Remember when “keeping it real” was a thing in Hip-Hop? It’s become commonplace in Hip-Hop for artists to rhyme about material things regardless of if they owned them or not. That’s not real, nor is it keeping it real. The average person can’t relate to bountiful riches and bitches, and that narrative only alienates the bulk of your audience.
An emcee who continually keeps it real is Houston, Texas’ own Anti-Lilly. The 23-year old rapper’s latest release is a homage to his Buick titled “91 Regal”. 91 Regal is a 7-track release that tackles the issues that your everyday average Joe experiences. The project is produced by Phoniks, G. Cal, and Tommy Blunts.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Anti-Lilly about his new album, 91 Regal, the ups and downs of working a 9-to-5, and his career goals in the genre of Hip-Hop.
TRHH: Do you really drive a 91 Regal?
Anti-Lilly: Yeah. One of the inspirations behind the project is believe it or not it’s actually my very first car. I bought it with my own money a few months back and that was like a real big accomplishment to me. In life you have to set certain goals for yourself and that was one of the ones I wanted. I’ve kind of been out on my own since I was 17, I’ve had my own apartment for a few years but it’s been an issue getting back and forth to work. It’s been days where I’ve had to walk, days where I had to try to find a ride, or catch the bus. Getting that 91 Regal was like getting over that hill. I really wanted to dedicate a whole project to me reaching one of the goals. It’s one of those moments where you can finally breathe, Sherron. It may not mean much to a lot of people, but me getting my very first car with my own money that I worked hella hard for [laughs], that’s the inspiration behind the project. That was actually my first car and I still have it.
TRHH: It’s significant. That’s what life is all about. Achieving these things as you go.
Anti-Lilly: Word up. Exactly.
TRHH: I got a somber vibe from this album. Did this come from a place of depression?
Anti-Lilly: I wouldn’t really say depression so much. You gotta kinda watch what you say. I don’t think I suffer from depression or anything but I do believe as humans we all go to that dark place every once in a while. We all kinda go to that dark place. I will say out of all of my projects this is probably my darkest one. It brought me out of a dark place at the same time. It was therapeutic to get that out. I just turned 23 on September 21st. It was really the past 23 years of my life, the good shit and the bad shit, being released. It was like release therapy almost. That’s the only way I felt like I could get it out was through expressing myself. I didn’t get an appreciation for the project until I got to hear every track all together.
TRHH: The song “Company Cigarettes” was beautifully written. Is it based on a true story?
Anti-Lilly: Very, very true. I don’t really want to get myself in too much trouble, but it’s 100% accurate. Everybody has a dream growing up, whether you wanna be a doctor or a ball player. Most people don’t say, “When I grow up I wanna take calls all day and have people bitch at me all day.” They don’t dream about being acclimated to the 9-to-5 lifestyle. With the job I have I got into some trouble and I just needed a job, but I didn’t see myself working there for 5 years. You don’t see yourself being there that long. I knew that I was going to be this artist that made music for a living and that was it. There comes a time where you look yourself in the mirror and you’re like, “I’ve really been here for 5 years?” You grow a little sad that you’re still there.
I’ve seen plenty of people make reference to that first verse, shout out to Ms. Cameron, she literally never picked up a cigarette. That’s just what those environments do to you. Certain environments force you to change and it’s just not at work, it’s life in general. I wanted to take that picture and put it in a different perspective. You hear the raps about people going through it, but I haven’t really heard too many raps about what you have to go through working a 9-to-5. People appreciate their jobs, I definitely appreciate my job because it pays bills for me. But you don’t really wake up and be like, “I get to go to work again! It’s so awesome!” You appreciate it, but it’s not ultimately what you want to do with your life and the environment itself. I’m a pretty small guy so it’s not like I’m lifting 100 lb. boxes all day, but it mentally weighs on you, hence cigarettes.
You see people stressed out and what do they do? They smoke cigarettes. That’s what that environment does. I go on my break and half of the building will be outside. It’s just something I wanted to bring to the people – just another perspective. I know a lot of folks can relate to what I’m saying in that song. It may not be that direct situation, but they can see where I’m coming from. That’s something I really wanted to tackle, but I wanted to make sure it was put together right. It just felt right when I recorded the song and that’s how it came out I guess. That’s where Company Cigarettes came from. You work long enough at a corporate spot, you make it long enough to get a company car or a company trip or something. I just wanted to put a twist on it that if you work here long enough you get company cigarettes ‘cause you’re so damn stressed out. I thought it was pretty cool to talk about.
TRHH: Do you think it’s the environment or the person? I relate to the song totally. I work a day job and it’s hard for me to go in every day. But my supervisor absolutely loves coming to work every day. She’s like, “What do I have to complain about? I’m alive, the sky is blue…”
Anti-Lilly: Yeah. Like I said I’m totally grateful to be in a position to have a job, especially where I came from. Where I’m at now I’m totally grateful. Yes, we get put in certain positions but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it. I’m not accepting what I have right now. I’m grateful for it but that’s now all I want out of life. When you think about where you want to be in life compared to where you are, yeah, it’s motivational for you to get there but at the same time you wanna hurry up and get out of where you are now. I got supervisors that I love. I got love for everybody, truthfully. Sometimes it’s a chain of command thing. You gotta think about it, it’s a business. Let’s say the business isn’t performing properly, ‘cause it’s really all about numbers. That’s something I don’t like. I don’t like being micro-managed.
