Two weeks ago, Watts native Stix blessed fans with For Los Angeles, a new album entirely dedicated to LAFC and the club’s culture. We caught up with the longtime artist and community activist to get the inside scoop on the album and what he’s been up to lately.
It’s cliché to say it, but this is what the culture needed. With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging and showing no signs of slowing, LAFC supporters haven’t been to a match at the Banc of California Stadium since March and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. Luckily, Stix’s new For Los Angeles album is here to fill the void and keep the spirit of the club alive. A spirit which calls for not only supporting the club, but also one another and The City of Angels.
The album, spanning 10 tracks, takes listeners on a journey to the Banc, introducing them to the club’s culture on the pitch and in the stands. “Dale” and “Somos” showcase two of the more popular chants usually heard echoing around Exposition Park on match day, while “Roll Call” serves as a nod to all the different supporters’ groups who sing for 90-plus minutes. Another standout track, “62,” is the purest hip-hop song on the project, which is fitting since it’s a bit of a diss track towards LAFC’s crosstown rivals. All in all, For Los Angeles has a little something for everybody.
We recently linked up with the prolific rhymer to discuss his new album, his thoughts on LAFC’s season, and what he’s looking forward to in 2021.
Urban Pitch: First things first, how have you been doing and what have you been up to in 2020 so far?
Stix: Oh man, just a whole bunch of community outreach. Giving back to the community, doing food and essential goods distributions, rental assistance, and holiday food drives. We did a Halloween drive where we gave out candy. We paid rent. We’ve given out food to all of the projects in Watts. And then, on the side, I’ve been working on music — developing music that caters to a specific audience. I don’t make music no more that is just music to throw out. I make sure I cater to either a base of people who support a specific thing, or I’ll do a theme song or some type of theme song for a major sports team or something like that. And I do a lot of TV and film music too.
What inspired you to get in the booth and make this album?
Man, the love and the appreciation and the energy of LAFC. They have a strong supporter base — they’re not fans, they’re supporters. And when you’re a supporter, you support everything that engulfs the club. And that’s not just the actual team, but that’s the community, that’s the culture, that’s the lives of everyone that is a part of it. And I’m a community person, so I appreciate that energy. I love the fact that all the supporters’ groups can come together as one and be one voice, one sound, and fight for the same causes no matter who’s going through what struggles. Whether you’re Black, Asian, Hispanic, they’re all fighting for the same justices as one. And because that exists within what’s called the 3252, it makes it easier for me. I pay them in my gift, in my craft. And that’s the music. So, my love for 3252 is what produced my love for LAFC the football club, and it just comes together.
I noticed listening to it you have a slightly different version of “My Home,” the LAFC anthem you released in 2018, on the album, so I wanted to ask what’s new about this one, and why not use the original one you released?
I’m not even going to lie to you, that was an accident. Because that was actually the original version, the first version I wrote and recorded.
Yeah. That was when I first originally wrote it and recorded it. And after having a discussion and kind of thinking about it a little further, I decided to take players’ names out of it because they can come and go.
They can get traded, they can leave. Look at Ciman, he’s no longer with the club. But also, that one is a little bit more unapologetically hip-hop. It’s got a few metaphors in there and is a little bit more raunchy. Like I said, that was more of a welcome to hip-hop version of it versus the one that’s popular and that’s been played at the stadium, and that’s the version that officially released by itself. That’s more of an evergreen version that’s more commercially sound. I guess that’s the radio version of “My Home.”
A lot of the tracks have beats which incorporate chants from the 3252, can you talk a little bit about the collaboration process which made that possible?
So literally once I built an incredible relationship with the supporters’ groups, I told Jimmy and Mo and all of them earlier on like, “Yo, I’m gonna do a project, and I’m gonna use a lot of the chants just in support of the club, and I’m really trying to bridge this gap between hip-hop and soccer culture, and I think the best way to do it and the best way to introduce this culture to hip-hop is by incorporating the chants.”
Which, in our world, it would be considered sampling, right? So, what it does is it triggers. It triggers individuals to go, “Man, where’d you get that sample from?” Where I’d say, “Oh, that’s 3252.” “What’s that?”
And now I just introduced them to a whole world that they wasn’t privy to. So, the goal was always to merge both worlds, and I wanted to make sure when I made this project, it engulfed as much of the culture as possible. And more so LAFC culture, because I would say it is the closest thing to European football. You know how Dortmund is. I remember there are some stories of Rich Orosco telling me where the seeds of the concept came from. And so, LAFC embodies the true European soccer culture. I wanted to try to use that as much as possible to incorporate into music, so when I introduce it to people who follow me on the regular who may not be interested or into soccer, they’re introduced to a whole new world.
Didn’t you have a skit with Rich Orosco on the album along with a song featuring Kim Caldwell-Harvey?
Oh yeah. Yup, absolutely. On the album, I worked with Kim Caldwell-Harvey, obviously who is Jordan Harvey’s wife. And she’s an incredible artist, she’s an incredible singer. And a lot of people didn’t know that. We had a conversation a long time ago about how she would love to get on a song, and I think I saw her on Instagram singing, and I was like, “Wait a minute, you’re incredible.”
