This San Francisco native dropped his third studio album on August 12th entitled ‘All You Can Do’ which not only claimed the #5 spot on the iTunes’ hip-hop/rap chart in its first week of pre-sale but surpassed other artists such as Eminem, Drake and Childish Gambino.
Watsky grew up on 5th avenue and Fulton, half a block from Golden Gate park and he achieved a lifelong dream when he returned to San Francisco in April 2013 and sold out the Fillmore as a headliner. Combining humor, rapid-fire rapping, storytelling and occasional spoken word poetry, Watsky and his full band put on a dynamic live show.
After getting his start as a teenage writer competing in the city’s annual youth poetry slam, Watsky was featured on the TV show Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry on HBO in 2007. Using that as a foot in the door, he spent the next four years performing poetry at hundreds of universities across the country. With a breakout viral success in 2011, Watsky has since racked up over 150 million YouTube hits and headlined two international tours, selling out venues in North America and Europe.
We caught up with this young rapper at Outside Lands Music Festival and here is what he had to say:
HTF: How does it feel to be back playing for your home city ?
Watsky: It’s awesome, my parents are really proud of me, they come see all my shows. I’m playing a big thanksgiving show at the Regency and that’s going to be special. I get to see all my friends from high school and middle school and, just walking around festival today, I’ve seen so people I grew up with.
HTF: In your video for ‘Whoa whoa whoa’, what gave you the idea to have Jim Belushi in the video and how was it working with him?
Watsky: There was a cameo by Jim Belushi and a cameo by this guy by the name of Bo Burnum who is a comedian with a really big following. They showed up on love, we didn’t have to pay them anything. It was interesting having Jim Belushi, because he’s an actor who has done so much TV and movie work that he was expecting real professionalism out of our crew. If somebody crossed his sight line, which means that you crossed in front of where he’s looking towards the camera, then he would get pretty pissed off about it because it’s something that you don’t do on a professional set. He was a really nice guy, but when he’s working its like “bang bang bang, take one take two take three alright we’re done”. He nailed it, he was great. He got exactly what he needed done and he was out of there.
HTF: Was there a specific meaning to the whole catching fire and the fire following you in the video?
Watsky: The video doesn’t have a strong meaning outside of the fact that everything I do is in someways a parody, or a satire, of what a mainstream artist might do. I have a scene where I’m doing something bad ass and then it ends up falling apart and blowing up in my face. I think that being able to laugh at myself is a big part of what I do and so even when I have a sex scene with a really hot girl, I’m of course going to be person that knocks the candle off the shelf and lights the room on fire before I’m able to actually able to do anything. So I think I wanted to be able to make a video that looked like a slick bad ass hip hop video but still winked at myself.
HTF: How did it feel to surpass rappers such as Eminem and Drake on iTunes with your album?
Watsky: I don’t think I actually surpassed them but there was a brief period where my album was higher than theirs which was awesome to see. But it sold really well, it definetly sold a ton of copies and I sold way more tickets than ever expected to in my life. It’s awesome, I’m really excited because I grew up in San Francisco, but I’ve been able to build a national and international audience, which I should say is nowhere near the size of Drakes or Eminem’s but it’s more than what I expected to have and it’s really gratifying to be able to come home to play a show in San Francisco. It’s always really special to me, it’s always been a life long goal of mine and I’ll never forget my bay roots. I’m really proud to be from here.
HTF: Do your lyrics reflect any life experiences? Growing up? San Francisco ?
WATSKY: Definitely, I’m a product of the Bay Area, I grew up during the anti-Bush years, like war protests and like that spirit, and that kind of identity, politics is definitely a part of how my parents raised me
HTF: When touring or collaborating, who would be your ultimate choice of artist to collaborate with ?
WATSKY: I try to separate who would be my ultimate dream and who would actually be possible, but I guess you never know how far you can get. Some of my all time favorites would be Andre 3000 from Outkast, that would be a dream come true. As far as rappers, Eminem would be amazing,
HTF: What advice would you give to any other new artists trying to be heard?
Watsky: I would say it’s tough and, although I don’t want to give the corny advice, be yourself and work hard. I think that people can sniff out a rat and can smell if you’re not honest with yourself. I think most of the people who are able to succeed on a massive scale succeed because they do their way and because they brought something fresh and original to the table. I don’t think you should be afraid to do what feels natural to you. The other thing is to not be afraid to grind it out, no one ever achieved success over night unless they’re really lucky. Sometimes if that happens it’s a curse because you won’t be able to appreciate how hard it is to make it. So I would say enjoy the process, enjoy grinding it out, if you’re not where you want to be right now, don’t feel like you’re never going to be but also don’t feel like you have to be selling a million records to be happy.
HTF: Finally is there anything you would like to say to your fans ?
Watsky: Check out my new album, I’m really proud of it, and if you feel like coming to see a show, check us out, give us a chance!
Check out more from Watsky here – https://www.facebook.com/gwatsky