I Think You’ve Gone Mad: Here’s the transcribed version of Sean Leon’s interview with himself
Toronto, ON – On Dec. 23 2016, Toronto artist Sean Leon blew up the Internet by releasing an incredibly in-depth interview with himself..
With a new album set to release soon (I Think You’ve Gone Mad), Sean decided to give us a glimpse into his artistic mindset, as well as to clear up a few questions or misunderstandings people may have about his work. After causing a shit storm on Twitter and taking stabs at the media, he (obviously) opted to interview himself. Because if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
The entire interview runs just under 30 minutes in length, and is a very necessary listen. In addition to talking about his daughter Xylo, and touching on mental health issues, Sean delivers a brash, unfiltered commentary on the state of the Canadian rap. He also gives us the backstory behind his Jazz Cartier diss track, and how he almost decided to quit rap in 2016.
In case you haven’t caught a minute to listen to the interview yet you can stream it via SoundCloud below. And if you don’t have the time for that, we’ve also put together a transcription of the interview for you to read after the jump.
Interview: I Think You’ve Gone Mad – Dec. 23, 2016
[Intro: “WIN” (produced by Wondagurl, Sean Leon & Jack Rochon)]
Yeah. So uh… I’m just gonna interview myself. My album’s coming out. I Think You’ve Gone Mad. My sonic project.
Some shit made me real mad. Some shit… Some shit I can’t take light anymore and if it feels like I’m like shooting at everybody It’s because I’ve been a target for so fucking long and I’m sick of being a target so I’m like, “Okay. I’m just gonna go on the attack now. I’m gonna go be aggressive.” It’s a double Jeopardy; being a black rapper is a double Jeopardy. I don’t know any other art form that gets… like… the negativity and the stigma that rappers get. Like… “You’re a rapper. You’re not creative. You’re not articulate.”
I’m sitting here thinking that this Life When You’re The Movie shit. If – God forbid – I pass before I get all my ideas out… like… how am I gonna ensure that they understand how much of a genius, or like… how much thought and magic was involved in this entire lifetime? Through sound, and through… like… visuals, and like … films, and the paintings, and photographs, and even like just the birth of Xylo and like just how magical she is… just like… not even including the things she’s done but just where she was like manifested. Like what she came out of. You know? And then tryna create the soundtrack to that. Tryna personify her in the music. Like if Xylo was sound, this is what she would be; these three albums. And this is just from knowing her for two years.
And they go “Oh why did it take so long?” You know well I had to live with my daughter to understand and learn her so that I could properly convey all that she is. Like no – I’m not in the studio going “I’m ’bout to pop a molly.” And “pouring this up”. That’s why it’s like… yo, if I was doing that… which … you know. When it’s time to do that run, we’ll do that run. Those records will be banged out so quickly. And they’ll do what they’re supposed to do. But right now it’s like… that’s not what I want to do because especially again… with being a BLACK RAPPER. It’s like, yo, I want to come in and just from the jump, it be understood like yo, “This guy is more than the music he’s working on, And the music he is working on is music we should fucking respect, And it’s music we should dissect and it’s music we should listen to and empathize with.”
Like empathize with me, and view it from my perspective, walk in my shoes… the whole film is walking in my shoes. That’s literally the entire film. Like tryna be a trailblazer in these Nike Blazers. The same Blazers I wore for two fucking years.
[Interlude: “DAUGHTER (HAILEY-NIRVANA)” (produced by Wondagurl)]
Now it’s called I Think You’ve Gone Mad. And it’s not like a joke ting. I actually think I may have lost my mind. And I get worried. And I think about my heroes and I think about Kanye West checking in. And I think about Kid Cudi and him checking in. And I go… like… “Am I doomed to that? Like… is that what’s gonna happen to me?” Because not that I’m at all on the level of those guys, man. Jus’ sayin’ in a lot of ways I feel similar to them. That’s why their music always spoke to me, especially. You know? And it was like… that sensitivity that those guys both obviously have – the driving force behind a lot of their genius – I suffer from that sensitivity too.
“I might have always needed help. I might have always needed some sort of help.”
