Born Edgar Sarratt III, 18-year-old midwxst, aka E3, tells VIPER about his love of Vivienne Westwood, the importance of family, life as a teen going-on adult, mental health and living in Belgium for two years. The South Carolina-born, globally-raised midwxst is here to talk his shit.
With his latest slew of releases, midwxst, is taking mid-western Hip Hop overground. There is no strict template for midwxst’s music, his style and genre-mashing music draws inspiration from Kanye West to EDM artists. The result: introspective, thought-pulsing lyrics over hyperactive trap snares on a sugar rush. midwxst’s music is like those races in Mario Kart where you complete the whole thing in reverse, because why not? It’s that feeling you get when your plans get cancelled but you didn’t want to go out in the first place. It’s the type of thing that acts like a natural dopamine hit to the brain’s reward centre.
Drawing a line under teenage idioms like heartbreak, midwxst intersects his lyrics with surprisingly profound pockets of knowledge and talking to him is like reading a good book that you can’t put down. His curiosity extends beyond making music – for example you might find him using his free-time to research the history of Vivienne Westwood’s legacy. Speaking on this he remarks, “I realised that her designs stemmed from the punk scene in London, it was super sick to see”. Like many 18-year-olds, midwxst is on the cusp of transitioning from teenager to adult as he embarks on his first year at college where he plans to study Audio Engineering and Technology.
Speaking on the value of college midwxst admits, “For some people it’s make or break, like Beyoncé did the whole ‘Homecoming’thing at the HBCUs, simply because she didn’t go to college, she wanted to recreate that experience for herself.” It’s not easy to continue studying alongside a burgeoning musical career but midwxst remains optimistic and excited for the experience.
midwxst is part of an incoming tide in Hip Hop that has been increasingly conscious of displaying vulnerability over the past decade. Songs such as ‘Made It Back’ and ‘Trying’ see midwxst exercise his feelings, “Feelings come out of my brain and start to crawl throughout my skin / Gotta wipe away my tears because they’re falling off my chin,” he raps; The track reflects a difficult period in midwxst’s life.
midwxst’s family are key players behind his flourishing success. He describes his home as a nurturing environment where he always felt supported to do exactly what makes him happy. His childhood was largely spent travelling with his mother’s job; a job she proved to be extremely successful in doing, he tells me glowing with pride. Born in Columbia, South Carolina, he then moved back and forth between states before eventually moving to Belgium for the better part of two years through the second and third grade. During this time he learnt to speak French and came across new waves of European music which he still recalls when looking for inspiration. On his latest single ‘All Talk’ he raps over a gummy beat which is particularly infectious. The single follows the previously-released ‘Tic Tac Toe’, ‘Made It Back’ and ‘Ruthless’ plus his full-length project ‘BACK IN ACTION’.
It’s been a busy year for you. But before we get into that, can you tell me about you… So your upbringing, where you’re from?
I was born in Columbia, South Carolina and I lived there for about three years. A lot of people don’t understand when I say that I’m from Indiana because I’ve lived here the longest out of any state, I just wasn’t born here, etc. I’m the youngest of my family, I have a sister who goes to Michigan State and she’s really interested in the theatre department, acting and Opera, all those types of things. Then you have me, I’m the music nerd of the family, I have a bunch of different music tastes. I grew up listening to a lot of diverse artists, especially from my parents. As I grew up around the house I would hear Kanye and TLC all the time, especially Kanye from my dad, he never stopped playing ‘Late Registration’and ‘Graduation’around the house, it was nuts shifting my love to Hip Hop at a young age. But then after that, we moved to Collierville, Tennessee and we lived there for three years. Then I moved to Trumbull, Connecticut for another three years, then back to Tennessee for two. So I moved around a lot but it was moving around with my mom’s job as she kept climbing the ladder and getting promotions, she’s very good at her job in human resources. She was constantly moving within the national paper, now she works with One America. Eventually we moved back to Tennessee and from there we left and moved to Waterloo, Belgium. I think that was for half of second grade, all of third grade. At the beginning of fourth grade we moved to Indiana.
So did you pick up any of the language while you were in Belgium?
