I’m back from a short hiatus, sorry about taking those so often; I just like to disappear to discover new artists and new ways to improve the page.
Anyway what matters is that I’m back now and today I’m introducing to you 24 year old hip hop artist, “Val Strasser” – which just so happens to be his real name so I learned.
I’m going to share a conversation between him and I, After reading it all, you’ll learn various things about Val. Some of the knowledge inside includes his inspiration, where he’s from, how he compares his musical environment to being stranded on an island, support from his mother, and much more. He also speaks some on his other creative friends – quick shoutout to his friend Rakeem Miles, cofounder of Organic Geniuses. It’s because of him [Rakeem] that I had the chance to meet Val and various other talented individuals.
But back to who I’m talking about here, Val Strasser. Originally from Sierra Leone, he now resides in Wilmington, Delaware where he makes music with some of his friends. One being an artist who I had on the page when it first started, “iloveyouSayda“.
Read the conversation below.
OP. Your name is Val Strasser, but who really are you? Where are you from?
VS. Well you’ll be happy to know that Val Strasser is my real name. I was born in Sierra Leone and was raised in Woodbridge, VA. I moved to DE when I was 14. I started making music here when I was 16.
OP. That’s actually a really cool name to be real. I thought it was a stage name. Not many use their birth names as their creative names. Anyway, Sierra Leone? That’s fascinating. Does your music gain inspiration from there at all? How have you been impacted musically since moving to DE?
VS. Not much inspiration to be honest, but I grew up listening to nothing but reggae on my mom’s side so I guess that might have inspired me in a way. Being a musician in DE is kind of weird because there isn’t a legitimate scene out here. Just a bunch of talented people with ideas who practically live on a stranded island from how disconnected we are sometimes, bur for me being in a city that’s hardly known gives me a chance to showcase my vision without being stuck to one specific sound so yeah DE helped me say fuck everything else.
OP. I follow that for sure. Does she, your mother support your vision for your music? As far as Delaware goes, that makes sense what you said. I remember when I was out there a lot of you really seemed to be truly individual. Given you are all “disconnected”, do you use that as a ground to work harder with the other musicians out there or is it sort of every man for themselves? Would you say the freedom of not being restricted will help you succeed more in the future?
VS. My mom is neutral, doesn’t mind me making music but isn’t highly involved and that’s OK. She’s not a big fan of rap anyways so I just see it as it not being for her. I definitely think that since the resources in DE are low it makes the artists here work like mad scientists. It’s every man for himself to an extent but that doesnt mean niggas dont show any love at all. It’s really a tough love thing out here because we all know that we aren’t necessarily where we really want to be yet and so we push each other day by day to be more than just the standard. So yeah to answer your question not being restricted or boxed in is my city’s secret weapon.
OP. Ah, understood. At least she isn’t against it entirely. As far as the city goes, that’s tight. Tough love is still good love, keeps everyone motivated. Are there any specific artists out there you wrk with most? I remember seeing on your Instagram that you’re friends with Sayda.
VS. Oh yeah Sayda is the homie I met him through my bro Rakeem Miles. But in the city I work close musically and visually with Ken Rosa, Hunnit Gil, Turt Luchiano, Jon Brody, Quadie Diesel, Yair and Jordan Atchlei. these are my brothers you know like past the music. Most of the people I named I’ve known since performing arts in high school. I make sure to work with the homies I came up with and the people that inspire me as much as I inspire them.
OP. Sayda is tight. I actually had an interview with him awhile back. I’m trying to get one with Rakeem too. He’s the one who actually put me on to all of you. That’s great you stick close to the homies like that. Not many do. Did any of them have a part in your recent project “Plush”? By the way congratulations on that – big fan.
OP. I follow that, do you see them being on any future projects? Do you have any background on PLUSH? What inspired it is what I’m trying to ask?
VS. I heard the term plush on a Janet Jackson song called “No Sleep” and it stuck in my head as an album titile for a months, so the name really stemmed from the definition of the word itself. When I think of PLUSH I think of lavish, upscale and posh furniture. From the texture of the cover to the production, the project theme screamed class to me. The light pink text for the art is just one of the many vibrant colors that come to mind with this album. It’s also a story about the anti hero, the kid who didn’t ask for this shit but it was given to him. Bestowed if you will.
