This past Monday, May 4, we had a conversation with Oakland's Michael Sneed as part of our ongoing YR Music Mondays series that take place on Instagram Live.
For his debut project, "Days We Lost," Sneed wanted to harness an energy and tone for the mixtape that was unique to his hometown. In addition to the soulful touches, Sneed incorporated a youthful voice, urgent messages on masculinity and the importance of revolting.
The emerging artist also mentioned some of his favorite Bay Area artists right now from the soulful lo-fi scene. Michael also expresses his need to create moments within his music as well as the importance of coming together during the pandemic, his recent "Insecure" placement and more.
On Debut Project “Days We Lost”:
Michael: The project is an ode to East Oakland but it’s also an ode to DC and the bridging connections that Oakland and DC have. Gentrification plays a big role in both cities…we're on the frontlines fighting gentrification...we’re fighting to keep the culture and soul in Oakland. But, what Oakland means to me, it’s where a revolution was born, the city of the Black Panthers, it’s where culture thrives.
On Hyphy Music:
I was 8 or 9 when hyphy was popping and hearing The Federation and E-40, for us, it’s just what it is. For the world, rap music being that weird, hyphy music is weird and different. It’s freeing and super creative and I don’t think that gets touched on a lot. We invented the independent scene.
On "Insecure" Placement:
Michael: It wasn’t confirmed. We assumed they weren’t using the song but, a day before the episode was gonna be airing, we heard that they might use it but we don’t know. Then, literally, a minute before it aired I got a text from my boy Nick sending me a flyer and saying “it’s the opening track post this now.” My mom got more excited than I did, she told all her friends.
On Creative Process:
Michael: Wax Roof and I wanted to make something that sounded like East Oakland soul, we knew we had to pull in funk and gospel. The next step once we got the sound right was “Does this sound hit some of the major narrative beats?” I needed a moment with kids in revolt, that’s “Hop Scotch” I needed a moment dissecting the role gender roles play especially in Oakland, that’s “Junior.” And a moment that let people know we're all family, which is the intro, “Family With Me,” so it was getting the sounds right and then getting the moments right.
Collaborating During Shelter-In-Place:
Michael: I’m very nervous about sending stuff out because other people I wanna work with may not like it or if I have to tell them "Nah this ain't it" but I gotta get over that. As independent artists, we should share what we're working on with each other more often. Especially now because I can't go out in the real world and play a song for somebody.
On the Current State of the Media Industry:
Michael: I know a lot of journalists are in really messed-up predicaments and a lot of them are losing work. I think we should be supporting them too...some of them overlook us but there’s been a lot of journalists that have been putting in the work to help us get seen as artists so independent artists need to be championing them.
On the Bay Area Music Scene:
Michael: The album that I’m most excited for right now is Stari’s album just because I’ve seen how many man-hours he’s been putting into that album. I’ve listened to Ovrkast’s album a lot, and I'm excited about demahjiae’s album. KJ Wilson just put out a song called "EIGHTEEN," it’s one of the best songs I’ve heard in my life. A.R.O.M.A., Rayana, Caleborate, Basi, MVCK, the Bay Area is in a really good space. Oaktown Soul is doing some really cool things.
Michael: Broadway musicals, "Wicked," "Into the Woods," "Annie." I talk about this all the time but I think the unconventional one is Broadway theatre but also spoken word. Both Oakland and DC are hubs for poetry and spoken word so, being able to see some of the best poets perform at open mics definitely inspired the delivery, tone and vocal textures/feeling in the project and in the future music that’s coming out.