DMV artist Android No. 23 has truly gone through the trials and tribulations of life. Born with sickle cell disease, 23’s story is one of triumph and perserverance. Today I’m blessed to share an interview with him where we talk about his journey and its impact on his latest project “Adverse”. Take a look.
Dead End Hip Hop: For those who don’t know who is Android No. 23?
Android No. 23: I’m a 24 year old artist, producer and engineer from Baltimore, Maryland. My career started in 2012 although I’ve been writing since, 2000-2001. I founded Mild Sobriety in 2013, it’s a collective of visual and recording artists with a similar vision. I’m also a graduate of Morgan State University. I have a day job and by night I’m working on music, whether it’s mine or others at Mild Sobriety Studios, where dreams come true. Also, Android No. 23 is the real perfect android. Cell got NOTHING on me. If you get it, you get it.
DEHH: Tell me a bit about your introduction to hip-hop and how you transitioned from a fan to an artist of the genre?
A23: I got introduced to hip-hop at an early age through television, like MTV & BET. I actually started writing music at 8 years old but it wasn’t hip hop, it was more like R&B stuff because I was a huge Usher fan. I fell in love with hip-hop when I was in the 6th grade after listening to The Documentary by The Game. I had that album in rotation like crazy in the 6th grade. Ironically, I never really listened to some of hip-hop’s pioneers (Jay-Z, Nas, Big, Pac, etc.) when I was younger but Game was so influenced by the legends on that album that those influences all rubbed off on me at an early age. I started writing raps in 7th and 8th grade (2006) but I was going to boarding school in Nigeria those two years so there was no beats, just straight acapellas. I began recording in the 10th grade (2008) as a challenge to prove to my school mates that I could rap. I wasn’t really taking it too serious even though I dropped 2 mixtapes in high school under a different moniker, “Certified”. I would rap about thug shit and I’m obviously not a thug so yeah. Everything changed in 2012 when Kendrick dropped GKMC, that shit woke me up and I had to start speaking my truth on these tracks. That’s when Android No. 23 was born. I think it’s ironic that an Aftermath artist from Compton made me fall in love with hip-hop and then another Aftermath artist from Compton woke up the true hip-hop artist in me almost a decade later.
DEHH: “Adverse”…a pretty deep title for an album, what was the meaning behind it and how its implemented into the music?
A23: I was going to call the project “Unfortunate” at first but that has a clearly negative connotation. I’m very careful about how I present negativity because negative things suck but they are necessary to create balance. I chose “Adverse” because it’s somewhat synonymous with “Unfortunate” but it doesn’t have a clearly negative connotation. Things have been pretty unfortunate for me since 2017 so that’s why I came at it like that. I lost a family member and fell out with the two closest non-family members in my life. The adversity is implemented more sonically than lyrically, you can hear all the beats are dark to an extent, nothing really bright or happy on this project. There’s still lyrics of adversity in there but I wanted some bangers, some experimental things, and I had to bare my soul on one track (In The Shadows). I didn’t even speak much on the falling out but the overall feeling influenced the production. It typically takes time to put my pain into lyrics so that’s still pending but believe I’ll speak on that.
DEHH: You take a lot of different tones and lanes in this joint, how important is being lyrically diverse when releasing a project?
A23: Being lyrically diverse is just something I feel is necessary as an artist. Every body of work I release will be like that because I’d get bored doing the same thing over and over. I still feel like I’m developing my sound so things will continue to be diverse. These songs were also written at different times so that helped the diversity. I still feel like I could expand on that moving forward so that’s something I keep at the back of my mind.
DEHH: This question is more for me personally, but my favorite track on here is “In The Shadows” can you tell me what spawned that track and the struggle of mental health and kind the duty we have to speak about these things?
A23: Man, this one is crazy for so many reasons. I was born with sickle cell disease and I ended up hospitalized with complications from the disease in summer 2016. That’s what inspired the song for the most part, my complications with that illness. I dived deeper into the feelings of darkness as I wrote the song. I had to find a way to turn my pain into a song, which can be a tough thing. It’s hard enough to express those mental lows on some regular shit, let alone turn it into a whole song, a consumable product to be interpreted by others. I wrote that song over almost a 2 year period, which is crazy. The first 4 bars of verse 1 came first right after my health scare. The second verse got written after Prodigy died in the hospital from complications with the same shit I have. That messed with my head really bad because I have no idea how long I’ve got on this earth but I want to at least see 50 or something. The doctors told my mom I had 6 months at birth so being 24 is a huge blessing but you know how humans are, we always want more lol. I wrote the chorus on a flight to Nigeria for my grandmother’s funeral at the end of 2017.
For the longest time I didn’t think I was going to release the song because I don’t even like people knowing I’m sick and I hate putting my pain on display. I have to get better with that, I always want to be this unshakable person but hiding my pain has literally never helped to alleviate it. The response the song has gotten has taught me so much about how I need to handle my mental and emotional roadblocks. People have told me about how that song speaks to them and it really brings a tear to my eye, so now I feel like I have a responsibility to keep it 100 about mental health. I have so many songs of that nature that never saw the light of day and I’ve grown out of that pain so it’s a wrap for those.
The craziest thing about that song by far though is that 2 weeks before dropping my tape I ended up hospitalized again with the same issues that inspired me to first write the song. My friend said she listened to the song on the way to visit me in the hospital and cried in the car. It was just so crazy. My homie visited me as I was finally recovering and walked in the room to me making beats and forced me to take a photo. Two days before the EP drops that photo goes viral and I’ve got all types of hip-hop heavy hitters showing me love. It didn’t even feel real. I ended up having to drop the EP from the hospital and I got out the day after I dropped but that was the longest and worst hospital visit of my life so I really have to take care or my story will end.
