10 things you need to know about OG Odd Future kid turned innovator, Vritra

Watch the LA artist’s feel-good new video ‘Air Raid’ right here.

by Frankie Dunn
03 September 2020, 3:56pm

When Hal Williams was 10 years old, his dad got him a karaoke machine. It had the function to record things to cassette, and so he started capturing his grandmother singing gospel. Fast forward through a childhood of moving around the States and in his teens, the artist known then as Pyramid Vritra, struck up a friendship with longtime collaborator Matt Martians of The Internet, the two of them making music together as The Jet Age of Tomorrow, part of Odd Future’s colourful world. “I would either spend my time over at Matt’s in Atlanta or he would come down to Powder Springs to visit me in Georgia,” Vritra (he dropped the Pyramid) tells i-D. “It was really just about having fun and enjoying making music. I learned how to stop overthinking and just make what I like.”

A move to LA meant the two friends spent more time around Syd, Mike G, Left Brain, and Vince (“everyone else I wasn’t as close to”), a period that Vritra remembers as being full of “good times”. Being a part of the Odd Future family shaped the young rapper-producer positively, mostly down to the fact that no one was concerned about what anyone else thought. “It was just about whether we were having fun, if the song hit the way we wanted it to sound-wise, and just sharing music with friends,” he says. “That’s all that matters in music. It’s still the way I approach things now. I do what I like.”

Talking of which, several albums into his solo career, Vritra is gearing up to release a new album called Sonar -- an impressive jazz-tinged rap record produced by Leon Sylvers IV and out 4 September via Bad Taste. Today, to warm you up for the full project, he’s sharing the single “Air Raid” and its lo-fi visual with you right here. “‘It’s about mastering whatever you’re doing,” he says of the track. “The lyric ‘it’s something in the air’ is pointing to the feeling that everyone is following the same path, trying to be the same thing. Then ‘the game is a trap/ it isn’t fair’ addresses the fact the ‘game’ we play isn’t designed for us. And when I say, ‘I’m looking in the mirror/ my reflection isn’t there/ hello, who the f*** I’m ‘sposed to challenge when I’m holding the throne?’ is saying that, even though it isn’t fair and everyone is moving in the same direction, there’s no competition to simply being you and doing your thing.”

The video, meanwhile, is a laidback hang out with the artist and those closest to him. “It’s just on some community vibes,” he says, “connectivity, human interaction, feeling like no one can challenge your ‘crew’.”

Watch it exclusively here and meet Vritra via these 10 interesting facts…

1. Vritra’s mom was in the Air Force when he was a kid
“So I moved around a bit growing up. I didn’t get to stay in one place long term until high school. Most of my memories are in Illinois and Georgia though.”

2. He started making music out of necessity 
“Some friends and I just wanted music to skate to. We were into electronic music and rap – some of it existed but not the way we wanted it to sound.”

3. Ask him what he makes and he’ll tell you it’s dance music
“I’d consider any of my solo music alternative dance, just from a hip-hop perspective. But Sonar is a full on rap album.”

4. His major musical influences span genres and decades
“Early Neptunes, Machinedrum, Kings of Leon, Basia, Lisa Stansfield, Kanye after 808s, and Robin Hannibal.”

5. Vritra has had musical projects under the names Pyramid Vritra, NRK (Atlanta hip-hop collective Nobody Really Knows), Wilma Vritra and now simply Vritra
“Wilma Vritra had a lot of cinematic, rich, deep toned vibes to me, so it was a platform to write like that. Leon’s production on Sonar is a little more beat-heavy and bright, which calls for a different approach. Every song pulls on a different part of me, but it all depends on the production. It speaks, and I respond the way it tells me to.”

6. But his forthcoming Vritra record Sonar, is his first rap-centric one
“I like the art of rap. I really dislike boom-bap type rap but I feel like it’s a ‘proving ground’ for lyrical sparing. I like Leon’s production style because it gives me a space to do that, while being experimental in its own way. Sonar is the middle ground. With the more experimental things I do, there isn’t as much space to focus on the lyrics because there’s so many other things going on.”

7. He reckons Sonar would be a good soundtrack for a cult skate video
“Maybe something that takes place in the Jim Crow-era south. Or actually Baker 3… everything works over _Baker 3._”

8. Something Vritra really values is staying true to himself
“I can be anything if I try, but I only want to try to be myself. Everyone is a ‘fictional character' of some sort now. It’s harder to be and shape yourself.”

9. Not many people know this, but he wishes he had a female voice
“Female vocal tones are cooler than male vocal tones imo. I’m content for now though, it’s been a journey to liking my own voice.”

10. His big plan is to expand creative experiences beyond just music
“Fashion and interactive sound, synthesisers, and sound production and manipulation hardware. Everything I do in music is just the ride there.”

Vritra’s Sonar is out tomorrow 4 September on Bad Taste. Pre-order the album here

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