Photo via AmirSaysNothing
When working a blue-collar job, it often feels like your struggles get ignored by the artists you listen to. Bands pretend to live bohemian lifestyles, rappers shout about the wealth you'll never have, and you can feel lost in the shuffle even though you can probably bet they've worked shitty jobs themselves. But rapper AmirSaysNothing embraces that he's worked a slew of jobs from camp counselor to Chili's, and isn't out here to pretend he's something he's not. When not at work, he's been enveloping himself in his rap, throwing together observational and relatable rhymes over relaxing beats. His hard work has paid off, earning the respect of musicians like Atmosphere, even to the point where Slug gave Amir a shout out in the duo's newest single "Ringo."
Amir's new album Employee Of The Month seeks to unify every listener, no matter what background you come from. His self-appointed moniker of "the blue collar priest" becomes evident in it's first track "BackToSleep," the struggles of trying to will yourself out of bed in the morning combined with your shitty manager calling and asking why you're not already in to scrub bathrooms. From there it's Amir's oddyssey of working dead-end jobs, being driven to want to punch out tires while locked into a car bound to take him to a job he despises on the record's title track. The subject matter might end up a bit hum-drum behind anyone else's control, but Amir's observations, humor, and legitimate likability keep it fresh. Songs like the bluntly titled "The Girl That Works Down The Street" has him wondering about whether or not a guy she spoke to at a party was a boyfriend, and how he'd be waiting patiently to hopefully ask her out. The record ends with a classic quitting-work-anthem of "Finally Free," describing the self-reflection and positivity of a last day at work. It nicely closes up the narrative the album makes, that despite the shittiest days at work, you've always got tomorrow to make it better.
We spoke to Amir about working dead-end jobs, and what got him to start rapping
NOISEY: You moved around a lot growing up, right?
AmirSaysNothing: Yeah, I’m from New York originally. I was born on Roosevelt Island but mainly raised in Brooklyn and Boston and New Jersey, DC, and North Carolina. I lived in a lot of places. My parents divorced so it was always like having two houses. My dad just stayed in the city and my mom would move around a lot. Touched a lot of land. [_Laughs_]
It’s funny, recently I’ve been noticing that people I know who had to move around a lot as kids tend to end up doing art. I guess when you’re exposed to that many different places it happens.
Yeah. Hearing you say that, it kind of makes sense because you grow up living this unstable life and you have a lot to express. And I feel like you might have so much going on you have to express, and it kind of points you in that direction so it’s like “shit.” I’ve got 25 years of stuff I’ve gotta say.
So how long have you been working on Employee of the Month?
I started working on Employee of the Month last July. I put out Medium Rare, my first EP, in June, and I took that little month and half, and "S.O.G." was the first song that I had. So yeah, 11 months?
Is it easy for you to keep working consistently like that?
I’m always trying to stay busy and work on the next thing. I’ve already thought of the name for my next project towards the end of finishing this one. But usually me and Cy Kosis get together every weekend to work on stuff. My brain always works when I’m working on a record, like what am I trying to communicate? So I’ll have 14 tracks, and I’m like “I want to get this this and this off,” so I work with them when they come to me. I can’t force myself to make like a meaningful serious records. Sometimes that’s just in your heart, other times you just want to talk a bunch of shit and talk about your dick, sometimes that’s in your heart at the time.
It’s always funny in music, you can kind of weed out when a musician is intentionally trying to write something “meaningful.” It always ends up sounding kind of corny. I think that’s why I dug your record, because you’re able to hit on pretty real shit and it always sounds pretty natural.
Yeah, exactly, man. All this shit comes from your heart and mind, you can’t force it, it’s like forcing yourself to tell someone you love them. It just has to come out, and that’s the best way to make music that doesn’t sound corny. If I were to make you a record that was like, “Here’s a whole bunch of shit about what you need to do to get your life together!” Like I’d never want to come off like that. With Employee Of The Month, it’s a lot of me getting out my frustrations with where I find myself with my life, and what I’m trying to do and getting out of this situation, a lot of feelings I’ve harbored towards dead-end jobs and things like that, and the way people are treated. But really, it’s just for me. I was saying jokingly, like, me putting in my two weeks is this album. Like, bye. But I’m not trying to tell anyone what they need to do. Maybe if you hear this, you’d be inspired to fuck some shit up too. Or just listen to it and enjoy yourself and be like, “Whatever, I don’t even care. I’ll go back to my job, but at least I’ll have something cool to listen to while I’m here.”
