It would be very hard to find an artist more patient, appreciative and strategic about his music than Musa Reems. The 19 year old artist (notice I said artist, not rapper) is currently a sophomore at my alma matter, Columbia College in Chicago. He is knowledgeably using the resources and contacts of the school to his advantage. Musa dropped a short EP, Another Dos(e) that made huge waves across the Chicago blogosphere. It is a quality project; each track giving an excellent example of his artistry and what’s to come.
Musa has a strategy in mind with his output, so today is a special day for him and for us. It is our complete honor to premiere his FIRST solo music video Not With Gang. It’s such an artistic visual with impeccable execution by Musa and talented videographer Nick Visuals. You can watch the video above and learn not only about the creation of it, but more about Musa in our interview with him below. Enjoy!
Musa! You just dropped Not With Gang on our site. Thanks for rocking with us! This is the first solo music video you’ve ever released. How does it feel to finally get this out to the public?
Thanks for rocking with me! It feels great to have the video out! It’s been a long time coming and it’s very exciting to release my first solo video. It’s so surreal honestly. This one is for “gang”! I wanted to introduce myself to the world in this way. This wouldn’t be possible without an incredible support system.
Before we start our convo, tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Malik Muhammad, but most people know me as “Musa Reems”. I was born and raised on the west side of Chicago. I’m 19 years old and I’m a sophomore studying music business at Columbia College Chicago.
Nick Visuals did his thing on this one. He is definitely an established videographer in Chicago…how did you initially link with him?
I originally met Nick about 4 years ago through my homie, Jabari Rayford. During this time Nick was a part of the video production duo, Visual Mecca. We linked for a few of Children of I.L.L.I.O.S. videos (“Paragon”, “Icarus”, and “Elysian”) and we’ve been collaborating ever since. He is one of the best, not only in Chicago, but period. I trust him with my work and we have a lot of fun creating these visuals. It’s really laid back and free flowing while working with Nick. We bounce ideas off of each other and come up with themes. For “Not With Gang”, we wanted to show how flee we can get.
What about his previous work made you decide to collaborate with him?
I record at Soundscape Studios and I began to discuss video ideas with my engineer, Jabari and I.L.L.I.O.S. The things that we wanted to do fit Nick’s visual style perfectly. When Nick was with Visual Mecca, they were shooting impressive videos for Alex Wiley, Kemble X, and Adot. Once Jabari recommended that Children of I.L.L.I.O.S. work with them and we saw the quality of material they created, we knew it was the best decision for us.
I remember watching Alex Wiley’s “Vibration”, video and it was mind blowing. The videos that Nick and Visual Mecca produced were always top tier. I created plenty of memories working with Visual Mecca. They helped me grow artistically outside of music also. I got into short films and various forms of culture because of them. Shout out to Nick for helping me move forward and elevate while producing my music videos!
The opening shot of Not With Gang shows a graffitied quote “Don’t let society take hold of you.” Whose idea was it to start the video off that way?
That was Nick’s idea to include that, and I loved it off the bat. The quote means a lot to me and it has a lot to do with the video. I don’t think you should ever let someone box you in. At times, I feel like people say you’re not enough or too much of something. In my opinion, you are you and you should feel free and beautiful. People tell us what we should be and what we shouldn’t be. As long as you are happy and you’re not harming anybody or yourself, I think you should choose your own destiny. It’s so easy to focus on the negative, but I think it’s very important to remain as positive and optimistic as possible.
With the Not With Gang, video I didn’t want society to take hold of me. I’m showing how much I love family, how I am stepping outside of my comfort zone, taking risks, and supporting the part of the city that I feel is overlooked, the west side. Growing up I didn’t feel like I had somebody to represent where I’m from. I wanted to have a role model that I felt was like me. With this video I want to give the youth the belief that they can do it and be unique while doing it. “Not With Gang” is for everybody and especially the ones you love. Let them know you love them for being the amazing individuals they are, no matter what.
Shots of really dope graffiti are shown throughout the video. Where did you guys film this?
We filmed the video in a Columbia College Chicago graffiti room in Downtown Chicago, The McCormick Place, Pilsen, and on the west side at Uncle Remus. I really wanted to show how “Chicago” I am. Showing different parts of my city was essential. Everything from the clothes I wore to the lyrics I wrote were dedicated to The City of Broad Shoulders. I feel like Chicago gets stepped over a lot and that our pride gets mistaken for arrogance or overcompensation from an inferiority complex.
So many things happen here and it’s overwhelming at times and I feel like I need to escape, but I’m representing Chicago through it all and I’m proud to be from here. I’m here forever and always. I want a lot of people that’s from here to feel that it is okay to rep this city as much they want and to create the image that we want our home to be perceived as. This town is beautiful no matter how hard they try to push negativity in your face. There is no place like The Windy City, from it’s food, to it’s lingo, music, and culture. It is one of a kind. It helped me grow into the person I am today. I made this video specifically for my people out west and in Woodside. Gang!
Correct me if I’m wrong, but your Twitter profile picture shows a similar background to a few shots in the visual. With that said, when was this filmed?
Yes, some of my press shots are from the video. The video was recently finished this month but I started shooting around the beginning of summer. I wanted to be particular about what shots I wanted to use for my vision, so we went around Chicago and studied various art. During that time I released my first solo EP, Another Dos(e). I wanted to tie this material together and have deeply conceptual and intricate ideas that were introspective. That’s something that helped me gain ideas with this video.
