Innovation comes in many forms. Meet the creative minds inspiring others through art.
Before gaining recognition as a rapper, Old Man Saxon did the unthinkable. He quit his job as a game tester to pursue a career in music full-time. Breaking through the industry was no easy feat, however, and he spent a large portion of 2014 living in his car. He survived by showering at the gym, working nights at a restaurant, and eating Happy Meals twice a day.
While accepting his circumstances, Saxon realized there were several other people in the exact same situation as him—living in their cars, killing time at the gym—just hoping to make it big L.A. It was this eye-opening experience that led him to forget rapping about money and power in the traditional sense and instead focus on expressing reality. By speaking the truth about his situation, he was able to connect to an audience that also experienced hardship and isolation. Now Saxon is a success on stage and currently teaches rap at the Musicians Institute. See how Old Man Saxon speaks his truth.
What was life like for you growing up?
I stayed inside a lot as a child. That time was mostly spent playing video games and watching TV. At some point in my life that time was spent playing video games, watching TV, and writing raps. My dad passed when I was 13, so that forced me into a place of even more isolation. I think I’ve always been an introverted human and I think having a TV in my room growing up just intensified my introversion.
How long did you work as a video game tester before you decided to pursue music?
I worked at Konami for about a year and a half before I left. I was pursuing music while I was working there, but I decided to take it a little more seriously after I left because I had so much more time to write and think. I never realized how much time I spent at work until I stopped working. Plus in L.A. it was like an hour commute for a 10 mile drive, so the time spent away from music was really adding up. We’re talking like 12 hour days door to door. That shit is crazy. I stayed away from office jobs like that though and stuck to getting restaurant jobs.
Why did you feel it was important to live out of your car instead of keeping a job where you had steady income?
I really just needed space to hear myself think. I just felt like it needed to happen just so I could have my own thoughts. It would have been really telling if I started living in my car and then I realized that I didn’t really want to make music. But when I was living in there I realized more than ever that I needed to make music…that information for that ass. Being alone…and in nature helped me create and helped me decide what was really important.
In your Ted Talk, you mentioned that rappers often try to speak their success into fruition instead of focusing on the reality of their situation. When you first wanted to get into music, what did you want to rap about and did that change after your experience living in Los Angeles?
I was definitely rapping about things that I didn’t have like money and women…and friends. I just listened to so much hip hop in my life that it was absorbed through osmosis to talk about things that other people found interesting. Once I started to live in my car, I actually stopped listening to rap all together. I was only listening to my beats and songs. I started being influenced by my own art instead of others. While doing that I realized that I’m a pretty low energy, introspective, calm person. Realizing who I am a little better allowed me to create art that was specific to me.
When do you feel you first started gaining recognition in the music industry?
In 2013 when I released the song and video for “On Point”. Thats when I started to get messages from people saying that it was their favorite song. The song got placed in the credits of a short film and that was a big deal for me. The next big thing that happened was getting on the Silicon Valley soundtrack with legends like Wu-Tang Clan, Onyx, Nas, Too Short, and Hudson Mohawke. To see my name next to all of those people got me hyped.
How did you land the position of Professor of Rap at the Musicians Institute?
It was pretty amazing actually. One of my good friends is a bass instructor at Musicians Institute in L.A. and the previous rap professor was leaving to do something else. But the previous professor didn’t leave much time for the school to find another instructor. So my buddy called me and asked if I wanted to teach rap…I said yes. I went into the interview and realized I know more about hip hop than I thought. But I got hired the same day as the very first class that I had to teach so I didn’t have a lesson plan and the students and I just sat around and talked about hip hop for 3 hours. Best job I’ve ever had.
Have any of your students gone on to work as professional musicians?
I’m really not sure. My class was more of an elective class because not a lot of students were coming to Musicians Institute just to be a rapper. So I had a lot of students that were engineers or pop singers taking my class. So I don’t know if anyone specifically made it as a rapper but I’m sure I have students out there getting money from something else music related.
Are there any musicians today you applaud for speaking their truth?
Chance the Rapper does a really good job of speaking about his life. With that being said, I don’t think that just because you speak your truth means the song is going to be a slam dunk. While working on yourself you also need to be working on your craft. I saw this a lot while teaching at Musicians Institute, telling students that they needed to write something a little more specific to them. The story would be heartbreaking and really deep…but the song sucked.
What was the inspiration behind the music video for Hasn’t Happened?
The inspiration was the movie Big—when Tom Hanks goes up to the fortune teller, Zoltan, and wishes he was big. The whole ideal came from the director and my long-time friend Anthony Hays. I’ll leave it up to the audience to interpret what the video means.
What projects are you working on at the moment? Are there any events you wish to promote?
Im working on an album now that I plan to have done by April. I just finished a project called The Peacock honey that released last January. I’ll be going on tour this spring and if you want tickets go to my website. You can also get some shirts and other merchandise as well.
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This article originally published on GREY Journal.