When you think Houston, you tend to think of lean, chopped and screwed music, and the whole culture that encapsulates that. But it's artist like Craig Xen who are switching the Houston agenda. Through outlets such as the internet, the 24 year old began to broaden his musical horizons in his early teens. He has always been a fan of hip hop music but through punk and rock, he began to experiment with his music that he was recording. As Craig says, it wasn't easy to be accepted in his hometown of Houston with such a different style but he's embraced it and continues to carry a torch for other experimental artist coming out of the area. In this interview, we discussed his family lineage in music, growing up in Houston, his friendships with XXXTentacion and Lil Peep and much more. Read below.
Being from a place with such a rich music history like Houston
Growing up, as far as hip hop goes, my father’s side of the family listened to a lot of Screw tapes, a lot of SUC (Screwed Up Click). I grew up around that culture until I was about 14 then I started listening to Green Day, Linkin Park and branching out of that sound that was exclusive to Houston. As far as the culture goes, the lean and everything being in slow mo, it was around me. It was in the house. That culture. It was unique in that sense and I think Houston has its own language sometimes. Just the way people talk and move is very slowed down, very soulful.
Killing the rumors of being the nephew of DJ Screw
Bro, somebody is CAP! [Laughs] I saw that online. That’s not my uncle but I do have an Uncle named Doug King that produced for the Geto Boys. He produced “Mind Playing Tricks On Me.” That is true but I’m not sure where the internet got the Screw rumor from.
Not having a traditional Houston sound and how it’s received in Houston
It wasn’t received well in the beginning. In the very very beginning, when I first started recording music, I was around my uncle, on my Dad’s side, who was big in the Screwed Up Click. And when I started getting a little more comfortable recording, I was trying new shit and a more aggressive approach. I was starting to play with other genres and as a Houston native, he was even opposed to it so I stopped recording there and got my own shit and started making my own music and when I would try to shop my music to promoters, I couldn’t get booked for shows. No one locally was really fucking with it so I took it upon myself to say ok, since there is no space for this right now in the city, I’m going to create this space for the next generation.
One word to describe your music and why
Pain. Because music from the beginning has been my coping mechanism. Initially, I was creating music to find people, connect with people and do shows with people including the fans and build this community where I felt understood because being a Houston native, I didn’t feel understood – I’m half white, half black and I LOVE punk and rock but I LOVE Screwed Up Click also. Music is my coping mechanism. I was going through a lot and I needed a healthy outlet because I don’t do drugs or drink. It’s a lot of negative outlets out there that are really easy ways out but I feel that those are all dead ends and that’s been showed to me and generations before us that violence or drugs are really negative outlets and have a dead end so my biggest thing was getting stuff off my chest and feeling like people understand me and that’s what’s happening. The only problem with that now is that I’m used to using music almost as that sole purpose – getting that pain out. I don’t mind though. I think I serve as a beacon of hope for the youth when they see and hear someone who feels how they feel, they feel understood.
Most memorable moments with XXXTENTACION & Lil Peep
Ah man, I couldn’t encapsulate that into one memory [Pauses to think]. I think when we went on tour together, we did the Revenge Tour. That showed me really how solid he was as a person because he brought all of his friends on tour. I remember the security guard told X, which this wasn’t relayed to us until we were all at the funeral and the security guard spoke. But the security guard said he pulled X aside on the tour, and said “Hey man, you’re a mega star now. You don’t have to be running around with these dudes. It’s costing you money.” And it was costing him money. He had to get us hotels every night - literally like 20 or 30 of his friends he brought on tour. The security said X told him, “I leave no man behind.” And none of us knew he said that until the security said it at the funeral. And I had already seen what he was doing for us but when the security told us that, it really hit me.
Just watching him grow and what he did organically and the people he had around him and the lifestyle changes that he made were really inspiring.
I also worked with [Lil] Peep. I was really close with him. I was a lot closer with X but I was close with Peep. I got to know him before his cry baby face tatt, in those Soundcloud days. Peep introduced me to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Him exposing me to new culture, not just new sounds, but new cultures and hanging around new people was really cool. That was when he was putting together the Goth Boy Click. They had fun with music, you know and a lot of the things back home in Houston that were perceived as pussy, lame or soft, I didn’t have that narrow perspective on those things anymore.
The influence of Lil B on his music career
He’s a massive inspiration. It’s crazy because I just DM’d him. This is like my 7th DM over 5 years [Laughs]. I DM’d him and he replied and I think I sent him a heart and said “Love you, bro. Thank you.” Every now and then, I wouldn’t say “let me get a feature,” I would just tell him thank you for everything that he’s did for the culture and me personally. He responded back and gave me his number and I texted him and he was like “What’s up, legend. We gotta get one in. I’ma lock you in.” And just for Lil B to call me legend, damn, that’s live [Laughs]! He’s a fucking legend! He inspires me now more so than before because I went back and listened to all of the music that I fell in love with when I first started recording music and Lil B gave me the confidence. Not to size him but I was like damn, if he can do it, I can do it. And the way that he carried himself, pushed so many boundaries as far as fashion and sound, it really inspired me.