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MCKINLEY DIXON - Interview

I see so much magic all the time, whether it be sleight of hand tricks, performers, disappearing acts, communication and mimicry from afar. It's such beautiful, cool, scary things. Magic isn't just for fairytales but for the guy who disappears from the neighbourhood when he's running from the cops...

Interviews
Interviews
MCKINLEY DIXON - Interview
ETHEREAL.PRESS

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Date
August 24, 2023
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20 mins
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ETHEREAL.PRESS

Tell us about McKinley Dixon.

MCKINLEY DIXON

Multifaceted. I mean, it comes down to understanding how I was before, where I am now, and what the difference really is if you want to see the timeline and know who I am. 

It does involve a lot of friends, community, different places, and different sorts of experiences. So McKinley Dixon is someone who is working and learning.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Talk to us a bit about your release, 'Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?'

MCKINLEY DIXON

It's just dope. It was definitely made out of a feeling of longing but also came out from a feeling of how do I progress from my last record.

What timeline am I trying to show the world, but mainly to myself?

I think it's mainly me just trying to figure out what is next and how to make a record that involves processing, and not just making a record that is all of these things, and then being like, alright, let's just make the next record that's all these things from the last. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Sonically, this album is a masterpiece. The Jazz-Rap elements on the album are ever-present. Can you tell us a bit about the Jazz components across the project?

MCKINLEY DIXON

Yeah, I don't really be listening to the genre of Jazz. A lot of people think I listen to the genre because the project is Jazzy.

In actuality, there is no other genre I can interlope that would allow me to communicate as well as I do. In Jazz, chaos is not something that is uncommon. It is actually something that is quite uniform with the genre. 

My music is very conversational. The details of my life and the people around me involves chaos and uniformity. Of all the genres for me to talk over and make this music sound the best I can, I use Jazz. 

I could switch up the sax and turn it into keys, I could have this breakbeat, I could do all these things within this genre without it being seen as weird or out of the ordinary. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Talk to us a bit about the album art. 

Website - https://ladonalex.com/


MCKINLEY DIXON

Yeah, so that's so funny. People either love or hate the album art, and it's hilarious. 

It was done by my friend Ladon, and I sent them this record and said what do you hear? Ladon heard this person that is about to unleash power, whether it be music or actual power. Ladon made this character that represents this character that represents me in this room—looking at the camera in this way that signifies what's next. We're breaking out. We're using these powers. Afro features. 

Then you heard the record. This is the power that the character on the front is about to unleash.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Do you think aside from foreseeing that future, there is a certain emotion or feeling that character is experiencing?

MCKINLEY DIXON

The character is acting like you have no idea what's next. That's also the album cover too.

What do you expect from seeing an album cover like that?  

Not fear, anger, or resentment, but more so excitement to take the viewer who is looking at him on a journey. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Album art like that is so stand out. One of the number one things I look for when I want to interview an artist is art direction.

When I see a colour scheme or an animation like what you have - I am instantly more willing to check it out.

MCKINLEY DIXON

I appreciate that. Motherfuckers be so angry at this album art go to rate your music. People are saying it's furry art, and I am like, what? What does that mean? It's so funny.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

I can't remember the exact source of this quote, but it's something like, 'if your art isn't making people angry, you're not really making interesting art.'

MCKINLEY DIXON

Exactly. The album art is technically (from an objective technical critique) incredible. It looks like it's cross-hatching, it looks like it's painted, but it's digital. It's a brilliant cover art, and I knew Ladon was going to make something that people love or hate it.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!? Strikes a balance between dark & soft instrumentals, constantly swapping between light-hearted to troubled aesthetics. There's a lot of instrumentals like this, as well as the vocal inflections. 

Was this a conscious decision to present this album sonically in this manner? 

MCKINLEY DIXON

Definitely, that's the benefit of Jazz. I love that I can do that with my voice as well as the instrumentation. It was very intentional.

I also wanted it to be like a book or a coming-of-age movie.

I wanted to emulate real life. Real life is a lot of ups and downs, a lot of happiness, and a lot of badness. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

This album was critically received with overwhelmingly positive reviews.

How did it feel to have such an outpour of positive feedback on this project? 

MCKINLEY DIXON

This is not to be... actually, it is to be a bit of cockiness/confidence in myself. After For My Momma, I've been doing this for so long, DIY, rap in a  rock setting, so many things, after a certain point, I realized there was enough people in the world that would fuck with my music regardless of what I make. 

As long as you're not doing anything outlandish, you're not going to lose fans. If you constantly keep the intention of what you want in your music, keep the intention of what you want, and have everything be true to yourself, there is going to be a large group of people in the world who agree with that. 

Eventually, you're going to find that group, and they will find you. 

For My Momma was a big record, but this one, everything was tightened up and was bigger. It mimics the fans and community that went with it.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

When people can understand your creative intentions and really get your creative perspective like that, you not only create a loyal fanbase but affect them emotionally, which is so cool. 