How many jobs have you worked?
Shit, my first job I worked as a camp counselor, and that shit was tight. I’d get paid every week, and it was a camp counselor in Brooklyn. I’d just work all day, eight to four, and go skate in Union Square 'til two in the fucking morning. [_Laughs_] So that shit was tight. Then I worked in a Chili’s as a busboy, and that was my first introduction to working hours. It was on the weekends and I hated that shit. Like, you go to school all week and work during the weekends. And then they fired me. [_Laughs_] Then I worked at two Dunkin Donuts, a Mexican restaurant both front of house and in the kitchen, and I hated that shit. I was in the kitchen for a week, and they moved me to the front of the house.
When I moved to LA, I decided I wouldn’t work in a kitchen ever again. Nothing against it, but I hated smelling like food, and wearing like little non-slip shoes. You can’t get off work and go to a party. Or you can, like I went to a party once with my Dunkin Donuts shirt. [_Laughs_] It’s not exactly the “swaggiest” outfit to be at a party in fuckin' Dunkin Donuts clothes. So yeah, I did that, and worked at CCS, and it was real dope until I came back from a trip to South Africa and they closed the store down. They’d pull some shit on us, like we had an 80 percent off sale and people would ask if we were closing, and we were always told we were just getting new inventory and had to get rid of all the old stuff. And I believed them at the time, but then they let us all go with severance packages and I was not too hyped on it. It was the first time I had a real feeling of “fuck working for other people.” Imagine working for these people smiling in your face, and you can’t even get a heads up when your own job is over. Fuck am I supposed to do with a $700 severance package? Pretty sure I went to the strip club and blew the whole thing there. [_Laughs_]
John: So I read that you started rapping seriously when you were 21?
Yeah. I spit for the first time when I was like, 16, and would freestyle with my friends in the car and that was as far as I took it. 21 was the first time I recorded something where I didn’t erase it immediately. My first demo, actually, my friend Umi hooked me up out here at Delicious Vinyl. He was the first person to take a chance on me. A lot of people have these rap ambitions, and I was telling him my ideas and he was like, “Well I’m putting together a show, you should do a set. I had no music recorded or anything, it was just a freestyle set for ten minutes, and then day of, he was like, “You’re gonna do 20 minutes,” and up until that point in my life it became the best freestyle I ever did in my life. He didn’t have to do anything either, back then I’d just rap over Gang Starr and Webby, just a bunch of different beats.
Was there like a catalyst in your life that made you want to start doing it seriously?
Yeah. I went to an Atmosphere show. [_Laughs_] It was in 2011, and it pushed me in that direction. It made me realize, “Man, I have to do this.” Slug has been an inspiring person to me before I got to know him at all. Their shows, man, it’s like going to church. I really felt like I’d leave with something anytime I saw them. I loved it so much, it made me feel like I had to. I fought it for a long-ass time because my dad worked around rap and hip-hop and shit, and I was kind of near that but I wasn’t necessarily the coolest kid when I was younger. I wasn’t the kid all the girls liked, I was kind of a nerdy kid, stayed home and played video games for years. So I never thought of myself like, “Yeah, I want to be a rapper.” I dreamed of doing it, but it seemed like such a longshot for a guy like me. I just reached a certain point, and it was like, “Fuck it.” Either the rap world will love this used-to-be-shy nerdy rap kid, or they’re going to hate it. Secretly I just want to be Whitney Houston. [_Laughs_]
So where do you hope rap will take you?
Honestly, man, I want to see the world—be able to establish something for me and mine, obviously that’s a part of the mission. I’m putting it out there in the world, and having faith that you put it out there and it can come to you. And I kind of want it to take itself where it goes. I’m not necessarily trying to be 2 Chainz or Drake. I just want to be the best me that I can be. Whatever it means, a billion dollars, a hundred thousand or ten thousand, that’s fine. I just want to be me, you know? And do what I can do. I don’t want to put a ceiling on it or anything. Just let it be, because you never know.
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