I ended up setting up a session with my guy Elijah Grae, who’s an avid season ticket holder. Every year he’s there. But Elijah Grae is also a successful music artist, he used to be in a group called Drop City Yacht Club. And they had a really huge single called “Crickets.” And I noticed who he was, and his girlfriend Sally manages Meghan Trainor. So, in that section man, in LAFC in that building at the Banc, there’s a big pond of entertainment individuals that may not be super duper publicly successful, but they are successful. And when I identify them, I like to bring this all together to create magic. So, it really came down to just pulling in all of those individuals who I knew exist within the club and trying to get them on one record. So, that was the goal.
What’s your favorite track personally from the project and why?
My favorite is “3 Stripes” because I think it’s just cool. And it represents the women. And I gave a little shout out — Three Stripes obviously means adidas, it’s almost like an adidas theme song. But I wanted to really introduce and make a lot of reference to women.
Hence in the lyrics, I say, “This beat sounds like Cassie on the drums, let it rock.” Cassie is Jimmy’s — the president of the 3252 — wife. I also mention “Angel City to the top” right before that line. So, obviously that’s shouting out Angel City FC, the women’s club that’s here that will be playing at the Banc as well.
And I gave a couple shoutouts to some of the women rappers that are from here, or that are here in LA doing their thing — Reverie, Vel the Wonder, Snow Tha Product, all super dope MCs and rappers, female, that are from this side. And then, like I said last but not least, at the end I gave a little shout to adidas because they’ve been very supportive in regards to not only just the creative partnership between us and LAFC, but trying to help the community stuff as well.
I also like “Roll Call.” I used that sample from “Volver, Volver” because I heard that song at the Banc one day, and every single person was singing the song loud. And I was like, “What is this song?” They gave me the song, and I was like, “Yo, Imma sample that one day.” So, it all came from being right there at the club.
I imagine you have some clean visuals lined up to accompany some of these songs? Or in the future you will when you’re able to?
Oh yeah. I’m working on it now for sure. I would love to do one for “3 Stripes,” but I have a concept for “Shoulder To Shoulder,” and then also I would love to do one for “Roll Call” too just because it represents all of the supporters’ groups. So, that’s the goal.
Which LAFC player would you compare yourself to on the mic?
(Laughs.) Vela. Yeah, smooth. Chip shot. So, it looks easy. You know what I’m saying, on the mic it’s real easy for me. I’m confident. I can embarrass a few people with ease. That’s what Carlos do on the pitch, those chip shots. That’s why I say to beat these other rappers is a chip shot. He makes it look so easy. So, I like to think I’m Carlitos guey.
What are your thoughts on LAFC’s 2020 season and what’s your prediction for how the team does in CONCACAF Champions League coming up?
Honestly man, I can’t give a grade for this year. I mean there was just so many obstacles. And I think no matter what happens, I gave them an A and an E for effort because to be able to make it through despite all the adversity that’s going on now in the world, and to still wake up and get out there and do your thing, you’re a fucking soldier. You’re a warrior. And so, in regards to that, my thoughts are I really have no expectations whatsoever. Whatever the outcome is, I applaud it regardless.
And as far as CONCACAF, I mean obviously I would love for us to win, but like I said I have no expectations. Because you never know who’s going to wake up and who’s not going to wake up on that day, with all due respect, so that’s where I’m at with it. But at the end of the day, I would love for us to take that shit. (Laughs.)
What’s next on the horizon for you in the coming year?
Man, in 2021 I got a couple ventures I’m launching. I don’t really want to talk too much about it, but entering into potentially the cannabis industry a little bit. I got some stuff going on in the real estate industry, in regards to support of homeless individuals. Transitional housing is what it’s called.
In January, I’ve got a whole new project coming out, it’s called Mega Watts: Born in the Riots. And that one embodies the feel of what music was like in the ‘60s. You know, ’65 when the riots was happening. So, it’s a lot of samples. Very hip-hop oriented. Conceptually, it’s probably some of the best bars I’ve ever put on beats. So, I think it’s a classic. I think it’s definitely a classic record once people put their ears on it and just ride to it, it’s gonna be special, man.
Also, in 2021 I’m launching Think Watts HQ, which is my center that I’m building where people will be able to receive educational and financial literacy. There’s coding classes, we got an art space where they can make their own clothes with an embroidery machine, heat press machine, and sewing machine. There’s job training, there’s entrepreneurship set up, micro loans, helping people with credit. Different things like that. That’s all gonna be in Watts at the center. We’re obviously gonna do more community outreach, community distribution. But I’m working on a ton of things, man. It’s a lot of things that’s gonna transpire in 2021.
I’m working on a stimulus plan to give the people, but they gotta take a six-week financial literacy course to get the money. I wanna educate people on what to do with the money when they get it, and then give it to them. So, working on things like that. And then also, last but not least, Think Watts FC. A youth club from 4 to 11. I partnered with the LAFC Academy. So basically, I’m going to train and develop them with professional level training and coaches from 4 to 11, and then once they turn 12 they roll right into the academy level. And it’s free for kids. No one has to pay for it. I say on “3 Stripes,” “No pay-to-play, black kids kicking PKs.” And I say, “Yelling fair justice, get it right, no three strikes, this is three stripes.”
What that makes reference to is adidas is gonna be a big sponsor of the program and in our fight for creating opportunities for Black and Hispanic kids in low-income communities, getting rid of the pay-to-play model. And also creating the same pathway for the girls with Angel City. So, I’ve been working on a partnership now with Angel City where we’re gonna create the same pathway for young women who play. And yeah man, it’s gonna be cool.
Interview edited for clarity and brevity.
Photos courtesy of Stix.