---------

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Can you speak on the intro of the album with Hanif Abdurraqib and how you wanted to explore the harsh realities of inner city life on this project?

MCKINLEY DIXON

The project itself is in a storybook setting. It has the first intro, which is the prologue by a guest author, and Toni Morrison at the Morrison line. The actual story begins after that.

It reflects inner city life more so because it's not directly. These are the tales of the street. It's more so this is the magic of this life. All of it is not solely sad, solely damaging, solely harrowing; it's also beautiful, loving, and reflective of who you are. 

I think that's the whole thing with it. Inner city life is not just horrible, scary things but also the love that you feel at your kitchen table. The love you see when you see all your friends for the first time in a long time. Crying when you tell someone you love them. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Do you think that touches on the unique art that comes from inner city life that no one can touch? Or emotions?

MCKINLEY DIXON

Both. Inner city life has magic all the time. I live in Chicago in a historically black neighbourhood, and I see so much magic all the time, whether it be sleight of hand tricks, performers, disappearing acts, communication and mimicry from afar. 

It's such beautiful, cool, scary things. 

Magic isn't just for fairytales but for the guy who disappears from the neighbourhood when he's running from the cops. That is magic.

ETHEREAL.PRESS

When I was living downtown in a major city, I would see the same homeless people all the time. We were friends, and we'd call them the 'local legends' since they always had something interesting to say.

There's beauty in that.

Another instance was a bar we'd frequent where a homeless guy would cut out wooden plaques & write handwritten sayings on them. He'd hand them out to random people to make them have a nice day. 

The one he gave to me said, 'always try to stay strong.'

Shit like that you don't get when you're outside of major cities. 

MCKINLEY DIXON

That's the thing about the cities, the brilliance of it. 

Sure, it's not making fire come out of your hand, but you see this person, however many years ago, holding that with you, and expelling it to me where we both revel in this idea and image that has been put in both of our heads. 

It's magic. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Exactly, and I love the intention of doing that for no reason aside from wanting to make people happy. It's authentic.

-------

ETHEREAL.PRESS

In the music video for Run, Run, Run there are several visual elements involving time. Can you speak to that significance? 

MCKINLEY DIXON

Time for me in the last couple of works is that certain marginalized groups can time travel because the stories they take from the past help them in the present and future. 

The stories they create in the present are based off of the past, that then they can use for others in the future—accessibility through time travel and words. 

That's my vision of time. Time in that video is represented at this pivotal point where the two characters have already left their house, they've walked through the city, and now the event begins. Run, run, run.

They're having this moment where they're reflective before it gets turbulent. Before dedicated, before live at the kitchen table, before stories afar. It's this thing where now these characters (me and whoever is listening), and how different it is now, being whatever pressures you're running from, whether it be actual guns or capitalism. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

The set, settings, and roles (jobs) of the story were all intentional.

MCKINLEY DIXON

Definitely. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

On a personal level, how did you feel you grew during this last album cycle?

MCKINLEY DIXON

This was the first project I ever recorded in a studio, for Your Momma was recorded in everyone's houses everywhere. It was also recorded in Richmond, which is where I was residing for the last 11 years of my life. 

Everyone who was on the record was on my first record—bringing all of these people from all over my community onto this record. 

The growth was not only me being aware that I am growing, but everyone around me is growing. This timeline we share is growth, and sometimes there is setbacks, but we are all doing this together. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

What's next for McKinley Dixon?

MCKINLEY DIXON

Shit, my publicist is on the line; she would know better than me, haha. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Haha.

MCKINLEY DIXON

I want to make work in other mediums. I am working on my animation stuff, trying to learn the pipeline fully. It's sort of this thing where I will never be the best at animation. Whereas, rapping, I am not the worst. 

I will always be learning animation, comparatively to rap, where lulls sort of come because I am at a solid place for someone who is 27, especially when it comes to what's next.  

I'm trying to figure out how to love life outside of music. 

ETHEREAL.PRESS

Once you reach a certain level of expectations for your skill level in a creative field, you're much harder on it.

When you start a new creative skill, you know you're not great, but there are so many ways you can grow with something. You think you can do that eventually.

Once you've been at something for awhile, you create that heightened expectation, and you're like fuck. 

MCKINLEY DIXON

Exactly, with animation right now, there's so many types and ways to do it. When I first started, I was like fuck walk cycles, and now all I draw is walk cycles because everyone walks, haha. 

I was like, I'll never have to do that. Now like three days a week, I am thinking, fuck where does the left foot go. How do people do this?

It's also cool to take inspiration from other people, but not copy them. With music, it's so easy for some 17-year-old to be like dude, this sounds exactly like Kendrick or JPEGMAFIA. But with animation, I can draw whatever I want, but people won't see the references. 

LINKS: Bandcamp - Instagram

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