“I’m inspired by bosses like Rick Ross or Jay-Z,” says A-Way. “Even with the newer artists like Da Baby. He came in the game with his own imprint. And was able to put his family and friends in position to do the same. That’s exactly how I’m trying to go with it.”
Since 2012, A-Way has released 5 albums. Included his latest album, “Way’s World,” released in the fall of 2020. Plus countless singles and national television performances throughout his career. Gaining a wide-spread fanbase. Not only for himself but also for Hustle Ward Records as a whole.
A-Way stop by DaCultureReport Live, where he and Ali got a chance to talk about the music and what’s next for the young mogul.
Ali: Yo, what’s up, bruh. Welcome to DaCultureReport Live. How you feeling?
A-Way: I’m good. Thanks for having me.
No doubt. So, start off by telling people about yourself.
A-Way: I like to define myself as a versatile artist. There’s so many different emotions. And I try to speak to most of them. Outside of that, I’m just a cool dude. I’m a father, a son, a man just like everyone else. I just happen to make music.
So you’re from Chicago. Right?
A-Way: Yeah, I’m from Chicago. I’ve also spent some time in Florida.
But for the most part, you’re from Chicago. So, growing up in Chicago can be a little rough for Black males.
A-Way: I look at it like it’s normal. So it depends on your explanation of what rough is.
Well, coming up in Chicago. How much would you say your environment influence your style of music?
A-Way: I try to speak to all my emotions. So, in that reference, it became an everyday inheritance. Anything that I experience, if I feel like speaking on it, I use music as the outlet, from records like “Scars,” where I talk about the situation with my sister. Or situations where I don’t know if he’s really my friend. Or is he just trying to get something from me? So all those different types of elements are sprinkled into my music.
Before you got into music, you were into sports. I’m assuming basketball.
A-Way: I played them all. Basketball, football, and baseball. Low-key.
So, why didn’t you stick with sports? What pulled you into making music?
A-Way: Shit, once I got to a certain level of playing. Everyone was like 6’7. When I got to college. Even though the coach liked me, he didn’t want to give me much playing time. He was like, you’re cold, you can be a practice player. But I don’t know about giving you any playing time. So at the time, I wasn’t going to devote all my energy and efforts into something and not get any real playing time. So I was like, forget basketball. Let me see something else.
Apparently, it worked out for you. Because you’ve been doing your thang. Let’s get into “Way’s World.” Your fifth album. How do you feel about the success of the album thus far?
A-way: Compared to the albums, the other albums were more of a different type of rap to me. So this is my first one where I’m more melodic with it. So that alone different from the other albums. But in this album, I show my vulnerability to women. That was this concept for this album. With the “Homecoming” album, I spoke about me living in Florida and coming back home. So all that I experience in that transition was on that album. “Way Up 7” was more sports-related. With those albums, I talked about day-to-day stuff. With “Way’s World,” I gave a concept. Plus, my sound is fined tuned all the way up. I feel like I found a style that takes my sound all the way up. Every artist has to elevate.
Your first single on “Way’s World is “Scars.” With this song. You’re sharing traumatic experiences that left you scared. Like the loss of your brothers. Why did you want “Scars” to be the lead single off the album?
A-Way: I felt like it was the storyline. It gave the exact definition of what I wanted to bring; I wanted to bring you into my world. And that joint said that the most. Like my brother died a while ago. But to a new listener, they may not have known that. But that’s something I’ve experienced. So now it’ll speak to the next person who experienced it.
Can you talk about the death of your brother and how it shaped your music; or this particular song?
A-Way: Yeah, so when I first decided to play with music. Before I jump into trying to record, rapping, or freestyling. He was there. We did it together. It feels like I gotta push even harder by not having him here because it’s something I want for the both of us. He’s my motivation for it. My brother died of cancer. With that experience alone, it gave me some insight into what that contains. A lot of times, we hear stuff, and if it ain’t in the household or direct fam. We don’t know the full extent of how traumatic that can be. Just that alone gives hold and strength to the music.
