AP&R: How Lil Wayne’s Rebirth inspired TITUS to make his own genre pivot
Welcome to AP&R, where we highlight rising artists who will soon become your new favorite.
TITUS is an artist dead set on capturing the magic of turn-of-the-millennium music. Not content to merely repackage his nostalgia, TITUS blends the addictive guitar hooks of Y2K pop punk with the indomitable swagger of late aughts hip-hop. All the while, he remains true to himself, whether that means going the extra mile to be real on his tracks or taking shots at music industry pet peeves. Either way, TITUS makes damn good music, and he’s unapologetically sincere while doing so.
How did you get into making music?
Honestly, just being a super fan of a few bands and artists really pushed me to make music when I was in high school. This is when home studios were becoming more accessible for amateurs, so I was able to just buy a microphone and start recording vocals. I still engineer my own vocal to this day. I was a really big fan of Senses Fail, blink, Lil Wayne and thousands of other bands during that time as well. Linkin Park was another big one for me.
What do you hope people's first impressions of you are when they listen to your music?
I hope they identify with the emotion that I put into my songs because I’m pretty honest on a lot of my songs.
What were some of your sonic and lyrical inspirations when you were making the LOST VALLEY EP?
LOST VALLEY is definitely somewhat blink-inspired. That's before I started screaming a little bit more on records. There's an obvious rap influence there. There’s a little bit of Juice WRLD, probably a little bit of a Nirvana, some “Miss Misery.” That's really what I was going for. Just a darker-sounding, grunge-leaning record, but not grunge. And probably a little bit of MGK.
What inspired the pivot from hip-hop to your current sound?
Really, the bigger picture there is really just my influences growing up. I'm a product of divorce and also biracial, so I have two vastly different experiences simultaneously throughout my life, just with my particular sets of friends who didn't really hang out together. Also, no family get-togethers and music and influences there. I always listened to rap music my entire life, and I've always also listened to rock music, but not necessarily in the same setting. I grew up during what I would say was the golden era of emo and pop punk with My Chemical Romance and the Starting Line and Senses Fail.
We just had so many bands on the radio, and rock seemed to be dominating the charts and then also rap, which was huge for me too. So starting with Biggie and getting into Juice WRLD and Dipset, which was a huge local influence on me. Wayne because there was a point where I was such a big fan of the carelessness and effortlessness of his freestyles and how easily it seems melodies came to him. Then he did his take on a rock album called Rebirth. That was really one of my favorite Wayne albums, if not the favorite, because it was something I had always wanted to do. So although I started rapping, I eventually would go on to experiment with other genres and then eventually come back to rock music.
What was it like working with Billy Martin?
It was honestly really cool because I've just been chasing my nostalgia the last couple of years. So just the chance to work with someone who I listened to growing up still doesn't feel real. I'm even more excited that we got a record that we pretty much jelled on in the first go.
Are there any other big collabs that you want to make happen soon?
I’m really adamant about wanting to collab with Senses Fail because From the Depths of Dreams is one of the most influential albums for me at a time when I was smoking and experiencing grief and trauma. I just really identify with that album. Plus, they're from New Jersey, so I just really feel like that would be a big thing for me personally.
You posted a TikTok a little bit ago where someone sent you a DM about “COOL.” Does that person play any role in the inspiration of the song, or is it someone hitting you up for no reason?
That’s just the dynamic of the song. The decision to make this song really came from my frustration as an artist in the industry. There's sometimes an "I'm better than you" attitude or a pretentious attitude that other artists have for no reason. I really got so sick of it, and I was like, “I'm just going to make a diss song to every cool LA artist who wants to work with me but is just too cool to just embrace that." I got so frustrated with people being so fake, and so I made that record. I'm not surprised that it's also a favorite among artists, those same people. So on the random DMs and stuff like that, I'm not surprised that people think I'm talking specifically to them. Maybe it's their own insecurities, or maybe it is about them.
Did you start to experience that more when you went out to LA, or has that always been the case?
Yeah, for sure. Actually, to be specific, I had resisted being on TikTok for a long time when I decided that I really had nothing to lose at that point. I was going to promote LOST VALLEY, and I started to get a lot of attention on there pretty quickly. I met a lot of artists on TikTok, and I would have relationships with them. Of course, they’re all in LA, and a bunch of them wanted to work on songs. I went out there, and all these people who were hitting me up to do sessions just ghosted me, and then I would see those people at the same places I would be at after.
The energy was so different and frustrating at first. I tried to ignore it, and it just kept happening every time I would take a trip out there. So I was like, "I'm just going to stick to the kind of people that I like fuck with on a personal level." I don't really have this undying need to work with people over clout. I don't do that. I just make music that is really therapeutic to me and to other people that I like, and I'm on my own island for that reason.
Right now you've got two EPs under your belt. When are you looking to do a full-length release?
I haven't really sat down and thought about a full-length album yet. I'm more focused on building my base and getting more people to hear the songs that I have put out and releasing EPs, as they all encompass a point of time in my life. So this one specifically coming up is huge for me because there is growth from LOST VALLEY, but there's also a ton of pain and new trauma with my mom passing in the middle of it. In the future, I definitely will do a full-length, although I'm not sure when.
I'm sorry to hear that. It seems like this project that's coming out takes a lot of inspiration from heartbreak or bad relationships. Do you have any advice for readers on that topic?
Yes, I do, and a lot of it is from my own experience. It's really just honesty. Fully encompassing honesty. I mean, with your activities, with your emotions, with what you're thinking. And the more someone feels like they know you, the easier it is for them to trust you, and the easier it is to share that trust in my opinion. So, communicate and be honest, even if honesty hurts.
FOR FANS OF: Linkin Park, LiL Lotus, Lil Wayne
SONG RECOMMENDATION: "Cool" feat. Billy Martin