THATLOWD hangs out and interviews Austin Antoine. A versatile rapper with mad freestyling skills that has shown us how words can really have an impact on someone’s life. He also once broke the Guinness world record for longest freestyle at 16.5 hours, but he doesn’t wanna be identified with that. And we agree with him. Austin Antoine is much more than the dopest freestyle rapper ever.
But first, in the video below, Austin and his friends (Quinny C and D Dot Bailey) improvise a freestyle about what they see while walking down the street on their way to a show.
How did you get into making music?
Through freestyling. When I was younger in middle school and high school people used to make fun of others. I was a big kid, I was thick, so people would come and make fun of me making some fat jokes in rhyme. This particular day, I was sitting in the back of the bus and a dude who is now a good friend of mine said: “Oh Austin Antoine, only time he’d murder is if somebody would have stepped up and tried to steal his cheeseburger.” And everybody on the bus was like “oooooohhh shiiit, fat!.” But it was really funny, really mean but also it was very cool how he made that rhyme. I went home and wrote just enough jokes in rhyme so that when I would see him next I would be able to say something. After a while it went from writing down rhymes to having to do it on the fly, so I developed freestyling from that. Then I started putting my freestyling on beats just to battle, freestyling with friends and starting to make jokes not just about each other but rather about everything. That group of friends then turned into the LOAF crew. While in high school, we would gather in my homie’s basement on Friday nights, turn on the Xbox, buy a bunch of junk food, grab a computer, download an instrumental, and figure out how to flip it. The whole time I was doing that I was also involved in choir at my school. In college I did the same I was doing with the LOAF crew: instead of going out partying, I would chill in my room and mess around with music. I met other people who did the same and those are the people I’m growing with musically now.
Is this your full-time job?
No it’s not. I also work for an app for valet parking. When I’m not doing that, I’m get music going, do battles, perform and write music. It’s not hard to balance the two but that’s mostly because I know that I have no choice so I can’t be complaining about. I love rap, I love music and I love performing. If I could do something else as well as I rap, managing a store, do valet, I would do that. It’s so much simpler. However, I can’t do anything as well as rapping and there are many people that wish they could rap as well as I do so why should I throw this away.
Your full legal name is Austin Antoine. Is there some thought that went into using this as your artist name?
When I first started battling, people used to call me “AA.” When I started putting out music a bit later on, I was just going by “Austin.” But then I felt like I was being ambiguous and mysterious when I don’t even take shit seriously like that. So as I became more confident, proud and aware of my abilities I decided not to hide like that and let people know that I am Austin Antoine.
Do you wanna be identified as the person who won the world record for longest freestyle?
Hell no. I’m far from that. I want to earn this respect and I want you to develop your own opinion about me. I don’t need to make myself clickbait. I hope that my talent speaks for itself and if not, then I gotta tell my talent so speak up.
Perfect, we agree. So let’s talk about some more of your other work. In “Let Me Fall “ you say : “Tried the 9-5 a thousand times it always ends the same. I can’t work that night I got a show but when am I getting paid.” Why that line?
Because it’s true. Once I graduate college from art school, everybody wanted to attack Hollywood by the horns and make it into this art form. The day I graduated, I went to Papa John’s and filled out a job application with the intention of working there all summer. I had the best time but, unfortunately, shows would pop up and I would have to miss days. The more and more shows that would come up, the more days I was missing. So I couldn’t keep the job.
In that regard then, what are some of the biggest struggles you are experiencing in chasing this career?
I think the biggest struggle I’m experiencing is balancing this process of discovering my true potential with the distractions of the outside world. Things like the news or comparing myself to others, or for real just being broke as shit with luxerly dreams.
“No Doubt” sounds like a somewhat dark and “cleaning out my closet” type track. You even say some strong lyrics like “Too many people getting used to me holding a drink.” Has creating music ever brought you to a place of darkness or was sometimes darkness conducive of you creating music?
I’m better at sharing myself on a mic than I am in a conversation I think. And it’s not because I seek the attention or I’m looking for a pat on the back or a hug, I’m just looking for a way to get it out.
What are your biggest fears in getting into the music industry?
My biggest fear bout the music industry is that I get put in a position where I don’t have creative control, or I just flat out run out of creativity. I’m also afraid of letting people down. I want to give back to everybody who supports me and I don’t want to disappoint them.
What are the best parts of trying to pursue a career in music?
The best parts are those super long, exhausting, six-in-the-morning nights when you have done a bazillion takes and that one take pops off, that puzzle pieces just fits in. Same thing with freestyling. You are going through all these obstacles to get yourself open to where you can speak without judging yourself and you are dropping knowledge that you didn’t even know you contained. Discovering that my mind did that, my mouth did that, that’s beautiful.
The first I saw you perform you had a hype man with you, Joseph (JAS). How did your collaboration come about?
