Get Familiar: An Interview with Aye Cue

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In the current realm we live in, creativity and going beyond what’s expected are what pushes people to that next level,  and can be found in the most uncommon of places. In San Marcos, Texas exists a steadily blossoming hip hop culture, with a variety of artists residing that are some of the most interesting and inspired minds to be found. Last week I got to sit down with one of the front runners of the culture, Aye Cue, to talk about his love for the culture, what he wants in life outside of rap, and how hip hop stands in it’s current climate.

Can we just get some background about you really quick?

“My name is Aye Cue, real name Jade Aquil. As far who I am, I’m originally from Houston, Texas, 5th Ward to be exact. Went to Texas State University in San Marcos, and from there I’m about to get my Master’s. Of course, I’m a musician, or a creative, period. I do a lot of different stuff, so yeah.”

And under that creative umbrella, is that kind of what the Aye Team is? Can You tell me a little about that?

“Well, the Aye Team is something I kind of started when I was focused mainly on music. More or less, I felt like, with me, I didn’t have time to have a plan B. I had a full focus of what I wanted to do in life, and I would put my full effort towards that. With the Aye Team, I kind of jut portrayed that kind of theme, as far as my supports and fan base go, like if you believe in whatever your dreams are, be sure to attack it with you’re A+ effort. It was just more of a fan place kind of thing. I do have a creative umbrella called Aquil concepts I’m trying to build, but as far as The Aye Team, it’s definitely more of just my brand.”

You’re really been doing this rap thing for a while now right? I had found some music videos of your from all the way back in high school. Can you talk a bit about how you got your start?

“As far as how I started, I had been rapping since about 5th grade, more as a hobby. I’d be rapping to myself, you know, competing with myself, trying to figure out how to match lyrics together, punchlines and all that kind of stuff. Eventually as I got older, around the 8th grade, I was just like “why not record this type of stuff? Why not put these lyrics to audio?” So I would grab beats off the internet, I had my own little home mic and I would record. I started getting a bit of buzz in the city, so by the time I got to high school I was in the studio with professional engineers recording my own songs. But initially as far back as I can remember I’ve always been a writer. I wrote my own stories, and I do a lot of script writing as well. With music, I just look at it as another form of writing, another form of imagery I can do with a pen and paper.”

And you love the hip-hop culture. When I got to Texas State you were president of the HHC(Hip-Hop Congress)

“Yessir. With Hip-Hop, I’ve always been surrounded by rap, I’ve always listened to rap, always been a die hard fan, but I didn’t really get involved in the Hip-Hop culture until maybe college, when I saw how in depth it was and I was like “Wow, ok”. I had always listened to my Pacs, my Biggie’s, my Outkasts, and all those different types of artists, but I didn’t have like a mind for it until I got to college, where I had to go back, you know, dumpster dive, and everything, and be like “wow, this is how hip-hop formed and how it got to where it is today.”

Going off that what do you think your main influences are for your style of music?

“With style, I’m just kind of all over the place artistically. My favorite rappers are Biggie and Jay-z, lyrically. When it comes to artistically, creatively, that goes to Kanye West. I mean I have a lot of different artists I derive from, like Michael Jackson is one of my biggest influences. I just kind of pick and pull from different places.”

How would you describe San Marcos’ hip hop environment compared to San Marcos?

“I honestly didn’t know San Marcos really had a hip hop scene until I got to college, when I had seen Hip Hop congress at my college orientation. At that time, in San Marcos, the college was only 4% black. It wasn’t really a scene per se, it was more like 2 or 3 rappers taking it seriously, and I was one of the ones taking it seriously, I had been doing it for a minute before college. In Houston it’s a little bit different, kind of saturated with rap. Everybody’s a rapper, everybody is in their own little clique. Too many people don’t really support each other in Houston, it’s kind of divided up in a way. It’s always been like that, it’s still like that to this day. When I got to San Marcos, it was a much smaller, more compact group of artists. Since there was so little of us, we all supported each other. Eventually we started growing and growing, and next thing you know had our first big break when we opened up for Riverfest (Texas State music festival), and when we brought Big KRIT to the Marc. He was like the first rapper to perform in the area like that. We opened up for him, this is in like 2012, and the scene just started growing and growing. It’s kinda cool to see the early stages of it all and see what it is now, with all the different San Marcos artists.”

Speaking of Hip-Hop right now, what are your thoughts on the whole “mumble rap” debate?

