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Interview: The Dean’s List

2011 was a whirlwind of a year for hip-hop trio The Dean’s List, who found themselves overwhelmed by all the hype surrounding the release of The Drive In and instant-hits “Dear Professor” and “La Vie”. The trio, who are currently gearing up for their first official album Generation X with aveNUE Music, have been promoting their music heavily ever since, attempting to branch out from the college crowd that was first drawn to their music and spreading a message of youth and rebellion to their listeners. We chopped it up with MC Sonny Shotz and producers DJ Mendoza and Mik Beats, who talked about changes in the music scene since The Dean’s List first came together in 2010, their preparations for April’s Generation X (which will contain no samples and will have a music video accompanying each song), and even their upcoming clothing line.

You guys have come a long way since releasing 2010’s Undeclared. What’s been the biggest change for you guys in terms of your music career?

Definitely the release of The Drive In. That was our breaking point and took us to a new level. The buzz we got off of that, an average artist would get from two to three well-marketed mixtapes.

When we released The Drive In and followed it up with the Pledge To Rage tour we got a sense of the appreciation for the project and really connected with our audience. It’s been a lot more personal ever since.

How did you balance school and music when The Dean’s List really started picking up?

It was definitely late nights and a lot of work. Some of us were still working one or two full time jobs as well. We really had to prioritize things and there were late nights with homework and what not, but it came to the point where we started to make a living off The Dean’s List and that became a priority.

We didn’t feel that the courses we were taking were really teaching us the modern music industry and were learning more on our own so we figured we should go more in that direction.

How hard do you think it is to stand out as an artist nowadays, when anyone can pick up a mic or a computer and start making their own music?

It is definitely really tough. People try hard to emulate an artist they look up and that often leads to copying them. A lot of people lack original material and just become a mimic of their favorite artist. We think you have to listen to a lot of different music and make YOUR music. It’s important to stay true to what you want to do and not be phony or fake.

What are you guys listening to right now?

Right now we are definitely listening to a lot of Florence & The Machine, Kanye & Jay-Z, John Mayer, Jimi Hendrix, classical music, Bob Dylan, The Beatles… and we listen to this type of music because there is more that goes into it and that is what we are looking to develop with our sounds. It’s more evolved than a rapper rapping over a beat.

What’s your favorite Dean’s List song so far?

Mik: I would have to say “La Vie.” I worked really hard on the mix for that, a lot of these techno tracks we can do a lot of production but it’s the mix that really brings it together.

Sonny: My favorite song to date is “The Dream” because it’s the most honest, and a very self-motivating song to me.

Mendoza: I would say “Burn It All” or “Dear Professor,” they have great stories behind them and were big songs for us. They are always great to perform and people recognize the song as soon as it drops.

If your new album Generation X were a person, who would it be?

It would be a hybrid between Will Smith, Steve Jobs and JFK.

Why did you choose to name the album Generation X?

The album Generation X really stemmed from the fact that we had the generation before us and we are a product of them and those that came before them. The melting pot that leads to us.

You guys just recently released “Youth”. How did you guys decide on using that song as the lead single?

It really fits what we are trying to accomplish. A big thing we discuss and stand for is the youth of our generation. Not giving a fuck is a theme of Generation X and this song represents a few sides of that mentality.

Will there be any samples on the new record? “Dear Professor” found a lot of love when it was released.

There will be songs in there that sound like there might be samples but they are actually not. We manipulated things to make them more us. There will be no samples on the album!

I’ve heard that a Dean’s List clothing line is now in the works. Can you provide any details about that and what we can expect to see?

We’re working with a lot of different artists. One of the main ones we’re working with is called Bandulu as well as Mendoza’s grandfather, who is an artist in a New Mexico. We are going to put a stylish twist on our merchandise and not make it just a “band store,” but something that stands alone and makes a statement. The clothes will be something our fans can feel a part of and represents them.

What are your next plans for your music?

There will be a lot of music videos off of Generation X. It’s all about Gen X now! We plan to do a video for every song.

Thanks for taking the time to talk. Any last words?

Thank you for the interview and we appreciate all the support. Follow us on Twitter @followdeanslist and Facebook/itsthedeanslist and Generation X is out on April 3rd!

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