Not knowing levitatingman and his enormous contributions to the growth of the underground would be a grave oversight by any avid hip-hop fan. Responsible for some of the greatest production pieces of this decade, the producer’s history is littered with seminal works.
1. You’re truly a veteran of the underground, your work on Bandcamp stretches back a good five years. How long have you been producing overall and when did you realise that you wanted to make it your passion?
I have always been passionate about music, since birth, but for a long time I was just a listener. I used to sleep with a crayola crayon brand cassette player as a toddler. I listened to Randy Newman’s “Land of Dreams” every night. Also the soundtrack to “The sound of music.” I grew up in a white ass family if you couldn’t tell. lmao. The first hip hop song I ever heard was “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash. That beat captured my mind & I always liked the idea of making beats after that. But I was never able to find any talent or drive with any classical/physical instruments growing up. I was into all sorts of music, from hip hop to alternative to metal to emo to movie/video game scores/soundtracks & more. When I was in high school I first found my creative passion for music through rapping. Back then everyone was really into lyricism, freestyling & group “cypher” type shit.. Rap battles were really popular at the time & we were all into that. I even released several songs on youtube which got several thousand views, focused on wordplay, long rhyme schemes & an unhealthy multi-syllable flow obsession. It was such a different & very weird time in hip hop, right before artists like Lil B & Waka Flocka & Gucci pushed the mainstream game into accepting more non-lyrical & street oriented music. The first time I touched FL was in high school, way back in 2008. My best friend who later became the producer Chango Snow downloaded the trial version of FL studio 7 onto my mom’s computer for me. That was the first time I became familiar with fruityloop’s visual interface of programming beats, but I didn’t really figure out how to make beats on my own until 2011, when I got my first laptop. Back then there were a lot less resources available for creating cutting edge hip hop & trap beats though. I came up in a time where pretty much everyone had to learn directly from someone else they knew, & ended up learning alone. (nowadays most people learn in terms of youtube tutorials, forums & social media.) I think the fact that I learned through years of self-experimentation & not knowing what I was doing was the secret to creating my skillset & slowly differentiating myself from others, especially now, in a time where so many sound alike.
2. Of your instrumental releases, which is your favourite? You just dropped the Post Traumatic Flex Disorder tape, which is full of the same atmospheric goodness as everything else you’ve released.
I personally never have a favorite project or song I have created, I am always looking forward & whenever I release a project or song it’s because I have several in the vault that I consider to be more advanced already. The next time I open FL studio I will make my next best beat. That’s how I operate. I am always learning & growing. I will always consider myself a student of the game. That’s something I learned through martial arts growing up.
3. You’ve produced some iconic tracks for Black Kray, including a track from his breakout tape Ice Cream & Mac 10s. How did your name first start circulating within the underground scene?
I don’t really know how or when I would say my name first started circulating the underground. Sometimes it still feels like I am unknown, & other times the amount of support I get truly surprises & humbles me. Working with Black Kray back when he was first coming up was definitely the main thing that earned me my initial wave of respect though. At the time I was in a producer collective with 16yrold & he actually was the one who first told me that Kray used my beat for the song “ending prayer (goth luv)” … It’s hilarious to think back on that. But as any producer can tell you, one “big” placement doesn’t do as much for us as it seems. I still didn’t get a foothold consistently selling beats for a couple years after that. When I moved to seattle in 2013 I ended up meeting Dylan Ross, who already knew who I was at the time, which boosted my confidence greatly. He ended up moving in with me & it was an immense help with getting started to survive off beat sales. There have been a lot of small things that have slowly built me up over time though. In 2016, dylan mentioned me during his no jumper interview & I will never forget how much my phone blew up that day from random people I had never met or heard of, congratulating me or asking for beats. It was clear many of them had been following me for years but hadn’t interacted with me until they saw me referenced in such a “cool” & “popular” setting. It taught me a lot about how this game works. That was when I realized my name was getting bigger than my follower counts on social media suggested. A lot of people hear producers all the time & love our work but never actually seek us out to follow us individually on our own pages so sometimes we don’t realize how many supporters we have. I used to take that shit way too seriously. Now I am just happy for every single person who helps me out. They mean the world to me. I just want to help them & everyone else in return now.
4. Other names that you’ve worked alongside heavily include Chxpo, Rozz Dyliams & Drippin So Pretty. Do you think you achieved a particularly strong chemistry with any of these artists?
