Hailing from Kent, Ohio, Visual 9 is an artist who has focused on building a close-knit community of fans while simultaneously evolving and improving his sound. Starting his investment into music at the young age of 16, Visual 9 expressed that he felt that he lacked direction with his writing early on. As time went on, Visual's sound and writing began to take form through a music group he joined once he retired from high school sports. The hungry and driven rapper's aspiration is not to be the most famous artist on the planet, but rather establish a following of die-hard fans. We got to sit down with Visual 9 during his trip to Chicago and discuss how he started, what he has in store for the future, his hairstlyes, and his growth as an artist.
Hunter: Where did you find your influence?
Visual 9: I listened to a lot of Joey Badass and Pro Era. After I got done with sports, I met a couple of homies that I would make music with and that really influenced my sound and who I am today. I started in the group at first, which was DWG (Dreamer Wanna Get It). We were juniors in high school, and then that's how I got hip to Joey Badass and all that shit. We started with boom-bap rap; that's what really got us into it. Then, I branched off into Visual 9. I had so many names before that, too.
Hunter: How did you come up with the name Visual 9?
Visual 9: At first, it was Young Next Ray, and then it was K9. I was just chilling, and my homie said, “It's crazy how you visualize so much shit, you should just be Visual.” I thought Visual is kind of crazy, so I was like, "fuck it, Visual 9."
Hunter: Where did the 9 come from?
Visual 9: When I was nine, I went through a lot of shit. I've seen a lot and that number really stuck with me from sports and anything that happened when I was that age. 9 was just a number that really stuck with me.
Hunter: How do you go about producing and choosing instrumentals for your music?
Visual 9: It’s pretty much just how I feel at that moment. Sometimes I’m feeling a hard beat, or sometimes something smooth; something with a vibe. It really depends on how I'm feeling that day, and that's how I really take off with that beat.
Hunter: I would say most of your songs are on the shorter side. Is there a reason behind that?
Visual 9: I've been to a lot of concerts and I’ve realized a lot of people's attention span isn’t very long. So, what I try to do in my music is keep it short, but make sure you also understand what I'm saying and what I'm talking about. Honestly, I like the short songs, too, because it makes me repeat it over and over and over and over because it's not long. I think that’s a genius idea. I feel like if you can do that and keep somebody engaged and get them to replay it, that's some legendary shit.
Hunter: Would you rather have a huge following, or a very close-knit community of fans?
Visual 9: As long as I have that underground fanbase, that's all that matters. I don't really care about being big and being known around the world. I'm not saying that I don't want to experience it, but there’s a lot of artists that I know that's underground and their fans are so loyal. When you're big and some shit happens, people will turn on you like that. But there’s a lot of underground rappers that I know have die-hard fans. For example, JID. His fans are hardcore, die for him type shit. I love that. That's the type of love I really want to be on, I don’t really care about being super famous.
Hunter: How is the scene out in Kent?
Visual 9: It's cool, but the hip-hop scene is not really there. It's really more of a band scene. We got some artists and it's growing. People are going to get to know about it real soon, it’s a very dope scene. We got me, my homie Chanelle Kazadi, and a whole bunch of other artists.
Hunter: What do you think you’ve improved most on since you started?
Visual 9: My cadence and the way I come in my raps. I feel like when I started, I was holding something back, but then if you listen to my project The Element and "Glory", that's when I knew right there who I was trying to be as an artist and what I was trying to do in my sound. After that song, it really helped me to try different things in my songs.
Hunter: It's been two years since you’ve dropped The Element. Are you working on a new project right now?
Visual 9: Honestly, around that time, I was just really happy. It was a lot of stuff that was going on in my life, don't get me wrong, because I was becoming a man. But at the same time, I was around my homies; they helped me come up with that project. My homie Michael helped me with the artwork, gave me a lot of advice on my songs. He honestly helped me record it a little bit, too, so it was a vibe. To this day, I still think it's my best project, and I'm trying my hardest to really come up with something that's just going to go over that. I feel like it's going to come soon. I’m working on a lot of music and coming up with different sounds, so I got a lot coming.
Hunter: The "Blue Skies" Outro, what really inspired that? Do you still feel that way when you talked about you being that element?
Visual 9: I still feel like I'm that, just because I feel like as an artist I've brought a lot of people together.
Just with shows I've thrown and music that I've dropped, connecting with a lot of different people together, I feel like I am an element of hip-hop around me right now. I feel like pretty soon in the world, I'm going to become that. I'm already trying to build my own label right now so me and my homies can eat. We won’t have to worry about being under no funky contracts, and we'd just be able to create music, grow and just be happy and be able to do what we love to do. At the end of the day, I really feel like I am an element of hip-hop, and a lot of people in the world will know that soon. It's a process.
"Blue Skies" outro, that was real talk. Most of that talk was just freestyle, real talk. It wasn't written. Me and my homie was just chopping it up, and that's how I felt. I still feel like that to this day.
Hunter: In your song "Poetic Views," you make reference to the famous Kanye interview. What are your thoughts on Kanye right now?
Visual 9: I'm still defending his music, but I just feel like he kind of let down his real fans a little bit just because of what was going on and his actions. Overall, I'm still a fan of his music and I still love his classics. I kind of don't pay attention, because I’m too busy growing myself.