Think about it like this, you come to work and you’re a full-time employee, so that’s at least 40 hours per week, that means you’re going to be at your work environment more than you’re at home if you do the math. I feel like since that’s the case you should have a work family. Sometimes that’s not the case because you get corporate involved and all they care about is, “Are we hitting the numbers?” When that chain of command rolls down to my supervisor, yeah, we’re cool and on the same page but I know he gotta do his job. I’ve been in management before and I’ve had to fire people and that shit sucks, man. I gotta send you home to your kids with one last check and good luck after that. That shit sucks. I don’t like being involved in that environment. I see where I am now and where I wanna be in life and that’s all the more reason.
Any day that I wake up I’m 100% grateful to be alive. Like I said in my description, life is a gift. None of this is promised. You should make the best out of your situation but you shouldn’t be content at any time. I’m just not content. That song is inspired by conversations with co-workers. Certain situations force you to get those jobs, whether it be kids or you had to go to jail or prison or something. You don’t get all of the opportunities that were once presented to you. Some people are just stuck in that type of job environment. They’re grateful that they have it, but that’s not what they ultimately want to do. You have some people where it’s absolutely what they love. They love the fact that they can go to work. I appreciate that I can work too, it’s just that I see so much more for myself at the same time. That song is for the people who see much more than what’s in front of them and they refuse to settle. We’re gonna play the cards that we got, but we can’t wait for that next hand.
TRHH: Do you think you’re cut out for a 9-to-5?
Anti-Lilly: [Laughs] Naw. I’m a hard worker, man. I don’t want to get that misconstrued at all. I hold a pretty good position at my job, not because of my tenure. My dad taught me that whatever you’re gonna do in life, even if you don’t wanna do it you have to be the best at it. Now, with that said, yeah, Im’ma play ball but I totally don’t think I’m cut out for a 9-to-5. I know what I’m cut out for. I’m meant to be a musician and to touch the people. I truly believe that that’s my God-given talent and I believe that where I’m at now is just a stepping-stone. If we’re being realistic, I don’t go to a big studio and record. I record in my closet, but I have to get it mixed and I have to get that money from somewhere. I gotta pay for production so I need that money. At the same time I don’t see myself doing that in the next 5 years. Not even in the next 2 years. Not even in the next year, truthfully. That’s how much belief I have in myself. While I’m here I’m going to give it my best but that’s not my dream. It’s not my ultimate goal. I adapt to my environment, but I don’t believe this is what is meant for me.
TRHH: How would you compare the struggles of work versus the struggles of rap?
Anti-Lilly: [Laughs] That’s a great question. I think they’re similar but they’re different at the same time. With the rap game I don’t see it as a struggle. I see it as a process. Whatever is meant for you is going to happen. I’m a very firm believer in that. In Houston with the style of music I make and the politics involved in everything I’ve totally run into some roadblocks, but I’ve never lost faith in myself. I know what I’m able to do, I just gotta keep pushing. It’s a lot easier dealing with music than it is with my job. They’re both a challenge. It’s a challenge for me sometimes to go to work and deal with all that bullshit. Not only from the customers calling and complaining about everything, but certain members of management that want things to be a certain way but they’re never open to my opinion about something. I feel like if I’m in the field really doing it I can give you better advice than someone who is just looking at numbers all day. In that aspect it’s frustrating.
With the music, sometimes it can be frustrating trying to get love from your city but I never get discouraged. If you know it’s for you, you just gotta stay on it. Don’t get off that horse. It’s been a slow grind but I think it’s going to be worth it because I’m only building my catalog as I go. So the people who aren’t so much in tune to me now they can go back and look at all this beautiful music I’ve released through the years. I think it’s only going to make me better in the long run. With anything in life it’s a struggle, but it’s however you take it. If shit knocks you down you can stay down or you can get up. That’s the difference between making it and not making it. Like I said, “It’s all about your recovery.” Everybody gets knocked down but it’s about how you get up. You can just stay down or you can get your ass back up and try to figure it out. That’s with anything in life. If you want to be the next Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, or Kobe or you want to be the best burger flipper in the whole world, you’re gonna have some situations that knock you down. It’s all about finding a way to adjust and adapt.
TRHH: You worked with Phoniks again on this project but you also worked with some new cats. First off, my man Tommy Blunts…
Anti-Lilly: Yeah, shout out to Sherron, man! Shout out to Sherron.
TRHH: [Laughs] Thank you.
Anti-Lilly: This was around the time I was looking for some newer production. I had a few beats from Phoniks and from frequent collaborators. I really wanted to work with a new producer. You introduced me to Tommy and it was instant. We shot each other some e-mails and those were the first two beats he sent me. I was like, “Yes!” We’re still working on stuff together. This won’t be the last you hear from us. I actually got something from you too, man. I wanted to ask how long have you been working on producing?