While I was there I learned how to speak French pretty well. I was almost bilingual but then I came back to the United States and I started learning Spanish and everything is kind of [whistles], just shot out the other ear. I even used to have a French tutor, like she used to come over to the house, it was super cool.
I imagine that’s impacted your music one way or another as well. It gives you an education that you can’t get at school.
Yeah, it’s funny because she was like the generic French lady; beret, scooter, every now and then a cigarette, it was so funny. But at the same time, she taught me a lot about French, the French language and the culture around it. We would do a lot of fun stuff like Wallaby Land – it’s an amusement park, we used to go there and we’d have to read all the signs in French which would act as our little homework assignment. So if you read the sign and height requirement, etc, then we’d be able to go on the ride and if we couldn’t get it then we’d have to wait. It was just a really cool way of learning language; especially for a third grader.
What do your mum, older sister and dad think of your music?
They’re all for it, they all love it. Not a lot of people have full family support in the music industry. Not a lot of them have full family support in what they do because some people don’t think it’s ever gonna work out. Or some people don’t think that this is the right path to go down and they should ‘get a professional job’. I’m really blessed to have the position and be in the place I am in right now. I wouldn’t be anywhere without my family, I wouldn’t be anywhere without my friends, wouldn’t be anywhere without my girlfriend and to be able to have those people to fall back upon and lean on when I need them the most. So when I’m feeling down, or when I feel like I’m not capable of continuing down this path, it’s really reassuring to have those types of people in your corner. Especially your own family supporting you in your own music, it’s all I could ask for. My parents said that they’ll be happy with whatever I want to do in life as long as it makes me happy. And that’s really rare, especially in the music industry, to have both parents support and both parents in your life as well. So I’m really blessed for that, I’m really blessed for the circumstances and the way I’ve been raised because it’s made me into a really good, well spoken and intelligent young man and I couldn’t ask for more. So I always have love for them and I always try to make that vocal and clear because you can’t say you love your family too much, that’s not even a question, you can’t show love to people too much. You can show it too little but you can never show it enough. So it’s like, screw it, I’m gonna do it!
You’ve mentioned you travelled quite a bit and you’ve touched on how that impacted your music taste. But in the grander scheme of things, how has that really impacted your music? Belgium has some incredible Hip Hop at the moment.
It really got me into different types of music across all genres. My friend introduced me to club music, then rave music and then from rave music, I found EDM, from EDM I found Dubstep, from Dubstep I found Drum & Bass. I found a lot of genres in that short span of time that I was in Waterloo and every single time that I went to the EU, I learned about or heard a different type of music. It really just allowed me to be like, “Shit, if I can hear all these different types of music, why don’t I try and make something or why not try and draw influence from some of these genres that I like the most?” So then you see that rub off on me a lot, I may not represent foreign music, or I may not be music that’s from Europe but I draw influence from a lot of artists. Because why not pay homage to some of the people who I’ve been brought up on. It’s just super cool because you get a really unique view into the world at a young age. Although it’s hard to get grounded and stay in a certain location and say that you know what your surroundings are at such a young age, it was really worth it because it brought so many more cultures to my knowledge. While we were in Belgium, we went to Kenya, Cyprus, Paris, London, Windsor. I went to Legoland in Windsor, just because that was something that was fun to me, it was hilarious. We were also in Germany and the Netherlands, then I came back to the US. We actually flew back to Europe when my sister went on this trip for War history and we went to Prague – all the really central countries that are connected, like Czech Republic, Berlin etc. We went to all the WWII museums and memorials, I had never been exposed to any of that before. I wouldn’t have been exposed to that if I didn’t live the life that I lived or have the people in my life that I had or the parents that have.
Like you say, as a result you’ve got such a unique sound. Like with your EP, ‘Summer03’. I can definitely feel a Punk influence there… Was that from being in Europe at all?
