A Meazy’s music addresses depression in the African-American community.Blaque Sheep
Rapper Alex Jiles, aka A Meazy, spent his first year on a North Dakota military base and moved to Denver when he was a year old. He and his mother stayed with his grandmother on the east side of town until moving into their own house in the same neighborhood when he was five. Around that time, he met his neighbor, Darius Campbell, an older rapper who took Jiles under his wing.
“He amazed me,” Jiles recalls. “He could freestyle about anything just off the top of his head. He could come up with anything — anything we were looking at, anything we were doing. He could just freestyle, and it’d sound so dope. It just amazed me, because I couldn’t do it.”
Now 27, Jiles describes Campbell as a big brother and his closest childhood friend who inspired him to try rapping. When he was in fourth grade, Jiles recorded his first rap song with Campbell.
The summer before his freshman year of high school, Campbell visited Jiles. It was the last time the two ever spoke: Campbell died at age nineteen.
“He stopped by my house, and we talked for a very long time,” Jiles explains. “The one thing he told me that stood out was, ‘Keep rapping. Keep doing what you’re doing, because you’re very good at it. Don’t get into the streets. Don’t start gangbanging. Don’t fuck up. Stay doing what you’re doing, and keep being positive about it.’”
The message stuck. “Because he was a big influence in my life at such a young age, when he told me that, I was like, ‘You know, he might be right,’ Jiles says. “So I’ve just been going ever since.”
In middle school, Jiles and his friend Taurean formed a hip-hop duo called the Offense, and they made music together into adulthood. Jiles began his solo career as A Meazy in 2015. Performing by himself allowed him the creative freedom to rap about a broad array of topics.
“There were certain things I wanted to talk about that I couldn’t necessarily talk about in a group,” he says. “Me and [Taurean] didn’t go through the exact same things. As much as we were alike, there were just certain things that I went through that he didn’t. So that was really the main focus of why I wanted to go solo, because I wanted to see what I could come up with on my own.”
As a solo artist, he aims to make music that people can relate to and rap about topics that most rappers steer clear of. “I feel like I was given a voice that a lot of people don’t get,” he says. “I want to be able to use it in a positive way when I can.”
Among those untouched subjects are suicide and depression in the black community.
“At first, I was referencing the African-American community, because I feel like when somebody of African-American descent has a mental [illness], we have a problem with it as far as my community [goes] — they feel like they’re weak or something,” he explains.
He addresses the subject in the song “Stay Here,” from his latest album, Meazy Shuttlesworth, which he released in September 2017: “I know depression is really frowned on in our community/But this is a real issue for us, we need unity/My people really hurt/How you see it but ignore/If you need someone to talk to/I keep an open door.”
After this song was released, people reached out to say that it helped them survive tough situations.
“I’m a human, so I go through all types of different emotions,” Jiles says. “I would like to say everything I do is to be positive, but it’s not, in all actuality. I like to make positive music because a lot of people do not, but my biggest goal that I’m doing with my music is to be able to help someone through something. If somebody can tell me they’ve listened to a song and it has helped them through a day or situation — I’ve had someone tell me my music stopped them from killing themselves — stuff like that is more important to me than the money. Obviously that’s part of it; I want to make money off it. But I want to touch lives, I really do.”
Not all of his songs are serious; Jiles makes upbeat music, too. Before dropping Meazy Shuttlesworth, he put out a video of a song by the same name that was created “so I could give people bars.” The word “bars” holds two meanings, as he tells it: There are the literal lines you write in a song, but among rappers, “bars” means who has the best, wittiest and most creative lyrics.
“A lot of people think, since I talk about a lot of these real topics, that I don’t have those same lyrics I used to have when I was younger,” he says. “I really put [“Meazy Shuttlesworth”] out so people know that is still there. Don’t get it twisted.”
Jiles recognizes that a lot of rap is based on shock value or what could make the most profit. But as he continues in his career, he wants to remain true to himself and honest in his music.
“It’s all part of rap, honestly,” he says. “You want to have that shock value…It’s all about making money. So if you know making a song like this makes you more money than being [a conscious rapper], then they’re going to go with whatever the norm is. But I’m trying to break that mold. I want to be able to do everything. If I [can] be that person that can entertain you, I want to be that — and also the person that can bring up everything. I can’t help but be myself, and that’s really the kind of person I am, anyway.”
A Meazy and Midas: The Loud Pack Tour
9 p.m. Thursday, May 24, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue, $15, 303-377-1666.
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Riley Cowing has been writing with Westword since July 2016. She is originally from Kansas City and graduated from the journalism school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She enjoys connecting with local artists, drinking all types of espresso and loves any excuse to watch The Devil Wears Prada.