We met in school, but we didn’t start performing until after college. I can’t remember exactly when, but when I did the Guinness World Record, he came on stage and helped me stay hyped. That’s one of the instances I knew we would work well together in the future.
How has your experience with being paid for performing and singing been?
It’s nice to get paid for a show. It’s not even the money, it’s the fact that my work is being appreciated so much that people are giving me things for what I love to do. When I walk on stage with a mic it feels like I’m breathing and to get paid for it is a beautiful thing.
“Team Backpack” verse of 2014 nominee. Let’s go back to that moment. How were you feeling what happened?
There was a rap competition called “Team Backpack.” I submitted a video amongst 10000 other people doing video auditions. I got picked to go perform a verse. They were gonna pick 8 people to move up. The day of the audition was also the day my girlfriend at the time was graduating college. She wanted me to be there and I couldn’t make it out because of all the opportunities that could come out of winning the competition.
I was about to go on stage and the dude before me told me “You see this? Everybody is rapping the exact same and that’s why none of them are gonna get in. I’m gonna go there and tell jokes. I gotta be naturally me or else I’m gonna blend in with the sea.” I said “You’re right, I’m gonna do that too. I’m gonna up there and freestyle.” And he was like “No, no, noooo.” I decided to give it a shot and freestyled about everything that was happening.
The day after, right before I was supposed to go onstage for the final audition and right when they called me onstage to give it up for the verse I had freestyled the day before, I got a text from my girlfriend that read “I don’t think that this is gonna be working out.” Needless to say, I didn’t look as excited as the judged thought I would be when they praised my verse.
Then I got up onstage to perform the verse I had written the night before. I said the first line, cool, the second line ,dope, and then I just completely forgot everything. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I had just been broken up with. So I started freestyling and some really dope shit came out. I was driven in a different way. I ended up being nominated for “Verse of The Year.”
What are some of the milestones you have accomplished in your career so far?
I performed at the Roxy with Joomanji, a neo-soul band I’m a part of. It was for a Nujabes tribute. If the sold out crowd wasn’t “experience” enough, 2 members of the Pharcyde performed to close out the show and let me jump on stage to rock out with them. After they performed 2 of their iconic songs, Fatlip beat boxed while I freestyled to end the whole set. It was one of those things where I knew I was welcome and I’m doing the right path for myself.
On the more personal side, I also fell in love in the streets of New York, recently. I found a muse of sorts. Our encounter made me realize that there are ways of making out, you just gotta find a different way to make it happen. I got a glimpse of an alternative reality and it was so awesome. Other milestones would be going to a friends wedding and being involved in it and seeing my sister have little people that she calls “children.” I also lost friends, but all of these things are coming together to shaping who I am as an adult that had to deal with that stuff and I made it to the other side… and it’s chill.
What were your inspirations growing up?
I grew up listening to what my older brothers and family were bumping. There wasn’t a lot of West coast around of me, a lot of it was East and South. I grew up with Biggie and DMX playing a lot. Also Eminem, Busta Rhymes, Dead Prez, D’Angelo, Outkast, Three 6 Mafia, Pastor Troy, David Banner, Lost Boyz.
What are your inspirations now?
Kanye West, Charles Hamilton, Lupe Fiasco. All of them belong to a very specific rap lane where they opened up rap to emotion and questioning things, family life, and all sorts of other stuff, acknowledging that they weren’t the cool dudes but they found out a way to connect with that. Also Joe Kye who’s from Portland, and a lot of his stuff is out there, and Dexter Fizz, who’s from Maryland.
Who is your favorite emerging artist?
My roommate, Justin Jackson. He is going through a lot of very dope shifts. In the past three or four years, every time I see him he has gone through a new shift and something new and bigger happens. Now that I live with the guy, I also get to see how hard he works and get motivated by him. It can be 4 in morning and I’m recording. I walk out of my room, tired and everything, and I see his light is still on. That’s when I turn back around and get right back to work. Also Quinny C. This dude produces his own stuff, writes his raps, he performs them so eloquently. He is very lyrical, very rooted in the grassroots of hip hop, so proficient and so persistent. As far as underground rappers goes, Q is the man.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself in a duplex or nice studio apartment in a not so busy city and I see myself working on a piece that is so close to me that I might need to shelter myself from the world and I will be living in the spaces that I can do that in. I see myself spending winter in the East Coast and being around the snow
and change of seasons.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself in a relationship that lasts.
What is your dream collab?
What was the first concert you went to?
My second year of college to see Lupe Fiasco and it was crazy.
When will you know that you will make it?
I will know I have made it when I will be able to go to my hometown, Laurel Lakes and have people congregated to watch me perform, to show what that environment was able to create in me. I can’t be the only person having this positive energy for myself and I can’t hoard it for myself either. I must share it.