Oh yeah, I’m a big Vivienne Westwood fan! I really like jewellery, all that type of stuff. So one day I just sat down and thought, you know what fuck it I’m going to research this and do some investigation, I realised that her designs stemmed from the Punk scene in London, it was super sick to see. I didn’t really listen to Punk music, but I really respected the people who made the music, so I listened to a bit of it and after that I realised it was super fire, so I was like, “Fuck, this is hard!” So I found myself listening to it again and for me, I just really speak my mind on a lot of things and I do care how it’s perceived. But at the same time, if somebody hates my music, I’m not gonna force them to like my music, I’m gonna allow them to just listen to it and critique it. Because they’re not the ones making the music and they’re not the ones in my shoes so they’re not really gonna know where I came from. I really never gave a fuck at all. At the same time I really do care for opinions and constructive criticism but I’ve gotten to a point now where I know that I’m making good music and I’m tweaking my craft to make myself an even better artist than I am. So fuck it, I’m gonna make what I want, I don’t really care if I have to lean into it. If you’re gonna call me a clone of *insert any black rapper here*, because I just got dreads or because I’ve done a rage beat, or anything of that sort, I’m just making music for myself. People who really do support me will like that music and listen to it and take it in, regardless of what type of music it is.
You can’t change how people interpret things.
And you’re at such a kind of early stage in your career. There’s gonna be these points of growth that every artist goes through. It’s incredible that you can acknowledge that at your age as well. You talk about people not being able to understand what headspace you were at… One of the tracks which stood out was your recent release, ‘Trying’. It’s very introspective compared to some of your previous work, where were you emotionally when you wrote that?
I was going through it. I was just in a really bad mindset and headspace, I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere with the music side of things. I felt like I wasn’t doing well in my classes as well. I made that after I put out the ‘Secrets’ EP, that was a track I was just gonna throw on there but I thought, ‘you know what, I’m gonna hold on to this, there’s something about this song’. I had never really gotten too personal on a song before, beforehand it was just me expressing all the generic, “Oh, she broke my heart,” things like that. But this is the first song where I was actually in a really bad headspace that I needed to get stuff off my chest and get some ideas and feelings out of my head. It allowed me to be like, okay, fuck it; I can’t really bring this up to my parents because they’re going to be concerned and I can’t really bring it up to any of my friends for the same reason, so I’ll just put it in a song. My friend Ellen sent me the beat, a 15-year-old producer, he’s nuts! He said that was one of his bad beats, so I thought, ‘what the fuck, dude this is so good?’. From there, I just sat down, I was just 100% unfiltered and honest. Like, I wanted to create the sense of anxiety and paranoia that I have, because I’m a really trusting person but at the same time. I’m very, very wary. I watch out for the smallest thing. Just so I have an excuse to cut people off, so that I can critique myself, I have a bad habit of doing a lot of self sabotage and I’m breaking out of it, I basically don’t do it anymore. But at that point in time, whenever I thought I was doing something right, I made an excuse up in my head to make it feel like I wasn’t or that I wasn’t progressing at all. At that point I felt like I plateaued. I was in that grey area where you start music, your fan base is rising, it’s rising and rising, then it just stops for a while. Of course the timing differs for every artist, but for me, it was a good three to four months before that shit picked up.
You’re learning how to process those things as well. And music is one way to do it. But do you utilise anything else outside of music like that?
I use my friends a lot. I’ll be like, “Yo, dude, I’m not having a good day, can you hang?” “Bet, let’s hang.” Then after that, we’ll hang out. I usually try to distance myself from my phone as much as I can, uless I’m just taking a video or something like that, because I want to live in the moment, I don’t want to just be on my phone and document everything in the world. That just kind of ruins the point of trying to create a unique experience. I also walk my dogs a lot and go on nature walks, I like nature and the outdoors, it’s really refreshing. So sometimes I might go sit on a swing or something and just swing back and forth, just so I can think and contemplate. I even used to do meditation. I don’t even know how that went but I went through that phase.
Do you feel like you’re comfortable showing this level of vulnerability now that you were with, say ‘Made it Back’ and ‘Trying’?
