IN CONVERSATION: xoKeegan Talks Growing Up in Trinidad, Swimming His Way to NY, and His Excellent Driveby Produced EP Where The Water Takes Me

xoKeegan has always been an aquatic creature. He grew up in Trinidad before moving to Florida in high school, always finding himself a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean. The water was a place of calm reflection for Keegan in particular as a youth, and he’d always find himself near the beach when he needed to clear his head. The water was also where he made a name for himself athletically. He was a standout high school swimmer, earning a scholarship to swim at Iona College, a fateful move that has kept him around NYC since. At Iona Keegan met musical friends who gave him the inkling that he may have a song in his heart too, though he focused on helping shape their creative efforts more than pursuing his own passions. He continued helping with friends’ records in whatever capacity he could, but it just was not scratching that itch.    

It was around this time that I met Keegan. I can’t remember exactly which show I met him at, but sometime before or after the pandemic I felt like I was seeing Keegan at every rap show I went to, from festivals in the park to small shows in the back of a bar. He’d usually come ready with a spliff, an anecdote on a track he liked someone on the bill I was only vaguely familiar with, and news that he was also working on his own music, hoping to cultivate a unique voice before bringing his art to the world. It can be intimidating to properly admit to yourself and everyone else that you see yourself as an artist, with lofty ambitions and genuine belief in yourself, especially in a city like New York that is so packed with talent as is. During our interview Keegan talked about working on demos for a previous EP, then walking out to grab a sandwich at the deli and passing by Mike and Navy Blue on the street. As Keegan saw it you have two options in that kind of an environment, get intimidated or get better. So he got to work, first with LA based producer gore_irl.

xoKeegan and gore_irl linked through mutual friends, an appreciation for one another’s nascent sound, and a hope they could bring the best out of one another. They dropped five EPs in the past two years, each one feeling a little more defined in its sound. Things started strong on 2021’s Excellent Form, with standouts like the Pootie assisted “Priceless” but both gore_irl and xoKeegan really found their own on Black Sparrow from earlier this year. The four tracks wash over you as xoKeegan bobs and weaves his way through gore’s glitched out production. With this collection of tapes, Keegan not only felt like he’d started to find his sound as an artist, but felt like he had enough of a body of work to reach out to potential collaborators whose work he respected. At the top of his list was a Jersey City based producer by the name of Driveby.

What struck Keegan about Driveby’s production was how visceral and moving it was. Keegs had been grinding away at his job, angry at how often he had to work instead of doing the things he loved, and he found Driveby’s off-kilter production to be the perfect conduit for his frustration. Keegan copped a pack of beats initially thinking they might find their way onto a larger tape, but as he played them over and over he realized that these beats were speaking to him, and he needed to stay in the Driveby cinematic universe for an entire project. Keegan saw Driveby at a show shortly after he copped the beats and floated the idea of doing a full project together. Driveby was more than enthusiastic, motivating Keegan with a playful “You better not be letting those beats collect dust on the couch” every time they’d see one another at a show afterward. 

Keegan realized that most of the beats he copped had a nautical tinge that was painting a story in his head. The story followed a swashbuckling version of Keegan who is offered to team up in a search for doubloons on a faraway island by a pirate friend so he can afford a nice meal for his missus, only to get abandoned on the island after they find the cash. Where the Water Takes Me, the collaborative EP from xoKeegan and Driveby, follows that pirate the day after he is abandoned as he comes to terms with his fate. The tape opens with the booming “Mayday” where Driveby made a foghorn sound like it was ringing off with a DEFCON level alert, as xoKeegan begins to piece together his new reality. The tape ebbs into the quiet and introspective “Harbinger” then exploding into the massive Freddie Stone assisted “Come Alive”. Freddie kills the first verse before the beat revives itself from the ashes like the phoenix half way through the track, giving Keegan a whole new wave to ride. The tape closes with lead single “Over&Over” where Driveby’s mantra like loop hits over and over like the tide. Early on “Over&Over” xoKeegan drops a line that could serve as a thesis statement for the record, “Lately I don’t mind being nervous”. When I asked Keegan what the line meant, he said “Anything worthwhile in life is nerve wracking.” You can either run away from that pit in your stomach, or embrace those nerves and try to channel that energy to make your craft better. These days, xoKeegan welcomes those butterflies, they wouldn’t be there if the work wasn’t meaningful. 

