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  • Writer's pictureEvan

A Talk with Cystic

Representing the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Cystic is a rapper warming up for the release of a collective tape with his group, The Degenerates. As well as his upcoming tape, the eclectic MC has been making waves with a run of recent singles, including collaborative tracks like “Angels, Hear Me” and “Not So Nice to Meet You”.

To start off, Cystic spoke on his versatility as an artist, which has become a key component of the musician’s brand. He said: “When I see the greatest artists, I notice that they have a versatile plate of sounds and arrangements. I feel like, with my personality and the person that I am – being the complex soul that I am – there’s so many different avenues of me that I feel I can’t really be contained in just one sound. I’ll always be hip hop – I’ll never be somebody who’s like, ‘Oh, I’m not a rapper,’ or something like that. But I always pride myself on being somebody who goes beyond, and pushes the definition of what genre is in music. It’s just a representation of my soul and who I am as a person.”

He moved on to discuss The Degenerates, a brand new hip hop group in which the MC is a core member. With a working title of For Degenerates Alone, Vol. 1, the collective’s debut project is expected to release this autumn. Regarding the group, Cystic said:

“The Degenerates is an interesting concept on its own: a bunch of fucked up people with their own situations and lives. A lot of individuals with harsh backgrounds. The whole concept is turning a negative into a positive. For example, that’s the whole thing with Cystic, too. My name, Cystic, comes from having cystic fibrosis, which is a terminal illness I was born with. It’s all about flipping my cards, right? I take the one thing that brought me down, and I’m making it into a positive. So The Degenerates is also going to that same line of belief – these people all have these terrible fucking backgrounds and shit that they went through, but they’re turning it into something beautiful. You can see that through the art that we’ve created.”

Touching on the sound of the project, he said: “We have everything. It is, without a doubt, a hip hop group, but we have R&B in this, we have metal in this, we have that melodic, melancholy sound in this. We have the old school sound of rap; we have that new school sound. That’s the idea I want to bring – to be able to shift genres, that’s what we’re trying to do with this. It’s kind of hard to describe, because it’s not something I think is comparable, and I don’t like comparing to other artists … I just think it’s something beautiful. It’s something new that we’ve never seen before … My whole thing about music is impacting people, whether it’s with controversy or love. The Degenerates follows the same mantra as that, in a lot of ways. As far as anything we have to accomplish, we’re just doing what we love, creating the art that we want to make. We’re hoping that whoever does connect with it connects with it fully.”

Cystic described the creative process working with The Degenerates. “I didn’t want people to feel like this was Cystic and the Cystics. I didn’t want to be the lead singer, and everyone’s my backup dancer. This is everybody’s project as much as mine. I wanted us all to be seen as equal … First thing, I told everybody, ‘Any ideas you have, or anything you want to bring up on the project, tell me, tell everybody else, and let’s make it happen.’ I didn’t want it to be just me, and me telling everybody what to do. I had an outline – a bit of a reference for what I think might have been cool – but after I gave them that, they just kind of ran with it … Everything was made by us. From the production, the artwork, the songs, the mixing, everything.”

He added: “Anybody can be a Degenerate. I don’t really care what you got, what’s going on – anyone can be it, as long as you follow the ideology. You know, open-mindedness, being able to bend with the different genres, and if you can offer something to the group … If you fuck with us, you’re a Degenerate. I’m trying to build a family. It’s not just another collective.”

As well as For Degenerates Only, Cystic has been busy with a run of singles, collaborating with artists from all over the musical spectrum. He said: “After the Degenerates, I’m going to be going on a single run. So next year, I’m probably going to be dropping a song from every other week to every four weeks. So I’ll be dropping probably twice as much as this year, just in terms of singles … I noticed, I always wrote the most whenever I drop songs, so the only way to really capitalise on that is to drop more songs … I do have a track with Aviad that I want to get out, but we’re currently working on some things to finish it up. Supposedly, I got a track with Jayy Grams. I’m currently waiting on his verse.”

Looking back on what he’s already dropped, one of his most recent singles was ‘Not So Nice to Meet You’, a melodic cut featuring Kringe. Cystic touched on the track:

“Really, what I wanted to get across, and what I told him, is that I want a track about the whole concept of being alone … You could be in an airport, in a mall, anywhere – and you could feel alone. There could be millions of people in the world, or in your area, or whatever, but you can feel alone in that one spot. People who get that will get the song, because that’s how I’ve felt my whole life. I’ve always felt like, no matter what group or crowd of people I’m in – that’s why the cover looks the way it looks. That girl in a crowd of people that are blurred, just walking around, alone. You could be in a room full of countless individuals with different stories, but you could feel alone, and they could feel the exact same way. In a weird way, even though it sounds contradictory, you could be alone together … That’s just the tongue in cheek of it all, right? It’s not so nice to meet you. The extension of what something like that could mean … I’ve found myself going deeper into that. The more isolating of an issue I experience, and I put into a track, the more it actually seems like people relate to it. That’s a very interesting thing. Stuff I think nobody would get – that’s the stuff people relate to the most.”

