ALI is a hip-hop artist from Massachusetts who creates thought-provoking lyrics that tell a story. Since falling in love with the sounds of old school hip-hop at 11 years old he has progressed and taught himself production, songwriting, rapping, and engineering so that he would be able to create his pieces of art. ALI is also part of the rap collective ROTN WORLDWIDE alongside artists VENMC, Amir Jackson, and Freddy.
Recently ALI released his intuitive album 'Spur of the Moment' and off it the opening track "So Far Gone" is the perfect modern hip-hop record that features organic percussion, a soothing almost lo-fi synth, explosive 808 drums, and a hyper-energetic captivating vocal performance that keeps your attention for every lyric. ALI's flow here is incredibly tight and well thought out, his performance has a very honest raw feeling to it that is very enjoyable to listen to and shows what he is capable of. Every lyric has the perfect amount of emotion in it that allows for it to contribute to the storytelling experience that ALI has created. "So Far Gone" is a record that you will be able to blast anytime and have a feel-good experience with it.
Listen to "So Far Gone" here.
Hey Ali! Welcome to BuzzMusic! We can't stop listening to "So Far Gone"! What was the songwriting and production process like for it?
Hey guys! Super happy to hear how much you loved that song. It's my favorite cut off of my new album Spur Of The Moment. It's the first track on there. I feel like its one of the greatest intros to any project I've ever written. In a way, I like to think of it as the beginning of the end. The whole album is about growing up in the fastest moving world we've ever seen before today. So Far Gone is my spirit detaching myself from things in the past and adolescence whether they were good things or bad things. The lyrical content, in the beginning, has me reflecting on things I used to do in High School. After school me the homies just said fuck it and went to a nice spot to burn one and then just act like hooligans around town. I was never the best student in High School either but I did make it to college but as soon as I went there I found the same crazy-ass habits still inside me. I know it takes a little bit for some kids to adjust but with the habits I had picked up I was completely fucking up outside in the real world. I ended up failing my entire first term there. When I came home for break I think it finally hit me that I had to change. This song helped me get all those thoughts out there and was the catalyst for the entire album to come together.
Production was so fun to make on this. I've developed a very arpeggiated sound when I'm designing my synths. Arps are such fun. You can take one note in an arp and switch it and it has a completely different mood. The base notes on the arp for both parts of the song are the same, there's only one note in the second part that's different. I love how ethereal the progression is in the beginning but then when the notes change it goes so fucking hard in the switch up. The first part of the song represents Ali in the present. Ali reflecting on what is holding him back from reaching his true potential. The second part of the song is Ali from the past. The dark side. The side who doesn't give a fuck and just wants to go nuts all the time and that's where the album's story about growing up and learning how to make these 2 sides of myself coexist come into play.
We heard that you have a range of influences, what about them makes them influence for you? How do these influences creep into the music you make?
I. Love. Music. Period. Music has been apart of my life since I was small. My influences started when my parents used to play Bossa Nova jazz in the car. My parents are from Pakistan too so they would play a lot of Punjabi music and that had a big influence on me as well. However, my taste in music really started developing at the age of 10 when my older brother, Abdullah Saeed, loaded a bunch of songs from his laptop onto an old MP3 player my aunt sent me. The shit took me to an entirely new zone. I was bumping shit like DITC, Big L, Smif N Wessun, Eminem, Wu Tang, and Mobb Deep all at a really young age. Old school rap always has been my first love because it was the first form of Hip Hop that I listened to. It really stuck with me too because how meaningful and clever this shit was. From there my musical influences just continued to expand.
People like Mac Miller, Mick Jenkins, Childish Gambino, Tyler, The Creator, A$AP Rocky, Flying Lotus, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Kendrick Lamar, Ab Soul, and JID really shaped the way I make my music today. Tyler and Odd Future played a huge part in my adolescent years. That shit really instilled the seeds to learn to be myself in the upcoming years. They really came through at a time where I was struggling as well. Mac played a big part in my life too. I still miss that man like crazy. My older bro Abdullah played a big part in my musical development as well. He's the one who taught me the fundamentals of rap! My curiosity for rapping peaked around the age of 13 and I asked him to teach me how to do this shit. He had been rapping for a while and he was nice with it too. Abdullah's verses used to be hella complex on some crazy Big Pun shit. From the jump that was the style I adopted and I feel like it helped me become a better lyricist as I progressed. Abdullah also taught me how to produce my own beats, mix, and record as well. My older brother will forever be my Hip Hop sensei and I would not be able to make this music if he didn't teach me the fundamentals.
