Sylvan LaCue on Tour, plans after "Apologies in Advance", Record Deals & More
By Gabriel Rivas
Since 2014, Miami native Sylvan LaCue has steadily carved out a career for himself in the music industry following the release of his commercially acclaimed mixtape, “Searching Sylvan”, back in 2014. From there, the artist formerly known as “QuESt” would undergo a name change, leave Visionary Music Group, and create his own label known as Wise Up & Co. On January 12, 2018, Sylvan released his widely anticipated album “Apologies in Advance”. The album arguably marks Sylvans most complete body of work to date and was met with enormous amounts of praise. The album follows Sylvan as he confronts personal demons, searching for happiness, the ideas of acceptance/status, and much more. LaCue even expands upon his production with tracks such as “Best Me”, which also saw a a highly received remix with Saba come to fruition.
On November 16th, the Gonzaga Hip Hop & Rap Club held its 2nd Annual Fall Fest Concert with Sylvan LaCue as the headlining performance. Prior to the show, Co-President & Co-Founder, Gabriel Rivas, conducted an interview with Sylvan LaCue, marking the first exclusive in a series of installments set to drop over the course of the year.
Before anything else I just wanted to say I’ve been a big fan since you dropped “Searching Sylvan” back when I was in high school. I’ve continued to follow your career and music since then so it’s super crazy to me that I’m speaking with you, that we were able to get you for a performance, and then on top of that do this interview.
Appreciate that, this is what’s it’s all about. Thank you for having me out.
So, to start, I saw your Apologies in Advance tour ended recently before coming up to Gonzaga, how did that go and what are some takeaways from that experience? Were things different than previous times you have gone on tour or was it pretty standard?
It was definitely different, this was the first time I was the headliner and what I would consider “my” tour. We hit 25 cities in 44 days, all personally funded, hitting all types of venues all across the country. I think I learned a lot about myself through that journey. Each city was different in their own ways, so I got to see what each had to offer and get to know my fans in the process too. The support was amazing to see everywhere.
Going off that, coming off of Apologies in Advance, where do you see yourself going from here? Are there some things you haven’t done yet that you want to try or do either personally/musically moving forward?
Damn. That’s a good question. I think there is always going to be room for improvement or experimentation, but something I’m looking to do more of and had actually been thinking about recently is increasing my producing ability. (Sylvan produced his hit song “Best Me”) Aside from that, collaborating with more artists. Whether that be on the music side of things with songs, or through WiseUp&Co, in terms of signing artists and helping them grow. I’ll be looking to make that something I follow through on.
You’ve been established for a while now, but do you personally differentiate between your work when you went by “Quest” with projects like “Searching Sylvan” and “Evangeline” and now, as you go by “Sylvan LaCue”, putting albums out like “Far From Familiar” or “Apologies in Advance”? If you don’t, do you think some of your fans might and what would you say to them if they do?
Nah man, they’re all one in the same to me. I think my fan base is so unique because I do come across people who are like “Yo that’s QuESt! That’s QuESt right there!” and it really means a lot to them that they’ve been with me from the start. And then there are others who might not have started listening to me back then and know me now as “Sylvan LaCue”. But, at the end of the day though they’re all fans and I’ve been doing the same kinds of things, it’s not like I changed into a completely new artist. I see all my work as extensions of each other, from the “QuESt days” to now when I go by my real name. I appreciate how passionate people are about it without a doubt, knowing that people have been with me for so long that they do know me as something else sticks with me.
After reading the interview you did with Billboard magazine about almost signing with Roc Nation, your admiration for Jay Z, and ultimately choosing to remain independent as it fit more with your vision, how has that experience affected/altered how you would proceed with potential deals in the future?
For me, it was all about this thought: “what are you trying to get at in the future”. If you want a quick bag, sign with a major label then. But for me, I know what my worth is and choosing to go a different route was something that I felt I needed to do. The decision wasn’t done out of angst either, but more like just thinking about what I’ve been able to do so far as an independent. Like I did over 7 million streams on one song with no paid advertising or promotion. There are some dudes that labels try to push who can’t even hit that or would love to hit that and they’re the ones with deals already. So when I looked at it, even though Jay is my idol, I couldn’t just sign for the sake of being like “I signed to Roc!”. Any deal that comes about, you know maybe down the line, again has to be something that I feel is beneficial for everyone involved. An artist’s value and worth shouldn’t be a second priority. Sometimes labels will also try to sell you on an idea. I’m not even speaking on Roc right now but more of just in general with industry practices. Representatives with a label might try to sell you on things like being flown out places, getting lots of money, taking trips, but in reality, not everybody gets that as quickly as they try to make it seem. They’ll even toss out things you might not even be thinking about like “you never know, maybe you’ll want to get into acting later” and I’m like “What?!”. So it really just comes down to what somebody is looking for and there is no “right” route either. Who says somebody has to sign with a major, or remain an independent, just to be successful. Everybody has their own route.
Right, I think that’s definitely been something that constantly happens in the music industry throughout the years. An artist might sign with a label then immediately after or a couple months/years into that deal, the relationship sours and they want out. But, the label will push back because the contract is still valid and the artist then is in a situation where they don’t like where they are at, they can’t release music, and sometimes the label even gets in the way of how the music is created. I can remember most recently Lupe Fiasco and Rich Homie Quan had similar issues with their respective labels. Both of their disputes had to be settled in the courts in the end. Younger artists especially seem to be enticed by a “major label deal” and the perks often glamorized by that, but it makes more sense to just wait until you are in a good position
Exactly, that’s really what I’m trying to get across too. Money isn’t something that’s gotta be the focus of something like that even though it’s always brought up in those situations. There’s a lot of things outside the money that can be beneficial to an artist or even for someone’s satisfaction and success. But again, everybody has their own interests or goals with music so it goes to the artist to evaluate their intentions and desires.
