As classes begin to end for the semester and states begin to reopen, many college students will begin jobs, internships and other pursuits.
Jalen Sanders, a student at the University of Washington who goes by the stage name Lil Sand, is using his summer for a music career.
Q: What made you get into making music?
Jalen Sanders: Honestly, just a love for hip-hop and music in general. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve hearing music. I remember vividly getting rocked to sleep to Usher, Brian McKnight, Joe and a lot of other R&B music as a kid. That’s where my love for music started. Then, as a kid, my dad started exposing me a lot of the stuff he grew up on, like Tupac, Wu Tang and a Tribe Called Quest. His upbringing was a lot rougher than mine but I kinda expand upon how that affected our relationship in my music.
What directly made me start making music though was just rapping at school and with friends. During freestyle sessions in middle school, high school or at friends’ houses, I kinda always stood out as the kid who could actually rap and spit some fly stuff.
About a year ago during my senior year in high school a homie of mine started making music and invited me over to make a few tracks after hearing me rap throughout the years. I went over, we made some joints and released them the same night. I liked how I sounded, and my homies thought I sounded cool too so at that point I was like ‘F--- it, I’ll start doing this too.’
At this time, I was working a job at Popeye’s and began saving up for my own equipment. Once that time came I bought everything, started dropping my own stuff and meeting new people, and here I am, I guess.
Q: Who would say are your biggest musical influences?
JS: Man, too many people to count. When I started exploring music for myself, the people I was really listening to were Drake, Kendrick, (J.) Cole, Tyler, the Creator, A$AP Rocky and so many more. In my earlier stuff I did a lot of singing which I attribute to the R&B I grew up on. Now though, I’d say some of my biggest influences are guys like Earl Sweatshirt, Mavi, Navy Blue and a lot of dope underground rappers have adopted a sound I really f--- with. I’m still finding my sound so my stuff is really all over the place and I don’t know if I’ll ever put myself into a box into making one type of rap music or music in general because there’s just a lot of dope artists who inspire me.
Q: How would you describe your creative process?
JS: Just listening. I listen to a lot of the artists I named for inspiration. I just hear things I like in their stuff and try to make it my own. I’m not really into biting people’s style but if I like it I’m not afraid to show my influences in my raps.
My creative process is really chaotic though. I rarely ever finish anything in one sitting or session. The light gotta be just right and I gotta have the right show or movie playing. I guess I’m a perfectionist in a way. I like to put myself in the right mindset when I’m creating. I recently got into beat making, and that’s a whole different beast I’m trying to tackle.
When writing I try to keep my subject matter strictly to me and applied to my life. I like to reflect on past experiences like relationships, family, school, expectations and stuff like that. I've been through some shit so that’ll always be part of my subject matter. I like to think about the future a lot as well. I don’t really rap in the present tense very much. I think of myself as very forward-thinking so rapping about where I see myself in 5, 10, 15 years is something I do a lot.
Q: Tell me about "Faux Money." That song is pretty heavy. How did that come about? Was the outro planned or did it just happen?
JS: “Faux Money” is a track my guy, Jordan Oozie, had been working on for a couple months. I kinda had this idea for a project so the song fits that idea, but I really wanted to drop something because it had been a while. It also landed on my birthday, so it just worked out like that.
The concept of the track is really just for the listener to decide what is real and what is fake. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not the guy I portray in that track, but you never know money could change someone, even me. I also put a lot of real experiences in with the fake s--- so I think the listener kinda has to decide what to believe and what not to believe.
The outro kinda just happened on the day of recording. We recorded the whole track on an iPhone. After we finished up the track, we had an idea to wrap it all up with an outro detailing how everything I could’ve just said in the song was bullshit. You know, you hear me go on in the outro about all this money I got, all these girls and all that, but realistically I had just broken into somebody’s house to record my music (in the song). I’m proud of how that track turned out. As far as for the future, if my sound will stay the same or sound anything like that track, I don’t even know.
Q: What advice would you give to other upcoming artists? In terms of buying equipment, finding their sound, getting listeners, etc.
JS: Just talk to people. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I didn’t know anything at all when I first started. You also just gotta experiment with a lot of stuff and see what you like and what you don’t like because at the end of the day, you should only really be creating for yourself. Like I said I still haven’t really found my sound and that’s something I try not to stress about. Stuff like that comes with time. If you stay genuine and solid and consistent, people will start to tune in. I really haven’t scratched the surface of what I feel is my full potential and I feel like I have a decent amount of people who listen to a lot of the stuff I put out. It’s all about consistency. But also, don’t rush anything. Also, Amazon is key for starting out with your equipment. At least, that’s where I went. Hand-me-down equipment from other music friends also helped a ton.
Lil Sand can be followed on Twitter @sand4pres.