Aime | photo by Mike Ryan | courtesy of the artist
How Queens-born Aime aimed for Philly’s hip-hop scene
It’s easy to fall in love with the city of Philadelphia. I moved to Upper Darby when I was 13 years old, and for the past 16 years I’ve grown to cherish this gritty cultured city as my own, the same way Queens-born rapper Aime has.
Since coming to the north side of Philadelphia while attending Temple University ten years ago, the aspiring hip hop artist admired the how the city shared his appreciation for creating quality content with lyrical ability. That love is what got him into Philly’s hip hop scene allowing to meet known local acts (like Chill Moody) as well as his mentor (producer Dameadelphia who has worked with Philadelphia’s own the Grammy award winning hip hop band legendary The Roots ).
Projects like Aime for the Sky, Class Act,When It’s Cold Outside and Perfect Aime have helped the MC earn his stripes, while Book of David and The David EP aided him into getting recognized by the city he calls home. However, his recent project Flowers Started Dying Yesterday shows a more polished and confident Aime, telling the beautiful yet sad tale of the cycles of life.
While Aime prepares for performing at Dayne Jordan‘s annual No Place Like Home party this weekend, I got a chance to sit with him to discuss his journey in the Philly hip-hop scene, how the city became his second home, and the backstory to the musical drama Flowers Started Dying Yesterday.
The Key: When did young David become the MC known as AIme?
Aime: I think it was 2008 or 2009. Since middle school I used to do stuff like freestyling, and sharing verses with homies of mine from the block. But I think it got serious in my junior year of college when I dropped the Aime For The Sky mixtape and it was like “Yeah, this is what I want to do.” The effort and dedication that was put into it because at the time was a lot: I didn’t have a home place to record in Philly. I was going back and forth back home to my homie’s studio, I would write a bunch of different verses and songs and then my homie Smith, who I met out here because we both went to Temple, made beats for me and would drive us to New York to record and drive back to Philly listening to the new songs we just laid. It was one specific night I was working on the my second mixtape, Class Act, I remember Lupe was performing at the Liacorus Center, I think it was for homecoming. We had drove up to finish the tape that day, listened to it on the way back down and got right there to watch Lupe. It’s just started feeling real and liberating to get on these tracks and rap, and there’s nothing that I’d rather do than this.
TK: You came to Temple University for school while making music and introducing yourself to the local hip-hop scene in Philly. Who were some people you networked with who helped contribute to Aime’s journey?
Aime: Let’s see… Like I said, I met my homie Smith who made beats for me. People around campus, I used to freestyle all the time every Friday called Freestyle Fridays by the Bell Tower. I met a lot of people there like Mike Stew, there was a teaching assistant Ose who was from Montreal from one of the engineer classes I was taking and he was an artist himself. Chris Vance, my boy Chill Moody who I met at a talent show at UPenn. There was this party promoter, Brandy Stanton, who was managing me at the time brought me to this show and I had met Chill there. When I met Chill he helped me get in touch with the scene Philly and not just what on campus. I was able to branch out to the underground in the city doing radio shows.
TK: How would you describe the hip hop scene here in Philadelphia compared to Queens?
Aime: What I would say is that at the time when I got in, I really enjoyed the grittiness and how hungry everyone was for the bars, you know what I’m saying? In New York period it’s really what’s going to get me rich the fastest and I think it’s what caused them to lose their steez when it went started trying to do whatever the industry was doing. I felt like New York was more about making some hot shit that sounds dope and will put them on, versus Philly where they were still about the bars, content and feeling which made me really appreciate the scene. I never really felt that in New York at all.
TK: I’m not sure if The Book of David is your second project, but I wanted to know what was the process like making it and if it was related to the story of David in the bible?