TRHH: The roles are reversed, I never had nobody ask me a question [laughs]. It’s something I’ve been dabbling with for a long time but nothing I ever put my all into. I work, I write, I go to school, I really don’t have time for anything else. Beats is something that I just started dabbling in seriously this year. I asked Phoniks for help and I actually went to Tommy’s house in August and he showed me a lot of stuff. I’m not anywhere near those guys. I’m trying to be on that level and learn everything. It’s something I’ve been seriously doing for about a year, but it’s been over ten years that I’ve been off and on messing with it.
Anti-Lilly: I really didn’t know what to expect but when I heard it I was taken aback. I didn’t use it for the project but that doesn’t mean it may not be used in the future. It was dope, man.
TRHH: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Anti-Lilly: No gas, man. I hear the potential. People say they’re too old or it’s too late, it’s never too late if it’s a passion. I understand you get tied up and shit but I can tell your love of Hip-Hop. We can talk about music all day so eventually that is going to translate into something. It’s something that you love. I think it’s hella cool that you’re dabbling into production. I would love to hear whatever else you have. I say go for it. You never know where it can take you.
TRHH: Definitely. I appreciate that. You also worked with another Midwest producer G. Cal, who gave you something different than we’re used to hearing you rhyme on. Why’d you pick that particular beat?
Anti-Lilly: No reason in particular, man. I don’t wanna use the Houston excuse but it’s a sound that I personally grew up on and was inspired by so I wanted to give that back to my city and give that back to my fans at the same time. I’m not just influenced by jazz or classical sounds, I just love music. It’s something about that Houston sound. I always wanted to give that back to my city. I gotta let ‘em know I can get down at the same time while staying true to myself. All that shit is true, man. That’s what it’s all about. That song is Houston in summer time on a Sunday. You got your slab parades – you’ll be on the south side, or on the north side or downtown somewhere and you’ll see these fuckin’ Cadillac’s, Buick’s 84’s, fuckin’ 5th wheel in the back, that’s just some Houston shit. It’ll be a random parade out of nowhere and we’re out there barbecuing and reminiscing about the good times and the bad times. That’s what life is all about in its truest essence – being around the people that we love and appreciating the little bit of life that we all got left. That was sort of a dedication to my city, while at the same time I just wanted to show my people another aspect of it.
TRHH: Earlier you talked about the 9-to-5 and not seeing yourself in that situation too much longer. Are you happy with where you are in life right now?
Anti-Lilly: Man, I am so happy. It may not appear that way compared to previous albums. I don’t go to a therapist I go to my microphone. Everybody got problems, it’s just all about how you deal with it. I always got a smile on my face. It ain’t all good, but it’s always good at the same time because I have an opportunity – I woke up this morning. That’s one reason to be happy right there. Shit happens but you gotta play the cards that’s in your hands and give it your best. No matter what life throws at me I’m always smiling because it’s only there to improve me, make me stronger, and provide growth. That’s where some people get lost in the mix, they just see the bad shit happening to ‘em. Sometimes when you go through those situations you lose appreciation for all the good things that’ll happens to you.
I was telling my girl the other day, if life was easy anybody could do this shit. You wouldn’t see people committing suicide and all these other things. That’s the thing about life, you may think you have the answers but nobody really has the answers to this shit. I found beauty in that. It’s like, man I get another opportunity to really figure this shit out. In any of these situations if it don’t kill you, you can only grow from it. Either you don’t make that same mistake again or you’re more aware in the future. I appreciate all the good shit that happens to me equally as I appreciate the not-so-good stuff that I’ve gone through whether it was personal loss, being back stabbed, or being cheated on. I don’t have envy or hate for those people in those situations. I just understand I had to go through it because if I didn’t I’d probably be even more of a sucker [laughs]. It’s all good, man. I’m happy as hell right now.
TRHH: What’s your ideal situation career wise?
Anti-Lilly: I just wanna be able to support my people while I’m doing what I love. Whether that be me at the Grammys or me being the dude that’s always on tour. I just see myself being involved in music and being around some beautiful people. Only God knows where I’m headed, truthfully, but I know this is my path. Whether it be on a super-huge scale or not so big, I just want to be able to support myself and my people. It’s not about the money. I have a great core of fans now, but if I can be able to build on that and travel the world and meet these beautiful people that are sending me these thought out messages on Twitter, Instagram, and e-mail about how my music inspires them, that’s what I wanna do. I just want to continue to be an inspiration, continue to get my story out there and do it professionally – meaning that I want to provide for myself and my loved ones. That’s any man’s goal to be able to provide for his, it’s just a different profession. This doesn’t even feel like work, it’s just something I’ve always loved to do. That’s what I want. I want to be able to professionally do what I love while at the same time take care of mine and go out and see the world, man. That’s where I wanna be with it.
Purchase: Anti-Lilly – 91 Regal