As we exclusively premiere his new video 'No GMO', get to know the hip-hop game changer taking his genre-blurring sound around the world.
Splitting his time between New York, Memphis, and a little LA, Gavin Mays certainly has the zip codes to back up the first half of his hip-hop moniker: Cities Aviv. Come September, the 26-year-old will spend time in a few more metropolises when he kicks off his first ever European tour in Oslo, supporting his latest record Your Discretion is Trust. Since releasing his debut mixtape back in 2011, Gavin's electric breed of noise rap has garnered praise from hip-hop heads to hardcore punk kids for its genre-destroying diversity. Having collab'd and toured with fellow experimental boundary pushers including Death Grips, Mykki Blanco, and Antwon, his ever-evolving approach keeps the underground captivated.
Before he sets off overseas, press play on the premiere of his new video, No GMO. Directed by Rimar Villaseñor -- the NYC-based creative behind Gavin's previous videos for Don't Ever Look Back and Isolation Quarters -- No GMO sees the rapper injecting his signature sound with the lo-fi aesthetics championed by no-wave pioneers like Theoretical Girls and Suicide. We caught up with him from Tennessee to find out more.
Tell us about No GMO -- what inspired the track?
No GMO is pretty much a love track -- well, 'love' is even a drawn out way of saying it. When you're traveling so much, it's easy to get caught up in the pace and lose track of things -- you run through backward relationships with different people. This song is a way of scaling things back and saying "what's really good with you, though?" to someone you're feeling. It's a natural, organic kind of love.
How does this translate to the direction of the video?
Rimar and I have worked together in the past, but this time, wanted to do something really stripped down that compliments the vibe of the track. Not that we didn't put too much thought in it, but we didn't want to go over the top. We wanted to throw it back to 80s era no-wave visuals, almost like an ode to that contemporary art scene. Not to say that's something that hasn't been done before, but we wanted to put our own little spin on it and this track seemed fitting.
You're about to go on tour in Europe for the first time. What are you most excited to experience?
I'm really excited to go to Paris. I'm looking forward to meeting face-to-face with some friends that I've been collaborating with on a film piece over the past couple months. They've been over to New York to kick it with me, so it'll be cool just to be in their zone. But for the most part, I'm just excited to see that side of the world having never stepped foot over there before. As much as I feel what we've done over here as artists and producers has been really influential, I've also been so influenced by industrial, post punk, and different sounds that have roots in Europe -- even if the idea of genres is being destroyed today. It'll be cool to stomp on those grounds and let them know what's up, too.
You split your time between NYC and Memphis. What's your take on being a young creative in the South?
Creatively, I feel like the South is still something of an uncharted territory. Look at the story of Marfa: Donald Judd just sort of packed up, moved to this nowhere town, and established it as an artistic community. I feel like there's a lot of potential for more situations like that to happen. I've been trying to keep my ties in the west and spending time in LA as well as New York, but everywhere I go, I always come back to the South and see it as a frontier -- especially in music. Everyone's on this trap stuff now; Atlanta is the entire charts. It's funny to see Korean dudes doing renditions of Southern rap and obsessing over black culture [it's true: Keith Ape's IT G MA -- essentially a Korean version of Georgia-born rapper OG Maco's hit U Guessed It -- went so viral that A$AP Ferg, Waka Flocka Flame, and Father even teamed up the bizarre K-rap outfit for an official remix.] I really feel like there's a moment right now where people are starting to break out of their shells and showing everyone else that this is where it's at.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Rimar Villaseñor