Hunter: We saw you at the Shoe Dojo, are you a big sneakerhead? What is your favorite pair that you have?
Visual 9: I just started getting into shoes, to be honest. These Green and Black 1’s that I have are my favorites; these are super hard. I got a couple of pairs; I really like the 1’s a lot.
Hunter: Do you like the idea of incorporating your fashion with your music?
Visual 9: I feel like how you dress and how you carry yourself as an artist will really help your fans connect with you more. Especially with the music, the music can be cool and it can help a fan get to know you, but the way you dress is the way they visualize you. There’s a lot of artists who have been blowing up because of their look; it’s really important in the game.
Hunter: What inspired your hairstyles and dyeing your hair?
Visual 9: To keep it a buck, I wanted to try something different because I feel like as an artist, you got to have a look. For example, Yachty blew up because of his red hair.
A lot of people knew him because, yeah, his music was dope, but if you didn't know his name, you could say, “the rapper with the red hair.” Just different shit like that; have a swag about yourself, something that people can remember. I just wanted to start doing crazy stuff with my hair, and most importantly, Dennis Rodman lowkey inspired me with that, too. A couple of my homies would send me different shit, so I was like, “fuck it, I might have to start doing shit like that with my head.”
Hunter: What artists inspired you to write with such a lyrical focus?
Visual 9: Kendrick, and it was because of Section .80 and To Pimp a Butterfly. I bumped that whole album on my way to New York when I was going to the Apollo. I bumped it there and back; it was me and my mom, and we went to Apollo to perform and I knew I wanted to be on that level.
When I got back to Ohio, I started studying raps, reading the dictionary, learning new words, and trying to be on Kendrick’s level.
Hunter: What was your favorite lyric that you think you’ve written?
Visual 9: As of right now, I think it's off my last song “Denim.” It goes like, “Denim on my jeans, I got some 20s on the back, with a rollie on my wrist, we keep it tucked, no need for that. Ni**as talking like they got it, but I know these ni**as cap. Ain’t no need for lying, get some cash, and you can hustle back. I got a late-night session, so I rolled a couple of woods, she wanna be my shorty, but I know it's really for the looks.” I don't know, that whole verse was just real-life, bro. That was what was going on, and that's how I felt. I just feel like that's the level that I'm trying to be on; that verse was just crazy to me.
Hunter: What do you feel like are the next steps for you?
Visual 9: That's a good question. I honestly just want to continue to keep doing what I'm doing and just write good music. I feel like the music is going to speak for itself, and the people will find me. As long as I keep doing what I'm doing and dropping good music and having good energy, I feel like everything that I want will come to me. It's pretty much been like that.
Just from when I started to now, I've spoken everything into existence and everything that I've spoken about has happened. I feel like if I just keep doing what I'm doing and dropping good music and having good energy, everything will grow.
I got everything going with my label, I got a project that's coming really soon, and then traveling a lot with the homies, making different moves.
Hunter: Who is someone that you would like to work with in the coming years?
Visual 9: I would say definitely J Cole; that's somebody I really would want to work with.
My homie Nell got me hip to Boldy James. I would definitely like to work with him because his music is crazy, and artists like Westside Gunn. Definitely Earl Sweatshirt or Mavi, too.
Hunter: What makes Visual 9, Visual 9?
Visual 9: If I was describing my music, I would just let them know it’s beautiful music. With my music, a lot of people have told me that it has helped them. I would just let somebody know that it will really give you good vibes; you can really feel my music. The people that I have talked to in the past about it, they always told me it was a good vibe. If you like good music, you’re going to vibe with my music. Period.
Hunter: Tell me more about Harmonize.
Visual 9: I've seen a lot of stuff that's been going on in the industry about labels, and there’s a lot of things that I've heard where artists go through dirty deals. My label is just something that I'm trying to build where we can all eat and be successful, and we don't have to worry about not being ourselves. You see a lot of artists that will sign deals because they’ve never seen anything like that before, but there's a lot of things they got to change about themselves. My number one goal is to be able to build a label where we can be ourselves and be able to be successful just being ourselves. Because, it's not like that in the industry today. That's really my goal to be on that level one day, and I believe it will be.
It's been really successful ever since I started it, and this has been four months.
Visual 9: Something I really would like to tell the people is that I have a song coming soon with my homie Lute from Dreamville, and that's going to be crazy. It took us a good six, seven months just to get that song done because I've been trying to perfect it. I’m actually going to shoot the video with him soon, so I'll be able to drop it soon.
Hunter: How did that song come together?
Visual 9: I actually went to this concert in Cleveland, and he opened up for J.I.D. After the concert, I went over and talked to him. I told him, “I’m a rapper from Ohio and I listen to your music a lot; it’s super dope.” He was like, “Yo, you rap? Spit some bars.” I freestyled to him, and he was like, “Yo, this is crazy. You're super dope, I want to follow you.” He followed me on Instagram and been keeping up with me, so I hit him up like, “Yo, bro, I would really like for you to hop on this song.” I sent him the song and he was like, “Yo, this is dope.” He dropped his verse and it was like that. He's a good person, though; good energy, and I guess he felt that from me, so ever since he’s just been showing love.