An Interview with Old Man Saxon: Authenticity, Homelessness, and Hip Hop

old man saxon
Photo by Andreas Neumann

Name: Saxon Kincy

Alias: Old Man Saxon

Age: 28 (DOB: 9/30/1988)

Location: Silver Lake, CA

Biggest Song: The Perils

Two years ago, Saxon Kincy was eating two Happy Meals a day, showering at the gym, and working as a waiter while he lived out of the back of his Ford Explorer.

Not what you would typically expect from an intelligent, able-bodied young man with a college degree. However, he made the bold decision to drop everything and pursue a rap career, and now he is bringing back a heightened level of consciousness to rap by talking about his experience living homeless.

Saxon successfully represents the voice of the ordinary person and captivates listeners through his witty rhymes and relaxed jazz beats, reminiscent of that old school vinyl sound. His unapologetic delivery and sincerity in The Perils – EP paints a deceptively deep, candid image of what thriving off uncertainty looks like. Go ahead, listen and let his music carry you through your troubled days.

We recently got the chance to catch up with Saxon about the EP, the obvious and not-so-obvious challenges he faced, and asked him to drop some wisdom for aspiring rappers.

Interview by Christina Neri

When did you start rapping and what made you decide to pursue a musical career?
I started in school and I was kind of fucking around with no end goal, and then when I moved out to LA in 2011, that’s when I was like, “If everyone keeps saying I’m good at it, I might as well just try it.”  So that’s when I started to make a career out of it.

Were you doing anything before that? I did a little research on Reddit and it kind of sounded like you had a 9-5 type of job.
Yeah, I initially moved out here to test video games. I graduated from college and I just didn’t want to be in Colorado anymore. So I moved out to LA and I started testing video games. It was horrible. It sounds fun as hell, but it was so bad. It was miserable. I don’t play video games anymore [laughs]. After that I quit that ’cause I couldn’t do it, and I just started making shit on my laptop.  Even before I moved here I was making shit in college on my MacBook Pro, like on the microphone.

So you finished school and you decided that you wanted to do video games? How does that even happen? Right now I’m visualizing “Grandma’s Boy”.
That’s what everyone thinks. It’s like super similar, but not as fun and the people are way nerdier. It’s your life. Your life is video games. I went to school for an Ethnic Studies degree, and the whole time people would ask me “What are you going to do with that?” and I’d say “Uh, I don’t know. I’ll be a teacher or some shit.” I just told them “Whatever I’d have to do, just leave me alone. I’ll figure it out.” Then the time came when I graduated. I had no idea what I was going to do.

I feel like if there was anything college allowed me to do, it showed me that if I finished it then I could do whatever I wanted to do. So if I wanted to test video games, if I wanted to be a rapper, if I wanted to be anything – well, I completed this, so let me see what else I can do.

In retrospect, do you think that it’s necessary to have a college education to be “successful”?
No, not at all. I feel like it’s important to learn a trade, like whatever it is. Like I said before, I’m never going to be mad what got me to this spot. I met my director for all my music videos in college. Pretty much everyone I know right now, I met in college. I really don’t think it was necessary for me. I took geology classes. I learned about rocks. Why do I need to learn this? It’s good to be informed about this shit, but it’s not necessary at all.

You said you’re still paying off your student debt. How is that going?
Good [Laughs]. It’s going. That’s all I can say about it. It’s a horrible thing.

I know you were homeless for a period of time. How did you work out that situation, especially with the fact that you had/have student debt to pay off in addition to your other financial responsibilities?
Luckily, I did have help. I didn’t tell anyone, like no one knew. My mom helped me pay my student loans. Everything else was just… being homeless isn’t that expensive [laughs].

You don’t say.
It’s like really affordable. I paid for gas, and everything. My form of entertainment was once a week I would go to a movie by myself.

It was a life changing moment, because I realized I don’t need shit to survive. I need a couple of shirts, underwear, pants, and a pillow. Once I realized and figured out how to navigate that world, it was really easy to save up and keep my money for the shit that was important, like music and food, really.

