Last month, I wrote a feature on independent rapper and friend, AmirSaysNothing, as he was finishing up his debut album, Employee of the Month, which dropped on June 25th. The album is meant to be partially autobiographical, chronicling a young working rapper’s quest to escape his day job with a fervor one would expect from the son of a preacher (Amir’s father was known as the “hip-hop minister” at Harlem’s Mosque No. 7). The album begins with “Back to Sleep,” a track about wanting to stay in “Dreamville” instead of going to work, and ends with a track called “Finally Free,” an elegiac, yet exuberant track about escaping the grind. Like Amir himself, EOTM is simultaneously indignant and playful, meditative and lighthearted.
While the fiery “BigSaysNothing” features Amir’s “evil” alter-ego, “Stoop Kid” is partly inspired by the 1990s Nickelodeon cartoon, Hey Arnold!. In Amir’s own words, his point of view is “darkly optimistic.” On this penultimate track, Amir drives home the anti-authoritarian streak that runs through the album—his explicit rejection of societal expectations: “I don’t need this checklist you’ve tried to condition me to following,” he writes. “I’ll get it for me and mines, my way, because I’m not your slave, I’m free.”
Read more of Amir’s own words on the album below.
Track #1 — “BackToSleep”
This album, to me, is in its concept the sound of the feelings I or anyone else with a job feels throughout a workday. “BackToSleep” is the morning, when you’re deep in Dreamville, halfway through this intoxicating random ass narrative that your brain is creating and your alarm goes off, bringing an abrupt ending to it all; but for the following moments, there’s the realization of how good your bed feels, or how good it feels to keep your eyes closed and all you can think about is how badly you don’t want to face the day and you just want to lay there in the sheets, maybe even coast back to sleep and end up oversleeping, and having your condescending boss calling, asking, “Where you at?”
Track #2 — “Employee Of The Month”
I wanted to all the songs to work together, to tell a narrative of sorts. “Employee Of The Month” brings us into the album, the day, it is realizing you overslept, rushing out of the house, rushing through that morning traffic to get to this place you hate, knowing damn well you don’t want to be there, knowing you shouldn’t be there. With this song, I saw red, red from that early morning sunrise, coming over the horizon; I’d always rap to myself in these moments, to cope with it all, the anger of being in that car on that damn highway, in that sea of cars—this is my desire to break free.
“I believe the way they tell you isn’t the only way”
The speeches sampled are of my dad’s from a speech in 1996 when he was in the NOI (Nation of Islam). In his words, I felt myself, feeling that refusal to be confined to the dead-end increasing in my heart and finding myself often having figures in society (school, work), for example, try to kill that in me: “that’s maybe why he gets in trouble so much, in this society.” My need to challenge, not to be destructive, but because I believe the way they tell you isn’t the only way. The “once a man hits you on the cheek then you try and put him in the cemetery” part is me using that to say, these institutions tried to kill me, and others like me, and now I’m gonna kill them.
Track #3 — “Just Sayin'”
“Just Sayin'” is once you’re there, at work, just trying to get through the day. All the thoughts that go through your head when you’re working this shitty job, trying to pursue a “passion,” like, am I making the right choice? Is this the foolish? Life can be so much easier If I just do what I’m told. You know, go to college, find a job, meet a girl, get married, buy a house, have a baby, raise ’em, wash, rinse, repeat and not try and follow a dream. Shit, just the feeling of wanting to just go on your lunch break, stop talking to customers and their demands and shit, smoke some weed on break, and just say to yourself, man, when I get out of this place, I am NEVER coming back.
KinG! got my back and really help capture where I was going with his verse. It’s like, imagine us as two guys working at the same place, kind of venting to each other and helping boost each other up the same time, like he knows, what we’re doing with this music shit is right, even when I’m losing sight.
Track #4 — “Bricks & Wood”
Bricks & Wood, ahh, Bricks & Wood. This that DIY rap shit. I’m really proud of this joint, Kacey really laced it perfectly, he’s the CEO in this shit, he’s the Lex Luthor of the (G)’s and he was pissed about some business dealings of his own at the time and I was like, “Perfect, come to the studio.” Ahah, this song is about building—some foundation type shit. It’s bars, bars, bars. From Alexander Spit’s verse to Blaison Maven’s to mine, it’s very, this is who I am, where I have come from, and were building our shit up, doing it ourselves and either you’re with us or you’re in our way.
