On ‘NINETEEN’, the opener to his new EP BACK IN ACTION 3.0, midwxst shouts “Let me talk my shit, or did I flex too much?” the question is rhetorical, as this hard-hitting, arena-ready cut sets the tone for a project that serves as a testament to being your authentic self.
This context is especially impressive considering his last project better luck next time, a sombre exploration into heartbreak. It’s like this project is a reminder that he’s still the shit, even though he’s going through shit. BACK IN ACTION 3.0 finds the Indiana rapper putting a focus on ember-filled frenzies, letting off fiery flows over bellowing 808s and sword-sharp synths, and striking a strong contrast to the woozy hyperpop-infused croons of his prior release. It’s a manifest for mosh-pitters, giving them the bounce for the inevitable bumps at upcoming performances. But while you come for the bangers, you stay for the community midwxst continues to build. The flexes serve as a framework for midwxst’s main goal in music: to bring people together and encourage people to be their authentic selves.
To dive more into the background of this barraging EP, midwxst and I hopped on Zoom to talk about the creation of the project, finding comfort and authenticity, and of course, how he linked with Babytron!
First and foremost, I find it a little ironic that we’re on the third edition of your BACK IN ACTION series because it doesn’t seem like you ever really left!
I feel like the BACK IN ACTION series represents my urge to create an atmosphere of hype. I want to make you amped up and vibed out, before a wind-down moment in the end; like a rollercoaster. I like creating these environments because it translates so well to live performance. Bringing people together with my music is all I care about, and that is the same throughout both my hype and emotional sounds.
Your last project Better Luck Next Time was centred around heartbreak. Was it hard to get back in the hype zone following that?
After that project, I took a couple of weeks off. I wasn’t really making music at all; I was just chilling out with my family and my dogs. During this time I decided to go back and revisit some music from the past that I haven’t really sat down with. I was bumping projects like Hellboy by Lil Peep, and songs like ‘GOSPEL’ by Rich Brian, Keith Ape, and XXXTENTACION. It all really brought me back to those days and made me wonder what was stopping me from going this crazy. It was like a ‘fuck you’ moment, where I just decided to go for it. It also feels very cool to have a group of people that mess with me for a variety of different sounds and styles I do. It’s like we’re a family.
It’s amazing how that era of ‘Soundcloud Rap’ is the golden era of music for so many people today. What do you think made that time so special?
I was in a horrible space during that time, and that music helped me deal with it. I remember hearing X’s album ‘17’ and crying my eyes out because it was the first album I could truly relate to. I remember Lil Uzi’s Luv Is Rage 2 dropped the same day, and it felt like a real moment. This music was like having someone identify what you’re going through, and explain it. Not a lot of people have the strength to have those tough conversations because it’s uncomfortable. The artists from this era made it feel like I was understood.
Now, you’re in a position where you make people feel that way. How do you manage the pressure of that?
I don’t feel the pressure of it because it’s natural. I’ve never forced myself to be in certain settings or surroundings; it just naturally happens. I think a lot of things I’ve been blessed to have is because I don’t ever feel like I need to act a certain way to fit in. Because of that, I’m able to cover so much ground in terms of genres and connect with different types of people. All I care about is spreading a message of positivity. I don’t give a damn about payouts or the monetary value of this thing; I started off making music on GarageBand with a shitty microphone. I get the blessing of making music for a living and touring with my friends. I want to show kids that you don’t have to act a certain way. You have to be yourself, and be comfortable with being yourself. If you can do that, all while addressing your faults and owning up to your mistakes, you’re going to become a mature person in the long run.
I talked with Redveil earlier this year, and a big part of his album learn 2 swim was the difficulty of growing into an adult with the public eye on you. Have you gone through a similar thing being so embedded in the scene?
For sure. Growing up, I was super introverted, and people viewed me as the weird kid. I was always on my iPad listening to music, and wearing shit that went against what was considered cool at the time. I had to learn to swim socially. Once I started to get more comfortable, it opened up a lot of doors for me, because I understood how to get to know people. If you hopped onto my Discord chat, you’d see things like us talking deeply about our mental health while we’re fucking playing Team Fortress 2, and stuff like that [Laughs]. I understand how it is feeling like nobody understands. A lot of people limit themselves because they’re scared of change or progress, but change and progress are needed in life.
I’ve gotta ask about ‘223’s’, which stands out as an instant highlight on the EP. How did you and Babytron link up for this track?
Man, I was making a lot of music at the time. I wanted to make a Detroit-style song because it’s a midwest style of rap, and I wanted to get a midwest rapper to feature. Tron already followed me on Twitter, so we knew each other a bit. We put the song together real quick, and it was fun as hell. We shot the video in Detroit, and I got to drive around an old-ass Corvette while the camera captured some crazy angles. It was so much fun.
The midwest seems to be the home of many of music’s true aliens. What is it about the region that you think fuels this?
If you look at places in the midwest like Chicago, you’ve got Chief Keef, Durk, G.Herbo, and so many fire artists. I think it’s because these people are often not living in good surroundings and have a driving force to get out of there. They have to grind their ass off, without a lot of support. Back in Indy, I was making noise with artists like Dom Sarfo and Drayco McCoy; we were helping each other out to further shit together. Also in the midwest, I feel like it’s on you to make shit fun. You have to be with your friends to make shit fun, so you can do stuff like go to the movies, or go go-karting. It’s a creative region because you have to make the effort to make things happen, and you have the time to do it. Indiana has such a great creative scene, with a lot of great photographers and videographers on the come up. I kind of want to be the artist who reps for Indiana, like how Jack Harlow reps for Kentucky. There aren’t many people who have done that for Indiana yet and put it on a pedestal.
Lastly, my friend, what do you have planned for the rest of the year?
It’s time for everybody to wonder where the fuck midwxst went. I’m deleting my social media after this project, and I’m going to take my biggest break yet. I’m going to sit down and create the best music I ever have because it’s time for my debut album. I want it to be a representation of who I am, what I can do, and what a kid from the midwest is capable of.