Talking to the queen of The Internet and first lady of Odd Future about sex, youth, Drake and the enduring influence of The Neptunes.
Rather watch the world burn down from a penthouse cloud, real talk
But if this is what you want I'll fight 'til the smoke-filled skies make the days turn night, then what?
Maybe when the world burns down and the clouds turn black and the sky turns white and the days turn night
It's a war outside, it's a war outside, it's a war outside
Or maybe we'll find paradise in the sky
When we die…
Penthouse Cloud, The Internet.
When The Internet first began in 2011 as an offshoot of LA rap collective Odd Future, the duo, vocalist/producer Sydney 'Syd tha Kyd' Bennett and her MySpace pal, producer/musician Matt Martians, specialised in making floaty, dreamy music that was the perfect antithesis to the '100% fully charged' output of the rowdy OF crew. But with, Ego Death, The Internet's recently released third and finest album, the once self-described "up in the clouds" sound of their earlier outputs has been overthrown by hard drums, calculated melodies and radio friendly love and lust songs that enthrall rap nerds, pop fans and ya' mama all at the same damn time.
i-D caught up with Syd as The Internet was preparing to tour across the USA to discuss the importance of acting your age, Nina Simone and the 'non' break up of Odd Future.
Congratulations on the album, I feel like it's very scary to put something out into the world that you've put so much love and effort into. Reviews aren't everything but it must feel amazing when an outlet like The New York Times gives a glowing and on point review?
Yes, I just felt really blessed by the reception.
Do you generally read reviews?
No I don't. I used to. I realised eventually that they didn't ultimately influence my opinion or the way I made my music so they mostly would just hurt my feelings. So now I've altered my methods and I think that's a good way to go about it.
I love the title, Ego Death, it leads me down a path of Jungian transformation and self-surrender concepts. Did you start with the title and build the record around that or did it come at the end?
It actually came at the end, after the whole album was done. Matt came up with it and initially I wasn't sure about it so I said no.
Did you think it sounded corny or something?
No I thought the word death was very harsh and I was kinda scared of it and then kept trying to go through different album titles. We wanted something that was intense and that would feel good, you know what I mean? And so Matt brought it up again when we were sitting down once it was finished and it seemed perfect.
How long did it take you to create this record?
It was a long process, it wasn't like a writing and recording everyday thing. For a long time we didn't really have a direction for it, we didn't really know what kind of sound we were going for. We were just making stuff, and eventually we produced a small body of work that we felt confident in and decided to build on top of that.
I'm curious about your writing process, do you generally start with the beat and build from there?
We have always used the beat first and then linked up with one of my writer friends or partners to bounce ideas and then I just sit and try to write it myself. I'll start with the melody and just start singing random or free style melodies until I hear one that sticks. I'll then record that melody so I don't forget it, because that happens a lot and I'll slowly start writing lyrics to it. I'll usually just mumble some stuff and think of what it sounds like.
Was there something non-musical that you were obsessed with during the making of Ego Death?
I go through stages with all kinds of stuff. There'll be a couple of months where I'm reading, you know, like fiction mystery novels and there'll be a couple more where I'll be redecorating a room in my house... so I think it's just my life. I don't really watch too many movies but I try to watch inspirational pieces about other musicians. Musical documentaries truly inspire me.
What have you watched recently? Have you seen the Amy Winehouse documentary?
No. I really need to see that, the last one I watched was the Nina Simone documentary. That was interesting because I realised while watching it that I didn't know anything about her.
Did the film make you think about her differently?
Because I didn't know anything about her to begin with it was an introduction to Nina Simone which I felt was very real. She was portrayed in a good light but they were also very honest about her.
Is there a song on the album which is your little baby, the one you're most proud of?
I feel like they're all my children but I think the one I'm most proud of is Penthouse Cloud because I've never written a song about anything that real. I think I did a really good job.
You did. There's some pretty hot tracks on the record. I'm curious if at this point, outside of music, is it boring for you to talk about your sexuality? Would you rather just do it through your music?
Yes and No. As far as open conversations with random people, no I don't really enjoy them... unless I've been drinking. But my friendship circle pretty much know all my business. It's funny because a few girls hate me because I talk about certain, uh 'experiences' when I'm drunk (laughs) but I don't care.
Is there anyone you're dying to work with? I read that you wanna' work with Drake but you didn't want to jinx it by saying it publicly.
What's interesting is that I really feel we would make something awesome. I think I'm influenced a lot by Drake in specific ways in my writing. Drake, Pharrell, Erykah Badu... I think I could possibly make really great stuff with all these artists but it's not something that I'm pursuing right now. I still want something to look forward to.
I think that's really important.
Yeah, I'm still just trying to enjoy my youth to a certain extent and also enjoy working with all the young people around me, the young and new artists around me.
I feel like you've done so much at such a young age, is it difficult to be a kid but also be having all these very adult experiences and responsibilities?
Yeah! For instance, with this album, most of my direction and mood was to make it more fun and more exciting and youthful, because the chill and vibey stuff is cool but honestly it got boring to me.
You wanna' hear your song out at the club!
Exactly. It's funny how you said that because with this album I mostly wanted to portray that we're still young. You know the oldest person in our band is Matt, he's only 26 and the youngest person in our band is 17. We want to have more fun on stage and remind people that we are kids. A lot of our music is probably marketed towards, and made for, an older demographic but I still want to relate to people my age.
You talk a lot about how much Pharrell, N.E.R.D and Erykah Badu mean to you...tell me a little bit about that formative 'Neptunes fever', you were really young during their commercial peak!
Yeah I was but I wasn't one of those people that was wigging for it or anything. I didn't really understand N.E.R.D when I first heard it. I think the first song I heard from them was Am I High? and I didn't necessarily like it but I listened to it again and I was like, 'wait hold on' and I listened to it again and again until I understood it. Yeah it was and is big in my life....and Erykah Badu, I grew up listening to her, my mum is a big soul addict, so I grew up listening to a lot of soul music. And a lot of reggae on my dad's side.
I wanted to know, with the split of Odd Future if you've actually become closer as friends now that you're not working with each other all the time?
Yeah you're actually right, we have, although we haven't officially split. We just don't tour together anymore and we don't hang out with each other in the one studio anymore because we have our own studios now. I think it's beautiful and we're all a lot closer than we used to be, we're all a lot more supportive of each other than we used to be.
What drives you as an artist? Do you make music for pure joy or is it a compulsion or a mixture of those things?
Well I started making music because I started hearing things that I wish I could take credit for and a lot of it was Neptunes produced stuff. I would hear it and be like, 'Man I wish I made that'. So I started trying to make stuff that I could play to people and be like 'yeah, I made that'.
I really like that answer. Are there any young artists at the moment that you're really hyped about?
There's a kid named Bobby Earth, he's making some really dope music right now. Alessia Cara, I love her song, Here. That's about it.
One final question, who is the girl in the Girl video?
Her name is Jennifer Hart.
Oh my god. I love her.
Damn, I know.
Text Courtney DeWitt
Photography Jabari Jacobs