Aime: It’s my fifth, but it’s the project where I started getting noticed. My first mixtape was Aime for the Sky, then Class Act. When It’s Cold Outside was an EP that I made in Temple where I was making records with Chill Moody. After that I made a mixtape called Perfect Aime with DJ Damage then came The Book of David and that’s when I met my mentor Dameadelphia.
Dameadelphia is a producer from Philly who did a lot of work with The Roots. A friend of mine, C White who is one of my best friends and directs all of my videos, we go back freshmen year at Johnson and Hardwick living on the same floor. We was doing freelance stuff at Philadelphia Music Magazine and one of the people he worked with was Dameadelphia. They were doing this series called The Lineup where they would bring MC’s in at this barbershop in Southwest and while they were getting lined up in the chair they would spit their verses.
So Chris had asked Dame if he could bring me, and Dame was like “I don’t care, the more the merrier.” It’s Dice Raw, Truck North, Ms. Jade in there and nobody knows who I am. Everybody’s doing there takes and I’m just waiting for my turn and after a couple of hours later I finally sit down and do this verse in one take. Everyone was like “Who the fuck is this kid?” After that Dame was rapping to me, talking to me about what I was doing because at the time, I was in my boy Tracknique’s basement cranking out music with him for two years trying to figure my shit out. We started talking from that point on and like a year later I remember I was at his crib for the first time just talking and afterward was like “What’s up, you got any beats?”
He looked at me like “What you mean do I have beats? That’s not how it works, I’m not about to play you beats and you pick one.” From that point on it was like him building a relationship with me for a year. He didn’t bring up the idea of the Book of David until eight months later after getting to know me and breaking me down as a person. He was like “I got a concept, what do you think of calling it The Book of David?” He wanted to base it on a night I had out for my 26th birthday where I was drunk outside of the club and was yelling “I’m 26, if I don’t make it this year, it’s over,” an have me being a preacher who created this church. It wasn’t based off the book of David in the bible, but we played off that theme of creating your own book. We were going to do a third one called King David but we went out own paths and that’s how FSDY happened.
TK: I noticed the growth from the David series to Flowers Started Dying Yesterday. It seemed like your energy, tone and flow were all different, like they had been polished on this project. What do you think contributed to that growth?
Aime: I a lot of it had to do with honing my skills. In those studio sessions it was like a dojo and Dame was my sensei and we’re doing this with Jon Smeltz, a Grammy award winning engineer who has worked with The Roots, Prince and D’Angelo. During that time, Dame was trying to get me to be a better artist, he knew that I could rap but he wanted to focus on how to attack these songs. Through that process I think I technically got better, but to get to FSDY it was a confidence that I had to have. When I was making the Book of David and The David EP it was all being executive produced by Dameadelphia. He was directing the show and though I was writing the content if he didn’t think it sounded right we would go with the take he liked instead of the one I liked. When it came to FSDY it was the first time in a couple of years where it was all me, nobody is controlling this. I had gotten sharper as an MC but I also having the confidence and know what I say on this record.
TK; To me Flowers Started Dying Yesterday sounds like a beautiful sad story so I’m curious to know where the idea came from?
Aime: You break it down for me how you interpreted it first.
TK: It made me think of the phrase “Give people their flowers before they die.” And with this, it felt like you gotten them, but you died right afterwards. It was beautiful to see you get the love you were looking for by doing it your way, but sad that you died right after receiving it. I thought it was very interesting twist.
Aime: OK so the way it started was, shout out to Eric Boss, who was an apprentice as an engineer at Jon Smelt’z studio. I’ve known him for years but it was just him DJ’ing for me and he was always trying to give me beats, so finally last summer I came through his crib and let him play me some beats to see how it goes. And the first record he plays for me is the one that became “Flowers.” At the time it seemed like death was happening frequently around me, like I know we’re all getting older, but this year and last year has been crazy. Like it don’t matter who you are, you could go any day, so you got to make the most of your time while you’re here.
