In the past, The Art of Cool has been more about Birth of the Cool than The Cool Kids. But festival organizers have smartly changed that by adding rappers, DJs, and neo-soul singers at unprecedented levels, blending elements of old and new, jazz and hip-hop in two days of programming.
Few young working groups are more emblematic of such a mix than The Internet, a Los Angeles-based, Grammy-nominated R&B/soul band that counts jazz musicians like Kamasi Washington among its biggest inspirations and rappers like Tyler, The Creator and Mac Miller among its closest collaborators.
At The Internet's helm is Syd tha Kyd, a twenty-four-year-old emcee who projects a calm, effortless cool. Her airy vocals thread between The Internet's songs, though the band's five other musical members are every bit as integral. Together they build tunes forged from a shared musical appreciation, as in love with the power of hip-hop as with the sophistication of jazz.
We spoke to Syd about cross-genre collaboration, the rise of musicianship in hip-hop, and actually enjoying what's on the radio.
INDY: How does The Internet manage collaboration across genres?
SYD THA KID: It usually comes naturally. For Ego Death, everybody that ended up on it was genuinely a friend of ours. Janelle [Monáe] goes way back with Matt ["Martians" Martin] and his family in Atlanta. Kaytranada we just met at a couple festivals. He came to my house and played us his album.
The Internet, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat: You're all playing Art of Cool, and it feels like you're part of a wave bringing musicality to the forefront again by making it cool to be in a band. Does it seem that way from the inside?
If you go back even to when I was in high school and built a studio in my room, next thing I know, everybody had tried to build a studio but was doing it terribly wrong. It goes way back to that. Us starting a band, at the time nobody else around us was really doing that, except for Thundercat, which is why we look up to him so much—not just him but that realm of L.A. musicians. They didn't start getting praise in a big way until Kendrick Lamar put them on. It sucks it had to happen that way, but at the same time, I'm grateful for people like Kendrick, people who really appreciate musicianship and want to put it on the forefront again.
Kendrick and Tyler, the Creator are rappers who are really popular and have an appreciation for all kinds of music. It seems they've made the typical hip-hop listener more receptive to, say, an Internet album.
I feel like Tyler doesn't get enough credit for that. Maybe that's because he prides himself on doing a lot of his stuff himself, or maybe that's because a lot of people don't expect that because they're so used to the Tyler, The Creator the media pushes.
Exactly. They definitely can take credit for it. Even Kanye—Kanye is the curator of the century. Even Drake. With some of the stuff people like to bash him for, it's really just a collaborative effort. I've always been a very collaborative person when it comes to my music. It makes me feel better for collaborating,
Given how instrumentation has moved back to the fore, does that make you excited for where music is going?
Everything is cyclical. Music is going to have its cycles. There's going to be times when we think it sucks, and some people think it's awesome. There's been times when I've been DJing, and someone came in and requested music I hate. It all comes down to opinion. We just have to be understanding of that.
Personally I'm loving where music is right now. I listen to the radio just driving around, because my car is real old and it doesn't have an "AUX" cord. I like more and more of what I'm hearing on the radio. Maybe it's me becoming more open-minded now that I'm older, or maybe it's just that, you know, it's good
You've said you prefer to express yourself through music on social and political topics rather than tweeting about it. How does that translate into the choice between explicitly stating an opinion in a lyric rather than injecting that feeling into the music?
I prefer to put that feeling into the music, if I can. I personally don't like to dwell on, like, negative things. I've been depressed before, and I don't like listening to sad music. But Kendrick's untitled unmastered and other artists have really inspired me to want to say real things and get deeper. I never really write a song that's just like, "Ehhh, this is just whatever," but what I've been listening to lately has inspired me to dive deeper, get even more honest. I might have to get more explicit.