I linked up with xoKeegan at Driveby’s crib in Jersey City to talk about growing up in Trinidad, immigrating to the US, cultivating his sound as an artist, and how him and Driveby put together Where the Water Takes Me

Where the Water Takes Me Back Cover. Album art photos taken by Eddie King

GSC: What is your name? What is your artistry of choice?

xoKeegan: My name is xoKeegan, I am a recording artist.

GSC: Recording artist, do you feel like you paint with a wide brush?

xoKeegan: My intention initially wasn’t to be rapping. I wanted to assist songwriters, essentially ghost writing. In attempting to do that, I realized I could do my own recording. I love to rap and I rap on Where the Water Takes Me but I’m interested in other genres for sure. 

GSC: Who was playing music in the house growing up and what were they playing?

xoKeegan: Growing up in Trinidad, my mother listened to a lot of singers from Celine Dion to Sade, but also a lot of Soca music. Trinidadian culture is very big on Soca and Calypso, so she always had those sounds on in the house. My Dad also listened to a lot of reggae. When I was with him, it was a lot of Sizzla, newer school dub, Buju Bonton, Capleton, real origin of Dancehall kind of artists. Tracing things from there, I would listen to Vibez Cartel, Mavado. I torrented a lot of music when I was younger but like pop and radio rap, I wasn’t really exposed to much underground music until I moved to the US and started to dig on my own. Growing up my mom was always making sure I had clean music on the iPod, so it was a lot of finagling and finessing to listen to the good stuff. 

GSC: What was immigrating to the US like?

xoKeegan: It’s weird in high school, because you don’t really get a chance to not integrate in a way. I sound American right now, my Mother does not have that issue. In school, kids are always asking you to repeat things class after class, within one semester the accent gets erased. It doesn’t even feel like pressure, you just want to stop the questions. But now it’s a weird switch thing. If I’m talking to my mom on the phone, you’ll hear the accent just come out a different side of my brain. So I think it affected me deeply in ways I continue to realize every day. 

GSC: How did you start finding new music after you moved? 

xoKeegan: In 2010 when we moved to the US I started digging around on YouTube and Soundcloud and that’s when I realized there’s way more to this music shit than the radio and MTV and all that. I remember finding Odd Future and Schoolboy Q and TDE after they all had already started. I had to go backward, reading old blog posts, trying to educate myself and catch up. 

GSC: You were a swimmer growing up and swam at Iona College. With this tape you’re not only at the ocean on the cover but water is important to the backstory of the record. How has being an aquatic creature impacted your life?

xoKeegan: Somehow always find myself returning to water base tropes. I gravitate towards water when I need to reflect, growing up in Trinidad I always found myself by the water when I needed to be. I thought of the name of the record when we were doing the sequencing and it hit me how much the water was present in this record. I write a lot of my raps in my head meditatively while swimming laps too.

GSC: Are you still swimming laps frequently?

xoKeegan: Yeah. YMCA Bed Stuy baby.

GSC: Having to legally wear a bathing cap in NYC is the worst, my head is too big to swim laps regularly is what I tell myself. 

xoKeegan: Yea they’re latex and it hurts every time. The silicone ones don’t stay on my hair, so I gotta do the latex. I try to do at least 1000 yards if not more and then take advantage of the fire ass steam room. 

GSC:Every community would be better with a YMCA with a pool and a steam room. 

xoKeegan: I owe so much to swimming. The sport of swimming brought me to New York quite literally, with me swimming at Iona College. How I approach recording is a lot like how I approached training. I fell out of love with the competition of swimming but I stayed in love with the practice. With my music I make shit that I love and keep to my practice and routines, I do the shit that makes me happy.  

