Butch Dawson has been rapping in organized cyphers, playing underground shows and helping shape a concrete scene for anyone interested in rap in Baltimore (something that didn't exist more than five years ago) for the past two years. Initially an indistinguishable member of his 7th Floor Villains collective, whose style all seemed to overlap in their earlier days, Butch has positioned himself as the group's most musically productive as he produces the bulk of their output, in addition to regularly releasing his own material. Of late, his style has gone from purely rap, to melodic harmonies over spaced-out, bass-heavy production. Lines that'd previously be about serving around the way and eating chicken boxes have transitioned into songs about his annoyance with unwanted feedback ("Yada Yada"); there's more to be learned about him now. Even with his improved intensity and focus in his performances, there seems to be a current leap in his artistic development. He's set to release his new album, Lower Mercury, next week and to get a feel for how his music has changed and what alterations he's made to his process, I chatted with Butch over the weekend. Read below:
True Laurels: Your new project, Lower Mercury, is set to drop soon. How has your approach to making music changed since you started putting this together?
Butch Dawson: My process always changes based on what inspires me everyday. Also, every time I’m in a new environment I start making new shit. I move a lot—like three times in the last year— so when I set my room up, I do it in a way that reflects the current music I’m making.
What is Lower Mercury? Take me into that world.
BD: I came up with Lower Mercury because it’s blue, which I like a lot as a feel and mood. It’s kind of like having my own planet in space, it’s home. I always mention home in my music and this is kind of bringing you into that world. Into my room, really.
“Yada Yada” is one of the first tracks you released from Lower Mercury and it expresses your dislike for unwarranted feedback. How do you gauge that as an artist? Like, who’s worth listening to?
BD: I try to get as much feedback as I can from people who keep it real with me. Some people just tell you shit without trying to get to know you. There just always seems to be a misunderstanding when it comes to making art. People don’t always get it after the first listen but they’ll still react without knowing.
Most of the work you’ve done up to this point has always been heavily assisted by people within your circle. Lower Mercury is more solitary than you’ve ever been with your music. Why?
BD: 7th Floor Villains are my brothers but I really didn’t want anyone else rapping on this project. This is my story and I need to convey my message to the listeners by giving all me. There could be good ass lyrics from those features but it wouldn’t be the same.
Do you ever think you’ll eventually choose either rap or production one day or are you happy doing both?
BD: I always have a mental war over that shit. I love rapping and that’s what I did initially but when I couldn’t get beats from people, I started doing it myself. I don’t know. Sometimes I think I’m not gonna be rapping forever but I’ll still be making beats. I am committed to rap right now, though.
What do you feel is the most blaring deficiency in your work?
BD: It’s really hard to say but I definitely wanna spit better bars.
“Red Leather Chair” from Lower Mercury looks back at your favorite place to put music together. What's your favorite way to create material now that the chair is gone?
BD: When I moved into the house where I had the red leather chair, it was always there. I started out making beats on it. I made the actual song really quick sitting in it. Now I live with a bunch of creative people where I can be constantly inspired and influenced to make stuff. It’s hard to get a block on your creativity when you’re in that kind of environment. Especially when the people I live with are so supportive.
Deep down, when you made this project, what did you want to get out of it? From who it reaches, to its overall sound, and beyond.
BD: I want people to cry when they hear this. I want people to have some kind of emotional connection to it. I try to make my shit like a movie. Like when Spike Lee or Wes Anderson make films you can feel their signature on it. That’s what I’m trying to do here and I feel like the sound creates some visuals.
In music, Baltimore is overwhelmingly underrepresented so what unique quality do you have to offer?
BD: My creativity. I think just making my ideas come to life whether they're complete, incomplete or whatever anybody wants to classify it as; it's unique. Baltimore has definitely forced me to think outside the box, prior to music. Before I started doing music, there was no different music or videos in the Baltimore local scene and being in that circle made me wanna do things my way.
Follow Butch Dawson on Twitter: @butchdawson_