“FLYTRAP” is out now.
Approximately two weeks ago, I sat down with the young and talented CJ Fly to talk about his sophomore album “FLYTRAP.” During our time together, he played music for me, he talked about what he’s learned from being in a successful group, and his sonic progression.
The single premiered on Billboard is absolutely amazing. (CJ Fly thanks me) Can you take me through that process? What inspired you to make it? Especially, the hook. I feel like I can relate. I got a lot going on.
First off, I freestyled the song. At first, I heard the beat and I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is really a CJ Fly beat.’ And then, my homie was like, ‘I’ma roll up.’ And I’m like, ‘Aight nigga, roll up.’ So, he rolled up. I even shouted him out in the song: Tony, break it down… We were just there vibing and shit. I did a couple of other songs.
I was just thinking. I think at the time, one of my exes hit me up. She was like, ‘Hey. We need to talk’ and I was like, ‘Talk about what?’ (Richardine laughs) You feel me? I ain’t even hit her back. I just went in the booth, and it was like—makes monstrous sound—’Hold that!’ So, that was the energy. It was more of… That was my feeling at the moment. There’s a lot of girls that played me that be trying to slide in my DMs… ‘Get the fuck out of my face!’ (Richardine continues to laugh) You was trying to play me for the ugly nigga too, like… This is my glo up, you know? ‘I hope you hear this and you know’ because this is about you and you. Not a specific name. It’s about all of y’all. Anyone who has ever doubted me.
I think that’s what brings forth the best art—when you have those types of situations.
Yeah, I like my life to inspire the music. I can’t make a song unless it’s inspired by some type of life experience from me, or either somebody around me.
What other things can we expect from “FLYTRAP”?
I feel like the project, basically sums up the last three years of my life. I haven’t put out a project since 2013. So this is, like, me telling the world what I’ve been up to and what’s been occurring in my life. It speaks a lot about the struggle. It starts off with me talking about dropping out of college, and my mom’s reaction. The second song is more about me, telling the youth (and other people) that life isn’t as hard as you think it is. Our ancestors had it harder than that, you feel me? Then after that, I’m like, ‘I don’t care anymore. You just gotta do what you gotta do, you know?’ I got a song called, “Idgaf.” (CJ Fly laughs) I just try to stay in concept with the flytrap, kinda. I have this song called, “Perennial.” It’s this type of plant that the flytrap is. It’s talking about me wanting to be around forever. Just, like, my life. What I wanna do. My goals. The next song is about love. The next song is about me, smoking. The next song is actually about you getting something done, and sticking to it. The next few songs are about me losing my grandfather last Summer.
Thank you. Then, the next song after that is “Now You Know (You Fucked Up).” After that, there’s some songs I made while in Canada—with that whole vibe. Then, after that some more self-empowerment songs. Songs called like, “Vibrations” and “Diamonds.” I wanna play that for you before we leave. It’s like a whole other vibe. I don’t know if people are even expecting what’s coming for this project. Like, it’s so deep.
Sonically, do you think you have progressed? Do you think you sound different? Because I think so.
Yeah, for sure. I’m more comfortable with my singing now too. Before, I was trying to be hard. Now I’m like, ‘Let me actually get this money and stop playing with myself.’ I’m just going to try to express myself as best as possible, in any way I can: Singing, fucking crying, screaming… Whatever. I’m going to try it. I definitely leveled up though, sonically, and my pen has gotten better. I feel like it is more mature. My topics and content is way more clear. You can hear what I’m saying now. The clarity is key.
Do you think that it came from just life experiences, and doing something one way, and seeing like ‘OK, this is the response and this is how people feel’, let me switch it up now?
Yeah. I’m very observant. I like to survey shit. Like, even when I play you guys’ songs and you tell me your opinion about it, it’s going in my little survey. (CJ Fly makes a beeping sound) Ten people liked this song. I ask a lot of questions because I like to know other people’s opinions. I was the only child so, I’m used to knowing my opinion only. I’m trying to be less stubborn and more open to people’s ideas and shit, too. So when I ask someone something—it’s just for me to get that other outlook—and be closed-minded and go with only my opinion. Even looking at my first mix tape, I feel like that project was almost a classic. It’s like if I chose the singles correctly, or videos, properly, other than my favourites, it might have been something more. So I gotta see what people are going to gravitate to more because it’s all about reliability in the music—rather than what you think is your hottest verse. I was going with that, ‘Yo, this verse is hard!’
I think that’s when is clashing with the business part. There’s a lot of that with artists—and you try to tell them, ‘This is what it’s going to be. This is going to be the best one’, and it’s like ‘Nah,’ but you’re making it for the people.’
Exactly. At first, I made my music only for myself. Like I said, I’m the only child. My music was me, being able to express myself and speak to everybody. I felt like I wasn’t being heard before. I didn’t have anybody to talk to, really. Music was my tool to be able to communicate, and not be like a psycho, only child that’s like… It taught me a lot. I’m like a trial and error person.
So, you said you were going to college and then, you dropped out. Which school, and what were you studying?
I want you to guess what I was studying. I went to college in Staten Island. Make a guess. Nobody ever guesses it right. ‘Let’s see: Braids… Rap music!’ (CJ Fly laughs)
Does it have to do with science?
Wow! Go ahead. Keep going. You’re hot. You’re on hot… on the… (CJ Fly makes a sizzling sound) but I hate science.