“Hip-hop has always had different branches to it. Back in the early to mid 2000’s, you had the dance craze Soulja Boy, you had the gangsta G-Unit rap, you had the conscious, Common and Outkast type rap. So with mumble rap, I look at that more as a another branch of rap. I’m not gonna really hate on it. However somebody entertains, I’m not gonna tell them how to do their art. I look at it as a different branch of art. It’s definitely the most commercialized branch right now, the most popular branch. You know, you got mumble rap, you got trap rap, and there’s still some dope conscious rappers out there, Brother Ali, Childish Gambino, who went left field and did a whole R&B/Soul album, and then you still have Kendrick, it’s a wide variety.”

Do you have any upcoming projects?

“I’m all over the place right now. I kind of took a hiatus from music for a little bit. I had released an album at the end of 2015, Fall in America, and in 2016, kind of took a step back. That’s when I graduated from college and everything, and had to get on my feet in the real world. Now I’m back full-fledged doing music again, and it feels great. I’m the type of artist that I can take breaks as long as possible. I always aim to do something creative every day, whether that be write a story, or a song, so I never really lose a step. I can always catch back on whenever. As far as right now, I have small music projects I’m looking to release this year. As far as big picture, I really want to focus on building my company. My ultimate aim is to write a fictional novel, and then creative direct various mediums of art through that novel. Like a short film, photo shops, of course do the music for it as well. Even do a screenplay. I wanna branch all of that into a fictional story, and use those elements of art to bring it all together in its own universe.”

That’s so dope!

“Especially from black creatives, you don’t see that too often. Shout out to Jordan Peele, who did Get Out. That was something I always wanted to do, I always wanted to write a horror story, so him doing that make its all see achievable.”

Especially using racial tensions as the medium, it was well done.

“Exactly. So its like I wanna write a story, and use different elements I’m talented in as far as music, screen play, and creative directing, and tie everything together.”

That’s very impressive. Are you doing any collab projects any time soon? My favorite verse from you right now is probably the Biebervelli remix with AJ Bray. Wild.

“Preciate that man, as far as collabs go, I’m working with CA The Commoner on a collab, he’s producing and I’m rapping. Me and AJ Bray have a similar styles. As far as artistry and rapping goes, I like to classify myself as a good balance of conscious and braggadocios in a way. So me and AJ mesh together really well, so I’m gonna continue working with him in a way. I always work with J Mac The Dragon. I wanna start working with newer artists as well, like Lona The Don, he’s one of the younger dudes I definitely wanna work with. Yeah it’s a lot of people in the area I wanna work with. I’m the type of artist that, I don’t plan on getting signed, but if I ever was to get signed or if I started my own label, I wouldn’t have big name features, maybe aside from production. The local cats I came up with, I already know they can deliver so I’d rather work with them.”

How much does fashion influence you? Every time I see you you’re one of the best dressed guys around campus.

“I’m not a person who’s big on the whole name brand, dress to impress. I like to say I dress to express. I look at fashion as another way for me to creatively express myself, like putting different outfits together to see what I can pull off. I love that shit. It’s pretty dope. I do a lot of thrift shopping. Everything I’m wearing right now isn’t name brand. I just put a lot of stuff together, I get a thrill out of that. People like it, it’s gotten me a lot of attention musically, and when I was out at SXSW I got stopped by the New York Times. That was pretty cool. I go through things like that all the time, but in my head I’m just doing me. I’m not trying to impress anybody, but the fact that people stop and take notice means it’s something I can use to my advantage.”

Who are some of your top underground/local rappers right now?

“Man, I’ve been so removed from rap lately, I’ve been to busy listening to Lana Del Rey. I like a lot of Dave East, Larry June is pretty cool, I’m a huge 21 Savage fan also, I’m rocking with 21. Rick Ross just dropped a phenomenal album. Who else? Locally, AJ Bray, who’s on the move right now, you’ve got J Mac, Jas The Philo, Vaughny, Lona, I don’t have any complaints about the local artists. I feel like a lot of the artists down here could definitely compete mainstream. I listen to a wide variety of artists, I can’t really name them all off the top.”

Where do you see yourself taking your career in the next few years? Your creative imprint, your rap, anything.

“My vision with rap, I’m not trying to sign to a major label or anything like that, you know like the typical rap dream. I’m trying to create my own imprint. I’m trying to write stories, and use my music to form a soundtrack and composition to it, and use film and photography to help tell the story as well. In the next 5 year is really want to have the imprint off the ground to where I’m fully functional. In charge of my own masters, in charge of my own creative input. Music is cool, don’t get me wrong, it’s my number one baby, but I need a challenge. Branching off into doing different creative aspects is something I’m really pushing towards.”

Last thing, list your top 10 favorite albums.               

Michael Jackson – Dangerous

Jay – Z – Reasonable Doubt

Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon

Lil Wayne – Tha Carter 2

Notorious B.I.G. – Life & Death

Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die

Nas – It Was Written