TDB: What is the meaning behind the EP name, The Second City – Part 1?
SM: My father was Jamaican, so my family heritage is from Jamaica in a city called Montego Bay. It is often referenced as the “Second City”. We wanted to make the name an ode to my past and the representation of the new hope that I’ve found in the redemption of Jesus. My dad had a big impact on my life in his absence, unfortunately. This is basically telling that story of the redemption and hope that I found in the new city, the new person, you know — the new life.
TDB: That’s awesome! And you can really hear that struggle of not having your dad around in your songs. You really talk about your relationship with God throughout The Second City, but I want to specifically point out “Not to Us/Good Love”. You put that as the first song and it sets the tone for the EP. What made you place that essentially as a banner first and foremost?
SM: Man, it’s just refreshing to hear a Christian hip-hop song that’s focused on God’s love and what God does in your life. With that, yeah – I didn’t grow up in church, in 2010 when I was about 18 I decided to give my life to Him. Just reflecting on my life from where I was then to where I am now, it can only be because of the glory of Jesus Christ and his endless and faithful love for us that got me from where I am to who I am today. So I’m just reflecting on that. It all boils down to His faith and His love! In scripture it talks about every good thing is from the Lord, so the glory isn’t to us, it’s to Him.
TDB: Definitely! That was so refreshing to hear in a song. You were so honest talking about 20-hour workweeks and other things you had to overcome. I wanted to ask you what advice you have for someone on that same path, working the grind.
SM: Just continue to stay on that path and stay encouraged — that’s a big thing. Stay encouraged and focus on the progress and not the process. A pastor told me that one time when I was working and I was frustrated. I was like “doesn’t God want me to do better things in my life? I’m standing here and I wanted to be doing music!” And the pastor came got out of the car and told me he was sitting in the car and felt God tell him to come back in and tell me that.
That hit – focus on the progress, not the process. There is always going to be a process to everything you go through because it has to grow!
TDB: Wow, that hits hard. You also mention breakdancing in Jerusalem, did that really happen?
SM: Yeah, I posted it here on my Instagram! I got to go to Jerusalem late 2016 and pulled up to go back in the hotel and people were dancing in the street with music playing, so I was like “let me get in there real quick!”
TDB: *Laughs* Amazing. So my favorite song on the album is “Watch” because you unfold your story in such an honest way. Was it hard for you to capture those moments with such honesty?
SM: Absolutely not, man. I hang out with my DJ a lot and he’s a brutally honest person. So I told him I felt like I really needed to start being honest with people about who I am, and I’m really big on that. I accept that I’m broken and that’s why I follow Jesus, you know what I mean? *laughs* So I just want to be more honest with people.
TDB: And you wrote the whole thing by yourself?
TDB: Wow, I love it. The song “Rodeo” features Taylor Hill. Did he help you write the song?
SM: Yeah, he wrote that hook and we were in the studio from scratch with just the guitar riff you hear in there. We were mumbling some stuff and we realized that the older we get, the more we recognize God’s grace. The life we live in gets so crazy sometimes and we wanted to paint the picture of life sometimes being a rodeo. A rodeo is crazy – you got horses, bulls, broncos, going crazy and life is like that sometimes. You have to just let go and let God take control.
The fact that we’re so broken and God’s love covers all of our sins, that love really proves how real it is to me. That song is my personal favorite because where I’m at in life, I really connect to that one.
TDB: I love that line “You know how I feel, but you love me still”. That is so powerful! It’s essentially a summary of the album in one line. Alright, so let’s talk about “Fadeaway”! What’s the idea there?
SM: Oh, “Fadeaway”! *laughs* It was just — there really is no message! *laughs* It’s just a fun song! We were in the studio talking about how we could make a fun song to play live. I used to play basketball back in the day and we were like “let’s pick a basketball term and get it stuck in peoples’ heads when they hear this song!”
Fadeaway was the one we landed on, and it was just kind of fun because it was the one we landed on and it’s something I used to do.
TDB: What was it like recording the music video for that?
SM: That was pretty dope, it was pretty crazy! The video was actually our remix version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. That was fun though, a lot of fun. It was hot in that gym.
TDB: Another video I absolutely love is the “Cereal” video. I have no clue how you kept a straight face on that. Tell me about how Sadie Robertson could even rap — and how did you get her on the track?
SM: So, we were on Winter Jam together when my album came out. After Winter Jam, we went on tour with her on the Live Original Tour. Before that started, we were like, “what’s something fun that we can add Sadie to for our set?” So we got together and said “hey, let’s remix this song and see if she likes it. We could write a verse for her! So, she liked it and we wrote a verse. I feel like she’s one of those people who are just naturally talented at stuff because I literally wrote a verse and sent it to her while she was on a mission trip to Mexico. A couple weeks went by and she came back. We went in the studio and she laid it down literally within an hour. She came and delivered it!
TDB: And while we’re on the topic of music videos, I have to ask about the “Party in the Hills” video. I always get a kick out of watching it, from the story to the small details. How did that happen – and where did the golden bikes come from?
SM: I got the song from my producer when we were in Nashville making the album, and Hollyn and I were already on one of KB’s songs together. Hollyn is good friends with my producers, so they mentioned putting her on the hook and I was like “yeah, she’s talented!” So we went to Capitol and recorded it and put it on the album and it had cool vibes. Then we hit up Andy and he was down to do it. In the video, I think the bikes were the director’s idea. We were in LA because that’s where we wanted to shoot the video, and when we got there, the director was like, “I got you some low-rider bikes” and they were hard to ride! We had to ride around the blocks for like 10 minutes to get used to driving them.
TDB: That’s hilarious. I know you were probably struggling, but we couldn’t tell!
SM: Yeah, we were definitely struggling. *laughs*
TDB: I wanted to ask you about your recent collab on “Be Alright” with Evan and Eris that is powerful. What does that song mean to you, and what is its story?
SM: They actually hit me up on Instagram, and they were like, “Hey we really love your music and we have a song we’d really like to have you on.” I don’t do a lot of features anymore, I’m very selective. When I heard theirs, I was like honestly, this is my favorite one so far that anyone has just randomly sent me to be part of. I was just vibing on it for like a week when I was on tour and got home and just wrote it. It really just came from the message in the song. It was once again saying through the craziness of life, it’s going to be alright because of that opportunity to come to Jesus and stay faithful and obedient.
TDB: You obviously talk about that a lot on your EP so I love that it’s a continuation. Before we go, what are you up to — where can fans find you these days?
SM: Yeah, absolutely! We’re dropping part 2,3, and 4, are coming so new music all year! I’ll probably tour a couple times, so be on the lookout for that. I’m planning on doing my own tour during the Fall so just yeah, all new music leading up to album #2 coming out next year!
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