LOS ANGELES, CA – At 28 years old, a fresh-faced Makonnen seems to have finally figured out his role in this rap game. In 2014, the Atlanta-based musician’s breakout hit single, “Tuesday,” made it permissible to turn up at the club in the middle of the work week. And after linking with Drake, the record achieved platinum status in less than a year.
Fast forward to a year later, Makonnen landed a spot on the highly-coveted OVO Sounds roster. However, all good things come to an end. With no forward momentum in his career, hemade a conscious decision to part ways with OVO less than two years later. Still signed to the Warner Bros. and creating party-friendly anthems for his fans, it wasn’t until the top of 2017 that Makonnen revealed he was gay.
With the burden of rapping and singing about “bitches” in the club finally lifted from his shoulders, Makonnen is back and more focused than ever before. Touching down in sunny Los Angeles on Friday (September 1) ahead of his headlining set at Control LA at Avalon, Makonnen spoke to HipHopDX about life after coming out, new music on the way and being the only feature on Lil B’s album.
HipHopDX: How has your life changed since coming out?
Makonnen: I don’t know really. I guess other people sort of … know I’m gay or something? But I’m still the same person. I still do everything. I go to the same places. Nothing’s really changed for me other than, I guess, letting everybody know that maybe I’m probably more into that guy than that girl tonight. [laughs].
DX: You actually came out in a series of tweets. How long were you debating this? Was it hard for you?
Makonnen: Well, I was just like, I want to put the power in my hands because it’s something that’s personal for me. And it’s like, I’m not trying to go and gather a whole bunch of fame. And like, let’s go wherever the fuck to tell the world I’m gay and shit. It’s just like, yo, I’m very honest with my fans. I’m an honest person and I was just at a point in my life where for me to personally keep moving on, this is something I would like to do. And I want it to come from me. I felt like it was the only place that it could truly come from me without having another entity involved. So I was just like, “I’ll do it right here on Twitter.” If it’s a big deal, it’s a big deal. If it’s not, it’s not. It’s just another tweet to me.
DX: What’s it like being gay in the world of Hip Hop?
Makonnen: You know, I really don’t know. I don’t really hang out with a bunch of rappers and shit anymore. ‘Cause when I was doing rap and Hip Hop, I was here to do music, so like I’m just doing music and hanging out. Like I sell drugs on the streets. You gotta get it how you live, however you got there. Hip Hop is like some professional work shit. So it’s just like, hey, I’m not trying to sleep with any of y’all. So I don’t get why anybody have an issue with me. So, you know. It’s really no thing.
But I do see, it’s a weird stigma. It always has been. Even when I was young growing up. I saw, there was always this … revelations of this gay rapper that would come and fuck the game up. All this bullshit. But I guess I’m the guy now. But you know, it’s just an acceptance. I’m not promoting anything onto anybody other than my music. This is just me. I’m not trying to tell people, “You all need to change your religion and do what I do.” I’m just like, “Yo, this is me. I’m comfortable with myself.” I know others are out there dealing with this in the community ’cause I’m just a reflection of what I’ve seen, pretty much. I know there’s younger people dealing with such things that don’t have a voice, don’t have nobody strong enough to go ahead and stand up — in a place like Hip Hop, to be as manly and say what they want to say.
I’m sure I can’t be the only one. But I guess I’ll go ahead and be the first one. I just did it because like, I don’t see anybody that I can look up to. But I see a lot of kids that look up to me — of all races, of all kinds, of all orientations, of all things. It’s like, wow, I can’t be out here trying to say I’m so-and-so and I’m this, and I’m frontin’. It’s really to help a lot of others as well. In Hip Hop, it’s something that’s not done. I wanted to be a pioneer in … how to live my life. Just being able to pioneer shit, for others to come.
DX: Did you ever reconcile with Migos over those comments?
Makonnen: I’ve never had an issue with Migos. We’ve never really been friends like that. We were studio friends. We make music together, but we never really had beef over anything like that. It’s a lot of media stuff that take headlines out of proportion and try to make rifts between others. But I wish them all success, that’s what I’ve always done. There’s no issue. I’m sure when I see them, it’s all love. I’m from Atlanta. There’s really no issue. It’s just what the magazine did. And media trying to make it into something negative. I don’t know how they personally feel because I personally don’t know them. They don’t have my number. So, they’ve never called to reach out to be like, “Hey bro, this is whatever to clear whatever up.” So it’s like, y’all do y’all, I’ll do me. As we’ve always done.
DX: You actually announced you were retiring last year. What made you come back to music?
Makonnen: What made me come back? My contracts. Nah, I’m just playing. [laughs] Just with the music industry, I’ve signed on to something where I’m helping a lot of people, right? I can’t just exit when Makonnen says, “Fuck this bullshit. I’m out.” As a man, as a captain, as a leader, I have to go ahead to make sure that my team and everybody — I fulfill all my duties for them before I leave.