GSC: Was there much of a local music scene growing up either in Trinidad or in Florida? Or did you find that when you moved to New York?

xoKeegan: There wasn’t much of a scene in Florida, though my school had a fire marching band. I didn’t realize you could get scholarships for that stuff.

GSC: Then you gotta be in the marching band though.

xoKeegan: When I moved to New York I was at Iona where all the artist types somehow found each other.

GSC: Were you recording back then? 

xoKeegan: I was around people who were recording but I wasn’t hopping on.

GSC: Was your team diverse? Swimming in America is a very white sport. 

xoKeegan: No, I was the solo black person. Around campus, there were a few creative types and we luckily found each other. When I was a junior, I got a Fader internship and was transcribing, which is terrible work. I saw a future in that at the time, I wanted to be freelance writing.  I was always seeking out music makers, and being at The Fader I wanted to pitch my own shit. That led me to sitting in on studio sessions with artists, which led to me working with artists in the studio on their sound. Eventually, I realized I had a hand in so many different aspects of putting out music, why not do it myself. I feel like I started at a weird time too. Things were a lot more communal pre-streaming, where a lot of people were not interested in that I was switching over from being helping hand to making music at the time I was.

GSC: Nobody wanted to keep the door open.

xoKeegan: It was eye opening, it was not what I was expecting to find. Only now do I feel like I’m within proximity of any type of scene. Up to this point I have been around other artists, but solo mission oriented.

GSC: What were those early music experimentations like?

xoKeegan: Back in 2015, I was working on a written project. I had an idea to market it like it was a mixtape but it was a novel. I released two songs under a different moniker in full blown character. That was my first time recording ever. I remember we were in somebody’s attic, I was off half of an Adderall and it was like 3:30 in the morning. I was like, I need to spit some bars. Writing was never difficult but  you learn pretty quickly that writing a song is different than getting bars off. Those tracks aren’t online but those were the start of me getting the itch to record where I was like “That was fun but, I could never…”

GSC: You really do have to put yourself out there, like I am an artist. Not just like some guy in a cipher.

xoKeegan: It took me a lot of growth to accept it, you feel like you’re admitting to something. So 2019 I’m job to job, place to place, like what do I do. I went to Toronto, randomly just to hang out with a friend and we ended up making music in the kitchen with people who are serious about their shit. They think I’m holding my own, which gave me some confidence. Then I get back to New York, and I have beats that I’ve bought for other artists that I’m no longer trying to shop out. I start spitting on top of them, recording on my voice memos on my phone. 2020 was when I learned how to actually record myself and really started taking shit seriously. I had some experimentations but I really came together as an artist when I connected with gore.

GSC: How did you connect with gore?

xoKeegan: I went to school with this kid who’s on a song of mine, Malcolm Castle and this other kid lowercase. Malcolm Castle and I went Iona together for one year. He went back to the West Coast and we stayed in touch. Me and gore_irl linked up shortly after I graduated. We had like, 12 mutual friends who were making music, so he was like let me see what’s up. He heard within those early recordings something he could work with and hit me up. His exoskeletal way that he makes his beats was very fitting for what I was trying to do then too.

GSC: It is so different from Drivebys, production. Going back to that first full project, Excellent Form. You’re playing a lot with vocal effects, the production is very futuristic. What were your goals for that tape, how did it come together?

xoKeegan: I had been working on singles and was experimenting, putting ideas out. I really was not confident enough to approach somebody like Driveby to work together without a project under my belt. I didn’t want to just have four singles.

