Hailing from Spring Valley, New York, the 21-year-old hip-hop artist, rapper, and instrumentalist Fat Westbrook takes us through a culmination of his experiences with a thorough debut album, 'Exit 11.'
When speaking about his debut album, 'Exit 11,' Fat Westbrook felt incredibly proud of the project that takes note of his city, heritage, and each other experience that helped shape his being. "Everyone is a kid from somewhere, and we know hometowns aren't whole. But we stand by them. Exit 11 is mine," states Westbrook.
Diving into the album with the introductory track, "1999 (Intro)," Fat Westbrook opens the project with a sample of Prince's hit single, while voices overtop yell at each other in Haitian Creole, depicting what it was like growing up within his household. As Fat Westbrook starts his car and flees, we shift into the album's title track, "Exit 11," opening with a jazzy hip-hop beat. Listening to Westbrook's bars, he reflects on his past while seeking a better tomorrow, giving thanks to his hometown that shaped his every way.
Moving into the next track, "What Happened to Your Hair (feat. Grant Cammock)," we hear an incredibly organic instrumental. At the same time, Grant Cammock sings from the perspective of Westbrook's mother, asking questions surrounding Westbrook's hair and appearance. An interlude meets us at the next piece, "Mark's Message," where Fat Westbrook's friend offers a few ideas surrounding where the album should flow next. Spicing it up with the next track, "For the Weekend," Fat Westbrook offers his vision of a good weekend, inspired by his family vacations and Haitian heritage.
Jumping into the next track, "Caren's Brother," Fat Westbrook spills an upbeat vibe while rapping about being known around his hometown with help from his sister Caren. Softly moving into the next piece, "Put it Smooth (to you)qq.m4a," Fat Westbrook offers a shift within this interlude and delivers incredibly raw emotions to gear us up for the album's second half. Speaking on the next track, "Don't Rush Now," Fat Westbrook fuels this piece with the emotions he felt while building the album and feeling pressure to execute it properly.
Opening the next track like a daydream, "I Can't Let You Know" takes the cake as one of our favorites. Fat Westbrook filled this song with the pent up emotions of the previous track, finally accepting the pain and joy that this album expresses. Taking us back to the album's story with the next piece, "15moreseconds.m4a," Fat Westbrook reveals a lighthearted interlude of his friends freestyling in a car and gearing up for a jam.
Getting quite poetic on the second last piece, "Trees ROUGH (Outro)," Fat Westbrook offers an ode to the trees who've waived and swayed in the wind and watched him grow into the man he is today. Ending the album with the last track, "Oh, You Gotta Love It (Bonus Track)," Fat Westbrook ends the album off with a bang through this song's energy and life. Referencing other tracks in the album to end it off, we love the versatility that Fat Westbrook has displayed the entire way through.
Discover Fat Westbrook's debut album 'Exit 11,' on all digital streaming platforms, and experience the thorough concepts and diverse stylings of Fat Westbrook for yourself.
Congratulations on the release of your debut album, 'Exit 11.' How long was the album in the making? When did you begin creating ideas for the project?
Thank you, and I'm honored to have made it this far with my music. I can recall working on the first song, Exit 11 from when I was 18. I'm 21 now going on 22 soon, so it's been about 3 years in the making. It's crazy to think, I was 19 when I posed for the album cover of this song. It's wild because my music and I have grown so much since that 19-year-old kid stole his mom's fancy dining room chair to pose on the side of the highway. It was an interesting process coming up with ideas. I left my hometown of Spring Valley to attend school in New York City. Even though I'm from New York, people were clowning me for being a black person from "upstate New York" joking that my experience wasn't the "authentic black experience." And I think jokes like that forced me to be retrospective and really look at where I'm from and the experiences that made me who I am. Those ideas were there from the start. I drew from stories that I had growing up: my relationship with my hair, my relationships with my family, my own emotional well being. The ideas were kind of there, but it took some self-reflection to turn the ideas into a song.
Seeing as your album 'Exit 11' shares rather personal lyrical content, which track was the most difficult to create in terms of emotion and vulnerability?
