Melo-X is a self-described ‘sonic creator’ with a hands-on approach to DJing, songwriting, production, live beatmaking and photography. The East Flatbush native is a true reflection of New York City’s rise-and-grind psyche, conveyed through his eclectic back-catalogue of official remixes, production credits and collaborative projects. The release of this year’s God EP trilogy is a bit like aural dominoes falling in the lead-up to his highly anticipated first official solo release Pièce de Résistance. Sitting in the last traces of the New York summer heat in Melo’s Flatbush residence with Law & Order on low volume in the background, we caught up with the Jamaican born artist just before he sets sail for his Australian tour with Jasmine Solano.
Words and photography by Nynno Bel-Air.
So the title of the new album is Pièce de Résistance?
Yes, it sounds cool when you say that. Do you speak French?
Yeah I do, high school French. Interesting title! It translates as the Main Meal or the Main Showpiece. Is that what we should be expecting?
Yeah, it’s labelled that for a few reasons. Last year I put out a three-part EP called God Series Trilogy – LoFi, HiFi, and WiFi. Now it’s Pièce de Résistance.
What does the title mean to you personally?
I called it the Pièce de Résistance because I consider this album to be the best material I’ve put together as a producer, singer, songwriter and emcee, as well as it being my first solo project for sale. So it’s a play on that. My first, my greatest.
It comes out November 5th. The significance of that day being Guy Fawkes Day in the UK. The pretext being that he was trying to blow up parliament and change all these things that were going on at the time. My idea for this was inspired by V for Vendetta. In the movie “E” went through all these things that lead him to the stage where he wanted to change all this [political] shit and destroy all this corruption. He breaks into the broadcasting station and relays that at the same time next year, this revolution is going to take place, encouraging all those who are about this revolution to be there and certain sequences start happening in certain places leading up to that date. So with Pièce de Résistance, it’s kind of the same idea. We set out a whole plan for the releases of LoFi, HiFi and WiFi.
LoFi signifies the stage where an artist is underground, underrated and up-and-coming. HiFi signifies finding your voice and getting known in your local area. WiFi is when you’re a global entity, on the internet and social media. Then after all of that, you’ve gotta put out your best work, the Pièce de Résistance. All while supporting the notion that this can be done independently. So I guess, all in all, the album is about being able to independently follow your dreams if remain consistent, especially when people tell you to do something else. People used to always tell me I need to just focus on rap and only rap. But I was interested in production, photography and all sorts of passions. If I’d listened to those voices I wouldn’t be here today because people know me for all these different things. So if you plan ahead and are consistent and have realistic expectations, you really can do things independently.
And you’ve had more creative control this time round?
Yeah. With other projects like my collaboration album with Jesse Boykins III, it would be him coming up with ideas, me facilitating those ideas with beats or writing and basically us putting our ideas together. But this album has been all me. I’m writing, producing, recording, mixing and mastering.
That’s a rarity. Most artists don’t have that start-to-finish, hands-on input in their projects. Unless people are genuine creatives, where the sole purpose of making something is to explore one’s creativity, then I feel like most people contribute to one part of a project then ship it off to someone else to finish.
It does makes life way easier. But for people like myself the attachment to the art outweighs the outcome or the final product. The real attachment for me is the creation aspect. Even down to designing my album artwork which I also did for the EP trilogy, where I also collaborated with some dope photographers.
Does your audience realise the extent of your involvement behind the scenes?
Yeah. But I don’t just call myself a photographer because I take photos. I have a passion for it. I’ve been accumulating photos from my travels for years. Quite often I come up with a whole photo exhibit, then I scrap it.
Would you call yourself a perfectionist?
I did think that at some stage, but I realised I’m more of a visionary. When I write a song I see the video, the visuals, the artwork, I see the Grammy award, I see the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame [laughs]. I see the whole thing, so it’s hard for me to break my mind away from seeing all of that and not be in control of everything. For me to able to make that statement, it needs to be made right. With music, I’m an artist known to push boundaries. So for me to achieve the same with my visual projects I would need to be totally sure of the outcome visually and conceptually.
How does this compare to when you’re collaborating on projects with other artists, for example, within the Romantic Movement?
I learn how to just step back. There’s a saying “a good leader was always a good soldier”. When collaborating, I either bring my whole concept to the table or I water it down to facilitate another idea.
Was it easy to find on your own voice without influence from your previous collaboration projects?
Everything I work on is in story form. For example with Zulu Guru, Jesse and I wanted to make a statement about the balance between the male and female qualities of an individual. The Zulu and the Guru. The Warrior and the Teacher. The content of the album was based around that and about us not being too much of the warrior to not accept our downfalls, be it in a relationship or whatever. But with Pièce de Résistance the concepts are different, a bit weird even. For example ‘Handle It’ is about a stripper from Mars. I don’t know why but the beat spoke to me like that and I just started writing to it in a free flowing kind of way. Then the visual for it is this girl in a cocoon. People might think she’s just in a bed sheet trying to get out, but to me it symbolises an alien being in a cocoon. The concept is she’s a stripper from Mars but I didn’t want it to be just ass shaking and shit.
Then I have other songs on the album like ‘Kiss Me but Don’t Kill Me’. Which is basically me talking about the concept of fame and wanting to become successful but not losing myself in the process. It’s almost like me seeing God as this beautiful woman I’m asking “kiss me, but don’t kill me”. Like shine on me, give me what I’m trying to achieve but I don’t want to lose myself in the process. So the back story usually dictates the outcome of a project. I always look at things in a different way. The story is different when it’s my own project so that’s how I separated my own ideas for the album.
Conceptually, your videos tend to be “out there”. Do you consciously aim for the visuals to be slightly provocative?
Normally the music facilitates the ideas, more so than purposely trying to trick people. Usually I’ll draft about three versions of an idea before I settle on a final concept. Even with the ‘Gone Baby’ video, the story behind it being that making love to this girl is like making music in bed. So Jesse had the idea that I come home after a gig, then she wakes up and has to go to work. But before I go to work we bring all these instruments into the bed and I start making actual music with her in bed. So we always think how can we approach a song differently and make people think.
Do you think your audience is ready?
I think so [Laughs]. Even with the EPs they seem to get it. It’s all being inspired through studying other artists like The Weeknd and Miguel. Just seeing how they prepared people for their first major albums for sale, or their next album in Miguel’s case. Just that idea of giving people a story to follow, that leads up to something else and I feel like people don’t usually do that. So that was something I wanted to do.