So my homie visited me and when he walked in and saw this he was like “yo you gotta take a photo” and I didn’t want to, I didn’t want my followers to know I was sick but he insisted it was the hardest thing he’d ever seen and that I had to take this. Lmao so I let him take it. To know now that this photo is inspiring people all over the world is so humbling and I’m glad I took it. I just dropped my new EP “Adverse” last night from the hospital (link in bio), and I’d love if everyone took a listen. I worked really hard making it and even harder making sure it didn’t get postponed cuz I’ve been here for a while. With that being said, I’m getting better and I’ll leave the hospital soon so thank you to everyone who’s shown love and concern. Chase your dreams because everyday is an opportunity to be great! #MildSobriety
DEHH: Now I don’t know how many people know this about “Adverse” or yourself as an artist but you produced a couple cuts on here, what’s it like producing for yourself?
A23: Producing for myself is so fun! There a huge feeling of pride to be able to say you did the rap and the track, triple double no assist. With that being said, it’s also very tedious. I get very self conscious about my beats and as a result of that I’ll commonly have co-producers because I’ll do so much and feel mentally/creatively exhausted. I only did “One on One” entirely by myself and that song took the most work by far. I did the backbone of the beat in Studio One, bounced my stems to Logic to record, then added to the beat, reversed the sample, rearranged, added some sound effects and so on. There was 31 total mixes of that song before it was mastered and complete. The next highest song had maybe 12 mixes, so yeah.
Fair Trade ft. Vlad is one of my favorite stories. I did an entire beat with my brother, it was a totally different song from the one you hear. I got tired of the beat so I sent all the stems to my homie Micheal Taylor and told him “it’s 112 BPM, do your thing”. He made an ENTIRELY new beat around the vocals and even used an old hook I forgot to mute before sending the stems as a transition from the first part of the song to the second part. I’ve never done anything like that so it was crazy how he gave the song entirely new life, literally blew my mind. I did something similar with No Peace, I made the beat with Notorious Nick and then sent it to Micheal Taylor, where he finessed a few changes. Then I got VNC3 to add a synth part when he visited my studio and Goodness Godson played guitar on the record. Tracks 1-4 were recorded, mixed,and mastered by me at my studio, Mild Sobriety Studios. Track 5 was produced, recorded, arranged, mixed and mastered by my good friend Rekoil at his studio.
DEHH: What kind of equipment did you use to produce this record?
A23: I made one beat in Studio One using my NI Maschine. That thing is my baby. The rest was made in Logic, doing most of my drums on the Maschine. Micheal Taylor used FL Studio to make Fair Trade. Rekoil also used Logic to make I-95 I believe. I’m not sure what Serious Beats used to make In The Shadows, I literally just bought that beat off the internet. I don’t know dude but I know he’s from Chicago. I recorded tracks 1-4 using a Blue Spark microphone into a JoeMeek OneQ channel strip and Presonus Studio 192 audio interface. There was one synth melody in No Peace done by VNC3 using my Korg Minilogue analog synthesizer, I love that thing. That’s my second baby.
DEHH: I feel like I interview a new DMV artist every week, what does the DMV bring to the hip-hop climate and what do you as an artist bring to the DMV and the grand scale of hip-hop?
A23: The DMV is literally crazy man. Like the creative talent here is just nuts. I have literally never been disappointed between Baltimore and DC, just musically, going to shows etc. I gotta show love to my 3SIDE homies, especially Vlad who was my only feature on the tape. That guy is a real problem and he’s going to be huge one day. If you don’t believe me or think I’m gassing just listen to his song “Backspace“, it should be available everywhere. My NASA8 homies and 4k homies deserve honorable mention as well, they don’t lack at all. But honestly there’s so much talent from here I’d go on forever trying to highlight it all.
The DMV is very interesting because I think it’s the first region to get a spotlight without being defined by a “signature sound”. Off the strength of that, we do whatever the hell we want over here. No boxes, no labels, we just do the damn thing. Some people would think that’s a bad thing but it’s art. Who is to say what’s good or bad, ya know? I think the DMV brings that label-less, box-less vibe to hip-hop. As for myself, I don’t know what I bring to hip-hop yet but I know I want people to take a leap of faith and believe in themselves the same way I did in 2012-2013. I used a refund check from college to buy $5,000 worth of music equipment with ZERO knowledge of anything besides writing raps because I knew if I tried hard enough I could learn it all. Here we are in 2018 and I’ve mixed and mastered whole projects for other DMV artists. I hoard beats so I don’t have many production credits but I’ve gotten to work with a freakin A$AP Mob member on multiple occasions because I took that leap of faith in 2013. I just want people to believe in themselves no matter what. You’re all you’ve got at the end of the day so you better believe in your damn self.
DEHH: The year isn’t over just yet, what can we expect from you to close out the year?
A23: I’ve got a few singles in the cut for later this year. I might drop another EP but I haven’t decided yet. Definitely expect music videos from Adverse, I’ve already started shooting but being in the hospital for 2 weeks before I dropped definitely slowed things down. I’m still recovering and I can’t overwork myself so things might be a bit slow but it’s all about quality over quantity so best believe I’ll deliver.
You can listen to Android No. 23’s “Adverse” EP below.