I’m very comfortable and I’m very excited, because there’s always been people who speak out about mental health and about a lot of things that go on in their head. But there hasn’t really been a person that’s spoken to the younger demographic in a way besides Juice World and Frank Ocean for example. But there hasn’t been that niche demographic like 13 to 18 year olds that have been able to listen to music and been able to relate to it heavily, especially in the black community; that comes from a guy who’s very vocal about that stuff. I’m not gonna be like, “I’m the mental health guru.” I’m nothing of this sort. I’m just a guy who talks about how I feel on a microphone so that people can relate to it. At the same time, it’s like, “Fuck it, if I can be if I can be that inspiration for that kid, I’m doing something, right.” If I can speak up enough to the point where this kid can relate to the song. I checked my Spotify and my SoundCloud stats, and somebody had played ‘Trying’ over like 500 times. So I was really concerned because it’s a depressing song, in a way. I was very concerned so I literally found her Instagram and messaged her saying, “Yo, are you good? I saw that you were listening to this song 500 times” It’s just because I understand where a lot of people come from with all that stuff because I used to be in their shoes. I used to be that person looking up to artists, shooting DMs trying to get a feature from them, or all these things. I used to be that artist who was scared to branch out and not go in a direction that I know is not going to be able to sell me as much or be able to monetise me or get me marketed as much. I used to be somebody who stuck to what I wanted to do, I didn’t go outside of my market at all. But then I finally sat down and I thought, ‘you know what? I have a lot of people looking up to me and a lot of things riding on me right now. I can’t fuck it up’. I gotta just keep on pushing, be myself, be as authentic as possible; just make good music. Then from there, people who support me will naturally fall in. There’ll be haters, there’s going to be people who dislike the music, there’s going to be people who don’t want to listen to it, but that’s just a small price to pay if I can make somebody’s day, or just to see that DM saying “your music has got me through a lot.”
Do you ever get hit up by fans asking for advice and stuff? How do you respond and deal with that? It can be a lot to take on board for yourself, especially when you’re trying to build yourself.
As I grow, I know it’s gonna get a lot more challenging to respond as much as I do. But compared to some of my friends, my general Instagram messages are filled up to the brim while they have one or two people. I always like being active and interacting with my fan base because if you’re gonna DM me saying, :your song saved my life,” yeah, I’m gonna fucking reply. I don’t want you to feel like I don’t care for that, or that just went overlooked or anything of that sort. That’s just like, that’s just me keeping it a buck. I’m gonna be like, I’m gonna be honest with people. I give people constructive criticism. They send me a song and I give them constructive criticism and feedback. That’s what they need, it’s about honest opinions that make the best music. I’m not gonna come out here and sugarcoat the fuck out of your song if it’s mixed horribly. I’m gonna tell you what you need to do, I’ll suggest if you need a new microphone or recording setup or if you need a EQ or delay the reverb to make it sound more fluid. I’m gonna suggest all that I can, but I can only do that so much, so I always look out for the ones that I know are either following for the longest or those who are very sincere.
The people that reciprocate that sincerity that you would provide them with, It’s important to conserve your energy in that sense. Your videos are also mad vibrant. They give off a lot of energy, but I’m interested to know which has been your favourite music video to make so far?
Probably this one that’s not even out yet.
Is that ‘Tic Tac Toe’?
‘Tic Tac Toe’ video falls right behind this video for favourite. The video for this song I shot is called ‘All Talk’. I self produced it with Starboy out of town. It’s a crazy beat, it’s such a crazy video, the stills from it alone are so sick. And then there’s another video that comes in third place that was super fun to shoot which was my video with Lone Wolf. Lone Wolf is from Indiana so it was like Naptown Boys. It was like 317 came together, like Indiana came together. And we shot that shit because I met him in person for the first time at this Omar Apollo show. Omar is actually from Indiana too. So Omar knows a lot of the people I know in the state. And Lone Wolf knows a lot of videographers and creative people that I know in the state. It’s a really big circle so I was like, “Fuck it, Cash Dummy’s in town, let’s shoot a video for our song.” Boom. Same Day shot the video, although I would say it wasn’t as organised as a lot of people would want it to be but it was still fun. He made a lot of work and shake with a small amount of footage.
The best art can come out when there’s no planning and it just comes together naturally. Talking about ‘Tic Tac Toe’. Tell me about how that one came about, how did you go about creating the track?
