Tyrone Jordan, also known as SMBA, is an 18-year-old artist who was, for the most part, born and raised in Michigan before moving to Chicago when he was around 14. SMBA moved around Michigan quite a bit while growing up, originally raised in Southfield before moving to West Bloomfield, Detroit, and Northville, then finally ending up in Highland Park, IL. Tyrone cited that he was always interested in music and started writing poetry around the age of 13 before turning his interest to music at only 15 years old when he released his first song. SMBA is not your typical artist; his choice in instrumentals and lyrical topics are not something you will usually hear in hip-hop music, but to pin SMBA as only a rapper is an incredible disservice to his music. SMBA is a artist whose music can sometimes be placed into the rap category, but first and foremost, he is an artist. You can tell through his music that he has a deep understanding and appreciation of the art that he creates. SMBA being so young while also being able to create such unique music are both telltale signs of a star in the making.
How did you get the name SMBA?
"It came from a roast session. I was in 8th grade and someone said I looked like Simba. I was like... 'Yeah, I do look like Simba.' I just took that and coined it as my name."
What inspires your production choices?
"I listen to a lot of different music. I try to be eclectic with my taste, but I think I listened to a lot of really weird shit growing up. I listen to a lot of Skrillex; I found Kanye’s music during the Watch The Throne era. Also - rock music and whatever my parents were playing, such as 90s R&B. I think all those influences were like a perfect storm for my production choices."
When it comes to putting together a project, how much is it your production and how much is it working with other producers? What is the mix like?
"For Blue, it was 90% working with other producers. I co-produced 'Tweakin' with Blake Saint David. But this new project, I'd say I produced 90% of it and I had musicians help me with some ideas that I just couldn't play the instruments for."
Why is music, as an art form, important to you?
"It's always been in my life, and honestly, it saved my life. I actually had a clothing brand before I started with music. I found myself through art a couple of times, but I guess there was a point in my life where nothing was bright and I still listened to music every day and wrote everyday. So, if I can help someone through music, it's worth it. I don't know why music was the one I fell for so hard, but that's the reason why I think it would be that way, regardless of the medium I chose."
What was your initial reaction when "Honeydew" blew up?
"I woke up and I had 20,000 monthly listeners, and that was it. I guess it just really was what it was, and it just kept growing from there. Then the whole Blue thing happened, so it was crazy. I remember I called my manager and I called my friend, and it was dope to see that this music thing could actually start rolling. It was my first time getting my music outside of Highland Park, because it was my first professional single. I had dropped a mixtape before, but it was still dope."
From a creative aspect, do you like creating singles more or being able to put together a project and tell a story?
"I like telling stories, and I like the feeling of how long it takes to dedicate yourself to a story. The singles are straight, too, but it's a whole different art form. I would say it's like 55/45."
How did Blue come together?
"Most of my projects start with me being manic, which is always fun for the people around me, but this one was particularly interesting.
It was one of Lower Lip Drip's and I's first concerts, Victor Pearlman threw the event. We were talking at this meeting and someone brought up the name 'Blue' because I got really inspired by these pictures on Instagram that morning and Dew told me I should name the album 'Blue'. I thought it was a great idea. I went home and I just had this idea for Blue. I started fleshing it out and as I went along, the story changed literally a week before it came out and everything kept changing until it did. It was a very chaotic process but it was it was a learning experience. I think it was me proving myself I could make a whole cohesive project that sounded good and had a purpose. It was a test run for me."
What would you say was your favorite part of making Blue?
"The only person I take in my studio early is Michael Magitman, my manager. We were in there getting things mixed, getting things ready. Late nights in the studio. I remember one moment that we were working hard to get something done and my friend from Michigan took the train down here. We were in the city and picked him up, and then we were out at like 1:00 in the morning listening to Blue and that was pretty dope. Like, 'fuck, I did it.'"
What is the transition going to be like from Blue to EP2?
"It's very rough, but in a good way. It's a hard left-turn and I'm a person; I change. So, I hope people don't expect my music to sound the same if I'm changing as a person; it's different, it's new feelings. I'm more mature now and I think I have a better grasp with storytelling and writing, but that's besides the point. This really just takes you through my past year, which really made me more of a strong and responsible person. It was a lot to go through, but I really think I did a good job putting it into music; I can't wait for everyone to hear it. It's a lot more emotional than Blue and I think everyone will love it a lot more."
Do you think that's why this next tape is special to you? Because it holds that emotion from the past year?
"I think that's how every project is, even the singles I release. They're all just progress updates, mostly for my family, but I would be making music regardless. It's just me keeping track of what's going on. I use my music to express myself and I think that's what makes this different. I started doing therapy this year and I really dove into my brain and put all of that into the music. I've never been dishonest in record before and it was just an interesting year."
When is EP2 coming out?
"It will be hot outside and it'll be out before 2021. Definitely before August, for sure. The vibe has to be great; everything has to be in place. I got to get back to the studio."
What is the rest of 2020 looking like for SMBA?
"That's a hard question, because I don't know what 2020 is looking like for any of us. I definitely have some things going on on the marketing side; I'm going to try to get my name out there a little bit more, but I'm going to find something to do. Definitely SMBA merch, 1000%, along with some singles and music videos. Anything we can do."
Build your own track: pick a producer and two features. You're the main artist.
"Produced by Pharrell Williams, featuring Nina Simone and Kanye West."
You tweeted, "Chicago deep-dish is mid. If you want good deep you gotta go to Detroit."
"I stand by that. That’s true. That’s a real statement right there. Detroit pizza is real pizza. I like Buddy’s Pizzas. There's a bunch of them all over the place; they all use the same recipe, but they're not all the same. It's square; it's like deep dish, but it's a lot smaller. Also, get a Coney dog while you’re out there. Detroit has some dope food, I gotta be real with you. It's a beautiful city; they're really cleaning things up. Honestly, I hate to compare it to Chicago, but it kind of reminds me of a mini-Chicago sometimes. I feel like I should be more loyal to my city instead of this one. I have no doubt in the future it could be its own hotspot. It's super raw; I love it there. I love the energy, I love the people, I love the pizza."
Where do you see yourself in five years?
"Five years from now, I'm guessing I'll be around the point of my life where it's time to release a new project. I should have amassed a lot of things, not that that matters, but it's a great outlet. I'm definitely going to keep doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work in music; I feel like that's a really good place for me. I love releasing my own music, but it's so much fun helping people with their records and helping them put it out. It's cool to work on more than just one or two projects every once in a while. I'll have maybe a pet octopus, but probably not, and I may or may not live in Seattle. I probably won't have all this hair."
Is there anything specific that you really enjoy doing when helping people with their music?
"I really love mixing songs and helping people produce. I have this company called 2DB Company and our whole purpose is that people come to us with ideas and then I help them flesh it out. I can help you make the best project that it can be - whether that's producing, mixing, or whatever you need. Basically, I'm the executive producer, plus whatever else they need. I'm doing this for two projects, and it's super fun to see someone blossom with their idea and help them get it done."
"EP2 is definitely going to be amazing. It's my best project yet."
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