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Sitting against a white, digital backdrop is a 3D, violet and cerulean octahedron smeared with pink brush strokes. The octahedron is an aural manipulator: If you expand it, it adds reverb; if you move it with two fingers, it adds a repeated beat effect; and if you move it with one finger, it adds a filter. This octahedron, dubbed the “infinity stone,” can be found on MeLo-X’s phone application called “Curate” — the stone allows the user to re-shape the tracks from his latest musical offering, an EP of the same name.
Released in conjunction with the EP and designed by MeLo, the octahedron is also a symbol for change, the one thing in our lives that is ever-present and infinite. MeLo also approached Curate’s production with the idea of change in mind. “I created a lot of the synths from scratch and made them in a way that they are in constant flux — always shifting through the track,” he says. “The [EP’s] first song ‘The Cure’ really deals with our fear of change or something new that we don’t quite understand.”
Though he’s not known on a mainstream scale, MeLo-X has an illustrious relationship with New York’s music scene. As an East Flatbush native and first generation Jamaican, music has been a large part of his life since infancy. Flatbush’s particularly large Caribbean population meant he was always surrounded by dancehall and reggae; his father played instruments in church and his mother sang in the choir, so there was always music at home.
So it’s no wonder that MeLo gravitated toward a profession in music. His love for it stems from hip-hop and poetry, and his craft grew upon discovering those two art forms. Around 2007, he broke into Manhattan’s scene by DJing; once his fans knew him as a DJ, he was able to introduce them to his other mediums, including production, rapping and singing. “In 2008, I released my first mixtape called Mustafa’s Renaissance. I didn’t know at the time, but [the project] branded myself as a renaissance man because it had, like, remixes on it; it had instrumentals that I made; it had me singing. It’s just like guitar chords and some folk shit, then it had me rapping over some Jay Z beats. That was my first time putting everything I did together on one project.”
His fanbase grew with him, too. In January 2014, he released a remixed version of Beyoncé and shot a video for one of the songs. Somehow the video made it to Beyoncé herself. She liked what she saw and reached out to him, eventually bringing him onboard to score portions of her and Jay Z’s On the Run Tour.
Though he’s released a fair amount of projects throughout his career, a majority of his focus has been creating spaces where his mediums can be in conversation with one another since YONCÉ-X. Thus, the Curate project was born, MeLo’s first initiative that successfully links all of his artistic practices: digital, graphic, artistic, visual, and musical. He took his time with Curate, working extensively with Little Simz, Raury and Kilo Kish to create something that speaks to his overall creative process.
“The main difference [between Curate and my past projects] is the way Curate bridges my visual side with my music side. I definitely wanted to like have something that people could listen to but also interact with… What better way for people to experience [Curate] than through their phone? Their phone is personal to them — each person’s phone is set up a different way and is personal to how they interact with social media and with the world. This project is basically like that idea coming to fruition, and I think the timing was great because in the last two years or so, I’ve done a lot more things in the art world more so than anywhere else. Curate balances that out with all the music stuff that I’ve done.”
Indeed, MeLo has become widely known for his sets in art galleries, which have taken place at the Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum and Sean Kelly Gallery. His gallery performances include crazy visuals, acting as more of a live performance piece, while his traditional shows are geared towards the vibe of the crowd, ultimately fueling two different sides of his performance method.
“My performances, I like to kinda strip down everything I do as far as production, I like strip it down to all the elements and reproduce it live… I get to freestyle and make beats on the spot and do live loops, and try to keep it fresh. I like the performance aspect because I get to reinterpret my own shit in a live setting. Working with the Sean Kelly gallery and seeing how the art world gravitates toward what I do — because it’s fresh and it’s unique and it’s not like I’m trying to appease or like cater to their world, they appreciate that. Working in that world inspires me.”
His performances also speak to the idea behind his octahedron, how he likes to manipulate and change his live sets so that his audience is able to experience the music in different forms and versions of itself, giving the audience a new experience each time. He’s a visual person, and slightly synesthetic. When he hears sounds, he sees colors, and that feeds into his process as well.
While still in the developmental stages for Curate, MeLo directed and scored a short film called McCloud in Process, which documents the practices of artist Hugo McCloud. The film, which debuted in April, is collaborative in spirit and served as a starting point for MeLo to unite his artistic pursuits.
“I would go to [McCloud’s] studio and chill there with him and watch him work. I would just hear sounds of him pouring the paint onto the canvas, or him using a blowtorch and how the blowtorch reminded me of like a rocket ship, or him swirling the paint around and how that reminded me of looking in a wormhole or something. So the film McCloud in Process was like capturing what he does naturally through my eye and then reinterpreting that through sound.”
Now, seven months later, with the Curate app and Curate EP under his belt, we can say for certain that MeLo-X, the man of many hats, has certainly bridged all his creative mediums.
MeLo-X plays Baby’s All Right November 18. For ticket information, click here.