Really? Is it chemistry or forensics? Anything like that? Environmental?
Computer science. If I wasn’t rapping I’d be in IT. $100K a year. I’m still going to get that bag regardless. (We laugh) I feel like any field that I chose was supposed to do with the arts, culinary, or technology. I feel like those three things are things that is what we would need if the world goes to ashes and shit. That, and construction—building shit and infrastructure. That’s the four things I’ma know, if anything happens and I’m in my little bunker. (We laugh)
True, so you shot the video for “Now You Know”…
And I use all of my titles as manifestations. Words are very powerful. So any title that you see next to my name, it means something now. ‘Now You Know CJ Fly’ ‘CJ Fly Perennial’ ‘CJ Fly Diamonds’ ‘CJ Fly Get It Done.’
Thank you. (CJ Fly laughs)
Very thoughtful. [You’re] thinking it through. I like that.
You’re young, considerably…
I think on the song you say you are 22. You had a birthday?
Yeah, we released it right before my birthday. Honestly. (We laugh) They were like, ‘CJ, change that’ and I was like, ‘Nah.’ I was in the moment. (We laugh again)
What could you say to other, specifically young men that are your age, whether it’s trying to get into music or anything else creative, what speck of advice would you give them?
My piece of advice would be: Don’t let anybody try to talk you out of your vision. Stick to your plan. Do what you gotta do. If you really put your mind to it, anything is really possible. People won’t always give you the best advice, and it can be people you care about. You’d ask their opinion, and they would shoot your whole shit down and kill your vibe but stick to what you do. Get it done, and keep on shining.
What keeps you going?
My family. You wanna hear my favourite quote? You could use it in a couple of years… ‘You can’t spell family without fly. Without my family, who am I.”
Oh, wow. OK. I like what you did with the letters.
You know what I’m saying? That’s just me. I’m crazy. My mom still lives in Bed-Stuy. I want to change that. Just, shit that shouldn’t be. I feel like they need better lives. They provided a better life for me. So, family, friends, the work, and the motivation of life.
You’re going to get there. You have the right idea. You seem motivated. You said ‘Keep going. Don’t let anyone take over your path,’ so that’s good. That’s good.
Tell us about your come up. We know you are part of the group Pro Era. What have you learned from being in a musical family?
Being a part of the crew is… It’s just beautiful to see it blossom. I’m one of the founders, so it’s dope to see what it’s evolved into. I have learned so much, as far as like teamwork, communication. Like I said, I’m the only child. I had no siblings so I had a few selfish tendencies. Little things like I had to let go of. I had to really learn how to be in social settings. I’m identified as that person in the crew now, very communicative. Now, I do things for the squad. Not just for myself anymore. I just like to communicate with people, and I feel like that’s what I learned from the crew. Staying sharp too. We’re each other’s competition.
This is cool. You’re ready. You have merch ready. You have a hoodie on…
This is all custom. We stitched it onto a hoodie. I had the stickers for a few months. I’ve just been planning it all out for the last few years—getting it right, you know?
FLYTRAP: There’s your name (FLY) and TRAP but what does it mean?
It’s actually Venus flytrap: I just didn’t put the ‘venus’ on it. It’s a female, feminine energy but it’s still supposed to be directed to that—[without the full name]. I want females to really, like, gravitate towards it, you know? That’s my demographic for this album, in my opinion. I feel like the guys are going to like it. Girls are going to like it, and that’s what’s going to make the guys like it. Like, if my girlfriend is in the crib listening to this, I want to know what it is.
So that also ties into the colours…
Yeah, it’s for the girls. Half guys. Half girls. I feel like the whole concept of FLYTRAP is basically, the feeling of being confined. Things holding you back. Things that don’t allow you to thrive, like being swallowed by this New York City belly of the beast. Letting New York basically, fishbowl you, rather than you going to see the world and exploring it to you best potential. It’s to inspire the youth, and anybody who listens to this project I want them to think ‘Yo, I can do this and I won’t be caught up in the FLYTRAP.’ ‘I won’t get locked up for some dumb shit.’ ‘There’s a way around this.’ Even on the cover, there’s a FLYTRAP over here. There’s a big monstrous FLYTRAP, and I’m over here, flying, like ‘Let’s go this way.’ Just to show y’all… There are people hanging off of the mouth of the FLYTRAP. People falling off…
A lot of recording artists, specifically vocalists, get into production too. Are you into that? Are you hands-on?
I am very hands-on. I have my vision. I take suggestions, and just I do what I do. Then, I have my engineer do it so. I’ve been doing it on that end. On the project, I have my first co-produced record alongside the homie from Canada. He produced a record on Travis’ album. We did that last Summer. I was out there. That’s the only one for now. I’m going to start getting the tools I need to start producing. I’m just trying to learn. I don’t have a lot of patience. (I laughed.) If I don’t get it on the first try, I’m shutting the laptop. I just know what I want it to sound like, and if I can’t do that I just leave it alone and get help. I’m trying not to be lazy, and trying not to hold myself back.
After my time at HBO, CJ Fly and I met up to talk about his forthcoming album, the process, the purpose, he played unreleased music for me, and we had matching logo merchandise. He had the hoodie and I had the mug. Easily one of my favourite new people ever. A transcription of our conversation will go live on @GrungeCake.com after the holidays. PS: My eyes close when I smile 😂😂😂
Two Percent and Richardine Bartee (Transcriptionist)