting, but after a night like last night, I'm hyped to do this over and over again.
EM: I can tell a lot of heart, soul, and personal experience shines through in this album. Especially your latest single titled "Even When it Hurts". Was that your goal for the album?
LST: The truth is, this album was being made long before I knew I was making it, so I didn't really begin with a goal in mind. It came together more organically. I'm the type of person whose mind is constantly racing. My head's stuck in a non-stop conversation about whatever's going on in my life, so I end up being pretty oblivious to a lot of what's actually going on in the outside world. So for me, OBLIVION represents whirlwind going on behind my eyes, and the music is me tying it down and making sense of it all.
EM: What is the overall message you're trying to get across with OBLIVION?
LST: It's a message about the huge potential we all have in the face of the world's harsh realities. I'm trying to say, "Yeah sh*t is crazy and you feel like you're up against everything, AND what??"
You have to be straight up unreasonable to get anything done on this earth, so you might as well be unreasonably driven to build something incredible in the face of all the nonsense going on out there. This album is my mission statement, my discovery of that power. This is me struggling to define myself as an artist that stands out, and for good reason, even if it's different from what you're used to. I'm hyped, and I think I'm about to get loud.
EM: It seems as though rapping comes second nature to you. Based on your vocabulary and execution, it seems that you have been doing this for a while now. Can you give us a history of your music career so far?
LST: Well, I started rapping with the guys I grew up with when I was 17. Almost every one of them could freestyle, and trust me, when we were all out together they always did (and still do). I eventually picked up on it and ran away with it. When I left Los Angeles and moved away to Reed College in Portland, Oregon, I was one of a few kids on campus that could rap. I even started Freestyle Fridays with a friend so we could make an event out of it. Classes were super intense, so I'd need to blow off steam somehow, and freestyling and writing raps was how I did it. You could make all that serious sh*t you learned in class funny and light when you wrote music. I might have been struggling in Chemistry, but I was dropping elements from the periodic table like bombs in every cypher. Still, it wasn't until I moved to New York that things really started happening. When I recorded my first release, "Who Knows", and released the music video for it, all of a sudden things clicked. I realized, "maybe there's a reason I've been doing this for so long".
EM: We all know it's not an easy decision to devote yourself to a craft that is easily one of the most saturated in America, let alone the world. What keeps you going? Who have been some of your biggest inspirations in the music industry and personal life?
LST: I love the feeling I get when I can capture life in words. You know when you watch a good comedian and they tell an amazing joke? Your reaction is usually, "THAT'S SO TRUE!" That's the feeling I'm talking about, but it's not always funny. The same thing is true when someone drops knowledge on you about something you've been struggling with forever, and then it all becomes crystal clear.
We're all just trying to figure out what this life is, but even when you start to understand it, it can still be really hard to put into words. I think music does that for everyone. It definitely does that for me. The other half of it is saying something in your music, and saying it in a way that people will hear it. That's where the rhythm, attitude, swagger, and delivery come into play.
Some of the artists I was most influenced by are Eminem, Ludacris, Fabolous, and Missy Elliott. These guys are so talented that they could have you screaming anything at a concert, because they make it sound, and feel, so good. People like Kendrick, Kanye, and Drake are those people today. They inspire me to step up my game as a writer and performer all the time, because at the end of the day a song is a performance. It's one thing to say something, its something else to make everyone believe it.
EM: Your recent music video, "Even When It Hurts", was done in one take, and it turned out perfect. How do you plan to top that in the future? Maybe with another music video?
LST: The thing is, one of my absolute favorite parts of making music is making music videos. The same world and energy you create with your song, you can make real in a music video. You can show people what it is to actually be in that place, and it doesn't get much better than that to me.
I have another music video on the way for my song "Can't Hang" that I shot with my video team (Martin Landgreve and Magnus Jonsson) out in the desert between Nevada and California. We went from blizzard to desert. Let's hope there's not another hurricane anytime soon for my sake (and everyone's sake, seriously, knock on wood). I don't think a wet afro would look good on camera, but even so, if a hurricane music video opportunity presented itself, I'd have to go for it.
EM: Well, Madison, thanks for giving us a deeper insight as to who you are as a person and an artist. When I listen to this album I know the sky is truly the limit for you, we are very honored to be premiering this amazingly produced album. One last question. What does LST stand for?
LST: Haha, I was hoping you'd ask. It stands for "Light Skin Trouble." To find out more about that, you'll have to meet me in person. On that note, I'm out.