Track #5 — “313 (Interlude)”
Courtney (Big Knee) and I just started working together this year, and what I really enjoy about it, is that he smokes me out, ahah, and his ideas are a lot more humorous and playful than mine were throughout this LP. He likes to have fun with lyrics, and we started by making this back and forth battle song, like the lunch truck scene in 8 Mile is kind of how I saw it, almost; and he doesn’t even officially rap, but he’s talented and can spit some really clever shit. He wrote those first bars and I think he just started spittin’ that 8 Mile shit. And we’re just high laughing at the shit, and had the idea to clip into the scene from the movie where Em[inem] wins and everyone’s cheering, just to be funny. It’s kind like showing props to the “blue collar” cats before me such as Eminem. It’s a musical skit.
Track #7 — “Stoop Kid”
The 2nd track on EOTM that Court did, again, just smoking and listening to the beat on repeat. I’m pretty sure he came up with the stoop kid idea just referencing the Hey Arnold! character to get a laugh and I rapped it to make it flow with a beat, and it turned into a childhood tale kind of song. I’m just talking about being a kid, reminiscing on life was like back before you were here. Nostalgia, like Hey Arnold! is for anyone my age.
Track #7 — “BIGSAYSNOTHING”
“THE B-I-G-S-A-Y-S AND NOT AT ALL.” I was listening to a lot of Method Man and Redman around this time, I wanted to almost be a combination of the two, smooth and charming but grotesque. This song was my evil character, this was my other side, this is the me that always gets these confused looks from people, ahah, living in my own world.
I really wanted to encompass this side of myself, the one that ain’t afraid to grab his crotch, to do some crazy shit, hang out the sunroof, yell at the top of his lungs. This character is “free” and does whatever the hell he feels. Think about when its Friday, it’s the week and you’re going and you just wanna go party and be the man real quick. That’s “BIGSAYSNOTHING,” like, don’t think I won’t get out here and talk my shit.
Track #8 — “After Work Debauchery”
The funny thing about this skit is it is exactly what it says. I went to my homie’s place after celebrating my friend Andrea’s birthday at this strip club, and just got drunk with a bunch of people he had over, two of which being these two young ladies who were kind enough to have fun with the voice memo function on my phone. I wanted them to talk shit about me, but it turned it them talking about my voice, ahah, and yeah, “After Work Debauchery.”
Track #9 — “SOG”
When my sister heard this song, she asked me, “Are you mad?” I had been going through a lot in my personal life at the time, relationship issues and struggling with that, but I had actually written this song before all that, but it was recorded in the midst, so the song isn’t about that at all in its lyrics, aside from the “my relation stats is ‘at work'” and “workshop my relationship while working on my greatest hits'” lines in the song. It’s about just trying to come up, trying to get more for you and yours. But I guess the passion of dealing with all that personal shit came out in my tone, in my rage. It’s funny because it’s the first song from this LP I did, and it’s become one of my more popular songs, and it just was kind of random, like I wasn’t striving to make this grand point, just trying to make it happen.
Track #10 — “The Girl That Works Down The Street”
Everyone, everywhere, works by a pretty girl. Sometimes its a few, but all the guys in the neighborhood or the neighboring businesses crush on her, we all wanna get with her, we all take turns going to check on her, and do a little light flirting, hoping to be that dude she’s feeling, you know? I’ve seen it for years, I’ve been in it, and I’ve observed it—from my first job at like 15-16 to now. Theres always that girl. This was my Alicia Keys “You Don’t Know My Name” version of that. I figured that was a dope way to tell this “working class love story.” I’m just a dude who’s been crushing on the girl that works down the street.