GSC: It’s like applying for a job. You need a resume. 

xoKeegan: In 2021 unemployment checks were hitting, I’m feeling myself a little bit. I’m like, let me go to California and actually see what I could do in person with gore. I went to stay at his place for like three weeks. He was living in a situation that was… ridiculous for lack of a better word. So what I thought would have been just like three weeks of peaceful recording time was actually three weeks of chaos. We had to take our recording time in 20 minute chunks here and there, so a lot of those songs are one take, two takes. That tape was me learning how to punch in and him warping beats on the fly. That gave it a unique energy. It felt like it goes back to athletics. Excellent Form means that I am ready to create art whenever and wherever.

GSC: You are always shaved and tapered to bring it back to the pool.

xoKeegan: We cut out nine really unique good songs with little to no resources, not even the resource of time really.

GSC: I love the Pootie assisted “Priceless” off that joint. How did that track come about?

xoKeegan: So I am a music nerd, I am always gonna be digging through music. I think I came across this Jersey scene Driveby and Pootie are a part of after I had moved out of Jersey.

GSC: Isn’t that always how it works?

xoKeegan: 2020 I moved out of Jersey and I think the first person I followed was Good Food. Then I’m digging through Brainorchestra, Fatboi, and then Pootie‘s tape P.

GSC: that was one of the first tapes I wrote about for GSC.

xoKeegan: That shit is fire. Then I was like, this is in proximity. I’m always going to shows but I don’t think I had met Pootie when I reached out. I just had a song and knew the tape was coming out. I felt like he would kill his verse and he did exactly what I thought he would do. Having a guy like him with some great projects under his belt too made that project feel more legitimized to me. It’s a very experimental album but it still works with a legit rapper.

GSC: His verse helps ground the record.

xoKeegan: Funnily enough though gore didn’t produce that track, this dude CrankyBeats I think from Florida did.

GSC: Listening back GR+DLOCK felt like the start of you rapping how you would on both Black Sparrow and this tape. How did GR+DLOCK come about?

xoKeegan: From Open Seizin to Living Daydream all those songs were recorded together in January to February 2022, me and gore were on a mission. Those songs were recorded in the same headspace: Don’t think about what you’re doing just deliver songs based on how you feel. A very freestyled, open approach, I think me and him have really good chemistry. That period was very much a chip on my shoulder, trying to prove to myself that I can do this type of time, but also giving myself that creative license to go off the rails experimentally.

GSC: A song like “Notice” off of your last tape Black Sparrow, that beat sounds like a computer virus, but you find your pocket effortlessly. How’d that track come together?

xoKeegan: That was recorded in the Excellent Form sessions but took new shape on this record. I had a lot of ties cut between these two records and Black Sparrow was an acknowledgement that okay things are different and I’ll still move forward. I don’t fester but I notice. 

GSC: When you first played me this tape you talked about the narrative of the tape. How your character in the tape was trying to get bread for your girlfriend for a nice date and somebody promised you some gold doubloons on a far away pirate island only for him to rip you off and desert you on an island. How did that concept come about?

xoKeegan: Bro real life. I have had to miss several things that I care about in my life because I can’t afford to miss work instead. So many times I would come home just pissed about that, it would be late and the show that I would want to go to would be over. It’s crazy to come home at midnight just raging mad. Like nothing’s open, the gym is closed, you can’t play music loud. And these DriveBy beats helped me push through that frustration. I would just roll two spliffs and just listen to all the beats he sent, not even trying to rap, just festering in how aggressive they were. I was like, yeah, these beats are how I feel. There was even a beat I love that didn’t make the record because I couldn’t figure out a way to properly honor it, I always felt like I was fucking it up.

GSC: Hey never too late.

xoKeegan: Over time I was writing about these feelings at work, thinking about how I’d rather be with my girl or at a rap show or whatever, and it made me think how the fuck did I even end up in this situation where I’m being forced to work instead of enjoying my life. Was that a decision I made? Did I ever even have a choice? So, that story about the pirates I guess was my way of channeling all that frustration with the world. 

