He’s teamed up with everyone from Beyoncé to Little Simz, created his own music app, and curated art shows at New York’s Sean Kelly gallery
We hear a lot about the multi-hyphenate creative. Perhaps the most well-known being producer-rapper-designer Kanye West or even his creative director-designer-DJ cohort Virgil Abloh, frequently, consumers want to put these individuals in a box, desiring they have only one title, but that’s also why we label them the all-encompassing tag “creative.” And perhaps those that don’t identify creatively don’t understand, but those that do are not really into boxes, boundaries, or restraints, thus it’s a very natural way to operate and work.
Starting as a producer-singer-rapper, MeLo-X hails from Flatbush, Brooklyn. On Tuesday, a project he’s contributed to received several Grammy nominations: Beyoncé’s Lemonade. And perhaps his route here hasn’t been entirely unconventional, but MeLo is flatly so much more than a producer.
In addition to his own music, in the last couple of years he’s established himself in the art scene regularly working with, performing at, and showing his own artwork at New York’s Sean Kelly Gallery. In the spring of 2015, he performed at New York’s MoMa with Awol Erizku for the screening of his film Serendipity. And in addition to touring with fellow DJ, Jasmine Solano, for their own party series Electric Punanny, he’s played shows with another musical collaborator Little Simz.
How did this background bring him to the Queen B and allow him to further utilise his expansive skill set? In January 2014, MeLo dropped a five-track EP entitled Yonce-X in which he did visuals for and remixed five songs from Beyoncé’s self-titled album. It was fire. And because of this, her label immediately removed from the internet. He’d repost it elsewhere, and they’d take it down. Repeatedly.
Much to our surprise, though, there was no bad blood between the two as this is what sparked the creative relationship between Beyoncé, her team, and Flatbush’s finest.
It’s been about three years since he dropped that project. He’s since become a regular collaborator with Beyoncé scoring original music for Beyoncé and Jay Z’s On The Run Tour, producing ‘Sorry’, arguably one of her best tracks on Lemonade, and contributing sound design for her Formation tour. He released his own EP, Curate, via his own app and has done similar sound and visual direction for PARTYNEXTDOOR’s Summer’s Over Tour.
He’s since moved to L.A, but we caught up with him in the Miami neighbourhood Little Haiti. It was the last night of Art Basel, the week where the international art fair that brings around-the-clock parties to attend and endless art to see. Melo just DJed for legendary Yasiin Bey’s first performance in the United States in five years in the backyard of Smoke Signal Studios for Boiler Room’s first event during Art Basel. Truly legendary. Here’s what Melo-X has going on lately...
What do you have going on at Art Basel?
MeLo-X: I’m here finessing. I did a Young Arts event. I did the Sean Kelly event with Water For The People and Absolut Elyx. That was music as well as visuals. I showed a piece I did for the gallery. I did the ASAP Mob party. Show some respect to Bari. I’ve known Bari since he was 15 and shit. Always good to show love to him. And I did Smoke Signals and Boiler Room.
And what happened at Boiler Room?
MeLo-X: It was history book type shit. You feel me? For me personally, because of Mos Def and Saul Williams. And Aja (Monet). I’ve known Aja for years. I used to DJ events in Bowery (Ballroom) that her and my homeboys used to do. Same thing: speaking from the heart, poetry. Now this is the elevation of that and we’re both in different places but we still can connect. It’s an amazing feeling.
What brought on the move to Los Angeles?
MeLo-X: I live in Flatbush and L.A. I just go back and forth. I’ve been able to just get away and get into my bat cave. Me and my girl Corey just read books and cook and make art. There’s a lot of studios out there, and there’s always somebody working on something.
What different inspirations has L.A. offered compared to New York?
MeLo-X: L.A. brought a bit of silence that I needed. I feel like in New York there’s always something going on, always somewhere to be. There’s a lot noise in New York. Downtown L.A. has a lot of noise as well but mentally, I’m able to have some silence to myself and be able to create and make shit. I can just be in the crib for a week or two weeks straight. The only time I leave is for the food and the studio and just work. Tap deeper into my mind and shit. I’ve been making music in my bedroom in Flatbush forever. It’s good to have different scenery and vibe.
With all the work you’ve done with Sean Kelly Gallery in New York, are you doing any work with galleries additionally in L.A.?
MeLo-X: Um, not yet. I have been speaking to a few galleries as far as telling them I have ideas that I want to do next year. I want to show more physical work. I do a lot of different shit and now I have the opportunity to show on certain platforms, certain spaces where it could be viewed in a certain light and respected in a certain light. Nothing official yet, so I won’t name drop anybody but I have been in talks with a few people and am open to more. More galleries. More humans. I want to show love.
How have things changed since you produced arguably one of the best records on Lemonade?
MeLo-X: The main thing is that I’m able to get into a lot of doors because of that. Not saying I couldn’t get into it before, but definitely having that stamp of approval from an artist like that makes people look at you in a certain light and just respect your decision. A lot of shit I do with B is really weird shit. From her tours even to songs like “Sorry” and all that shit, it’s just like, I get to experiment and do shit how I want and she likes it. I get to just do the same thing with all these artists that fuck with me. I like to work with a lot of new artists, too. I like to work with established artists because I don’t like to be put in any conventional boxes. From the pop world to dancehall and whatever, I really like to work with new artists that are on the come up. I’m all about new energy, young energy. It’s cool to be able to have studio time whenever I want and be able to work with artists like that.
I know you scored music for the On The Run tour. Were you doing stuff for her Formation tour?
MeLo-X: Yes. I basically score her tours, and I do some sound design with the whole team. So like, she has a bit monolift in the centre of the stage. When it starts to move, the sounds you hear are sounds I designed. It’s how I feel like that shit would sound in real life. I do a lot of sound design and remixes and stuff like this.
Are you doing things on PARTYNEXTDOOR’s Summer’s Over tour as well?
MeLo-X: Yea, I do music direction and co-creative direction for PARTY. We worked on songs, setlist, transitions, stage placement, lighting, visuals, what they should look, shit like that. I did that for him as well. I didn’t do a lot remix shit but I was working with the band on how the music should sound and how the show should flow.
Is there anything you have up and coming you want to share?
MeLo-X: Well, I am working on a project called Juve Nit . I don’t know exactly what it will be, yet. It will definitely be something that’s a full vision of me as an artist from visuals to music. I’m working on a film I shot during J'Ouvert Night in Brooklyn. I do want to do a lot more physical pieces next year. I’ve also been further developing my app, ‘Curate’. The app is turning into a place where I’m gonna start using a platform to have different artists put music up on there and kind of curate an experience when they listen to music. As far as being able to slow the music down, pitch shift it, add effects – it’ll make it real simple so everyone's listening experience will be different. I like to curate experiences like that. It’ll allow people to alter the music. As soon as you open the app music plays. There’s a symbol – I call it the infinity stone – it’s like an octahedron, you move it around and expand it, and it adds effects. You double tap it, move it with two fingers, move it with one, squish it, expand it and it alters the sound. It’s simple but I think it’s cool for people to interact with the music. I think a lot of times mp3s get thrown into a bunch of other mp3s in your phone or laptop, and they don’t hold as much weight as they used to. Some of the music will sit with you and you’ll be inspired by, but for me, I feel like I just wanted to have my music specifically to have some sort of interactive feel to it. That’s something I’ve been developing more. I’ve deleted all of my social media off my phone and started reading books. It’s gotten me on my phone more for creative purposes rather than social media. I bought an iPad and started making music on that. I’ve just been creating music on that and my iPhone. I’m just glowing.