And then, it’s a lot of trash music out, to me. I’m just like, a lot of people trying to ride my wave — my old wave. Trying to recreate my old shit. Just act like I didn’t exist. So it’s like, I guess I have to sort of come back in the mix and remind muthafuckas what’s going on. But other than that, I always loved music. I always have. Before I was making money off of it, before everybody was in my face trying to sing my songs and shit. I’m always going to do it. But I’m not doing it for fun and for free no more, the way I used to.
DX: Who are you referring to?
Makonnen: I don’t really know who. It’s so many to name. I can’t really name, but I know that they were all inspired by me. They were all on my phone at one time telling me how much they were inspired by Makonnen, how much they loved him and all this bullshit. And you know, I came and gave them cosigns, like “Ay, it’s all love. Keep doing your thing.” They blow up and now they act like they don’t know my name. It’s a lot of them. It’s too many to name. It’s pretty much all of them out there. But ay, it’s all love to me. But, I’ll see them soon. But I know they don’t want to see me ’cause it’s like, they on the weird shit. It’s like, “This is the dude who was doing whatever with us. He kind of helped us out. And then nigga came out as gay. So, is we all gay too?” Ya feel me?
DX: “Back On The Xan”— is this the lifestyle you’re currently living?
Makonnen: It was really “Bag Up The Xans” because I’m always into selling. It was in reminiscence of, hey, let’s bag it up, get back on to selling. You know, whatever the fuck, make some money, hustle. But the kids said, “Back on it.” I guess I said “back on it” a few times as well. But it’s just a song about having fun. People just out there dancing. Everybody is out there using drugs. But I just want to be conscious of it. It’s what I always tell them: to drink more water. Ay, I’m just gonna keep it real with y’all. I know what y’all doing. So at least let me be real with y’all and tell y’all, “Be safe with it.” But I know it’s fun. Let’s dance to it. Let’s turn up. But like shit, what else y’all want? Y’all don’t want to hear about depression.
DX: So you still out here trappin’?
Makonnen: I don’t trap nothin’. I trap music and lifestyles. That’s it. I don’t trap drugs no more. Thank God I’ve been put in a great position where I don’t have to do that no more. But I know people out there that still are. And they need something that’s going to relate to that. Even if they’re not selling drugs, people still selling something. So bag it up., get back on it. It’s just hustle music. ‘Cause a lot of music is kind of … I’m so depressed I want to kill myself or I’m stuntin’ too hard, so fuck y’all. So I just try to be not in that mix right now.
DX: How has your separation from OVO been?
Makonnen: I really don’t even have any thoughts on it. I just wish I had better communication with them. That’s all. It’s no hard feelings. I just wish we had better communication. If we had better communications, we wouldn’t have this many misunderstandings out there that we have. It wouldn’t be as much room for people to make as many lies and rumors that they have. And then have me fighting off such … shit that ain’t even real. But you know, I wish them the best. Shouts out, they always gave me the opportunity to do what I did with my career and that song and that’s it. I just wish we had better communication. But my line’s always open. But you know, it ain’t on me. It ain’t on my time. So, you know, however they feel, whenever they feel to reach out to me. I’m still going to do me.
DX: What can we expect from you?
Makonnen: Friday (September 8), I should be having a song drop and video with Rae Sremmurd produced by Mike WiLL Made It. That should be dope. That’s really what I’ve been working on for a long time. It’s different. It’s not like “Swerve.” It’s more multi-generational and international. It’s really not about like stuntin’ on nobody in the club, bottles and the regular rap shit that rappers be on. I think it’s going to be good for everybody. Especially with me coming out and stuff, this will be a song that will reflect me. Just me. Without any like, “Oh. He’s talking about six girls in the club, a new bitch and all this other shit.” This is just me, talking about something all humans go through. It doesn’t matter their orientation.”
DX: You’re actually the only feature on Lil B’s Black Ken album. How does that make you feel?
Makonnen: That’s legendary. That’s The BasedGod. We’ve always been talking to each other, since 2008, online and stuff. He’s always been a big inspiration to me. And then I got to meet him a few times. But when I went to the Bay in January 2016, I went to a studio in Berkeley. We hung out. We made that beat together: “Global” and shit. And we made two songs. “Can’t Let It Go” and that one. And he told me, “Man, I’m going to hold this one for my album and stuff.” I was like, “Okay.”
I never got to hear it until the shit dropped. So I was, “Oh shit I forgot all about this.” I was like, “Whoa!.” So yeah, that was legendary. Shouts out to BasedGod, always. Thank you, BasedGod for everything you’ve done for me and countless others that don’t want to give it up for you. But I will be the voice to go ahead and say it: “Thank you!” [laughs]
DX: Is there anything else you want DX to know?
The drug usage — definitely calm down with that. And start figuring out something else that y’all wanna do with your lives besides poppin’ a Molly, sweatin’ and getting fucked up in the club. Because you do get older, and it is shit to go on. And chill out with all the guns and all that bullshit. It’s senseless and a lot of lives be lost over senseless shit when we got better minds and technology to be doing much more better shit. I just want to tell them, stay positive in whatever situation they at. Keep shining, keep grinding, don’t be whining, don’t be complaining, keep gaining and maintaining. That’s all I got to give.