CONNIE // Producer Spotlight (Q&A)

Over winter break I had the pleasure of sitting down for a 30-minute long Zoom call with the L.A. based producer-artist, CONNIE, and I have to say it was easily one of my favorite conversations that I’ve had during my time at E.R.. It was evident from the moment that our conversation began that I was talking to a true visionary and leader of the next generation of music, so I’m excited to give you all a glimpse of what we got to chat about. If you aren’t already familiar with CONNIE, he’s produced for artists such as as BROCKHAMPTON’s Meryln Wood, JELEEL!, and many more. A truly forward thinking creative, CONNIE is known for his experimental production style with little to no boundaries in his way. Fluidly crossing in and around genre’s such as rap, indie, alternative, and pop, CONNIE’s production is the epitome of what it means to go against the grain and his artist project is a prime example of this. After a release this past winter with collaborators Curtis Waters and Godly the Ruler, CONNIE was prepared to continue leveling up as is evidenced by his new single, “GS1”, with ZelooperZ which released this past weekend.

Joe: I usually like to kick these off by letting our fans get to know a little bit more about you as a person and artist. Tell us a little bit about yourself – who are you, where are you from, and what type of music do you make?   

CONNIE: My name is CONNIE, that’s an important part I feel (laughs). I’m from a town called Rockford, IL – it’s about an hour outside of Chicago. Worst f*cking place ever, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but that’s where I’m from. Pretty cool sometimes. I’m a producer, I make a lot of rap beats. I work with a lot of rappers, indie artists, alternative artists, pop artists as well. I don’t like to tell people when they first ask “what kind of music do you make?” or “what do you do?” – I don’t like to identify with one genre of music, even though most people might say I make majority rap music. I make all types of different sh*t and I listen to all different types of stuff, so I don’t know. I just look at myself as a musician more so than anything else. 

Joe: Take me back to the early beginnings of you getting into music. How did you get your start in producing and what made you move out to L.A.? 

CONNIE: I went to university for a year at Northern Illinois University and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so I was like “I’ll just be a nurse.” Like an emergency room nurse because I wanted to see a lot of gross shit. Like Amit (manager) and all my friends could tell you that I watch a lot of gory videos, like shock videos because it’s stimulating as f*ck. So I was like, “okay, I’m not gonna be bored as f*ck at work every day”, so I’m going to get an exciting job – I’ll be an emergency room nurse. I studied for like a year – that sh*t f*cking sucked, like school… horrible. 

So I would go back home to my hometown on the weekends sometimes and just hang out with my friends and smoke weed and sh*t. My friends had started making music just on some local rapper sh*t and it was f*cking awful. In my mind, I was like, you n****s are so lame, because they didn’t have jobs. Well, they had little jobs, but they didn’t have a plan. They were just like, I’m gonna rap. And I was like, you n****s are lame (laughs). So I’d come around and we were hanging out and they would start making beats while I was there and I was just thinking, “how are you doing this?”. I was amazed at this garbage a** music they were making and then I started messing around with it and was like “this is fun!”. Then right when the summer started after my first year of college, I did acid one time and that f*cked my brain up and I was just like “I’m not going to school anymore”. So I just stopped going to school and I was like I know I can do this music shit. Off that one day, I stopped going to school and then I started making beats. Literally on the most like bum sh*t ever, I would just be in my mom’s basement literally everyday, just making beats. Then I would do this thing where at night after I’d made all the beats I wanted to for the day, I would go online on Instagram and SoundCloud and sh*t and I would look for rappers in L.A. to start sending sh*t too. I was like, “I gotta get the f*ck out of here if I’m gonna really do this sh*t – I gotta get out of Illinois.”