As I grow with music, I find myself trying to describe what is going on in my life to help others feel better and show that I can relate. We all have a story. “Not With Gang” and my recent releases are examples of me telling mine. I’m not a very vocal person and can be pretty quiet at times. I’m just letting it be known with my music that I have a voice and that I won’t be silenced. I hope to show others that they do too. All of these photos, videos, and albums are connected. It’s one long story about what goes through my mind on a daily basis.
Not With Gang is the first single off your upcoming project “Where The Sun Never Rises,” but you released the actual audio in April of this year. Why wait so long to get a video out?
In April I recorded, “Not With Gang”, and wanted to hit the ground running. I really don’t take breaks in terms of making music. It’s been my life since I was 15 years old, so I was extremely eager to release my first solo track. With that being said, I started working on the video about a month or two later, but wanted to show what else I could do, so I released two more songs (“Eclipse” and “Colt 45”). My goal with these songs were to show how versatile I am. I didn’t want any song to sound alike, but instead I wanted them to be cohesive simultaneously.
It was important to me to show how much I’ve grown musically and as a person, while creating a fresh sound that was different from Children of I.L.L.I.O.S. I want every album to have added elements and to build from each other, whether it’s an I.L.L.I.O.S. album or my own. There should be improvement each and every time. That extra time between the actual audio release and the video has paid dividends for me and I’m excited to show you all what I have in store.
Is there a release date for WTSNR?
There isn’t an official release date for “Where The Sun Never Rises” just yet. However, be on the lookout for new material from the project very very soon. I have a lot of things that I can’t wait to drop and so many surprises. Stay tuned y’all!
You dropped an incredibly impactful short EP Another Dos(e) this August. It was featured on a host of influential music blogs. What was that experience like?
Thank you, that means a lot! It was extremely cool to see my art being recognized by so many people and it’s inspiring. It made me hungrier and really eager to continue creating. I’m forever grateful for the support. Another Dos(e) was a big stepping stone for me and it’s just the beginning. The funny story about Another Dos(e) is that I didn’t plan on releasing it. With the support of close ones, specifically, uber – talented songbird, Amare Symoné, who laid vocals on the project, telling to me let the music out, I decided to drop the EP. It was a huge step in me getting my feet wet and stepping onto the scene.
The songs on Another Dos(e) are very close to my heart. “Eclipse” talked about a lot of things that happened in my life over the past year, whether it be friendships, feeling overwhelmed and alone at times, love, and hope. “Colt 45” is one of the first solo tracks I wrote. SWM, also known as Bryan “Space” Snow Jr., a friend of mine that I collaborated with, recently passed away. He produced “Colt 45”, and I’m proud of what we created. His legacy lives on eternally and he affected so many people, not only with his music, but with his charismatic personality. While moving forward into the future, I’m going to make sure that Where The Sun Never Rises shows that it’s going to “Snow” forever. Peace and love to my bro and condolences to his family. .
You are a part of the Children of I.L.L.I.O.S. collective. Why did you decide to pursue a solo career?
It’s something I always wanted to do. I like to challenge myself and the first thing that helped me step outside of being comfortable was rapping in a group. I was just a teenager who fell in love with hip hop culture. It was an explosion of pure creativity all around me. During my freshman year of high school, I took a chance and told my closest friends, Kairo Jones and LUMO, that I wanted to rap and we joined each other to form our collective, I.L.L.I.O.S. I’m doing the same thing that happened to me freshman year, falling in love with the culture and studying it. If you want to be great, you have to be a student of what you’re pursuing. I grow more and more appreciative towards the legends that paved the way for me and that pushed me to make this album. Researching and learning things within my art form is my favorite hobby. I enjoy it exponentially. I’m keeping an open mind and being progressive.
I like trying to develop different things within myself and I wanted to release a solo album. Looking back over the years, I wouldn’t have imagined myself doing some of the things I have accomplished. It’s really humbling to see it happen and it’s exciting. Making an album takes times and I’m putting my all into this art. I’m spitting every bar like it’s my last. I worked on solo stuff while working on Children of I.L.L.I.O.S. albums and it finally came together this year. While working on my solo material, I feel like I have so much more to say. This is also the first time I haven’t written all of my songs in Chicago. A handful of the songs from my project were written in Brooklyn and Las Vegas. Brooklyn played a huge role in my progress specifically. I love it out there. Everybody out there is so supportive.
Experiencing journeys outside of Chicago was beyond helpful. It opened my eyes to new things and made me love in new ways. It made me think about things I never thought about before. With my solo career I look to connect with as many people as I possibly can and I look forward to proving myself and growing limitlessly.
What can we expect from the upcoming project?
You can expect happiness, pain, vulnerability, love, stories, fun, and a look into my life. It’s going to be bussin. We going crazy and turning up. We doing the whole nine. I want people to have an open mind and have fun while listening to Where The Sun Never Rises. You can also expect a conceptual album with lyricism and a sonic landscape that is vast, ambient, heavy, and colorful. Where The Sun Never Rises is a narrative for an abundance of voices and I hope it relates to you. I had so much fun creating this project. It’s Where The Sun Never Rises Season!
Any last thoughts?
I would like to thank flowsfordays.com for always supporting me. I would also like to thank everyone who shows me love. It means the world to me. There is so much more to come! You can stay updated with me on my website : musareems.com. Follow me on Soundcloud at : soundcloud.com/musareems, and Twitter/Instagram at : @musareems. You can like me on Facebook at Musa Reems. Thank you for your time and much love!