I heard the beat and I was like, “Fuck, I gotta use it.” Vvspipes, the producer of this song and myself, our work relationship goes all the way back. So when he sent me a new pack for like, the first time in a couple years, I was so excited, because he just signed under Internet Money. So he’s over here working with a lot of the big artists and then I’m sitting here and I realise it’s cool to work with some of your friends again, especially when you’re both signed. He was working with me back when we both had under 1000 followers on Instagram.
Do you prefer working with friends or do you prefer working solo ?
I work with friends and I work solo, but recently I’ve just been focusing on myself and all the music I’ve been making. Necause I want to create an experience that’s going to one, be crazy in a live show space and two, I want it to be very, very like me. I just want to make good quality music. If I use my producers who are friends, if I work with my friends who are artists, then that happens. If I don’t, then I’m not mad at it either, I use a lot of beats from people that I’m not that close with but at the same time I work with a lot of my friends who I’m very close with, because that’s just what happens in the moment. I can’t really control it, I’m not really picky about anything. Like when I was in LA, I was working with everybody just making songs because it’s just what you got to do, it’s fun.
You mentioned live shows as well, for an artist that gives their all when they’re putting their music out there. Are live shows something you’ve missed a lot?
I missed them a bunch. Like I was at the ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven’album release party for Glaive and I performed there. I performed ‘Smile’ there and there was this part in the chorus where I was like, [sings] “Why you always gotta talk talk talk talk talk.” It was a eureka moment because I stopped singing and put the microphone to the crowd on those parts and they sang the lyrics with me. It felt like I was living my fucking dream a year ago because I’d done about three to four shows before I did the DotComNirvanshow, which is the first show I did in LA and then the ‘All Dogs Go To Heaven’show. It was just crazy because I never had that crowd intimacy before those two shows, I never really had a professional catalogue to have that intimacy and have that live show experience. I interact with the crowd a bunch, I call people out, I tell peopl, “Why aren’t you throwing fists in the mosh pit, you in the mosh pit for a reason!” I want to see people get fucked up but I’m still not responsible for any legal matters. I like seeing people get active at my shows, I like seeing people have fun and jump around.
A lot of artists I’ve spoken to say doing live shows is like therapy, that feeling you get from interacting with your fans on that level.
It’s so nice, because one; it’s a sign that what you’re doing is paying off if you have a crowd of people from wherever, singing your lyrics. Two, it’s an amazing moment to be in when everybody can sing your lyrics together. Three, it’s a fun thing to do and it’s also something that you have to learn how to do well, so every show you can learn something. Like “Okay, I sang a little bit too much, too fast on this song I’ve gotta save my breath for this song.” Or “Maybe I should do this song and do an alternate intro to this song,” It allows you to play around with a lot of things, I’m gonna have fun doing that. Every time I go out on stage, I have as much fun as possible. If we ever have a technical difficulty on stage, I just start interviewing the crowd, that’s my go-to… I’ll say, “Okay, so where are you from?” Or “Why did you come out tonight?’ It’s just having that one-on-one experience, It’s just fun. Live shows are one of the first things that I was ever exposed to as well.
When we first started talking, you were talking about college. Education is often quite hard to stay on top of when your music career is taking off, especially so rapidly as yours is. How are you finding all of that?
We’re gonna test it out, we’re gonna see where it goes. I’ve never been one for quitting on an entire experience simply because one part of my life is going well. I worked too hard to not go to college, I worked my ass off. The amount of times where I sat in my bedroom anxious as fuck, crying over the fact that I did not do good on a test and I did not want to tell my parents, is not going to just happen in vain. I’m going to make sure that I’m gonna be able to go to college and have fun in college and make new friends because even if I’m not there for a long time doesn’t mean I still didn’t attempt to do it and balance that workload that I had. I balanced an artist’s workload to the extent that I’m at now, for all of my senior year; even part of my junior year. So if I can do that at a college preparatory school or private school with some of the hardest teachers that I’ve encountered in my life. I want to give college a shot because I didn’t want to look back 10 years later, like “Fuck I missed out on college, never went!” It’s a really vital part. For some people it makes or breaks people like Beyoncé did the whole ‘Homecoming’ thing at the HBCUs simply because she didn’t go to college, just wanted to recreate that experience for herself.
