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Meet Epic Must Die, the One Rapper Who Benefitted from SXSW

How does it feel to have Wiz Khalifa come up and compliment you after your third show ever? Ask this dude.

by Bauce Sauce
Mar 27 2014, 2:30pm

“It's stupid," ScHoolboy Q told Washington Post. "They changed it all up. It’s corporate.”

The “it” ScHoolboy Q is referring to is the SXSW music festival, and he’s not entirely incorrect.

With brands from Doritos to Samsung and Subway to Taco Bell all asserting their relevance and how in tune with the youths they are, and artists like Kanye, Jay Z, Pitbull, Ludacris, Lady Gaga and Coldplay giving one-off performances, it’s easy to make the blanket statement that SXSW has evolved beyond the core tenets it was founded upon.

who said “The best thing for me was, I remember coming out here years, years, years ago, before it was like all the major label guys and all the guys were coming out here. It was pretty much up-and-coming artists… More so than now when people coming here they just going to see the Kanye show—now you don’t really get put up on nothing.”

But just because the scale is larger (Austin actually reached the maximum amount of permitted events this year) or more high profile showcases (iTunes Festival) are being thrown doesn’t preclude attendees from getting put on someone new. Though the expansion certainly makes it more financially difficult for smaller artists and casual fans to visit— as everything with a price tag gets tripled during those two weeks— I was still able to see plenty of acts I was only aware of via the blogosphere: K-Camp, Johnny Cinco, Pepperboy, Doughbeezy, and more. The expansion also doesn’t mean that there aren’t some really interesting stories involving unsigned artists still happening. However, they may be fewer and more far between than they were five or 10 years ago.

I showed up at the on Thursday early. The venue space was upstairs, which featured an inside bar with a stage flanked by luxe VIP lounge areas and an outside bar patio that had a DJ spinning tunes. I didn’t know if there was supposed to be two performance areas or what the deal was. But, after about 30 minutes, someone I had never heard of walked up to the DJ area with a microphone and started rapping. Halfway through his first song, Wiz Khalifa and Amber Rose casually sauntered up the staircase and plant themselves in the middle of the room. They swayed as they listen. After his set, Wiz walked up to the unknown performer and talked to him for a few minutes before leaving with Amber in tow. That rapper’s name is . A lot of things had to go wrong for him to be put in the this seemingly perfect situation. I caught up with him after the performance by phone to get the full story of how he came to be at that exact stage at that exact moment to impress Wiz Khalifa.

Noisey: So, was this your first time at SXSW?
EPIC. Must Die: That was my first time at South By. My fam had been out there before, but I missed out a couple times. I didn’t really want to go out unless I had a show. I didn’t want to just be there. This was my first year, and it was just the best experience I feel like I could have possibly had.

We spoke in the venue, and you said that you had a little trouble getting out there.
Actually, I was taking the Amtrak out there and I had a little bit of weed on me. We stopped in El Paso. They had a canine that sniffed it out. I’ve been in handcuffs before but I’ve never been in jail or ever been arrested before in my life. And, I’m 21 and from Compton so that’s saying something. Like, I try to stay away from shit. I was in processing for 36 hours. Shit was moving slow. One of my good friends, Ricky, bailed me out like $450. I actually have to go back out there for court. Luckily, I made it out there.

When you were coming out to South By Southwest, you had a few shows booked?
This was my only show. That’s what makes this shit even crazier. This was my only show. I came out there just to do that and mostly to network. Luckily, I made it out there. I made it to my show in time. You were there. Shit went better than I could have even expected it.

So, you are heading out there, on Amtrak… you’re in jail for 36 hours. You get out, and you arrived that day?
It was the night before the show. I got there at 7:00pm on Wednesday. The show was Thursday from 12-6pm. So, like, it was crazy. I didn’t even have a DJ! My DJ flaked on me. I had to go up to the venue and hit the in-house DJ real fast. I had to be like “Yo, I have my shit in an email. I have my whole set ready. Can I send it to you?” And he was like “No problem.” I didn’t have any time to rehearse, but everything was moving organically.

Were you originally supposed to be the opener?
No, I was not. I was originally supposed to go fourth. And, whatever happened, I don’t know. The promoter came up to me and was like “Fuck it. Let’s get this shit going.” I was already kind of hot, kind of mad at the way shit was going. I was just like “Fuck it, man. I’ll get this shit done.” In my head, I’m about to turn shit up. I went through a bunch of bullshit to get here. This is my only show, and now I gotta perform first? I took it as a challenge.

Were you aware that Wiz and Amber walked in during your performance?
Actually, before my performance I was backstage. Wiz was doing some blog or something. He didn’t see me, but I was back there talking my homie, drinking beers and shit. That’s when the promoter was like “Ay, we need you to go on now.” He pulls me from the inside stage where I was supposed to perform to the outside patio. While I was performing, out the corner of my eye I see Wiz and Amber walking out of the club, and as I continue to perform they walk back up and walk toward the stage to watch the whole performance. I didn’t know any of that shit was gonna happen. Like I said. It was all organic.

He walked up to me afterwards. Basically, he told me he fucked with my music and to keep the positive energy flowing. He asked for my Twitter and followed me, which is much love. I got mad respect for that man. Even before I met him, I’ve always had respect for him, because he’s someone who put his whole team on. His whole team is eating. I rap with a group called Leftovers. We’re all doing our shit right now, and that’s what I’m trying to do. Me and my niggas have so much talent. We’ve been talented since day one. When Wiz noticed, it reassured me. For a minute I’ve been thinking, “Are motherfuckers not noticing? I’m doing this shit better than a lot of niggas.” He reognized in one listen.

