iLoveMakonnen is a strangely unique, Atlanta-based artist who was first introduced to me by NYC’s bedroom-pop mastermind, Phantom Power (aka Eric Littman). He makes a bewildering type of experimental music that comfortably floats in the air, never falling into one specific category. I’d say it’s somewhere between neo-avant garde pop and internet-based performance art.
But, who really knows?
Just a few weeks ago, I personally got in touch with Makonnen and Phantom Power to see if they could tell me their stories.
Before you read on, watch the accompanying video for my favorite Makonnen song, “Tonight”. There is something that is just so honest and genuine about it—a bold and colorful gem that almost went completely unnoticed…
From Phantom Power:
Sometime early last year I got a curious email from somebody named ‘Makonnen’ saying he had stumbled upon Phantom Power searching it on google and that he would be interested in collaborating. He included a couple links followed by the text “I LOVE MAKONNEN.” He had 5 or 6 tracks posted up on his SoundCloud, ranging from Lil B style ad lib raps to a series of bare bones pop productions. I scanned through the first couple before stumbling on “Sneaky Lady“. Upon first listen there was something…funny about it. Something ridiculous. I ripped the track off YouTube and began looping it…all the time. At home, in the lab…the sincerity and authenticity resonated with me. I was too distracted by the song not to remix it. I looped a couple sections and added some bass/drums underneath, sending it back to him 3 days after receiving his first email. That’s how we got started.
I had started working with Jay, Renee, Cale, Nadia and Sandra about a month earlier producing them under the name ‘Phantom Posse.’ Makonnen and I had originally chatted about recording an EP but I was busy working on ‘Vol. 1‘. I had showed Nadia and Jay Makonnen’s material and by this point I had also dug into his YouTube channel. Pure gold. Again, there is quite the range of style to his videos- there’s a scattered collage of home movies in addition to a handful of brilliant archival footage music videos- namely “Tonight” and “Mrs. Sandy” . We began working with him over the internet and inducted him into the “Posse.” Most of volume 1 had been completed at this point, so our open projects with Makonnen were mostly slated for volume 2 (still pending release). I’m excited to share those soon and more.
Makonnen and I had had several phone correspondences chatting about music and Makonnen’s trials and tribulations in Atlanta before Nadia and I plotted our little tour to the midwest/south in late August. I was glad we got a chance to hang with Makonnen in Atlanta—there’s always something so refreshing about meeting ‘internet friends’ in real life. After coordinating an intersection to meet we spotted him strolling down the sidewalk toting a cup of water. He tipped his cup to us, “Drink more water! See, I practice what I preach!” in reference to his (at that time) most recent release “Drink More Water.” He gave us a tour of his stomping grounds, telling us about his all night wanderings around the city, stumbling into parties and meeting new people. Makonnen’s a character to say the least- I think it pervades everything he does.
Makonnen will be coming to New York for the first time this week, and we’re stoked to be playing a house show at Nadia’s this weekend with Nicholas Nicholas (another posse collaborator). I can’t wait to see where else Makonnen‘s overwhelming imagination will take him.
I cant remember my whole life. I’ve been through so much I only remember certain things. I remember growing up in California and always having a fascination with music. My grandmother was an opera singer and owned a big baby grand piano that was in the living room, so I heard a lot of music. No matter what kind of music, I can appreciate it on different levels. I remember my cousins taking piano lessons and I would kinda get the after lesson. I tried to learn to read and all that grand stuff but I was much better off just feeling the sound. I would say my music has a lot of energy behind it. All songs are not just about ‘me me me’ as some are lead to believe. A lot of songs are just channeled through me. I don’t like to take forever and dwell on trying to write songs, I sort of freestyle all of them. I may have a few words in my head that I will set for the chorus and then I just go from there. I don’t care to be the best artist who ever lived, I just want respect for the type of art I’m making. I want to be able to inspire others how others have and still do inspire me. I want to keep things going…if you have something, go for it. I’m a very diverse person. I’ve been a part of all different walks of life. iLoveMakonnen is about loving one self. I didn’t pick my name, where was I born, what I look like ,etc. I am just embracing what I have for the time that I have it in this human form, and I want others to do that for themselves as well.
Everything started after high school. It was inspired by different people and the events that happened in my life. I went through something where falseness and lies were spread over a tragedy, and I was left alone. So as a healing and comeback from that, I started iLoveMakonnen. I told myself that no one is gonna love me if I don’t. I can love myself and hopefully help others. So I started an online blog, where I would interview and post about artist of different genres and different parts of the world. I was on house arrest for about 2 years, so this is what I did with my time. I dived deep into the internet and got inspired and got myself out of the darkness that I was in. I met a lot of great people and became inspired myself with my own art. I’ve been making music since I was about 13 , I’m 23 now. So like…10 years, no training, just playing on my own and creating my own sounds. I’ve made albums for my mom and other people as a producer. Then there came a time when I couldn’t find anyone to get on my songs, and I just said fuck it. I’m gonna get on my own songs and do my own thing. A lot of people didn’t get it. They was like “nah man, your music wack, that’s weird blah blah blah”. But I was like whatever…this is how I wanna sound, and this is what i wanna do.
I make my videos after I make my songs. I don’t use the computer to make my songs. I just have a keyboard, a mixer and a mic. So I play my music on the keyboard, bring it into the mixer, then I bring my voice in from the mic on the mixer…put them together and bam! I have a song. I’m filming all the time…random things, life, my doll heads and pitbulls. I went to beauty college when I got off house arrest and I went to get a cosmetology license (big woop right?!). So my dolls are from that, and I just use them to my advantage. I put markings on their face and color their hair. They all represent something. It’s not just random crap. Some people find them to be scary, or whatever. They just represent self acceptance. They’re in my videos, they accept themselves. They are good enough to be on camera. So many people are scared to be on camera because of their image or whatever. They just don’t accept it.
Self expression. I’m just expressing myself the only way that I know how to. It’s what I love doing. I swear…music has saved my life. So many bands have saved my life! It’s a personal thing.