So I wonder. I go do the math, right? Well I want to be Kanye West. Like actually bigger than Kanye West. I want to be bigger than Kid Cudi, if I’m being dead honest. So that means that if at their level, with the amount of amazing things they’ve accomplished… that’s where they’re both at. If I do more than that, does that mean that I’m that twice over? Will I be in that twice over? And I go… “Well let me check my behaviour now. Let me check my behaviour since I was 12.” And I go, “Hmm. I might have always needed help. I might have always needed some sort of help.”
That’s why when it came down to ball and music, it was such an easy switch. ‘Cause music was like… as much as I enjoyed playing ball and shit, like music was a different kind of demon getting out of me. And I needed it. Like I needed it. I don’t know what would have happened… I don’t know what would have happened if I couldn’t get in the booth and rap in these different voices and be those guys and get them out. I don’t know what would be happening in my everyday life.
And that’s why when people go like “Rap is whatever.” Because it’s so primitive. And so new. And it’s so black. That we’re not even considering how much art is involved. Like how much beauty is in it. I get really fucking mad. When I gotta like… even guys that I work with consistently and women that I work with consistently in the industry that know how the industry works; that know how difficult it is for a black rapper with ideas. And they still suffer from the stigma. They still suffer from like an inability to empathize and understand.
And it’s not like… yo. I’m never play the victim and asking anybody to feel sorry for me. Like that’s the complete opposite cause I’m out here to destroy you; like art for art. It’s like… can we just admi that it’s not a level playing field though? Because it’s like I’m right now being conditioned to wake up and hate myself in comparison to my contemporaries. When sound for sound, if we go off the sound alone – in my opinion, in my fair humble opinion – it’s like competitive. I mean, if I’m honestly being honest with you, I feel like I’m the most creative out of all of my contemporaries. I feel like I’ve had to be because look at what I’ve had to build with in comparison. And who’s been around.
And not at all knocking the people that I’ve been around, but I’m in the process of trying to make my mans executives. I’m not around executives. I’m trying to make my homegirl (who I feel like is super creative and super brilliant) confident in herself so she can fully pursue that. You know? Like, the mother of my child is a brilliant writer and could be editor of a conglomerate but has been conditioned to feel like she isn’t worth shit. And I’m like, “Okay. Well this ain’t no fucking joke. This ain’t no light shit.” I can’t fucking be on Twitter and see shit and not get angry. This is my world and I know there’s fucked up shit happening in the world, right? “This is just music, dog.. Relax my G..” But it’s like, “Nah. This is my fucking life, man.” I’m a fucking target.
“When you’re local and nice, that’s the most dangerous part of a career.”
When you’re local and nice, that’s the most dangerous part of a career. When you got money and you’re nice, you can get the protection you need. You can get to spots. You can move smooth.. When you local and nice and n**gas don’t like that you’re nice, and you did it on your own so you’re kind of self sufficient so you don’t really be leaning on anybody else like everybody else do… so they don’t get that false sense of importance that they need to help you out. You know what I’m saying? You’re not just out here gassing anybody; you’re just being you… They don’t like that. And you’re accessible. They can get to you any time. I’m in Parkdale every day. N**gas know I’m between this block and that block every day. I’m not hard to find. I gotta watch my kid.
They wonder why I’m getting so aggressive in tones? ‘Cause I’m getting more aggressive in real life. ‘Cause I need to be. So I’m not apologizing, man. Come at me wrong, man, and if I have the time… I’m gonna address it, man. If I don’t have the time, I don’t have the time; you were spared that day. ‘Cause I’m ‘a go in. I’m ‘a wipe your ass. Pause. And I’m ‘a be undefeated. No disrespect on the pause… just a bad habit.
[Interlude: “81 PREQUEL” (produced by Bijan Amir)]
I don’t really think anyone else is really doing what I’m doing, man, basically. And that’s not a knock at nobody but I’m just doing my own thing. And it’s very fucking clear. I’m not trying to take nothing away from nobody, in fact like again, it’s like realizing how much of a fight this is for these black rappers. Like I don’t want to be getting in the way of no n**ga getting his his paper. I want to see everybody win. You know what I’m saying? If I was prime minister, no n**ga would fail. Facts. You know what I’m saying?
