It’s no question that 2016 has been an incredible year for hip-hop, and joining the ranks of Drake’s Views and Kanye’s The Life of Pablo is the newest album from rapper George Watsky, x Infinity. This is the fifth album from the Def Jam poet, and perhaps his greatest musical triumph to date. From the third installment of “Tiny Glowing Screens” to the refreshingly political “Stick To Your Guns,” Watsky exemplifies what it means to write with reason.
I had the chance to catch up with the slam poet-turned-rapper before he heads out on his new tour, and found out very quickly that the purposeful decision making seen in his lyrics extends to other aspects of his life, such as what he eats.
Spoon: For some reason, there always seems to be a stigma attached to this question, but when did you become a vegetarian and what made you make that decision?
GW: When I was about fifteen, so about fifteen years ago was when I stopped [eating meat]. I’d always felt guilty about eating meat in the back of my head the whole time that I did it. I really loved the taste of meat, and my dad raised me to be a pretty hardcore carnivore. But I’ve always loved animals, and I had pets when I was younger.
I always felt like the pets that I had — although they didn’t experience pain in the same way I did — could [feel pain]. It was always very strange to me that we were comfortable having these animals as pets and loving them, and then there were other animals just as intelligent that we were willing to slaughter and eat.
Spoon: Since you’ve been a vegetarian for a while, do you have any go-to meals that you can get at grocery stores?
GW: I love Amy’s Kitchen, because while I don’t eat eggs I do eat dairy. So their meals kind of align perfectly with my diet, because they use dairy but don’t use eggs. I’ve had some contact with people who run their company, and know they run their company very ethically.
Spoon: It seems like any time someone says they’re a vegetarian it’s met with eye rolls. Have you had to deal with that in your own life?
GW: Sure some, but it only comes up when someone asks me directly, and I’m not evangelical about it. I’m not going out and trying to insert it into conversations, and I don’t think I hit the moral high horse being a vegetarian. I don’t think eating meat is immoral, I just think that for the privilege I have to choose whatever I want to eat, and based off how I feel about animals, it’s right for me.
Strangely enough, the thought process that Watsky puts into choosing what he eats seems similar to his musical process. Between the word play in “Tiny Glowing Screens Pt. 3” and the prose found in the “Lovely Thing Suite” there is an incredible amount of attention to detail in the lyrics throughout x Infinity.
Spoon: How is this album different from Cardboard Castles and All You Can Do?
GW: Overall, I’d say that the biggest change is that it carries the same idea of Cardboard Castles, particularly the song “Tiny Glowing Screens Part 2,” of feeling small in the universe, but this album tries to do that same concept from the glass half full perspective. The first line of the album is, “Nothing matters, so it doesn’t matter if nothing matters,” which is to say if we really embrace our own insignificance it frees us from having to worry about petty problems, which can be a very liberating and joyful idea.
Spoon: What is the one thing you’d like your listeners to take away from this album?
GW: If our time is really limited, then it’s very valuable. That means that every single moment is very valuable. It puts the importance on us to really enjoy our lives.
If our time is as valuable as Watsky states, then it is clear he is taking full advantage of every second he can get. Between his background in spoken word, his previous albums, and his new book, Watsky has wasted no time producing content. However, whether through album or book Watsky is purposeful with his words, and recently using his gift for storytelling, showed first hand how to use a song to inspire political action.
Spoon: There’s a strong message in “Stick To Your Guns,” specifically about gun control. What made you decide to use your music as a platform for this message?
GW: This album is more political than my previous albums, and it just made sense. I’m more politicized than I have been in the past, and I think that young people are more politicized than they have been in a long time.
That song was one that I didn’t think was going to make the album, but I made a promise to myself that if I was worried about a song’s perception from the audience, and it was something that I liked but wasn’t going to put out because I thought it would go over poorly, that I would silence that voice in the back of my head and put it out anyway.
Spoon: You’ve released several music videos for this album. What is your thought process going into making a video?
GW: Sometimes I am the one who comes up with the idea for my videos, and I write the treatment and execute it. In the case of “Talking to Myself” it was more like that. I had the first idea, wrote the treatment, and worked with another film maker to make it happen. Then in the music video I just put out, “Midnight Heart,” it was basically the vision of the super talented director Carlos Lopez Estrada.
It’s just different for every video. I love getting to hand my stuff to talented people who might see something that I don’t. However, I’m always super involved from the first step to the last step. From the treatment stage to production stage, I’m there the whole way through on every call and every email chain.
Now with the album out to the public and music videos wrapped up, it’s time for Watsky to hit the road for his newest tour. Although the album he’s touring with has changed, one thing stays consistent this tour, and it’s Watsky’s incredible dedication to his fans.
Spoon: You have stayed around after shows for sometimes up to three hours to talk to every fan who sticks around. What drives you to do that night after night?
GW: It makes me feel connected to people who listen to my music. When I first started playing shows, I played tiny little shows, and I spent four or five years doing the college circuit with spoken word gigs. At that time there was a maximum of one hundred to two hundred people at the show if it was a good night, then sometimes it was ten or fifteen people, and so staying after and meeting everyone was easy.
I was selling CDs out of a merch box that I carried under my arm, and my journey to where I’m at now was very gradual, so at no point was I like ‘I should stop doing this.’ The shows got bigger and bigger and it took longer to do, but I still haven’t hit a point where I physically can’t do it anymore so I figure, why not?
The official Watsky x Infinity tour kicks off September 2nd in Phoenix, Arizona. Be sure to visit Watsky’s site for more tour dates and to check his newest album out for yourself.