So I found this producer who I thought was a rapper at the time, his name was Versus, and we started talking just on some like, “Oh, I’m gonna send him sh*t to work on”. I would send him melodies and sh*t and then one day we were on FaceTime and he was like, “oh yeah, I’m with this artist, JELEEL!. Is it cool if I get him on some of our stuff?”. This was like 2018 and I was like, “yeah, why not?”. And remember, I’m in Rockford and these n****s are in LA, so I’m like, “oh yeah, of course go crazy!”. I was so excited. So from there we just started working on sh*t all the time that way and I would just send them stuff. They’d be like, “okay, we’re gonna record” and would call me like two hours later and play me the song. So I got really close with them over the course of the next six months to a year. We would FaceTime the whole day –  I would go to the gym and I would be on FaceTime with one of them at some point. Go to the gym, go run errands, make beats, and just be on the phone all day with them. They’d go to parties in L.A. and I would be on FaceTime and they knew I wanted to meet more people, so they’d just give people the phone at the party and just walk away (from the phone). So now this person was forced to be like, “who the f*ck is this??”. So I was just meeting people like that and then after a couple months of that, they were like, “oh, we need a roommate ASAP, can you come out here?” and I had never met these guys, but was like, “oh, yeah, for sure!”. 

So I sent them my deposit on the place on some, “I might get scammed, but like, I gotta do what I gotta do”, because the worst that could happen is I’m gonna be stuck here (in Illinois) still. So, it wasn’t a scam. I drove out there in my sh*tty a** car that I had at the time from Illinois and I just put all my sh*t in my car and pulled up. That’s how I got in the L.A. scene of things. Then from there, we would just go to every party and every event, and I would just try and meet as many people as possible to work with. We lived in this city called Azusa, CA, which is also the worst. It’s like 20 minutes past Pasadena, so we were out there and just working on music every day. That’s how I kind of got my foundation and my foot in the door with everyone that I know out here now. Yeah, that’s how I guess I got started. 

Joe: That’s awesome! What a crazy backstory. 

So you were talking about your hometown, Rockford, Illinois, for a bit. Your manager, Amit, mentioned that there might be some notable people who were born there besides yourself, of course. Any idea of who that might be? 

CONNIE: Yeah! Fred VanVleet. He’s an NBA player – he plays for the Raptors. He used to play at the high school on the other side of town from my school. I was in eighth grade when he was a senior. But yeah, like n****s was really like, “Oh, he’s a legend”. Like already knowing from when he was a freshman in high school. That n**** is inspirational as f*ck. I’ve only met him like one or two times. 

Joe: Fred VanVleet is a legend – how random! 

There’s no question that your, “DIVE IN!”, placement with JELEEL! was a big breakthrough moment for you. What was the story behind the creation of the song and what was the process of watching it go viral like? 

CONNIE: So I made that beat at the house we used to live in (in Asuza). There’s this thing when you’re making beats that once you’ve made a certain amount, your brain is just on empty, but sometimes I’ll be like, “okay, I’m gonna do one more just on some fun sh*t.” I’ll do whatever, but just keep it super simple and that’s how I made that beat. I was like, “this is just like a throwaway type of thing”. JELEEL! came in the room and was like “bro, this is crazy” and I was trying to just brush it off like, “oh, yeah, like for sure”. Because with those beats, like the throwaway beats, I thought, “Oh, this is never gonna see the light of day”. So I didn’t think anything of it and then literally like a couple days after that, we moved out of that house. I moved into my own apartment, JELEEL! moved into his own spot, and the first time that me and JELEEL! had a session after that day was at my new apartment. He pulled up and was like, “bro, we got to use that beat” and I was like, “No, bro. Like, I don’t want that out.” That’s because to me, I was like, “this is just some stupid sh*t,  this is some simple sh*t”, but he was like, “bro, trust me”. So we started recording it and he does a couple takes through and I was like, “nah, this is not happening. I don’t want to do this, this is not fun to me.” So I bounced out the little reference thing and I was like, let’s work on some other shit. So we link like, a week after that, and he’s like, “bro, we gotta record on that beat.”. So I was just like, “Alright, f*ck it, whatever.” 