But that’s why the Jazz shit is really crazy to me. Because I had actually quit making records and I actually… just… everything. Like six hours before I found out that he had called out “Black Sheep” it was… wild. It’s like… the universe, you know? Because I had quit that day. Like for real. I was just exhausted and I was like, “Man. I’ve been fighting this for so long and I’m in here having these same conversations.” And it’s like, as much as I’m progressing as an artist; as much as I’ve suffered for the work and my family suffered and the blood that’s been shed and the tears. I’m like I don’t really have anything to show for it.
And even the stuff I do, I like look around and like the guys who are like killing it in the game, like across the border and shit… And I think, “Damn are these n**gas that much better than me?” Like Kanye West, “Touch The Sky”, verse two: “Like damn I was having nervous breakdowns/ Like man, these n**gas that much better than me?” Like I’m tryna think like… okay, even if they were better… (sidebar: they’re not, I don’t think they are… sidebar)… but let’s say they were better. They’re that much better that I gotta be at this basement in Parkdale still? And these n**gas is out here doing… what? Pushing what? Foreigns and shit? I’m not trying to take nothing away from them. This is not for me to get mine and theirs to stay the complete same. I’m like just don’t act like there’s not some conspiracy or it’s not like this invisible fucking ceiling that I’m literally trying to shatter for everybody.
Like if you could just be honest about it, I would not feel like I’m crazy. That’s why it’s like I Think You’ve Gone Mad. Because at the same time I could just be right, you know? That’s why it’s a little scary, right? Because I go on these rants. And it’s like… a little erratic; my behaviour. But anybody responds. Like damn, they hit me sidebar privately. Like, “Man. Damn I been trying to say that for so long, Maui. Maui, I been trying to say that for so long, man. I’m so happy you saying that, man!” Anybody agrees with me. So I go like “Am I crazy?” Know what I’m saying? But it’s like… you guys are trying to tell me that there’s no fight there so I don’t fight. That’s why everybody’s losing. They’re committed to this game and it’s like, yo, they’re winning because they’re making it seem like there’s no war going on.
I say I’m in a war every day.
“I could put together a list of rappers and records from here that anywhere else they would have been hits. Canada’s raving about the Billboard. There’s the three guys on the Billboard; the three Canadians. Maybe four now. When in fact there should be at least a dozen, though. A dozen to 20 if everybody just ran hot and the city’s just really on fire.”
Mans hit me like “Bro what are you talking about?” I’m like “Yo if you don’t understand that we’re in a war right now, you’ve already lost. You already lost.” I could put together a list of rappers and records from here that anywhere else they would have been hits. Canada’s raving about the Billboard. There’s the three guys on the Billboard; the three Canadians. Maybe four now. When in fact there should be at least a dozen, though. A dozen to 20 if everybody just ran hot and the city’s just really on fire. When a dozen do it, that’s how it becomes the sound permanently. And everybody’s copying that sound as they are copying the sound down South. Who’s going to do that better than us? They don’t have the winter that we got. They’ll never be able to compete.
So I’m like, yo, I’m ‘a do this and I’m ‘a break this ceiling. And watch. As soon as I get on… instead of it being three people on the Billboard, it’ll be a dozen. There’ll be like a dozen Canadians on the Billboard at one point. It’ll be a variation because there’s a variety out here. That 905 sound will be everywhere. Especially. That’s why it was weird. I was like, I’m not even going to be going at n**gas. Because I’m going at these n**gas and it’s like… I’m out here killing guys with this rap shit; coming at these guys and tryna murk ’em off this rap shit. You know what I’m saying? As if there’s like a job application. Like one job application and the last man standing or woman standing gets that job. But in fact there’s not even a job that we’re fighting for.