OP. That’s actually a really unique concept. The whole project stood out to me. Sort of a two part question here though, is there one track on it that is your favorite or stands out the most? Also do you see there being a sequel to it?
VS. It’s hard to single out one because each song there are specific details that make me like certain tracks for different reasons. I guess “Came For” might be the most dynamic track on this record for me, that might be might cleanest mix to date. With that being said there will be no sequel for this one. PLUSH is a movie that doesn’t need a encore. I want my fans to grow with me and not get settled into one sound from me. It’s like “I didn’t let you down yet, just keep trusting me” you know?
OP. I remember that track, it was dope. Understood as far as the sequel goes, do you see yourself doing more concept albums at all? That makes sense fully.
VS. Yeah of course just gonna think of it as I go really!
OP. Tight, now how did you and Rakeem come into contact if I can ask? I remember you were at his Weird N Awful festival last year around this time, actually. I remember your stage energy was high, is that something that’s important to you? High energy or more of a visual experience?
VS. Me and keem linked through mutual friends online. He hit me up about doing music and kept in touch with me ever since. With performance energy I think it’s really both for me. I’m a star trak kid at heart so visuals and detail always mattered to me. While on the other side I used to study the glow in the dark tour from ‘Ye and his stage presence, So all of these things come into play whenever I’m performing. If I can’t keep them interested live then I don’t think I should be making music but that’s just me.
OP. That’s dope, you both are making waves. Regarding your stage energy though, that makes a lot of sense and it’s a great thing that you see it that way. You mentioned Ye, does he have any impact on your music or more so just your stage presence? Do you have any sort of inspirations for your music that isn’t another musician? By this I mean do you gain inspiration from any types of art, food, social events, etc?
VS. Kanye is the reason i started making music. Graduation made me want to make a classic body of work. Flashing lights changed my life.. Alot my inspiration comes from skating tho. Just the lifestyle, you know video parts like baker 3, fully flared and bag of suck really made me approach style and music differently. Like I didn’t have to be a goon or a basketball player. I could just be me.But art and life inspires me. Like a person walking down the street in a specific outfit can spark an idea for me.
OP. Very relatable, Kanye is phenomenal. His impact will be remembered forever. The skating part however, that’s dope. Do you skate yourself? Or do you just appreciate open minded culture of that? Being you is most important. Society makes this image that the black youth has to be one of those two you listed so for you to say you could just be you; that not only speaks volumes here but volumes to anyone who will read this. More people are needed like that, almost like a person to look up to. Much respect for that. Do you ever see yourself applying your creativity elsewhere? Like in clothes, movies, or something? Or is music your only focus?
VS. I dont want anomyone to look up to me, i just want them to take notes from me, like soak up as much info from me as you can because im only here to help. No poser here man I was skating before I started making music. Music is my main focus thoough and is what I have the most fun doing so that’s where my energy is going towards for now. Maybe later I’ll venture into other avenues who knows. I always wanted to have my own show on Vice though. (hint, hint).
OP. Noted, interesting too. As far as skating goes, I feel that for sure, I wasn’t much of a skater, I just appreciate the culture. It’s cool to have your focus there. It’d be cool to see you on Vice. That’d be tight. But man this has been dope, cool learning more about you too. Before we conclude this, do you have anything you’d like to add? Any events? Any type of quote? When I say quote I mean literally anything, it could be something motivational or something as simple as “Don’t wear Thrasher if you don’t skate”. I don’t fucking care, the ball is in your court here.
VS. My quote is “Don’t spend your clout all in one place” pull up to my show on the 16th with Lucki, Sayda, 5 finger posse, Forza, etc! (1014 N. Marshall Street, Philadelphia ) 7pm-11pm. Buy my album off Tidal, Spotify, Amazon and iTunes!
You can stream the entire PLUSH album by Val Strasser via Soundcloud by clicking HERE.
Be sure to catch Val along side many other talented individuals June 16th at Open Space in Philadelphia.
Cover photo via @hiprinceali on Instagram.