So we’re recording and whenever we work our process is very transparent. We’re both giving a lot of input when I’m making the beat. He’ll be like, “Oh, try this or whatever.” Not for that beat specifically, but he’ll be like “Oh, try this blah, blah, blah” and when he’s recording I’ll be like, “Oh, try this here”, or I’ll rearrange the vocals and sh*t. I’m producing for real, I help people write sometimes – I want this sh*t to be the best it can be. So I’m giving my all on that type sh*t and we’re recording and working like that and I remember I rearranged the vocals and then we’re playing it after we had finished and I was like  “this sh*ts kind of cool” and JELEEL! was like, “bro, this is the one bro” and I’m like, “whatever”. We have so many songs that whenever we make a song, I’m not thinking like, oh, this will ever come out. I’m just like, oh, whatever. Then his roommates who are like also friends of mine came back and they opened the door and they were like, “bro, what the f*ck is this?” and one of his roommates who was a videographer was like, “we got to shoot the video this week and JELEEL! was down. I’m like, damn, n***a, like, I was embarrassed of that song type sh*t, which looking back on it, was so f*cking stupid. 

We ended up shooting the video at this abandoned mall – that was its own thing. These junkies that lived in this mall, they stole some camera equipment while we were in there and we had to chase them down. It was really on some movie sh*t. I was like, “damn, I might get stabbed on some sh*t right now”. So we snuck in the mall, we shot the video, and then the song came out.  At the time JELEEL! had like 6000 followers I think. People were like, “oh, this is hard, blah, blah, blah” and I remember right before the song came out, I would send it to my friends and be like, “bro, be real with me, do you think this is a** or is this fire?”, because I couldn’t tell and everyone I would send it to would be like, “nah, this is the one”. So it came out and I remember it was doing whatever for the first three months, it had maybe 20,000 views or some sh*t, and I went camping for the first time ever and I had no service. I was in Big Sur and I remember I went to this general store, like a restaurant type thing while I was camping, and I just remember my phone started going crazy. And n****s were hitting me like, “oh, congrats on 100k!” and I was like, “n****, what the f*ck this sh*t was at like 20,000 a couple days ago – what are you talking about?”. It was just going insane and once it hit a million, I was like, “okay, this should probably slow down” and it just kept going up faster and faster and I was like, “what the f*ck?”. And yeah bro, I really learned that you have no idea which one is the hit, you just gotta trust your gut and make the best music. 

Joe: I’m glad you didn’t get scammed and things worked out for you! (laughs) 

Thinking about where you’re at now, when was the moment that you realized you wanted to be more than just a producer and become an artist yourself? 

CONNIE: It was really early into living at that house in Azusa with JELEEL! and our other homies. I realized very early on, like, as a producer, you don’t really have any control over your career. There are probably so many producers who, like, if Drake would have put out this one song, they would have been the next Metro Boomin’, you know? Yeah, like, one song never came out to be the catalyst for that sh*t. So it was really early, like mid to late 2019 that I was like, “okay, I gotta start doing my own thing.” I’ve been really inspired by Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk,  and just producers like that. Real producers who are artists and have the vision behind the songs that I’ve been really inspired by for a long, long time. So I just remember in late 2019 being like, “okay, I need to figure out how to do this” and then later that next year, I kind of had worked out all the kinks on my own end because I didn’t have a manager at this point, or any team. So I was just trying to figure out how to put out music and getting people on the program. But yeah, I mean it’s still a learning experience everyday. I feel like I kind of got it down a little bit now. It’s definitely weird being an artist. I still produce for people all the time and when I say artist, like, I don’t rap or sing or anything. I’m not using my voice at all, it’s just really important to me to have those two things. My end goal or Point B is to have a super legendary artist project like on some Daft Punk sh*t or some Sofi (Tukker) sh*t. Just have this legendary producer artist-project and then also be producing at the same time and have projects coming out that I produced for like 21 Savage or Carti, you know? I want to do both at the same time. I think that’s the only way that I could really stay sane for real. 