We’re fighting to eliminate each other to make it easier for the guys who have already monopolized everything. So I go, “No why the fuck am I killing these guys? Why am I even going at these guys?” It doesn’t even make sense. Like I’ve clearly got my own sound; my own lane. They got their own shit. Everything’s bless. In fact, we should linking up so we can make fire shit. Band together and really bring change. So again it was like… I wasn’t even in the mood for those types of things. I was out here. Like yo, you could ask around. I spoke to a few cats; a Toronto executive produced their EPs, their LPs from here. A few rappers. A few singers, as well. I won’t name drop anybody in this thing because that’s not what this is about though. But you know. They’ll hear it and they’ll vouch. Or they won’t. Don’t matter. It’ll come out when it comes out. Doesn’t fucking matter. The truth gets out eventually. Doesn’t matter.
So I wasn’t even going to go at this guy. And I had quit that day because I had been sick of the fight. I was tired of the fight, man. I’m like… I’ll just do behind-the-scenes shit. I’m done. Sean Leon’s dead. I’m‘a be on some next shit. Change my name and just be helping people behind the scenes. You know what I’m saying? And just raise Xylo and be around; and just always be around, you know? And then I’m in the studio that night because I promised that studio that I’m‘a help out with their social media and their branding. And they let me do so much work there that I was like, “Even though I’m not coming here to record (’cause I quit), I’m ‘a fulfill my promise of helping you guys out with your branding.” So I came in for that meeting and as the meeting’s wrapping up, (this name I’ll say..) J-FALL (Jordan Fall) calls me and he goes, “Yo did you hear the record? Did you hear the Jazz record?” I said, “Nah, man. You know I didn’t hear the record.” He goes, “Well I think he took a shot at you.” I’m like, “Oh.” He’s like, “Listen to it.”
“Nah man. Just tell me what it is.” So he told me what it was. I skipped to that end part. Heard it. And I said, “Damn. This timing sucks.” Because I had just quit. So I said “J-FALL does anybody know about this?” ‘Cause I was like… the song isn’t that good. So I’m like… it’s way at the end and it’s super obscure, so like I don’t think anybody’s really gonna even pick up on it. So even if nobody picked up on it, then it’s good. I’m done. I’m retired. You know what I’m saying? Like… congratulations, you know what I’m saying? But then I saw that The6Track tweeted it. And I was like, man you know the way these blogs and publications is treating me… if you check the Toronto Renaissance. Like 2014 – 2016… I barely existed according to the publications.
My impact on a street level is like way bigger than my online presence. You know what I’m saying? So I was like… these grassroot blogs. Like no disrespect. I just mean the ones that are like REALLY here like in the mix and shit are gonna be very important. ‘Cause a lot of facts are gonna be checked by going to these pages. A lot of speculation and a lot of trying to get the bigger picture, or like… a wider perspective on things. Like the people that will be interested in doing that will be smart enough to go to these blogs. And that’s why they’re very important. They gotta keep posting. They gotta keep doing what they’re doing. They’re very crucial to this Toronto Renaissance. He or she (I don’t even know who runs that) posted it. And I said, “Okay. Well now I have to respond.” You know? I have to respond.
“I don’t wanna see him not win and not eat. I don’t have any personal vendetta with him. I don’t wanna see him and knock him out even though I could. He’s half my size. It’s not about that.”
And it was like … I wasn’t on the record talking about, “I’m ‘a kill him.” And you know… it wasn’t nothing negative like that. It was just factually speaking… like I’m an inspiration of yours. And I’m better than you at this, don’t ever do it again. I don’t wanna see him not win and not eat. I don’t have any personal vendetta with him. I don’t wanna see him and knock him out even though I could. He’s half my size. It’s not about that. It was just like… Yo I rap, and this is something I said I would do in an interview and something that’s my truth. And I had the time. And again… it was a sweet lick.
He’s got way more press. He had a phenomenal year. Like shout-out to him. He’s got way more press because of his label; being the Canadian poster child of rap, thanks to Universal Canada. That I was like, “Man. This is just a mistake on his part.” You know? He can’t hang with me in that world. You know what I’m saying? As far as being a people person, he’s obviously much better than me. But as far as just like… the rap shit? It’s not even a contest, you know? So that’s why that happened the way it happened. And it’s over. He didn’t seem to respond
I dropped mine in three days. I had it the day after but I had to wait two days for my man to get back from New York so I could get that video of him rapping “MAUIVELLI” and shit. I wanted it to be a real spectacle. ‘Cause again, it was a stupid move. And you know, I had to get my aggression out on something. It’s a lot going on. I’m fighting a war, you know? It’s not time to play. It’s not the time.