Switching things up, 2018 is shaping up to be a strong year for Hip Hop, there has been a lot of music released so far from artists we haven’t heard in a while and a lot of new ones too, but what have you found yourself listening to the most? What are you looking forward to as well?
I’d say “Astroworld” by Travis Scott. That whole album sonically is something else. I feel like Travis really honed in on the trap sound we have been hearing over the past couple of years but polished it. At the same time, there are these little pockets of vulnerability throughout the project he injects that add another level. After that, “Take Care” by Saba. The whole album is just so personal and lyrical. He really put everything into it. I’m really looking forward to what he comes out with next.
Speaking of Saba, how did the “Best Me” Remix with him come about? Was it something that came naturally?
So I’ve known Saba for a while, I actually opened for him on the “Bucket List Project” Tour and kept in touch since then. When I did “Best Me” I sent him the instrumental and was like “Yo you gotta hop on this”. Next day he sends his verse back, I play it, and I’m like “wow…I gotta come with it too then if that’s how he’s gonna do it”. I went back to write my verse, put it on and that rest is history. We actually have a couple other songs in the works together too.
So since you are from Miami, while cities like New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago always receive attention for their artists and their music scenes, do you think that Florida as a whole sometimes flies under the radar even though it boasts impressive artists such as yourself, T-Pain, Kodak Black, Denzel Curry, Rick Ross, SpaceGhost and many others? How do you think people should cover Florida in relation to Hip Hop?
I think Florida is just somewhere that is treated differently within the scene and outside the scene too. Unlike the other cities, it probably doesn’t get the same amount of attention, but it has a deep history with Hip Hop. Uncle Luke for example. Uncle Luke literally went all the way to the Supreme Court to fight for freedom of speech and “parody” when they were taking off 2 Live Crew records off the shelves. He paved the way for future artists to be in the positions that we are in and not have to censor ourselves. The game owes a lot to that.
Florida is also just so diverse man. Northern Florida isn’t gonna be the same as Southern Florida, the people different, the culture probably has similar things but there’s still enough to differentiate. On top of that, Florida artists take everything to heart. Theres just so much disrespect for the state in general that it’s kind of like a chip on everybody’s shoulder.
In line with that, do Florida artists have a strong sense of community like the trap scene in Atlanta or are individuals more separated?
It’s probably mixed. When SpaceGhostPurp was coming up, you know he’d do a track then have Denzel Curry on the next, and vice versa. That extended to other dudes they were hanging with too but I think Florida is different than Atlanta. I’m not in Atlanta like that to be like definitive but from the outside, it seems like the values are different. You have guys out in Atlanta you know having up and coming artists come on tour with them or even just having them as feature. So, it seems like they understand and value money because they know that there is money to be made If they all consolidate to come together. That’s more money for everyone. But out here, dudes in Florida will get 30k and blow it on a weekend in South Beach just to front and say they did it. I think that’s part of why something like what’s out in Atlanta with everybody isn’t happening in our area.
Last year for our first Fall Fest, we had Travis Thompson come out, I recently saw that you will be performing with him at Neumos in Seattle on Dec 21st, how did that come about? Did you know of him prior or did you guys meet while you were out in the area for tour?
I actually met Travis last year at a show out at UCSD. He was the opener, we were kicking it back stage before the show and just started to kick it. We clicked, and I’ve been keeping up. When he heard I was gonna be up here at Gonzaga, he reached out asking if I would be down to come to Seattle for the show. I said of course, you know it’s all love. I’m excited for that, whole lot of good energy. He’s good people.
To close it out, it has been a trend over the past couple of years for players write a “Letter to My Younger Self”, most notably Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, and Derek Jeter did so upon retiring. Typically, they reflect on their career and give advice to themselves with all the experience they’ve gained over the years. So, if you were to write a letter to your younger self what would advice would you give or what would you say?
Wow, man. That’s a lot to think about, great question. I’m 28 right now, I was just starting out at 18, 10 years seems like forever ago. I think I’d start by telling him that he will get where he wants, just not in the way he initially might think. There will be people telling him to do certain things or go a certain way, but he shouldn’t listen to them. It might sound good, but his gut will say otherwise. He should learn to trust that feeling inside himself. More importantly, believe in and bet on yourself. There’ll be people who doubt you. There’ll be people who try to take you down a path with them. But in the end, they are just distractions. I’d also advise him to take breaks, just to clear things up in times of stress. A lot of that stress comes from within, by overanalyzing things or worrying too much and it grows off that anxiety of “am I doing the right thing?”.
Definitely, I think that advice can be applied to a lot of different fields, not just music. On a college campus like this, it seems like kids are always stressing out each year. They’re trying to figure out what they are going to do, especially seniors who are about to graduate. There is definitely value in looking into a long-term plan, but there will be people who get caught up in that “planning” process, who then miss out on things in the present. In many ways too, no matter how detailed the plan, sometimes things aren’t going to line up.
Right, that’s college man. At least, how it appears to be. Once you start, it’s like the “clock” starts ticking. You “have” 4 years to figure it out before the “real world” and if you don’t, you are left behind or looked at.. But really, at 21-22, there is no way anybody should have it figured out. There is a lot you can’t experience in college and a lot that you won’t use. When it comes down to it,
I think you’ve given people a lot to think about, so that’ll be my last question. Thank you again for coming out and for doing this interview as well.
Of course man, anytime.