Bronx emcee Hester Valentine connected with Belgian producer Outside House for an album titled “I Can’t Cut Your Hair.” Valentine and House deliver an aurally anarchic album where each artist takes the listener on a vacillating journey.
I Can’t Cut Your Hair comes to us courtesy of we are the karma kids. The 8-track album is produced entirely by Outside House and features one lone guest appearance by Valentine’s label mate, miles cooke.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Hester Valentine about making music that resonates with people, learning to give himself grace, working with producer Outside House, and their new album, I Can’t Cut Your Hair.
TRHH: Why’d you call the album I Can’t Cut Your Hair?
Hester Valentine: It was a phrase that stuck out to me. One, I just thought it sounded cool and I like the idea of like having a title that was about self-responsibility and stuff like that. I think that’s a significant theme on the record, so that was the main reason for that.
TRHH: How did you hook up with Outside House to do this album?
Hester Valentine: Me and Outside House, we’ve been cool. We met online as just lovers of music and we connected like that. We both just so happen to make music, so we started making music together. She’s super dope, super dope, super talented, and a good friend of mine, for sure.
TRHH: Her production on I Can’t Cut Your Hair is unconventional. Why’d you choose these particular beats to rap on?
Hester Valentine: They’re just the ones that spoke to me, I guess. I heard them and they kind of inspired a different style of writing out of me. Coming into the record, I wanted to make something that felt like a cohesive mood and I liked how the beats sounded together. I like what they drew out on a lyrical perspective.
TRHH: Did you have a hard time writing to the beats?
Hester Valentine: On the first couple beats Outside House sent me, I did a couple of verses to them and they weren’t all that great. It definitely did take me some time to kind of learn how I like to sound on them. But after I got into the groove now it’s like hard to not write to Outside House beats. I’m really grateful for that.
TRHH: So, what was the process like recording the album? Did you guys bounce stuff back and forth off of each other?
Hester Valentine: [Laughs] She sends me a bunch of beats, like, a lot of beats. She’s super prolific, so she would just send me a bunch of stuff and I would write a bunch of things. There’s a bunch of stuff that we recorded together that’s not on the record. It was just keeping me busy and then after a while you start putting together demos, and start developing themes, and wanting to put stuff together. That’s how it kind of came together.
TRHH: So, how did you end up hooking up with Headtrip and putting this album out with them?
Hester Valentine: The Weird Rap Podcast, or I guess The Extraordinary Rap Podcast now, I sent them an e-mail last year when I put out a record and they reviewed it on the podcast and Headtrip is on the podcast. So, on the podcast he was like, “I’d be down to do a show with this guy,” just off the sound or whatever. I had nothing going on so I was like, “I’m gonna find out if that offer is real.” So, I DM’d him and I was like, “Hey, I heard you want to do a show — I’m totally down do it,” and then we ended up doing a show together. I opened up for miles cooke, who’s also on the label. So, from there that’s when I got cool with miles and miles sent the record to trip, and that’s how we got connected on putting it out on karma kids. So, it was really miles who did it, honestly.
TRHH: So, the record was already done when you sent it to them?
Hester Valentine: Yeah, I didn’t have it mixed and mastered yet, but the recording and writing, all that stuff was done. Actually, one track got added after, Blood War, that was the last track that got added.
TRHH: I noticed a couple of wrestling references like Tajiri, Joey Styles, and Tommaso Ciampa in the songs “Panic” and “Delirious.” How big of a wrestling fan are you?
Hester Valentine: I grew up watching wrestling. I tap in every now and then. I follow it, but I’m not watching week to week. I definitely follow it. I like AEW, I like WWE, I like all that stuff.
TRHH: Were you an ECW fan?
Hester Valentine: Oh, for sure, for sure like Tajiri, Joey Styles, I was a big Rhino fan as a kid, [Chris] Jericho, of course, Tommy Dreamer. Sabu is amazing! I love Sabu, he’s like personally inspirational low key. I like him.
TRHH: Really? What’s inspirational about Sabu [laughs]?
Hester Valentine: [Laughs] He was just crazy about his art. This dude, he’s doing moonsaults through tables in front of 20 people — that makes no sense unless you’re just crazy about your art. I just like the idea that he was gonna just live and die by the decision that made sense to how he wanted to portray his stuff.
TRHH: Did you ever see that match he had with Terry Funk? The barbed wire match?
Hester Valentine: No, I haven’t seen that one.
TRHH: That’s worth checking out. It’s insane. It was so unnecessary [laughs]. On the song “Gelded” you say, “self-hate keep me from starting new.” What did you mean by that line?
Hester Valentine: I think that a big thing where you make mistakes in life is like holding on to it. I think you have to have grace with yourself in those moments. I made mistakes in the past and sometimes I would really beat myself up over it. When you do that you can’t move forward — you’re always stuck in that place. So, it’s like just having grace with yourself, and allowing yourself to move on, and know you’re not that person anymore, and allowing yourself to start new.
TRHH: I feel like we all do that though. Why do we all beat ourselves up? Everybody makes mistakes.
Hester Valentine: Yeah, it’s tough. I don’t know why I do it. I think I’m just particularly hard on myself, but like you said, everyone does it. It just keeps you in the same spot.
TRHH: What’s your ultimate goal in Hip-Hop?
Hester Valentine: I think about that often. I feel like it changes by the day. Ultimately, I just love to create. I love having ideas and expressing myself. This is cathartic for me. So, for me it’s just about trying to make interesting stuff, make things that connect with people, and find different ways to resonate with people. A lot of the people that changed my life are rappers and musicians. And they did it just by being bold and by being themselves. So, I think that’s what I owe people in my art is just to be bold, be myself, and through that freedom, through my expression maybe other people will feel free. Outside of that, just make dope shit [laughs].
TRHH: Simple as that, man, simple as that. Who is the “I Can’t Cut Your Hair” album made for?
Hester Valentine: I think it’s made for fans of Hip-Hop. It’s made for fans of I guess “experimental rap.” People that want to hear something new, something interesting.