[Interlude: “FAV RAPPER / HUNDRED MILLION RELIGION” (produced by Bijan Amir)]
What else, man? What else been going on in my life? Xylo’s been getting big. Xylo is getting big. Her birthday is in… (What is it? The 22nd? Is it the 22nd? It’s the 23rd now. That’s what I was thinking. It’s the 23rd. December 23rd.)… so her birthday is in two days. Man. I’m trying to get the album out on the 25th. On Bandcamp first. And then we’ll put it out everywhere in the new year. But you know… if it’s ready. Supposed to be at the studio today. We’ll see. I Think You’ve Gone Mad. Followed by I Can See Blue Sky From Here. Followed by Black Sheep Euphoria.
“There’s a lot of conversation about how we’re all brands and I think that’s kind of bullshit. You know? I just think we’re all movies.”
Life When You’re The Movie. Maybe I should explain that a bit. There’s a lot of conversation about how we’re all brands and I think that’s kind of bullshit. You know? I just think we’re all movies. You know, you could be a comedy or a horror story or a romantic or a thriller or a tragedy or… It’s really on you but you’re in control of your own movie. So many screens all the time; living in front of all of these screens all the time. Being on these screens all the time. Seeing yourself on your own screen every time you make a selfie; every time you make a Snapchat.
Really, a lot of the shit I’ve been doing my whole life I’ve been doing with that in mind. I just didn’t know that’s what it was. I always felt like I was a little special so things that a normal person wouldn’t go for or a normal person wouldn’t have access to or be allowed to be in the company of, and things like that, I felt like that didn’t include me. And I still don’t feel like it includes me. You know what I’m saying? I feel like not in my movie; not in my life. So I was like, if I wanted something I would go for it. Because that’s what happens in the movies. If I wanted to do something crazy like … I don’t know … have a baby with a girl I just met, that’s okay because that’s what would happen if my life was a movie. If I said, “I’m gonna date that same girl and her best friend at the same time.” Like, that’s okay. Because my life’s a movie and in any other scenario, it wouldn’t happen, but I felt like I could do it.
If anybody could rap and be multi-faceted and do films and soundtracks and books; all at the same time and shit I could do that easily just ’cause I want to do it. It’s in my mind. And I’m ‘a figure out how to do it. And once I figure it out and I’ve suffered long enough, and I’ve put in enough work and paid the dues, it’s going to happen. You know, we might take some L’s along the way but that’s what happens in the movies. Like I don’t know a movie where the hero of that movie got everything he wanted in the first 30 minutes. That’s not how it works. My whole come up is such an important moment of my entire film. It’s like the most romantic part of my career. It’ll never be as romantic as it is now. I’ll be missing this Parkdale basement that I’m trying so badly to get out of.
Like, You know, I think, I might be going mad but at the same time, I could be right. I don’t know. And then you go, “That’s the question.” And that’s scary. In itself, that’s fucking scary. I think I’m going mad. But I could be right. I don’t know. Either or is better. You’re mad. You’re right. You’re mad and you’re right. You’re not mad, you’re not right. Any response is better. But all those response are definitive. I think you’ve gone mad… we’re unsure, there. That’s why you gotta watch the movie. Gotta watch the movie to find out. And I’m ‘a just do whatever the fuck I want to do. Whatever makes me feel better; whatever helps me sleep at night. I don’t give a fuck about anything else, man. I don’t care. I don’t know what anybody’s gonna take from me. I’m actually probably the most dangerous I’ve ever been in my entire life. Because I have things I will kill for. But I also don’t have much to lose. So on that note, I Think You’ve Gone Mad. December 25th. I think. I’m not quite sure. We’ll see.
[Outro: “SUBURBIA” (produced by Sean Leon & Jack Rochon)]