Track #11 — “Two Weeks”
Big Lev (my friend Josh) is back again to reprise his role as the condescending boss, calling to tell me that he’s heard I quit and I am going to go do my thing. The funny thing about it is, I’ve worked for a lot of people and there is always this kind of lack of faith and condescending attitude you get from bosses sometimes, where even when they’re being nice, they are talking down to you. And I think this really got that, where he’s saying “good luck with that whole rap thing” with a that’s-never-gonna-happen tone, and offers a reference, with rap. It’s like he’s trying to be kind, but he’s a being a dick, and thats why you hate your boss. Because most of them—at least in my experience—do this. They view you as small, and finding ones that believe in you, outside of this establishment, are very rare. This skit also signifies a turning point in the LP, finally quitting that dead-end up and facing that unknown.
Track #12 — “You’ll Miss Us When We’re Gone”
Around the time I was dealing with those personal life struggles, I had been hearing the words “when I’m gone” or “miss me” differently. I was feeling all unappreciated at this time in my life, I had a bad break up I was dealing with and the politics of that, feeling unappreciated at work, and I was like, “Okay, talk and treat me like shit now, but you’re going to regret this when I’m gone.” Thats where I was and those words just kept speaking to me.
I had just started hearing Post Malone’s “White Iverson,” ahah, and in the song he says, “You gone think about me when I’m gone,” and that shit would hit me every time, like I’d see their faces and be singing it to them while I was alone in my car. And then Spanto from BornxRaised had hooked me up with some gear and the hoody he gave me said “You’ll Miss Us When We’re Gone” and I was like that’s it, this isn’t all coincidence. And thats what birthed this song, changing the tone, and going into the 3rd Act of EOTM.
Track #13 — “Still”
When this beat played, I saw myself laying on a bed, just watching the ceiling fan go around and around. It’s at the point in the album where you’ve gotten a range of the emotions—from anger in the morning, just trying to get by during the day, and getting to unleash at night. In this story, it’s at the point where I’ve faced this adversity, after dealing with the shit in my world—”I’m still here.” I’ve still got air in my lungs and I still have my ambitions, and now we’re gonna act on that. It’s like after the storm in “You’ll Miss Us When We’re Gone” this is the calm, this is the rest position, and we just think about where we’re going from here.
“I’ve still got air in my lungs and I still have my ambitions, and now we’re gonna act on that.”
Track #14 — “Finally Free”
I grew up in churches. I’ve got a father who’s a pastor, who’s brother is a Reverend, who’s Father is also an ordained Rev. So that holy sound, that organ sound, is something I am very fond of. “Finally Free” is the sun coming out, this is the “I made it” moment, in this journey, this album. We start stuck, stuck in something we don’t always talk about—being stuck in complacency, balancing being fulfilled and just trying to keep a roof over our head.
To me, Employee Of The Month isn’t just this bottom of the barrel struggle album, and it’s not top of the food chain struggle shit either. It’s about the middle; the stuff we all go through, who get up everyday and put in our 8 hours everyday just to not get enough to show for it. And finally being like, “Fuck this, there’s something better out there.” That’s finally free. It may not be a million dollars, but its a feeling. It’s saying to yourself, “I don’t need your job, I don’t need your degree, I don’t need your ‘view of success,’ I don’t need this checklist you’ve tried to condition me to following. I’ll get it for me and mines, my way, because I’m not your slave, I’m free.”
Track #15 — “I’ll Be Home Soon (B-Rock’s Outerlude)”
Living out in California, working on my music and trying to keep elevating—while of course, I’m beyond grateful—it has kept me really busy and away from family back East. And it goes without saying that’s hard to deal with. My youngest brother, he gets older everyday. My dad’s got more grays every time I see a picture. You know, it’s a sacrifice I suppose—trying to commit to making things happen for you and yours can sometimes mean you have to spend extended periods of time away from them. And I know my little brother may not see that now, or my pops may not always understand, but it’s what I know I have to do, because I love them, and I want to do more for them. But also show my little brother he can do what he puts his mind to; this is a voicemail he left me a couple months ago. And it’s that :23 seconds—thats what I do it for.
GO GET MY SHIT SO I CAN QUIT MY JOB AND BUY EVERYONE A HYUNDAI. – ASN.
Photos by Carol Isabel and Andrea DoSouto.