For most people, “keeping it real” is just a figure of speech, or an overused Instagram caption accompanied by a hashtag #NoCap.
But for singer SiR, honesty, transparency and more importantly, accountability, have been crucial not just for his music, but for himself as a man. The Inglewood raised artist, who recently set the summer on fire with his Kendrick Lamar assisted-single "Hair Down," is all for the freedom that comes with being real with oneself.
After an era of trial and error, having fell both in - and out -then back in love with music again, the TDE signee has finally found his groove in both in his career an life. After all, inner peace is the real bag, and mental health is the real wealth.
Recently the R&B singer sat down with BET.com to discuss his latest project, Chasing Summer, mental perseverance and the importance of working with your talents, and not against them.
Get to know the man within the music, as well as the man behind the mic. You may be surprised to find out that they are very much alike.
Read the interview below!
BET: Can you talk a little bit about how “Hair Down” came about, and how you and Kendrick decided to come together to make the song?
SiR: I actually wrote that song while on the road. We were on the "Championship" tour and I always bring all my [recording] equipment with me. So I wrote that on the road and everyone I played it for loved it.
I knew I needed to get Kendrick on something for the next album, because we had been talking about it, so I sent him the song and he loved it [too]. So from there, a couple months later, we were at the studio, and he put his verse on it, and here we are now.
I feel good. I'm overwhelmed with all of the love from the song. I didn't set any expectations, but it exceeded anything that I could've ever imagined. So it's crazy right now.
BET: Tell me a little bit as far as your career goals. I know you've done some songwriting, and engineering in the past for the likes of Tyrese, Ginuwine, etc. What do you feel are the differences in rewards when you create for others others, versus yourself.
SiR: Aw man. Well, creating music for others seems like a task most times. I've never gone into writing for other people and found myself enjoying it too much. On the other hand, writing for yourself is therapeutic. At a certain point, there isn't anyone else there to give you insight on what it should look like or what it should feel like. You're actually just pulling from yourself, for yourself.
When you get a finished product, and you actually got off what you were trying to get off, it's the best feeling in the world. I write music because it's therapeutic for me, and I enjoy that the fans enjoy it, because it's already done something for me.
BET: So when you create music, you create for yourself first. Do you have any rituals when you're creating new music, whether it's writing or producing? Can you walk me through the process.
SiR: I don't have any rituals in particular, but it all depends. Certain times you might be in the shower, or you might be in the car and an idea might hit you. I do voice notes and I write things down. I try to do whatever I can in the moment.
Trying to get too ritualistic when it comes to creativity will trap you in a box, and then you're stuck with your system, and I'm scared of that. In life in general, I don't want to be trapped in a box or limited.
BET: What's coming up next for you? What can we expect?
SiR: We have more music coming. I like to think of myself as somebody that's in love with the studio and with music, so as soon as we drop this project, I'm already going to work on the next one for sure. I'm going to let the project ride first. We took our time with Chasing Summer. From top to bottom, I love every single song.
BET: What was the inspiration behind Chasing Summer?
SiR: The inspiration behind it was the duplicity of my life. I'm an artist and I'm always on the road, but also I have my home life, and they kind of fight each other, and you see that in the project.
I like to paint pictures of situations I've been through and stuff like that. So with this project, we didn't put a bunch of interludes; we were solely focused on the music, and the lyrics and what I was talking about. That's what I really wanted to have shine through to people when they listen to it.
BET: Would you say that a lot of your life, not just as an artist and a creator, but as a man, can be seen and heard in this project?
SiR: Definitely. You see me being good, and you see me being some whole other sh**. But it's all honest, so I hope it shines through like that.
BET: How important do you feel honesty and transparency is as an artist when you're making music? I think people try to often separate the two so they can have their personal lives to themselves, while allowing "what's left" to belong to everyone else. Do you feel it's a favor to fans - or to yourself - to be real and honest in your work?
SiR: It's important to be transparent and honest, not just as a musician, but just as a human being. The more honest you can be with other people, the more honest you can be with yourself. So I feel like, if I can share my truth with the world, I can do damn near anything. It helps me out tremendously just to be as frank as possible with people. I really don't like to lie.
BET: Nice! Let's talk about some of these collabs though, and how they came about.
SiR: So I got a Lil’ Wayne verse [on "Lucy's Love"], and a few other features. I feel like we did a good job with just getting everybody on there that, you know, would just help us out. I don't do things just because you're a popping artist or anything. I do things because you're talented and because you f**k with me. That's important! I ain't trying to work with people just because of who they are. For real, I'd rather be with people that rock with me as an artist and rock with me as a man, and trust my judgement.
So everyone that's on this album really contributed because they wanted to. Even Wayne, I didn't have a chance to get in the session with him, but I do know that when he heard the song, he liked it a lot. I mean, he sent the verse back, so that means he liked something on it (laughs)
But I feel like, with all my features, from the well-knowns to the lesser-knowns, they are all special.
BET: What do you feel is your overall purpose as both an artist and a creator? We know your passion is the music, but what do you feel your purpose is?