GSC: I know you and Driveby had a three hour conversation when you met, and that convo was the nexus for this tape. What were you guys discussing at that time? 

xoKeegan: I copped nine beats when we first met, on the project you hear five of them. I must have listened to 30 and I wanted to buy them all but you know the way budgets work. We were having a good convo and I was copping beats that made me stop talking. I was seeing scenes from the second I heard these beats, vivid imagery. “Over&Over” I knew was going to sound like that from the first time I heard that beat. What is crazy is that three hour conversation was two years ago.

DriveBy: It was like literally still pandemic.

xoKeegan: Once I told him I wanted to do a full Driveby produced album, the one thing he said whenever I saw him was please let these beats see the light of day, don’t let dust sit on ‘em. So every time I saw him I made sure to let him know I was working. 

DriveBy: And I didn’t like expect something to be done the next day. I’ve seen Roper give beats to people where the song came out eight years later, where the beat hit them differently than it did seven years ago. So I never was impatient with him. I respect the process, I was just pushing him when we’d talk in a motivator way. Like don’t let these beats sit on the couch. 

GSC: You were like a coach on the record as much as a producer. 

xoKeegan: At the time too when I was copping beats I didn’t necessarily know it was gonna be a full Drivey tape either, having a stable of beats to play with just part of my practice. Like how Driveby buys records to make beats, when I have some extra bread I buy beats. I was definitely in project mode though, that I made clear from the get-go. I was just hyped to get beats from someone I had so much respect for honestly. Like I felt like I got my Pokemon badge from Driveby with these beats, a stamp.  

GSC: Instead of the Pewter City Badge we got the Jersey City Badge. 

xoKeegan: Since I copped those beats too, you’ve gone crazy Driveby. I’m sitting there recording the songs and wanting to make sure they can live up with the high quality shit he’s been putting out. 

DriveBy: When we had that convo I didn’t know it’d become this project either. I think like the second show I saw him at after we met, he told me that he was gonna do a full project with the beats he copped and I was like hell yea that’s hard. That is when the “Just make sure it drops” type motivational talk started. What made me more excited and even impressed was the promo videos he was doing. Like he knew how to roll a tape out I didn’t help with any of that, that was all icing on the cake. 

xoKeegan: Shout out MARI GETI who shot those videos. Very supportive multi-faceted artist who does so much good work of his own.

GSC: Even dropping it on SoundCloud first I think was smart, “Over&Over” had three digit streams within like six hours of it being posted, before I even posted my write up on it.

xoKeegan: Whatever’s happening on SoundCloud God Bless. I keep looking at the accounts to see like are these bots, and they seem like real accounts who are listening. SoundCloud was the first real streaming platform I was tapped into and its well of music is so deep. I like that they continue to value community, the idea I can see who is listening and get real time feedback on parts of songs, I don’t take any of that for granted. 

GSC: Moving into the tracks on the record “Mayday” is a booming lead-off track. How did it come together and how did you know it was meant to be the lead off track on the tape?

xoKeegan: That came together just like how I was saying, I was in a blind rage coming home from work with this beat in my ear. I could specifically name who those vultures circulating are, you can imagine who I might have been mad at there, the people looking for ways to take money out of my hand. I was on red alert and just channeled it all into the track. That song set the attitude of the tape. At first “Harbinger” was the leadoff but Malcom Castle helped me a lot with sequencing. He said “Mayday” would be a higher energy way to get the record started and it works for the story thematically. You got the money, you’re drinking and celebrating on the beach the night before, life is good. Then when you wake up in the morning it gets real because nobody is there. The loot is gone and the boat is gone. And now you’re like, how the fuck did I even end up here.

GSC: Do you remember putting that beat together?

xoKeegan: You called it “No Floors” Drivey.

DriveBy: Thank you, I remember beats by those names I give them. This was around the time I was pitching everything down to like, negative 20. A lot of those beats that you hear I was probably really sad or really upset. Normally when I go down to those crazy pitches it’s a reflection of how I feel. 

xoKeegan: It’s visceral. 

DriveBy: Yeah, very. Me playing with those pitches, I feel like that’s like my way of having a Lungs type crazy 100 MPH freestyle.