Joe: Tell me a little about the HI_TEK genre that you’ve pioneered? I’m not sure if that’s something that you’d coined before the release of MERCURY or GS1, but I’d love to hear how the genre originated and what it means to you? 

CONNIE: It was weird, like the order in which all these things happened for my artist project. I knew in late 2019 that I wanted to do this, but I wasn’t on some like, “oh, it’s gonna be its own sound” or whatever. I was like, I’m gonna just put sh*t out with people, because it doesn’t matter what genre of music it is, and then I think like early 2021, I was with my friends (AP The Plan) and we made this crazy song. We were up on the roof of my apartment complex smoking and talking, and I was like, I don’t know what to call this thing – this sound that I’m working on. I remember just being like, “it’s super high tech” and I was just saying it on like, some futuristic sh*t and then I was like, “oh, that’s what I’m going to call it”. I just remembered this moment of feeling like “damn, that was like a movie scene damn near. I’m gonna think back on this moment right now.”

From then, I just kind of started developing it and I feel like I’m still really developing what the sound is. Basically, I want Hi_TEK music to really be the next evolution of music in terms of like, in the 90s like n****s was on like, boom-bap shit heavy. And then like 2000s came around and n***** were on that Pharrell, Jadakiss, and Timbaland bounce. And then you know, 2012 to 2013 n***** was hip to the Gangnam Style and LMFAO and that real fist bumping type music, and now it’s like hyperpop and YEAT and sh*t. I just feel like next it’s going to be this sh*t. It’s like a melting pot. It’s really influenced by industrial music, it’s really influenced by 2010s dance music like Lady Gaga and LMFAO and all of that sh*t. It’s also very influenced sonically by trap music and hyperpop music. But really, I just want it to be the future – texture wise. I think that the name Hi_TEK just being very futuristic and something that’s really cutting edge is very important. I want it to feel like that in terms of the music and I want it to sound like that. Everything going on vocally also, it’s very important that I pick the right people that are on these songs because it has to be like, “okay, I know, you represent something that I’m very influenced by.”  Whether it be the industrial sh*t or 2000s dance music or punk music from the 90s – I just want it to feel new and feel rebellious and young, you know?

Joe: Walk me through the process of creating your newest single, “GS1”. How did you go about getting Zelooperz on the track and getting these insane animations done? 

CONNIE: i made the beat for GS1 in August of last year and i think i sent it to Z in October maybe??? i don’t really remember. i have a ton of [ Hi_TEK ] beats just sitting around on my computer and when i was going through beats for Z that one seemed like a no brainer. we had a session a couple weeks after that to finish up the song and ended up making a bunch of stuff for his project. I don’t know if any of it will make the cut but i really like the songs, he’s a super interesting person and definitely is exactly as unique as you would expect him to be. working with zelooperz is like seeing mythological creature hahaha

Joe: I know you made the cover art for “MERCURY”, did you make the cover for “GS1” as well? If so, how was it created and how long have you been doing graphic design for? 

CONNIE: yes!! i made the cover for GS1, i’m really happy with how it turned out. i wanted the cover to have a more electronic-esque feel. the version of the cover that’s on spotify and shit kind of reminds me of a Madeon cover in a weird way hahaha. the original cover was this crazy super deep fried picture of a frog i made, it did a really good job of capturing the manic energy of the song. (also reminded me a lot of crazy frog lol)

Joe: Any insight on upcoming Hi_TEK collaborations or future plans for releases?

CONNIE: I have a lot of stuff that I’m working on right now. I don’t want to say I’m working on an album or mixtape, I’m just working on a bunch of music for the artist project. I have a lot of singles that I’m about to drop. There’s a lot of exciting people that I’m working with, a lot of fire rappers that everyone knows. Also, artists who make industrial punk music and pop artists and really just trying to blend it all together. I’m dropping a ton of stuff at the top of this year, so it’s going to be really busy!

Joe: Awesome! We will be on the lookout!!


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