That’s what was so crazy to me. He’s leaving the club to go do something.
You gotta imagine. He was probably busy.

Exactly. Like what he heard was powerful enough to make him stop and say, “You know what. I need to go up there and check this out.” The songs you played. What were they? And, do they have any special significance to you?

The first song I played was called “Right Now,” which is off my most recent project NONCENTS. Basically, that song locally where I’m from people fuck with that. I knew the crowd would fuck with it, too. I usually make life music, like mellow shit. But that was me stepping out of my zone and getting turnt and making some uptempo shit. I decided to go with that first.

When I was working on the project, and getting all the songs arranged, I was promo-ing my tape and Big Sean came out with that “Guap” song. It’s not the same thing at all, but he uses “right now” repetitively. He could’ve named it “Right Now,” and it would have been the same exact thing. That kind of had me down. I love that song so I went with that first.

The other two songs are actually songs that aren’t out yet. The second song is called “The Nerve.” That song is just lyrically… I like to pride myself on my verses and I like to have solid hooks. That song is me in a nutshell. I spit it acapella after that to show everyone I can really rap. The beats on those first two are so good the crowd was probably just vibing out and not really listening to the words. I brought the beat back in, and then I hopped back on stage for the third song, which is “How Many.” I’m planning on shooting a video for that with pretty soon. He shot “Shabba Ranks” for A$AP Ferg; Andrew’s like my big bro, my creative consultant. Almost like a guidance counselor or something (laughs).

“How Many” is about people threatening me. People telling me what they gonna do when they see me. But, I know that’s not gonna happen. We both know it’s not gonna happen. That ties in with the life music I make.

The last song I did was “Hand In Your Brain.” I actually just put a video out for that probably like a month ago directed by Tyler Ross. Crazy visual.

I got a helicopter camera, and I’m basically flying through my neighborhood: the westside of Compton. I got a cameo from my nigga Buddy, who signed to Pharrell’s label i am OTHER. He’s lived like a block down the street from me. That’s been my nigga for like 5 years. Got a cameo from my cousin. His name is Pharo. He’s also a part of Leftovers.

You’re performing this song that is obviously something special to you. You put a video out for it. Tell me how it felt performing that and then Wiz walking up.
That was amazing. When I was performing “Hand in Your Brain,” I was telling the crowd to put their hands up side-to-side. I saw that they were cooperating. That was amazing to me. Their heads were nodding. They were rocking with me. That meant a lot. I didn’t expect Wiz to walk up to me afterwards. I was talking to one of the cameramen who was recording my set, and I get a tap on my shoulder. And, it’s Wiz Khalifa towering over me because he’s tall as shit. We had a conversation. He said that he fucks with my music and that Taylor Gang sees me. Took my twitter down. He followed me. He was actually there performing an hour later. He spotted me in the crowd and pulled me up on stage and shit. He gave me a joint. It was crazy. He treated me real cool. Mad respect for that dude.

You had mentioned to me that you aren’t on blogs that much. Do you perform a lot? It seems like for most people if they are performing and not used to performing and Wiz Khalifa or some other superstar walks in they might not be able to keep their composure.
This was only like my third performance in my whole rap career. I’ve been rapping since I was 16. I’m 21. My first performance was opening for Nipsey Hu$$le in San Pedro after The Marathon dropped. The second performance was at Cal State Longbeach for an African American History event. Then this performance here.

That’s probably the best thing you could ask for with a third performance I have to think.
It’s crazy, man. I tried to contain myself. I pride myself on being mature. I really feel like I’m ready for this. I used to battle rap in high school, which is probably where I lost my stage fright. I’m rapping in the battle scene, and that’s probably why I held my composure, seeing a celebrity like that. And, not even a celebrity like that, I’m really a Wiz Khalifa fan. It was surreal. It’s still surreal. I take it as a blessing.

How did the rest of your SXSW go?
I went to the fucking Illmore the night Wiz was there. I went there another night that… ahhh I can’t even remember. I was drunk. They had all that free alcohol, and I just turned 21 in December so I was just getting really messed up. I went to Fader Fort; saw Erykah Badu. That was crazy. She’s probably my favorite female artist. That shit was live… I’m eating a carne asada burrito right now. Excuse me.

No problem. I hope it’s good. I paid $10 for a fucking burrito, and it was the worst burrito I’ve ever had in my life.
Why was everything so expensive at South By!? I paid $8 for a fucking hot dog with jalapenos and the cheese wasn’t even melted.

Well, that’s sort of the prevailing criticism of SXSW. It used to be about up-and-coming bands, under the radar artists. And now, every year it gets increasingly more commercial and more expensive. It’s becoming prohibitive for someone like you to go out there. Do you think you’d go back out there next year? Is it beneficial to an artist like yourself?
Yeah, I pay for everything on my own. I got some shows popping up now. I’m planning on dropping my tape around July. If I do everything that I’m planning on the rest of the year, I’m expecting to get booked for a couple more shows. Hopefully, I can do three or four shows there. If I get booked on anything next year, I’m definitely there. I can’t afford to pass on that.

Now that we’ve told your SXSW story. Can you tell the people that are interested in you what other music or videos they can check out?
If you are interested and want to hear more, you can . That’s 10 tracks all original beats, everything original. “WholeLottaNothin” is also a video that’s been out for about seven months from my last tape. “Hand In Your Brain” is the first single off the tape I’m planning on dropping in July called ALEXANDER.

Bauce Sauce encourages you to #STAYWOKE. He's on Twitter - @BauceSauce