Another recent single from the artist is ‘Angels, Hear Me’, a collaboration with singer Gisabella. “She’s really talented – I just love the sound that they put together. That’s one of my deeper tracks, where you’ve really got to look at the lyrics to fully get it. There’s a lot of angelic symbolism in that one. I dive deep into different religions and ideologies … Essentially, the best way I can describe that track … When I made that song, I was in a very lost, almost stranded situation in my personal journey in life. Using all this angelic symbolism, I’m essentially saying that, if God can’t hear me right now, could the angels that hear me deliver this message to him?”

Aside from his recent material, Cystic caught the attention of rap fans earlier this year with Our Heroes Are Watching Us, a collaborative EP with producer Dope Sean. He spoke on the creation of the project:

“It’s only three tracks – we actually planned to have more, but a lot of the people we planned to get features with weren’t able to or they just never got back … It still turned out to be a phenomenal EP, and as far as all the underground artists that we worked with, it was definitely worth it. I consider a lot of those people my friends. Those are people I really love as individuals, not just as artists … As far as working alongside Sean … It was easy. He took my ideas, whatever I wanted, he made what me made, I did what I did, we sent it off to people, and they killed it.”

The EP features a range of talents from the underground scene, with Patty Honcho and Lil Derik among the many guests involved. “Each track, I felt was different, and there were certain artists I had in mind. For example, the more old school sounding track, ‘Cold Feet’. Obviously, I had to get people like Knowitall, Patty, Blaq – those three, to me, are fucking GOATs already in their own right. It just fit with them perfectly … I had another artist that was going to be on that one, but he didn’t show up. But the artists I had on there, I just felt were perfect for that one, because I listen to their music, and I know the types of pockets they usually hit.

“Now, for the last one, ‘My Own Hero’ with Morgan Gold and Unruly, we originally had a different hook designed for that one. But then Dope Sean had the idea of, ‘Yo, let’s get Morgan Gold on this.’ When we did that, she took the song to a whole other level. It was really just a matter of getting the feel for it, knowing the artists that we already were working with and knowing their sound, and just applying it to that.”

Among other tracks, on ‘My Own Hero’, Cystic explores his cystic fibrosis, a condition that affects his everyday life. He spoke on living with the condition: “It affects all the organs in my body – it affects my lungs, it affects my digestive system, it affects my sinuses, everything. So anybody that doesn’t know of the condition, it’s kind of hard for them to grasp it because they can’t see it. It’s not something you can see, like having an arm gone or a leg gone. But people that get it and really know what it’s about know it’s a very serious thing … I wasn’t supposed to see my diploma. I wasn’t supposed to see my 8th birthday. I’m very comfortable with the idea of death because it’s been brought up around me ever since I was a young kid. I was in the ICU at two years old. It’s a very serious thing, but I don’t always make it, because I don’t want people to gather the negative connotations there. I want people to see the positive aspect of what I went through, and where I am now. I don’t even look sick now.”

Over the years, Cystic has developed into a jack of all trades, teaching himself to rap, produce, mix, and master from his early teens. The MC spoke on his journey into music: “My grandmother was the first person to introduce me to music at all. She showed me the piano, but when she had her stroke she couldn’t teach me that. That was the seed; that was the spark. But going on to the things I started making, I started working on Ableton which, for those who don’t know, is a music production software. I started working on that when I was 10, 11 years old, playing around with it. By the time I hit 14, 15 years old, I’ve already written a lot of verses that were trash, because I was young, but that’s what started it. It was definitely a learning curve, though. My very first work that I ever put out on streaming, I was 17. It was garbage. I didn’t know how to mix; I couldn’t even really rap on beat. But I think that’s also a beautiful thing to start so low, and to get where I am now, because I’m aiming to be the greatest artist of all time …

“And don’t take failure as a setback, but rather, a learning experience. I looked for years for somebody to mix my music, until I learned I started getting better myself because nobody helped me. So at a certain point, I was like, ‘I don’t need nobody else.’ I’ve got it all in me. The power is within me. I can do it all on my own if I push myself to do stuff. So the aspect of making my own music really was a blessing in disguise … It’s kind of a superpower, in a way. Whatever I can’t find, whatever somebody else can’t make, I’ll just make myself.”

With the first Degenerates tape close to release, and a run of diverse singles on the horizon, the next few months are looking to be just as productive for Cystic. Find his music linked below;

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