Fort Collins rapper Epoch When offers some lyrical insight into his GRIM state of mind
It's almost a shame when people as talented as Epoch When (aka Alex Koutsoukos) make an album as unflinchingly introspective as GRIM because it's almost certain to not get as much attention as it deserves, which is a lot. His lyrics, which tend to be dense and challenging, are consistently interesting and, at times, quite powerful. The Fort Collins-based MC is immediately reminiscent of Aesop Rock in his stream-of-conciousness style and abstraction, Atmosphere in his dry, tongue in cheek sense of humor and George Watsky in his flow and literariness.
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Born in Greeley, Colorado, Koutsoukos briefly moved to Los Angeles to pursue a scholarship he received from Icon Collective music production school. While his initial interests revolved mainly around house and dubstep, he had also been writing lyrics and soon moved more toward hip-hop. Citing an eclectic range of influences from Aesop Rock and Eyedea lyrically to Glitch Mob and Massive Attack in terms of production, Epoch exhibits a cross-genre appeal while staying firmly within the lyrical tradition.
But while his lyricism is impressive, it may be the production that is most striking. The sound combines DJ Shadow's futurism with El-P's dark industrialism with a twinge of Daft Punk electronica. The result is something truly unique; danceable, yet emotive and inspiring. This is even more remarkable considering that Epoch produced the entire album himself. From Epoch's recently released debut, we were particularly impressed with two tracks, "Mind My Mind" and "Dark Side," so we sat down with Epoch When and asked him about his thinking and inspiration while making these tracks.
"Mind My Mind" from GRIM by Epoch When
Get paid, bitch. Wages stay ape-shit.
Money-hungry monkey see, stay, sit.
Screw you guys. I need a ride home, a base-hit.
I'm wasted. I'm a waste, a waste basket for great tips.
I hate tips. Just let me make mistakes, slips,
fake friends. Let me take them day-trips.
Let me take them eighth-hits.
Let me be depressed, obsessed and racist.
Oh, no, no, NO, not the bed.
Not the only place that I can rest my head.
God damn it, I lose every fucking comfort that I love
out of habit, out of pocket, out of talking to myself under the mattress.
I'm crazy. No, I would love to be crazy.
Fuck, I'm too sane.
Fuck, I would love it if I was unstable.
I'd love it if I'd just get signed.
I could blind-lead-blind just fine.
We'll die together.
Epoch's verse is confused and cathartic, and he employs several techniques to achieve that frenetic quality. The first half of the lines feature a traditional multisyllabic rhyme technique. However, when the speaker begins to lose his cool, indicated by the strikingly informal "Oh, no, no, NO," the rhyme structure has all but dissolved, paralleling the thought structure of a hysterical mind. By shortening his sentences and lines, Epoch indicates a quickening of thought, indicating anxiety. The speaker's desperation comes across in the last few lines: "Fuck, I would love it if I was unstable." Ironically, the verse is a model of instability.
The very introspective nature of this verse is highlighted by its stream-of-consciousness style; Epoch relies on puns, alliteration and rhyme to transition naturally from thought to thought, which allows the verse to take the tone of an internal dialogue. Alexander Pope once famously wrote, "'Tis not enough no harshness gives offense/The sound must seem the echo to the sense," which suggests that the best poetry not only sounds good, but it also utilizes its sound to communicate something about the subject matter. Epoch uses his sound to communicate the feeling of a frantic and desperate mind.
"It was kind of the fastest [song] I've done," Epoch explains. "It was more like instant inspiration just kind of slammed out, you know?...I didn't really have time to think of, like, how it should sound or, like, you know, how it should be if I'm trying to do hip-hop. None of my fears really had time to come in and influence it. It was just so fast that it's, like, super real....I think the reason it's such a stream-of-conciousness thing is that I was just focused on getting it out and not making it a standard rhyme scheme, or not even trying to make it flow or sound very good, just expressing whatever I'm trying to express.
"I get freaked out that I'm not artsy enough a lot of the time. There's a huge issue for me that I see other artists, like Trent Reznor or Grimes, who will isolate themselves in one room for a month and not eat for fifteen of those days and do these insanely artsy albums, and they just seem nuts, you know? And you can tell that these people really need this expression, and I get freaked out that, I don't know it's that people will think that I don't need to do this or something, or, I don't know, I just worry that I'm not crazy enough to be an interesting artist."