It's amazing to hear that you self taught yourself music. What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
I don't think I really faced challenges with music. It's always come to me very naturally with the progression I've had over the years. If anything I've had plenty of struggles in my personal life which music has always helped me through. Part of the reason I started rapping was that I used to get bullied in middle school. The first song that I ever made and put on Soundcloud was a diss track on some kids in my 8th-grade class at the time hahaha. The next day after I posted it and came to school EVERYONE had already listened to it and we're coming up to me some groupies all like SHITTTT BRO ALI GOT BARS. It was all good fun until the principal called me down to the office. What made it worse is when she called my parents and had them come in and listen to the song while we all just sat there. So fucking awkward. After the song was done playing my parents ordered me to delete my SoundCloud, delete all the music off of my phone, and threw out every single journal I had with raps in them. I was 14 when this was all happening. This whole thing crushed me. I mean I did say some pretty stupid shit on that song but the way the principal and my parents handled it was awful. It demoralized the fuck outta me. Especially because the whole reason for the song was retaliation against the awful and racist shit kids used to say to me. For 7 months I wasn't allowed to listen to any music or go anywhere. This was another pivotal point for me. There was a sort of fire building inside me during this period of isolation. A fire that would be the base for the music I would make in the future. Now as a 20-year-old musician my influences range from an infinite amount of places but that whole situation was what sparked this shit even more for me. Despite how much I was demoralized by the people in power around me it made me wanna do this shit even MORE. There's a rebellious nature when I make music that always comes out no matter what vibe the track is. All in all, I'd say that was my biggest struggle as a musician. The only thing that helps the struggle is to keep going and that's what I did.
You have come a long way as an artist, how have you grown since you've started? How has joining the ROTN WORLDWIDE collective influenced the work you do?
MAANNNNNNN my whole thing is growth, evolution, and progression. Since I embarked on this musical endeavor I'm always looking for new ways to improve myself not just as a musician but as a person. I'd say some of the biggest changes for me were doing acid for the first time. I was 17. At that point, I had been rapping for 5 or 6 years. I was still locked into my Big Pun/Abdullah influenced flow. As soon as I took the acid everything became different. I didn't rap the same ever again. I fucking started singing which was something I never thought I would ever do. My rap flow went from being a lyrical miracle to a still lyrical but more grungy, punk, rebellious and experimental type of shit. My love for different types of music really started to spark here. I started diving into shit like Hendrix, Nirvana, and Metallica. One of my best friends Mark Polymeros, who I've known since we were in elementary school together, started hanging out, even more, when we graduated High School. We built a studio in his basement the summer before I was supposed to go to college and been cooking up these Hip Hop and guitar hybrids there ever since. He's played a big part in my musical progression as well. ROTN has also played a huge part for me. I and my homie VENMC from LA met online in 2018 after he peeped one of my tracks. He literally only hit me up to give me props but when I went to check out his music something about his sound made me so curious. He sounded like an angrier darker sounding version of me. We made a track together and our styles blended TOO well. Originally ROTN was supposed to be just an ep between me and him then I got the idea of making it an entire group. ROTN stands for "Revenge Of The Nerds" and the way the named rolled off the tongue for me just sounded like it should be more than an ep. I passed the idea onto VENM and he was instantly like fuck yea lets do it. I got my homie from Houston, Amir Jackson to join and VENM recruited his boy Freddy from the UK and together we formed like Voltron to make one deadly ass rap group. I've known Amir since I was 15 and we met on Soundcloud as well. Amir got such an intelligent but sharp and deadly flow which made him such an easy pick for the group. Freddy's nuts. He puts this punk spin on UK style Hip Hop which makes him super unique. His image with the yellow face paint too makes him a force to be dealt with. ROTN's music carries the same rebellious tone that mine also incorporates but to another level. We love rapping about bashing the establishment, heists, moshing, rioting, and other crazy shit. VENM likes to describe us as the evil Brockhampton. We still haven't all met each other in real life but the music we make just through passing files to each other through email and the internet sounds so cohesive and I've never met people who I sound so well on a track with without having to be in the same studio. It's some sort of spiritual connection that brings us all together. ROTN has also allowed me to turn the collection into something bigger. Currently, VENM and I are working to turn us into a full out label. I'm working really hard on my end to make sure this shit happens so for everyone listening out there, there's a lot more cool shit on the way! At this point now in my career I feel like I finally have the right people around me to grow and progress even more than I did in my teenage years and I'm so excited for what's to come!