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“It’s a lot of shit I done been through/But all that I can do is continue.” – Wax, “Continue”
Continue… is more than just a name for the new album from L.A.-based emcee Wax. It’s a declaration -- one that lets everybody know that after a few detours he is excited to move forward to the next phase of his career.
About those detours… After five years fronting and playing guitar for touring act MacGregor from 2000 to 2005, Wax and his twin brother, Herbal T, started posting videos to You Tube. Utilizing Wax’s humor, penchant for infectious hooks and skill at writing, rapping, producing and arranging, the videos made him a rising star on the site. The 30 million plus views on You Tube earned him the dream of every aspiring rapper, a contract with Def Jam in 2011.
It was the culmination of a decade’s worth of work, a decade that had earned him a solid reputation and a devoted fan base. “I feel like I’ve developed a friendship with my fans,” he says of his loyal followers who tune in regularly to hear his weekly podcast, where he opens up about himself about all subjects.
“I think people appreciate I let them in,” he says of why his admirers are so devoted.
It was a seemingly perfect scenario for both Wax and the label, he got to work with industry greats and be home to hip-hop royalty. They brought in an artist that had a built-in following of millions. Unfortunately the relationship didn’t work out.
“Generally as a person I used to be really happy, especially once I didn’t have to work a regular job and I could just do music and be creative,” he says. “Then you just get locked into this box, I started to get depressed and I didn’t really know why and then I started to realize what makes me happy is making the music. Not because it makes money and not because it makes me some kind of superstar, I just like doing it.”
Dropped by Def Jam, it turned out to be the best thing for the artist, who got to continue using the relationships he established there while making the album he wanted to make. With a mix of long-time friends like EOM and people he met through Def Jam like Supa Dups (Eminem), Wax has crafted an eclectic, impressive collection that displays his full range.
The Spanish-tinged viral smash “Rosana” is an engaging hybrid of pop and Mariachi, while the humorously venomous “She Used To Be Mine” features a fast-paced punkish energy. He goes the opposite route with the soulful rhythms of the slow jam “Stupified,” one of four tracks produced by Greg Wells.
Ironically, one of Def Jam’s concerns was the lack of a radio single. But Continue… is laced with them, starting with “Rosana,” whose video has drawn over four million views for its blend of humor, a catchy chorus and a gorgeous woman.
“I wouldn’t have put it on the album but I think just because of people that were attracted from that song we’re gonna put it on there,” he says of the song. “Rosana” is hardly the only radio ready joint on the album though. The exuberant dance energy of “Outta My Mind” screams to be blasted at full volume from headphones, car speakers and stores. Again showing his versatility though, Wax then goes for a down and dirty riff on the intro to the slightly bluesy “Get It In” and on the confessional “Tomorrow” he turns his past partying into a fun sing-along ditty.
The key to the song’s success is the way he can poke fun at himself. “I’ll probably end up living like Rick James in the ‘80s,” he sings at one point. And all of this partying happened. “I take stuff that really happened and I’ll exaggerate it for comic purposes, but it’s all based on stuff that really happened. Funny shit happens to me,” he says.
Wax draws heavily on his love of comedy. “I kind of write from the same way a comedian writes,” he says. “I’m definitely influenced by comedy, even more so now than I was when I was a kid. As far as old-school comedians probably my favorites are Eddie Murphy, I like Chris Rock, I really like Bill Burr, he’s kind of newer, but he’s one of my favorites now.”
There’s no question a great part of Wax’s internet appeal is his ability to infuse humor into everything he does. But this is no novelty act. A gifted musician who started playing guitar at age ten, he found the right people to bring out his musicality on Continue… Among those lending their talents to the album are EOM, Supa Dups (Eminem), King David and Greg Wells (Adele, Katy Perry, Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith). The multiple Grammy nominated Wells is one of the producers Wax met through Def Jam, for which Wax is very grateful to his former label.
“They introduced me to some very talented producers, people I wouldn’t have been able to work with without them,” he says. “I give Def Jam credit forever for introducing me to so many people.”
That’s particularly true of Wells, of whom Wax points out, “As far as I know he’s never made a song with any other rapper ever.” Working with the veteran producer Wax learned a great deal.
“When I first started working with Greg Wells me and my manager came to the studio as we always do and the first thing he did is like, ‘Yo, you can’t be here to my manager,’” Wax recalls. “The only people allowed in the room are him, people who are working on the song technically, his engineer obviously has got to be there. Greg is older than me and it comes from experience. One thing I learned from him is if there’s a way that you’re comfortable, fuck everybody else, get into that way.”
There are a lot of lessons that went into Continue… If it’s taken a year longer than expected to get here that’s alright, because Wax isn’t looking for a quick fix or to capitalize on a bit of momentum. As someone who’s wanted to make music since he saw MTV at the age of three, he’s looking at this as something he’ll be doing all his life.
“I don’t want to be somebody who just does one big thing and that’s it,” he says. “Longevity is important because I love what I do. And I will express myself honestly for as long as people will listen.” With Continue… Wax proves unquestionably he has the skills to be around for a very long time.