Talking to the queen of The Internet and first lady of Odd Future about sex, youth, Drake and the enduring influence of The Neptunes.
When The Internet first began in 2011 as an offshoot of LA rap collective Odd Future, the duo, vocalist/producer Sydney Syd tha Kyd Bennett and her MySpace pal, producer/musician Matt Martians, specialised in making floaty, dreamy music that was the perfect antithesis to the 100% fully charged output of the rowdy OF crew. But with, Ego Death, The Internets recently released third and finest album, the once self-described up in the clouds sound of their earlier outputs has been overthrown by hard drums, calculated melodies and radio friendly love and lust songs that enthrall rap nerds, pop fans and ya mama all at the same damn time.
i-D caught up with Syd as The Internet was preparing to tour across the USA to discuss the importance of acting your age, Nina Simone and the non break up of Odd Future.
Congratulations on the album, I feel like its very scary to put something out into the world that youve put so much love and effort into. Reviews arent everything but it must feel amazing when an outlet like The New York Times gives a glowing and on point review?
Yes, I just felt really blessed by the reception.
Do you generally read reviews?
No I dont. I used to. I realised eventually that they didnt ultimately influence my opinion or the way I made my music so they mostly would just hurt my feelings. So now Ive altered my methods and I think thats a good way to go about it.
I love the title, Ego Death, it leads me down a path of Jungian transformation and self-surrender concepts. Did you start with the title and build the record around that or did it come at the end?
It actually came at the end, after the whole album was done. Matt came up with it and initially I wasnt sure about it so I said no.
Did you think it sounded corny or something?
No I thought the word death was very harsh and I was kinda scared of it and then kept trying to go through different album titles. We wanted something that was intense and that would feel good, you know what I mean? And so Matt brought it up again when we were sitting down once it was finished and it seemed perfect.
How long did it take you to create this record?
It was a long process, it wasnt like a writing and recording everyday thing. For a long time we didnt really have a direction for it, we didnt really know what kind of sound we were going for. We were just making stuff, and eventually we produced a small body of work that we felt confident in and decided to build on top of that.
Im curious about your writing process, do you generally start with the beat and build from there?
We have always used the beat first and then linked up with one of my writer friends or partners to bounce ideas and then I just sit and try to write it myself. Ill start with the melody and just start singing random or free style melodies until I hear one that sticks. Ill then record that melody so I dont forget it, because that happens a lot and Ill slowly start writing lyrics to it. Ill usually just mumble some stuff and think of what it sounds like.
Was there something non-musical that you were obsessed with during the making of Ego Death?
I go through stages with all kinds of stuff. Therell be a couple of months where Im reading, you know, like fiction mystery novels and therell be a couple more where Ill be redecorating a room in my house so I think its just my life. I dont really watch too many movies but I try to watch inspirational pieces about other musicians. Musical documentaries truly inspire me.
What have you watched recently? Have you seen the Amy Winehouse documentary?
No. I really need to see that, the last one I watched was the Nina Simone documentary. That was interesting because I realised while watching it that I didnt know anything about her.
Did the film make you think about her differently?
Because I didnt know anything about her to begin with it was an introduction to Nina Simone which I felt was very real. She was portrayed in a good light but they were also very honest about her.
Is there a song on the album which is your little baby, the one youre most proud of?
I feel like theyre all my children but I think the one Im most proud of is Penthouse Cloudbecause Ive never written a song about anything that real. I think I did a really good job.
You did. Theres some pretty hot tracks on the record. Im curious if at this point, outside of music, is it boring for you to talk about your sexuality? Would you rather just do it through your music?
Yes and No. As far as open conversations with random people, no I dont really enjoy them unless Ive been drinking. But my friendship circle pretty much know all my business. Its funny because a few girls hate me because I talk about certain, uh experiences when Im drunk (laughs) but I dont care.
Is there anyone youre dying to work with? I read that you wanna work with Drake but you didnt want to jinx it by saying it publicly.
Whats interesting is that I really feel we would make something awesome. I think Im influenced a lot by Drake in specific ways in my writing. Drake, Pharrell, Erykah Badu I think I could possibly make really great stuff with all these artists but its not something that Im pursuing right now. I still want something to look forward to.
I think thats really important.
Yeah, Im still just trying to enjoy my youth to a certain extent and also enjoy working with all the young people around me, the young and new artists around me.
I feel like youve done so much at such a young age, is it difficult to be a kid but also be having all these very adult experiences and responsibilities?
Yeah! For instance, with this album, most of my direction and mood was to make it more fun and more exciting and youthful, because the chill and vibey stuff is cool but honestly it got boring to me.
You wanna hear your song out at the club!
Exactly. Its funny how you said that because with this album I mostly wanted to portray that were still young. You know the oldest person in our band is Matt, hes only 26 and the youngest person in our band is 17. We want to have more fun on stage and remind people that we are kids. A lot of our music is probably marketed towards, and made for, an older demographic but I still want to relate to people my age.
You talk a lot about how much Pharrell, N.E.R.D and Erykah Badu mean to youtell me a little bit about that formative Neptunes fever, you were really young during their commercial peak!
Yeah I was but I wasnt one of those people that was wigging for it or anything. I didnt really understand N.E.R.D when I first heard it. I think the first song I heard from them was Am I High?and I didnt necessarily like it but I listened to it again and I was like, wait hold on and I listened to it again and again until I understood it. Yeah it was and is big in my life.and Erykah Badu, I grew up listening to her, my mum is a big soul addict, so I grew up listening to a lot of soul music. And a lot of reggae on my dads side.
I wanted to know, with the split of Odd Future if youve actually become closer as friends now that youre not working with each other all the time?
Yeah youre actually right, we have, although we havent officially split. We just dont tour together anymore and we dont hang out with each other in the one studio anymore because we have our own studios now. I think its beautiful and were all a lot closer than we used to be, were all a lot more supportive of each other than we used to be.
What drives you as an artist? Do you make music for pure joy or is it a compulsion or a mixture of those things?
Well I started making music because I started hearing things that I wish I could take credit for and a lot of it was Neptunes produced stuff. I would hear it and be like, Man I wish I made that. So I started trying to make stuff that I could play to people and be like yeah, I made that.
I really like that answer. Are there any young artists at the moment that youre really hyped about?
Theres a kid named Bobby Earth, hes making some really dope music right now. Alessia Cara, I love her song, Here. Thats about it.
One final question, who is the girl in the Girl video?
Her name is Jennifer Hart.
Oh my god. I love her.
Damn, I know.