GSC: “Harbinger” is interesting knowing it was nearly the leadoff. How does that track it with you now?

xoKeegan: “Harbinger” not to go all dictionary definition but it’s the warning, the person telling you these are the steps you need to take to protect yourself, will you take them or ignore them? The raps on “Harbinger” I have made peace with being stuck on the island. I will not try and return home, this is my home. It was stream of consciousness self-assertion.

GSC: Do you remember putting together that beat?

xoKeegan:That one you called “And You”. People when I showed them were perplexed as to how I was gonna rap on that. 

DriveBy:  That’s like the initial response I get when people hear most of my beats.

xoKeegan: I have a lot of really bad takes on that to be fair to everybody who said that. It is a very weird pocket but I realized I needed to almost ignore the pocket.

DriveBy: That beat feels like it’s a buoy. I remember when I made that beat it was for a pack I sent to billy woods. So I was probably in the mindset of making beats for woods when I made that. Very eclectic, something that’d catch the ear. But he didn’t look at the pack so I showed it to Keegan and it had that nautical vibe he was hunting for, subconsciously or consciously. 

GSC: “Come Alive” features Freddy Stone and a beat evolution of sorts. 

DriveBy: I was in my Brazilian bag for sure on that beat. 

GSC: How did that feature come about? 

xoKeegan: I usually record by myself. My man Freddie pulled up on me, I don’t even think it was to record. I think I was just showing him the beats I had. He sat down on the floor, criss-cross applesauce, with my microphone in his hand and just kept running the beat back. He rapped the craziest verse like I had ever heard and he was like, let me know if you want to keep that. I was like, that’s a feature. He didn’t even really know I was working on this project but it still fits thematically. 

DriveBy: Freddie is cool like that. 

xoKeegan: That verse was the most difficult of mine to record. How do I match Freddie’s energy in my way? He spit his verse before I even had a concept for the song so I went into it a little bit more intentionally. He keeps telling me it’s his favorite verse of his, which I don’t believe because he has some crazy ass verses, but he did absolutely go the fuck off on that one. Shoutout to Freddie Stone.

GSC: “Ashes on the Ground” again this tape is like the waves, following the cresting high of “Come Alive” with a solemn return to earth. What was the thought process behind that track?

xoKeegan: I remember hearing that beat and seeing somebody walking through an endless desert with a weight on their legs, one leg dragging behind the other. I was going through some shit where I would place all of my self validation on how much art I was producing. If I wasn’t producing art, it would create this cycle of depression where I then would not be able to create art, which is kind of stupid.

GSC: That happens to me with GSC sometimes.

xoKeegan: I remember writing “Ashes” to show myself, you can record some good songs while you’re depressed and having a terrible time. There is a spectrum of emotions for a reason and just because you’re down doesn’t mean like, oh, everything I record is gonna be bad. I had to get over that, and this song helped me do that.

GSC: we love emo music!! Driveby did you feel that same way dragging your feet through the desert when you’re making that beat?

DriveBy: What did I call that one Keegs?

xoKeegan: That one you called “Confucius” which is why Wavy added that voice clip. Working with Wavy on this was incredible through and through by the way, he is so much fun to work with and such a professional. 

DriveBy: Couldn’t agree more, shouts to Wavy.

xoKeegan: The first time I pulled up too AKAI was there, which took me by surprise and was hella inspiring. I was trying not to geek out, like I am here to record my tape, focus.

DriveBy: AKAI is so normal but so mindful in a way I wish I was more like. I got mad into poke bowls and he was like, never get one at night, that’s the least raw fish they got. And he is dead right! He is always dropping some so in front of your nose you don’t see it type knowledge. 

GSC: By the way I don’t know if I told you but “Driftman” is so hard, one of AKAI’s hardest songs. You killed that beat. 

DriveBy: That was very dope, shoutout to AKAI for making that happen. That beat was originally called “Wild Horses”.

xoKeegan: Very movie score-esque.