So with “Flowers,” it was like all I want is get the flowers while I can still smell them. On Book of David it was like me saying “if I don’t make it this year it’s a wrap” and on FSDY it’s like “I’m older but in the best shape and confidence that I’ve had, so let me execute and do this now and let me get my flowers now, because you never know when you’re going to go.” So “Flowers” was the first record that I made then second one he played for me was a sample of my friend Max Swan, who’s a vocalist and saxophonist in Philly. It was a song of his that he sampled for “Yesterday” which was the last song off the project.
When I came up with songs for “Flowers” and “Yesterday,” I was like “We should make a concept of life cycles and everything coming full circle.” He had this other beat that he was playing which turned out to be “Dying,” where he sampled Lil Wayne’s “I Feel Like Dying.” The original concept for it was that I believe we all have seasons in our life. We’re all born in the spring, young and blossoming into the world. The summer is where we’re in our teens/roaring twenties and we’re partying and living life. After that once you start going up into your thirties and forties I feel like is the autumn in our life where you’re seasoned and know who you are at this point, like you know what you want to do and you’re doing it at this point.
By the time you get to the winter, you’re at your old age and it feels like it’s coming to an end with the cold weather. When flowers start dying, it’s like the fall and I felt like that’s where I was in my career. Now it ended up being a thing where it’s like now with the short film we were able to take it to what you’re saying about getting the flowers while you’re here. We made each song a word from the EP, and it just resonated man. It’s crazy because when we started the roll out for FSDY the first video we dropped was “Flowers” clip on Friday March 29th. We were getting a lot of love and positive feedback from the first single of the EP and that Sunday March 31st is when we all heard the news of Nipesy getting murdered. The song hit mad different after that, because Nipsey was an example of someone who was just getting their accolades, flowers. Getting the Grammy nomination and recognition for all the black business and philanthropy that he was doing for his neighborhood on a mainstream level, and then he goes. It hit even harder because the timing for that single to drop and his untimely passing.
TK: I gotta imagine that with the timing of it all, it makes FSDY hit differently for you. Does it have any effect at your shows?
Aime: I think it’s me relishing in the moment. It’s crazy how in the concept of the short film, I’m dying getting my flowers, it’s almost like a rebirth for me in a sense. The Aime who was a little more humble passed away and now I’m doubling my confidence. I’m here and owning it, now I’m the man no more maybe, I think I’m one of the best rappers out here, so when I’m performing it does get emotional. The second verse on “Yesterday” is about a specific person, and they were in the audience at my last show and sometimes I get choked up talking about our situation and whatever, but when performing I’m getting my flowers. They know the words and are into it and it feels rewarding.
TK: I ask a lot of artists how it feels to be vulnerable when recording, because it takes a lot of courage and strength to open yourself up like that and then have to perform it in front of a crowd. How do you handle those moments?
Aime: Everyone is going to have anxiety, but you got to get to a point where you are so comfortable with the person you are at this place in life and recognize that they’re people who are going through the same thing as you and can relate. It’s really up to you express that for mad people, it’s not just for you when you’re doing it. When people are listening to your music they’re tapping in and connecting with you and once you realize that I gained the confidence to open up I was able to show that I’m a person too who also has triumphs and downfalls.
TK: This month you’ll be performing at Dayne Jordan’s annual concert No Place Like Home sharing the stage with other local artist like Beano French, DJ Hvnlee and Dayne himself. Since you’ve made Philly your home, what makes this new home different from other cities that you performed at?
Aime: It literally feels like family. This is where I’ve made a name and my main fans are here because they’ve seen the grind and the transition with what I’m doing now. Like when I’m performing and I see Chill who’s seen me on the rise or Tracknique who’s been in the trenches with me in the crowd it feels rewarding. When I’m here it feels like y’all really know me and because of that is why performing in Philly is the best.
Aime performs at No Place Like Home at The Fillmore Philadelphia on Saturday, August 17th. Tickets and more information on the show can be found at its Facebook event page.