I guess it’s like, do you want that challenge of going for it and putting yourself through those experiences? Getting through college and doing your music thing. Or do you want that challenge of regret?
Exactly! That’s well put, that’s a lyric for a song right there.
I’ve heard something about a full length project coming out soon. How are you feeling as that day approaches?
It’s not what I’m currently working on but I’ve definitely worked on it and I’m still tweaking and fixing a couple things here and there. Everything I’m working on right now is crazy! So I’m working on this EP called ‘BACK IN ACTION’, more on the wave that I’ve been on recently on those crazy-ass, melodic-ass trap beats. With very fun wordplay, semi-braggadocios but at the same time still humble, still grounded, not airhead type where I’m like, “I’m the best of the fucking world.” I’m never gonna say that because that’s obviously not true. It’s just me being entirely honest and being happy in my accomplishments, like how Tyler said on ‘Call Me If You Get Lost’,“you just talking your shit. I’m just talking my shit on here.” I’ve never really been one to brag about my accomplishments or call out my accomplishments when they happen, I just sort of let them happen. I will tell my close friends, but I would never tell anybody else. I’ve never been one to do that so if I can make good music and at the same time, make confident music, I’m gonna do that. And I did it, the whole EP is nuts. I got some crazy production on there.
There are gonna be big moves on that project then! To get an idea of your creative process, when you go to the studio, do you go to the studio with a plan of what you’re going to do? Or do you kind of let things fall into place?
I’ll let things come together a lot of the time but at the same time, if I go to the studio… like a good example is this: I went to the studio with Ericdoa and Slumps6s. He made that song ‘Antisocial’ with Baby Santana. So we went to the studio, first five minutes we just sat there thinking, ‘okay, what the fuck are we going to make today’?Then one of my close friends, Liam, he pulled up a Funk beat, someone else was working on a rage beat and this other person is working on an 808 Mafia ass beat, it’s just all over the place. So we all ask, “Okay, which one do you think that we all could slide on?”, then “we’re going to record on this one” [the rage beat]. I added some touches to it, Eric added some touches to it, Slump was recording on it and all of that just happened in the moment. We didn’t come with the mindset of making a song or making songs together, it was just us doing us. That’s how I really operate, that’s how a lot of people operate; they just let things happen. I don’t ever force anything, if the beat is really good then I will come into the studio with it downloaded so I can give it to the engineer like, “I’m recording on this song first. Thank you.” Then I’ll go into the studio and get recording. But most of the time I just go in there with no idea in my head unless I get inspired that day. There have been times where I’ve gone into studio sessions and I want to make a song like ‘x’ or ‘y’, *insert song name here* or genre *here*. And it’s just very impromptu.
It sounds like you just bounce off each other really well. You sound like someone who’s been in the music game for a while. When did you first realise that you were going to start making music?
I knew ever since my sister started doing theatre and choir singing, that shit rubbed off on me so much. I was so envious and jealous of her voice. Still am. She can sing way better than me but she’s a lot more self-conscious than I am about my voice. I don’t have the best voice, but I’ll make something shake with it. I know how to make myself sound good and with her, it really inspired me. Seeing her just embrace that shit, just to make what you want to make. She was a very quiet, reserved person, but when it came to Fine Arts she didn’t play! She was on top of everything, she was always in a lead role on stage, in a musical or anything of the sort. She always had that stuff sorted out – My dogs just burst into my room.
What are their names?
Juno and Scout – I’ve just always been inspired by her and everything that she does, along with my parents and everybody that I’m surrounded by.
I can tell you’re proud of your family. You also have such a creative background with you, like with your sister doing theatre…
The crazy thing is, she’s minoring in it; it’s not even her main major! She’s minoring in it and she’s focusing on going to dental school.
What are you going to do at College?
I’m studying Audio Engineering and Technology at Belmont in Nashville.
It’s important for artists to have that behind them. Even if they’re going to use other people to do their production,it helps to know how you want to put things together; becoming a jack of all trades.
Photos by Zamar Velez
Interview by Sophia Hill.