GSC: The last track on the EP “Over&Over” was also the lead single and I think it works extremely well both as a single and as a closer, that sample has this like Buddha like meditative quality. How did you know that it was both right as the closer and as the single?

xoKeegan: I chalk that up to intuition, a lot of my decision making with art falls back on that. I don’t necessarily have this encyclopedic knowledge of art and music history, but I trust my senses when it matters. When the project was done, and I wanted to drop a single and I felt “Over&Over” was the obvious choice. It felt less like I decided as much as it felt like it lifted itself up.  I feel like it captures the broadest sentiment out of the project. A little bit of the rage, a little bit of the confusion, and a little bit of the resistance, the submission, and what got me there.

GSC: The line “Lately I don’t mind being nervous” really caught me as a combination of words. What does that line mean to you?

xoKeegan: It’s nerve racking to do shit that’s risky. It’s nerve wracking to accept that you are good at something, and then to showcase that. It’s nerve wracking to allow expectations to form. Anything worthwhile is nerve wracking. One thing is swimming, I used to hate the nervous nausea that I would get in my stomach before a meet. So I trained it out of my mental. So then we go to a swim meet and I’m up on the block, and I don’t feel nervous, but I also don’t feel ready to race now. So I realized I needed to feel uncomfortable and nervous about how things were going to come out if I wanted to create anything worthwhile. 

DriveBy: Agreed, that line is so well put. Really stood out to me as well.

GSC: Do you remember how that beat came about?

DriveBy: That was definitely a Brazilian flip. I think I was in LA.

xoKeegan: That makes sense because you called it “Been Traveling”. This instrumental is insane. The number of times I’ve cried to it. It was probably the easiest song to record, though I had been putting the recording off for a while. It was very emotional getting on that beat, and listening back it hits even harder now. 

GSC: You both have clearly put a ton of emotion into this tape and I feel like you’ve got a lot out of it as a result. It seems like it was a very cathartic experience for you both.

xoKeegan: It absolutely has been.

DriveBy: It definitely has been for me too. I love that he put that track as the single. I didn’t hear the project at all before he put that single out. When he put it out, I was like, oh shit, I got super excited for it to drop. I loved having a genuine emotional reaction as a listener, that was very cool. I love it as a closer too, because it makes you wanna put the tape on over and over.

GSC: Who are your contemporaries who drive you?

xoKeegan: We’ve talked to AKAI, Freddie, Pootie, Fatboi. Whatever is going on in Jersey right now is very very interesting. Everybody has a different sound with the same ethos and I really fuck with it. I grew up listening to Earl, and living in BedStuy where I was, I would just see Mike and Navy Blue and those types in the neighborhood all the time. It’s crazy to me, so much heat in my proximity. Also like YL, Theravada be rapping his ass off. Jah Monte Ogbon comes up and spazzes, there is an east coast renaissance in the underground. Tony Shhnow, ANKHLEJOHN, I am a nerd though so I am always listening to whatever is new and popping up.

GSC: You are at every rap show I go to, who is the best performer you’ve seen recently?

xoKeegan: The best show I’ve seen in the Tri-State has to be Fatboi Sharif, no doubt.

GSC: It’s like seeing a play.

xoKeegan: He sets the tone for live shows, you feel like you’ve seen a proper show after he’s done. His songs really translate so well with the live performance. 

DriveBy: He is very animated, he works very hard at that aspect of his craft. He can play with anyone too, I’ve seen him do metal shows, play shows with any kind of rapper, and he’ll hold his own. 

GSC: What is something outside of music that brings you joy that may surprise people?

xoKeegan: I am a big sports guy which may surprise people. I love reading about and watching sports. I am an Arsenal guy but don’t have dedicated teams otherwise, just love basketball and football and following it all. 

GSC: Do you bet much?
xoKeegan: I probably bet maybe $5 a month on sports. One time though I did put down a $2 NFL 9 part parlay that hit for $400, so you gotta be in it to win it.

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