SiR: I don't even think about it like that.I don't feel like I have a purpose to anybody else but myself first. And if I have a purpose for myself, it's to be as honest with myself as possible. I don't do things based on other people's opinions. Now, I respect other people's opinions, and I'm very aware of what other people think of my art and how I move and things like that. But if I based my life off of what you think about me, I'ma be f**ked. I'm not going to ever be able to make decisions for myself.
BET: Tell me a little about your upbringing and how you got into music and being a musician?
SIR: So, I grew up in a musical family, [but] I didn't start doing music because my family did music. My mother is a minister of music at our church. She works at "Bible Enrichment Fellowship international Church" on Spruce and Kelso, Pastor Beveraly "Bam" Crawford! My mom has been a minister in music at our church for the past 30 years, and growing up in the church, it was the same every Sunday. We were in the choir, and me and my brothers we would get up and sing Boyz II Men "Mama" every Mother's Day (starts singing: There was so many times, looking back when I-) It's just hilarious dawg. I still know every part!
We sang that every Mother's Day Sunday, Pastor's Day, on my mama's birthday and on the pastor's birthday. We probably sung that song at least eight times a year for 12 years.
So by the time I was 15, I was sick of it. I was starting to get into sports and stuff like that, and I told my mom "I'ma play basketball, this is what I want to do." So she stopped making me commit to music and stuff like that. I didn't really get back into music until I was like, 21, 22 years old.
By that time, me and my brothers were writing songs and it was kind of a cool. They even built a studio in our garage. So I started coming around [more], and my older brother gave me a Pro Tools template, a beat and was like, "Record!" So I wrote and recorded my first little song and it was trash. My brother even told me it was trash, but was also like, "Just keep going!" So from there, I kind of just found my own passion in music. I just had to learn to be patient and wait for things to come into fruition.
BET: You must've learned a huge lesson on patience and purpose from that experience alone.
SiR: I had a day job for three years while I was still trying to do music and figure it out. Things turned around eventually, but I had to find that out for myself. I find that, for anybody who has goals in life, if you want to accomplish something, don't rely on someone else to tell you what that is, or how to do it. Do it for yourself, because that's the best way to go about things.
BET: So do you feel as if, with the music, you took a break from it because you felt everyone was sort of telling you this is what you should like?
SiR: That's exactly what that was. I was a young, dumb kid and I didn't see the value in what my mother was trying to instill in us. I didn't care at the time. I wanted to play basketball! I swore I was going D1, and I thought I had a scholarship waiting for me and all. But them offers did not come in (laughs) I was good. I just was short, and I wasn't as good as I thought I was.
BET: That's a humbling experience.
SiR: Humbling for sure! But it is what it is. God doesn't put you where you want to be, He puts you where you're supposed to be.
BET: Have you always been this strong-willed of a person in regards to following your instincts, or did it come with time?
SiR: No. If you ask my older brothers, I was always to myself. I was always kind of a loner. I think I just didn't know how to express that. I think it was more so me kind of being closed off instead of me knowing what I wanted. But as I got older, I just realized I was beginning to worry too much about what other people thought about me, in regards to everything. And it was a torturous mentality, man.
There was a point in my mid-20's where I was just like, "I don't care anymore!" I started growing my dreads out, and I had the ugliest dread-afro for like two years, but I didn't care. I was creating, I was living, I was enjoying my life. Everything has been kind of smooth since then.
It's weird to say this, but for the past seven, eight years, my life has been good. It hasn't been perfect, but it's been straight. And when there are problems that come along, it doesn't take me out of my system or element. Like if it's an internal situation with me, then I go to me to fix it. If it's an issue with somebody else, then I delegate whose problem it is.
So I definitely feel like I've done a lot of growing in the past few years and music just kind of helps me stay focused on just being a better me. I'm always trying to improve as an artist, and that inherently helps me improve as a man.
BET: How do you feel about mental health awareness not only in the Black community, but in the Black male community, and even further, within the industry amongst Black, male artists?
SiR: I think that is something more people should be made aware of, because it is an issue. It also goes back to the person you are or who you have around you. If you have an issue in your life, speak up about it. That's the main issue. And for me, this is in the Black community. A lot of my friends and family that I know, the men specifically, they do not speak about what is wrong with them, and that's huge.
It's like this suit they put on. Especially in LA, dudes just got, like, this hard suit on [metaphorically speaking]. It's like a stiff ass, buff suit that they wear all day. It's like, "What's happening n***a?!' So it's just the energy that they put out.
I got this homie that, me and him have known each other since we were two years old, and we don't hold back. We tell each other everything, immediately. And if there is an issue in our lives that we can't talk to anybody about, we'll call each other. He's my therapist and I'm his therapist and we help each other through issues.
Are there any books that you're reading right now, or would encourage anyone else to read?
I'm reading this book right now called the Courage to be Disliked. And I read The Alchemist again this year, because I just love that book. That's the go-to!
Be sure to check out Chasing Summer by SiR, with features by Kendrick Lamar, Jill Scott, Lil’ Wayne and more, streaming everywhere now!
Photo: Evans Alexandre/BET