Well said, brutha. You followed up with “Change Your Life,” featuring Ohajij. The video has already surpassed the 10k mark on Youtube. In just over two weeks. That’s huge! But with “Change Ya Life,” it’s a different vibe. You’re more on your playa shit. Like, come here, shorty. I can change your life. What I like about the video is how you played toward the presidential debate/election. You had Kanye running for president—the presidential debate. What made you want to use the presidential theme for “Change Ya Life.”
A-Way: Well, when we started playing it. The word change really stuck out to me. And when I was first putting my album together, I wanted to bring back Chicago. Like it was in 96. It was a lot of history during that time. In 96, Obama got elected to the Senate. The Bulls won the championship. So it was so much I wanted to include. That’s how the theme came about. Because I wanted to relate it to the Obama campaign. So I have this “Change Ya Life” record, and basically, I’m advocating why I’m the best nigga. So why not put the video in the midst of the change campaign. And from there, other ideas began to build.
What was the creativity like while making the album?
A-Way: Well, the first song I had was “Scars.” And that shifted the melodic tone of the album. Once I came up with that one, then records like “Just Vibe” and “Change Ya Life” followed. And they were more of me talking to the women. So I put that structure into the album, and that’s how it ended coming out. That’s why on a lot of the songs, that’s what I’m talking. Even on “Custom Made,” I’m letting you, I’m that guy.
That’s cool… So, there is always songs that never make the final cut of an album. Which song was left off the album you that you wish made the final cut? And which song on the album is your favorite?
A-Way: One that didn’t make the album is “Hustler Paradise.” The reason it didn’t make the album is because it didn’t fit the theme. I still may use it later. AS far as my favorite record, I don’t know… All of them mean something different to me. But I would say right now because it changes every week. I would say it’s “Custom Made.” Last week it was “Lust.”
Man, I feel you. Like, that’s the same box I’m in. I like “Change Ya Life,” I like “Own Money,” I like “In My Zone.” So it’s like, how can you not like this album. You’re going to find two or three songs that you like off the album, to where it’s like fuck it. Put it on and let it ride.
So, let me ask you this. You said earlier in the conversation that with this album, you were able to fine-tune your style. How do you feel you’ve evolved as an artist from 2012 up to this very moment?
A-Way: Well, in 2012, I can say I was just making music. I didn’t know shit. At all. The business aspect. The percentages. How you have to register certain things. I knew none of that. I was just doing music. So that’s what I learned and developed over time. The music was already here. It was just understanding the full structure of the business. Maneuvering around how this business goes. Learning to hold on to certain relationships I have and how important there are. And really showcasing yourself to the fans. As far as style, I’ve gotten more melodic lately. So I would say I grown in that measure of song structuring.
Ok… No doubt. 2020 has been one helluva year for everybody. Some may consider it to be a blessing, and others may say it’s a curse. How would you consider 2020?
A-Way: This year, I feel like it’s the year that many people put a lot of things in perspective. So when that happens, you have to label it as a gift.
What can myself and the thousands of fans across the country expect from A-Way in 2021?
A-Way: Man, more visuals from the album. I shot pretty much a video for every song on the album. From there, you got Meechi Meechi; her EP is out now. Ohajij is coming. Then you have Kollege, the newest artist I signed. After that, we’re coming with the Ward project. So, just getting out and focusing on those things. For me, more on the acting side. “City Limits,” a web series is dropping that I’m featured on. Then I’m going to start shooting short films and docs. So, yeah. I got a few surprises. I’m not even talking about deep into the year. I’m talking about in the first quarter.
Yo, that’s what’s up. I’m looking forward to seeing how your artistry flourishes. Well, that’s all I have for you, my guy. I appreciate you joining me. We gotta do it again.
A-Way: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.