CA: What does Are You Dying symbolize to you in your life?
ARD: Are You Dying at this point is a record of my own transformation. I don’t like answering what it means because I want people to take it for their own. This is my journey through my own life. It is a personal project; I will keep it personal (laughs)
CA: Your art has transformed over the years. Explain what practices you took to get to this current level in Are
ARD: Initially, a lot of it was me being emotional. Me having to put it on paper because it was there. It was raw. It was real. As I worked through it, the style revealed itself. It came naturally. Now that I am less emotional, it is more of a exploration of the emotions i had from a different view point. I am still going with the flow it is just a different lenses.
CA: Chibi is a main component for your work. Why is it your go to for your characters for the brand?
ARD: I started drawing as a comic kind of style, funny stuff and similar to Marvel/DC work. I was always into the character and the development of the character throughout the story. I created this character when I started Are You Dying because I had to show him going through the same things I was going through. I had to show him being sad, being angry, or whatever it was. For the most part, I was going through those emotions and it was an easier way for me to put it in perspective. I can look at a picture and say hey there I am. There is a thing on the page that is also going through what I am going through. The style stemmed out of my love for the comic-y kind of art and the necessity to put something in front of me to represent what was happening in my life. Honestly, the entire Are You Dying is a world within itself. If you look at the connections, you will find things.
CA: You have collaborated with a few people on your projects. What makes these individuals the perfect fit for your brand?
ARD: They responded (laughs). I am the kind of person who is down to work with anybody. I just want to create at the end of the day. Are You Dying is a personal project but it is also an excuse to create things. There are people who are around me who are willing to work with me and make stuff with me. I will always be down for that and will always work with them. I branched out to work with Marv on his photography. I drew right on the pictures he was taking and it became something else. I am lucky to know pretty much everybody that I work with (laughs) they’re friends of mine. Some from farther back than others; obviously I have different relationships with certain people. It was very dope to invite people into what I was doing. Part of it was reaching out after a certain amount of time being to myself. Hey guys, I’m better now let’s do some stuff.
CA: Speaking of collaborations, explain Art by Villains and how this entity helps propel your brand?
ARD: Art By Villains is part of Villains United, which is a Queens based rap group. I am a super close friend of Hannibal King (who is a member of the group). We went to high school together and we used to rap in the side room of his house. I never thought we would be at the point of putting out music and people actually liking it. I was never fully on the rap side of things so this music thing is pretty new. I was an artist, which was always my thing. Jack, Marv, and myself are the visual artists of the group so we were the ones who drawing while the others spit verses. ABV is a chance to work with our friends to put out doper media out as a whole and to throw some dope visuals in with the rappity raps.
CA: In addition to art, you also compose music. When is your mixtape coming out and who will be on it?
ARD: I wanted the mixtape to be out for a year now but it’s not done. It’s changed a lot since I first wrote it. So now I have Melody Adams, who is a close friend of mine from college doing some vocals for me. Modern Marvel and Jack are on it. I also want to get the Villains on it too, god willing. It will come out when it’s done.
CA: What was the driving force behind the mixtape?
ARD: I started writing the mixtape because of some emotional events I was going through and I freaked out. I really lost my shit and this was my coping mechanism. So I started drawing pictures of this little dude and writing songs about how sad I was. I just kept doing it and never let it go. As I was going through it, there were a lot of other things in my life that were more important and I had to grow up honestly. I had to realize there were things about myself I had to change. There were issues I had to deal with that and me being emotional made me able to see that. Now being on the other side of it and looking back with a different lens, the music changes. When you write it the first time and you are going through it, your vision is skewed by your emotions. What I wrote when I started to what is there now is different. You get to look at situations for what they were and laugh at yourself. You realize you were crazy in some parts. I can joke about it now. I can write a song about it now.
CA: Who are your influences musically?
ARD: Whew. That is always a strange question for me to answer because I get so much inspiration from everything. I’ve always felt inspiration just happens. It is not necessarily I listen to this person and I started it because of them. I listen to so many different artists. I get a little bit from here, a little bit from there, and a little bit from there. I know Outkast was huge for me when I was growing up but so was Ludacris. Kanye changed my outlook on certain things. So did J Dilla. So did Madlib. So did MF Doom. You know what I mean. There are so many people that I could say changed me when it comes to what I do. I don’t really have a style either. I like making stuff so it is difficult for me to stay in one lane. Earlier today, I was thinking you know what would be dope, a reggae dub song. I am going to make the beat and go make the song. I was just making a trap beat. I want to make stuff and I want it to be dope. At the end of the day, that is all I want. My inspiration comes from anybody that is dope. From anything that is dope.
(Later on Logic called me back because he had to add some people; Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bloc Party, The White Stripes, Sizzla, Daft Punk, Cannibal Ox, and Sean Price)
CA: You are apart of the entity Villains United with heavy hitters such as Hannibal King and Bub Styles. How does being around those types of rappers help you improve your craft musically?
ARD: Dude, in literally in every aspect. I can say in the group, I am the weirder one. I think a lot of them are pretty straightforward. Sometimes I will be quiet. Sometimes I’ll make a beat. Sometimes I’ll work with some live musicians to do some rock stuff. I want to do what I want to do. As far as getting better, they made me so much better than I was. When I started rapping with Hannibal King, I was a kid. We were in high school and I was alright at rapping. I wanted to be part of the group; I wanted to be on the same level as everyone else. I really practiced a lot and finally got to be better at rap. While I was more quiet about putting stuff out, I think I can definitely say these guys pushed me to be able to stand up on stage. To do something and have the people enjoy it. I have watched them do it so many times; it has inspired me every single time. I want to do that. I want to be good at that too. Let’s hit a chorus and I come up. That would be dope that would be awesome. They always have been the big brothers to me. I am looking at them and I want to come up to do some shit too.
CA: The group traveled to SXSW earlier this year. Could you detail your experience of the festival?
ARD: I like being wild with my friends. It was a lot of fun. We did a lot of running around to see different shows. The streets are full with people everywhere. Being around that kind of environment makes you understand why you are doing what you are doing. You also miss the quiet parts of your life though. There were definitely a couple of times; I really did miss my bed. I wanted to be in a quiet place for a little bit. There are amazing people all across the country doing amazing stuff. You exchange cards and hopefully people hit you back up to work together.
CA: You could list three things you want to achieve this year, what would they be?
ARD: I want to do an Art by Villains show and I really want to show people what we can do. You have to understand, when I talk to these guys about ideas. There are some crazy things that comes up and I want to be share it so badly.
Two, I would love to throw a big ass party. I want to throw a big ass stupid party, one that would get shut down (nah not really laughs). I want to go ape shit crazy during a party in the summer.
I have an idea for an Are You Doing podcast. I would like to start it this year. I think I will. All I would need is a mic at this point. I want to get that started with. I think I am very quiet in nature so it would be nice to have a weekly thing to talk a bit. I might have some people come through and hangout. Those are the things I would to do other then be successful.