Personally I think my musical chemistry is strong with every artist I have ever worked with. I only send my beats to people if I feel we can relate artistically. That way there is never a conflict of interest or expression in the music itself.
5. Some recent material that has dropped, such as Cowboykiller’s latest project, heavily utilises your beats. Do artists always personally reach out to you concerning beat enquiries or do you think that the beatbuying market too saturated for organic connections?
I would say that most of the time I actually approach the artists I work with myself. Sometimes they hit me up too. But usually that’s only after they’ve had a taste of what I can create & want more. I think if you are a producer you really need to bite the bullet & accept the fact that a lot of artists get amazing beats every single day, so you have to hit them up yourself & work hard to earn their respect. If you want to get placements you have to build up mutual support with artists. I try to build genuine connections & friendships with the artists I work with by helping support their music. That way creating music together becomes a casual byproduct of being connected in the first place. It’s never a good idea to try to force anything. The beatbuying market is definitely saturated but luckily most people are just copycats so anyone who is original or talented will always be able to find a niche if they work hard.
6. How did Metal Gear Sub, your collaboration project with Sub9K, come around? He’s one of the most consistently dope rappers making music right now, and I find that a lot of his best work comes from working with a single producer, such as yourself.
Metal Gear Sub is actually the 2nd full tape I did with Sub9k. I like working with him because he shares my taste for futurism, so expect a lot more from us. He’s also a genuinely chill person so working together is extremely easy. One of the main reasons we work well together is that we communicate effectively, so I always know which beats he is using & can avoid accidentally sending them out to other people. Stuff like that helps a lot in getting full projects put together. I have a ton of respect for him.
7. Out of the producer collabs that you’ve done (Slavery, Pentagrvm, Superiorr Rapso), which has been your favourite?
As I said about my own projects earlier, I don’t have any specific favorite collab songs, but I have to say, my favorite & most consistent producers to work with are definitely Chango Snow, Slavery, Skatenahmean, Satori Gold & Pentagrvm. I work with a LOT of other extremely talented producers too though, so whenever you see my name next to someone else’s in production credits it’s always worth it to look them up too.
8. Can you describe your production style, and give some detail on how you achieve the sounds people know you for?
My production style is best summed up as future-trap. I blend classic hip hop, trap/street shit, ambient house/techno music & experimental/lofi vibes to push the boundaries of modern hip hop. Those are some of the core concepts I am influenced by. Stylistically though, my beats themselves have been known for their diverse range of melody/sampling work, my deep & droning basslines, complex hi hat patterns, & rolling or heavily modified perc noises. I also like to go back to basics too though. Sometimes simplicity & a conscious awareness of minimalism is all that is needed to make powerful art.
9. Did you have a specific aim in mind when working on your early material? Are you still working towards a goal in the industry?
I have no specific aim with what I am doing besides to keep doing it, & to continue to focus on helping other artists & producers come up. I want to build a more healthy underground community so we can all make more money off of our passions & get more recognition for our art itself, & not just our images & fashions.
10. Why ‘levitatingman’? How did you come up with that moniker?
We are not in heaven & we are not in hell on this earth. We are levitating, somewhere in the middle. To some this may suggest a sort of purgatory. To me, levitating represents the opposite. It represents surviving. Existing. Denying death to it’s face & doing what we are here to do. Following our destiny. Levitating is a flow state. A state of ultimate potential. A state of creation. A state of destruction. When you do something you are proud of, something that truly activates the core of your soul, it can feel like levitating. Like you are above the world. But you are still in it. I feel like I am levitating when I physically beat a man down, or when I fuck a woman I love, or when I create art that expresses my soul. That is levitating. & I am levitatingman. I just want to make people feel their power.
11. What can we expect from you for the rest of the year? I’m hoping to hear another beat tape, and plenty more dope tracks made over your stuff.
The rest of the year I am mainly focused on MMA training, I am currently going to the same gym as many local UFC fighters, like Jon Jones & Holly Holm. I want to take a professional fight within the next several years. But I will always be working on & dropping music until the day I die. Expect new songs from me & Lil Xelly soon for sure. I have a lot of beats produced with Slavery & Chango Snow that are going to turn into big songs soon too. I don’t like to speak on the future until it happens though. I’ve learned the hard way in this underground shit that it’s best to never announce anything until it actually releases. Surprises are always better than letdowns. Expect many surprises from me before 2020 though. That’s all I can say. 😉
Listen to levitatingman on Soundcloud. Follow him on Twitter at @Levitatingman.