bill bodkin and joe zorzi keep it real with T. Mills…
I’ve interviewed quite a few artists in my day. Some of them know how to keep it real while others are a little more difficult to talk to. T. Mills is definitely in the first category, as he’s one of the realest and coolest people that I’ve gotten the chance to speak with. This kid really loves what he does and has a true appreciation for his fans.
Bill Bodkin and I spoke to T. Mills about his upcoming major label debut — giving us the inside scoop on the album’s and possible guest collaborations. We also spoke with him about his thoughts on other rappers in the scene and his new mobile game, which’ll be available through GameChanger World in the coming weeks.
Joe Zorzi: First off, hows it feel to be out here in New Jersey today?
T. Mills: Cold as hell man! Super cold. And people are saying ‘Yo, it’s a good day for us.’ Fuck, I’m from California so it’s 75 degrees at home right now.
Bill Bodkin: The week it started out at 60.
TM: That’s what everyone’s saying! Yeah, and then yesterday I got here and it was snowing and it was cold as hell. I’m having a great time so…
JZ: For people that don’t know, what exactly is Young Favorites?
TM: Young Favorites is… it was actually one of my good friends, he was in a band called Young Favorites and I just loved the name so much and shit. And then, they’re not a band anymore and two and a half, three years ago we just started saying it. I think I said it on a song. And that’s just what me and my friends just started calling our whole camp, crew, clique thing. It’s all my homies man. I got some shirts and shit. I got Young Favorites tattooed on the webbings. My homie Panda has favorite across his knuckles.
JZ: So you’re coming out with a new album on Columbia this year correct?
TM: Yup, yes sir.
JZ: You know when that’s coming out yet?
TM: I don’t, it should be out right before summer. I’ve been working on this album for a year man and I dropped two projects in between, just because I have so much recorded music and I’m only putting ten or eleven songs on the album.
JZ: How do you decide what’s going on there?
TM: It’s a very tedious process. It’s gonna be an album pretty much full of all singles. Not all singles, but I’m saying every song has the potential to be, you know what I mean? Every song is my favorite song from all these sessions that I did for a year and it’s the songs that I think will reach the most people and be everyones favorite and I’m putting them all on one album.
JZ: That’s a good feeling, that’s cool man.
TM: YI have a song on there called “Riverside Girl” which is my personal favorite and it’s not necessarily a Top 40 fucking four on the floor Black Eyed Peas shit. It’s real soulful, laid back, I’m singing on it, I’m rapping on it and it’s just an ode to where I come from, my home, man.
JZ: Would this album really define who T. Mills is for people who don’t know you?
TM: I mean, I look at it like this. This is a great building block. I don’t think this is going to be the only album I make. I have so much music I feel this is gonna be the start of where I want everything to go. I feel this album’s gonna reach a lot of people. Definitely a lot more than anything I’ve previously released. And I’m just super excited man, it’s gonna be my first major label album, it’s my major label debut and I’m gonna get to work on a second album.
JZ: That’s a sick feeling.
TM: Yeah man, I’ve been recording every day for twelve months.
JZ: Do you have your own studio?
TM: No, I work out of a bunch of different studios in LA, so Atlantic Studios is one, Paramount is another one, I work at West Lake. And when I went to Atlanta I worked at Hot Beats … I record everywhere, bro. I got a demo studio at home where I cut ideas and shit and I’ll take them into the studio and we’ll finish them up.
BB: Any word or any hint on any guest stars that are going to be on the record?
TM: I was just with Mike Posner the other night and I was playing him the record and he said, “Yo man, why am I not on your album? Why don’t you want me on your album?”. I said, “Yo dude, I would fucking love to have you on my album. I’ve been a fan forever.” So, we’re gonna be setting that up next week when I get into town. I really want Travis Barker to play drums on my album. I just found out, he started following me on Twitter, dude and I freaked out. I fangirled the fuck out, he’s one of the reasons why I started playing music and he’s actually from Corona and I’m from Riverside which is basically the same… you know what I mean? We’re from the I.E. and he’s a god where I’m from. Everyone knows Travis Barker so, I would be honored if he played drums on my album.
BB: Now what’s the IE?
TM: IE is Inland Empire. It’s Corona, Riverside, Moreno Valley, San Bernardino. It’s an hour and a half away from LA is where it all starts and then it just goes south.
JZ: So what got you interested in this style of music? How’d you start?
TM: Alright, I used to freestyle at parties and shit.
JZ: Just for fun?
TM: It wouldn’t be just sayin’ stupid ass shit. And then I got a Macbook when I was 17 and it had Garageband on it. And so I just took an instrumental … I took a Ratatat instrumental. It was called “Loud Pipes” and I freestyled over it, I made a Myspace page and I put it out and it started getting hits and shit and I don’t know I just kept recording songs and did everything and, you know one of my friends invited me out on a tour and I did it and I haven’t looked back since.
JZ: What’s it like when you’re out there and you’ve got just crowds and crowds of girls just screaming for you? Is that overwhelming ever or is it just exciting?