It'd be easy to say Don't Rush Now was the most challenging song to write to, but writing For the Weekend was the most difficult. Originally I was supposed to have a guest verse in the middle of the verse. All is good, and we were writing our verse. Mans calls me and says that he won't be able to record his verse in time for the album to be released. He tells me this the day before I'm supposed to go to the studio. Sure the album features personal lyrical content, but I had time to meditate on what I was writing about. But writing 16+ bars in less than eight hours on the debut album was stressful. But one thing I had to do with myself and my writing was that I couldn't always take myself so seriously. I genuinely just had to have fun with it. I was in the studio that day, and I just wrote what I felt, and completed the verse in one take. And it worked out. That verse on 'For the Weekend' was mostly freestyle and the result of last-minute stress.
Did you work with any musicians or producers when formulating the sonics for your album 'Exit 11'? Or did you create your sonics solo?
I had help creating the sonic from a few music producers I had been fortunate enough to meet. Buddy.not.bud is a producer out of Denver, Colorado who produced Exit 11 and Don't Rush Now. We went to school together, and he was the first person I reached out to. I just pitched him the idea and he was all in, and he created the nostalgic sound I was looking for. Tommy Eldrege aka slamtard produced the beat for Caren's Brother. He added personality and color to the album. We also went to school together. Just through the grapevine, I ended up working with some amazing producers, who helped me create the sonic and find my sound. Lastly, I met Malik Wilfalk through a friend of mine who also produces. Though he is from Tampa, I swear he sounds like Chicago the way he mixes beats. He produced What Happened to Your Hair? For the Weekend, and Oh, You Gotta Love it. He sent me a 20 pack of beats the first day I met him, and those songs were born out of that relationship. Lastly, I got help from my good friend Grant Cammock (who I also went to school with), who lent his vocals on What Happened to your Hair? He sings the perspective of my mother, and he killed it. My singing just wasn't hitting for this track, but he came through and delivered. What I love about everyone who worked on this project, was that it all came together naturally. That's God at work right there. But there are also sections of the album that I worked on by myself. Those parts of the album, although I sacrifice audio quality, make the album timeless for me. It sounds like I made it at home, just as much as it sounds like I made it in the studio. It's cool to have mp3 audios alongside professional studio cuts.
We've heard that "I Can't Let You Know" is your favorite track off of the album 'Exit 11.' Why is this so? What makes you so drawn to this piece?
For sure I Can't Let You Know is my personal favorite piece, because it was the most rewarding. I promise I went through about 3 iterations of this song. Three times over, I wrote different lyrics, constructed different beats, all in order to fit the type of feeling of acceptance. I wanted the feeling of acceptance for the feelings I can't express all that well. I had the idea of "I Can't Let You Know" and when I found the beat, I had finally put the words together and was ready to go to the studio and chop it up. Studio sessions for me are like catching lightning in a bottle, and when I went to record this piece I honestly had no idea what I was gonna walk away with at the end. For an artist, that equally a terrifying and exciting feeling. Certain elements present in that song were completely improvised, and I was so elated when it all came together. Weeks after the session, I'm taking another listen to the track, and my producer mentions that the second chorus sounded like I was saying "I CAN let you know." And for me that just added another level of appreciation to the song. It was like, at first I couldn't let you know..but now I can. And the fact that I did that without even realizing it made it even better.
Seeing as you fueled your album 'Exit 11' with themes of your life experiences, what did you want your audience to take away from the album's concept?
Everyone is a kid from somewhere, and we know hometowns aren't whole. But we stand by them. Exit 11 is mine. I said this in the original email, and I think this sums up the album pretty well. I understand that my experience isn't typical. Spring Valley's a bubble of Haitian, Jamaican and Hispanic immigrants in a county full of suburban bliss. Exit 11 may be a bubble, but the experiences it's given me aren't foreign to the listener. A rapper's hometown influences their sound and creative direction so much. I thought it was appropriate that my first work as Fat Westbrook be an ode to hometowns. But I ask the listener to really listen to the lyrics and stories this album has to offer. Share these stories, because commonality can always be found in experience. Laugh, feel, and celebrate with this album.