TM: It’s crazy. I feel that’s a lot of responsibility too, you know? ‘Cause you’re responsible for someone’s well being that day. If I’m having a bad day I can’t let that show ‘cause… you know what I mean? This person they’ve looked forward to this moment for so long, I want it to be everything that they hoped for so it’s a dope responsibility to have at the same time ‘cause you get to change peoples’ lives. It’s crazy to me that if I tweet someone back, it could make their whole fucking year, dude. It’s so crazy to me ‘cause … I say this a lot, if my mom could tweet The Beatles or Queen and they could tweet her back when she was growing up. How crazy would that be? And that’s the digital age that we live in and it’s an amazing feeling, it’s overwhelming sometimes. If you’ve got a bunch of shit going on and some shit happens. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything man ‘cause at the end of the day, they don’t have to give a shit about me but they do.
JZ: That’s a good mindset man, that’s really cool. Any rappers you’re looking to collaborate with that you really like right now?
TM: Um … Kendrick’s album is incredible. You can listen to it start to finish. I don’t know, we were just listening to that on the way over here.
JZ: “m.A.A.d. City” is such a sick track.
TM: Dude. The whole album is what Chronic 2001 was to me when I was growing up, I feel that is what it is to kids now.
BB: You’re making me feel so old, ‘cause I was graduating high school when that came out.
TM: I was twelve when it came out. I was probably eleven when it came out … so yeah, Kendrick is a huge one and then I really want to get Wiz on this new single I have too.
JZ: Oh I think you guys would have a sick collab, a true radio single too.
TM: Yeah, I have the perfect song for him.
BB: People see you and they’re thinking, “okay, so he’s a rapper.” And they see other rappers such as Sammy Adams, Hoodie Allen, guys of that nature. What would you say to those people who are just seeing you from the surface and say what separates you from all those other guys?
TM: I feel I’m more of a singer, dude. To be honest. And the new album definitely reflects that. I have a bunch of songs where I’m not even rapping on any of them — it’s all singing. I feel I put a lot of time and thought into songs. Not just verse, hook, verse, hook, but actually constructing songs and the people that I’ve surrounded myself with in the studio are amazing A+ award winning songwriters. Everyday I learn something new, you know what I mean? About arrangement or just lines that pay and melody and how to just put everything together. So I feel I’m a student of the song and songwriting and I wanna write the best songs as possible. And not saying that those other people don’t do that, but like I said, I’m more of a singer and I wanna make music that just resonates with people for a long time. Instead of a year or two years and then it’s over with. So I don’t wanna put myself in a box and I don’t wanna call myself a rapper or, you know what I mean? And like I said, you guys haven’t heard it yet but the new album definitely reflects that.
BB: Excellent man. And kind of changing gears to today’s event. Trailin’ Travis is gonna be the centerpiece of what Gamechanger is launching. Now, can you talk about the concept, what the game is?
TM: The game is me running around trying to get some money man. And I’m being chased by a gorgeous group of friends.
JZ: I told you, I knew it was gonna be that! (to Bill)
TM: Yeah, so think Temple Run, which is one of my favorite ways… if I’m ever stuck in a meeting or something, I’m on Temple Run. So think Temple Run, Subway Surfer…
JZ: Fun Run at all? You ever play Fun Run? You gotta get on Fun Run man.
TM: Damn, no I haven’t. But the reason why I got Temple Run is ‘cause I kept seeing people tweet their high scores and shit and they’d be three million and I’d think, “Yo how the fuck do they get three million?” And then I started playing it and I got you know, pretty good. So that’s why, when they approached me with this idea, I said “Yo, I love Temple Run, it’s a great way to kill time. But I wanna make it a game where we can engage my audience and give them more rather than just, you know…”
BB: Yeah, that’s kind of what my follow up question is because when we were talking to them (Gamechanger) they were said, “the artist had a lot of input on it”. So what input did you have on the game?
TM: Everything. Within the hour I’ve been here I’ve already made five revisions to the game, just from standing over there (laughs). I told them…“Yo this needs to be like this, and this needs to be like this”. From my outfit to my shoes to how many chains I have on my character’s neck to the whole surrounding cities. It starts off running in Riverside, which is where I’m from so there’s hints of my hometown. And then we’re gonna move into different cities, while I’m on the road we’ll go to Miami, San Francisco, New York. There’s cool upgrades in the game, you can buy me different jewelry and hats and crazy shoes. We just keep coming up with good ideas, you know? And the thing I’ve learned about making a game, ‘cause I’ve never done anything like this, is that, just that things change. You know, you play it, you think everything’s cool, then you play it and you think of another good idea and you’re thinking “Yo this is tight but what if we could do this” and then “this” turns into “this” and you’re constantly improving it. But everyone’s been great man, the whole process has been fun and Tony’s [T. Mills friend who was on tour with him] been really the one sitting there playing with it all day saying “Yo, we gotta fix this, we gotta do this”. So it’s a big group effort.
JZ: What’s it like playing as yourself in a video game? That’s gotta be fun.
TM: It’s crazy yeah! It’s unreal man. And the fact that it’s gonna be a huge platform for other people to play, it’s gonna be super cool. It’s not just a game on my website. Anyone in the whole world can go on their iPhone or Android phone and go to the App store and type in my name and my game will pop up. So I’m super excited and we also have a bunch of cool bonuses for people who reach a certain level. They get a video message from me, or the highest score at a show comes and they get a meet and greet after the show. You can win show tickets or a phone call and shit. So it’s definitely a new model for the music industry and the gaming industry. And I’m all about progression and so when they approached me, I was all about it man. What I thought was such a good idea was, Temple Run’s fun and shit but what do I get out of it at the end of the day besides killing time? These people can actually entertain themselves and get cool perks. Come to a show because they played my game.