I can’t even imagine how you were writing and recording The Perils at this time, right? Where did you draw your inspiration from? What was your creative process like?
I was homeless for 13 months. The first two or three months consisted of me figuring out how to get this shit together where I would be comfortable. I wasn’t going to sit in my car and look at shit all day. So I thought, let me grab this pen and this paper, and let me start writing shit. The inspiration came from boredom, almost. I had to do something.

What’s funny about the four songs that are on The Perils is that those were just the four songs that I thought captured that time the best, but I probably wrote hundreds of songs during that time that didn’t have any cohesiveness to them. It took me maybe two or three months after it was all written to pick four songs out of how many something songs.

The inspiration was always there. Before I would sleep, I would write. Before work, I would write. I would constantly write.

Do you think you’ll ever release any of the other songs during that time?
I don’t think so. That was something else I learned about this whole process. I used to write, record, and put out a song immediately. There was a time where I was sitting on 50 songs that I was in love with, and that was an amazing feeling. I realized that I have the ability to make shit and not be so anxious to show people.

Okay. I’m trying to take all of this in right now. Are you currently working on a new project then?
Yes. This is difficult now. Now, I’m in a place where I’m questioning whether or not I can release an album that’s about nothing. Can I just release some shit? Okay, here’s 12 songs, listen to them – or do I want to take the whole extra effort to think of something that, you know, makes sense? Like an album about life after homelessness, about having a kid, an album about some shit that would just make sense.

Now I’m in that weird place, but with that being said, since The Perils I’ve written about maybe 30 more songs that I could release, but I don’t know what to do. I have no idea what to do with them. Right now I’m just writing shit. My other job is as a music professor at a college. The randomest shit.

What? That’s awesome! What are you teaching, like theory or…?
Rap. I get a lot of students that come in that want personal lessons or private lessons about how to rap. I’m just like, what is wrong with some people?

Wait, why?
Tupac didn’t have a teacher, or Biggie. None of these people had rap teachers. A lot of it is therapy lessons, like, “Hey, why are you rapping about all these models and women you have? Just rap about what you went through today.” I play them ‘The Perils’, and I’m like, “Look, this is literally about a year sleeping in my car, and people connected to this in some really deep way.” I’ve had students crying in my class, talking about the deepest shit. Yes, this is what you write about. Who gives a fuck about you popping bottles? No one gives a fuck about it.

That’s been my job for the past six months, and then I make music for commercials and trailers. Ever since The Perils has been done, 100% of my income has been coming from making music. It’s a really amazing feeling. That shit is crazy to me.

Looking back, do you wish you had someone guiding you through it all or do you think that it would have helped you as a rapper or as an artist in general?
I’m not sure. When I first got to LA, I had a couple of people tell me what I should do. I kind of caught on to LA really quick, and how much bullshit people talk. If I had a nickel for every time someone said they would sign me… I would have four nickels [laughs]. Fuck that. It’s never happened. I had a lot of people try to take me under their wing.

I think the biggest mentor that I had, in the least narcissistic way possible, was myself. My experiences shaped who I am. If I had clipped my toenails for an extra second longer, I probably wouldn’t be in this place right now.

So you believe in the Butterfly Effect?
Exactly. Fuck a mentor right now. Hopefully somewhere, someone along the way… hopefully Kanye.

Kanye? Let’s talk about that for a second. Do you still like Kanye or do you miss the old Kanye?
He shows the evolution of not only an artist but of a person. If he was still doing College Dropout stuff that would be awesome, but the fact that 808s and Heartbreak came out and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and all that shit shows the evolution of a person, an artist, but also hip hop.

Hip hop has changed. I’m one of the biggest supporters of that. Let’s say we were still in the time of “Rapper’s Delight”. What the fuck is this?  Talking about hip hop….. what the fuck is this? Did he say hippie? I am willing to embrace the change, and yes I will always say Kanye is a crazy ass person. But as an artist I love that man.

Would you say he is the Mozart of our generation?
I would say he is the Mozart of hip hop.

You talk about the evolution of hip hop and all of that. How do you feel about rappers perpetuating the gangster rap, hood rich, let me slap that hoe’s ass image?
I did a class, or private lesson with a dude who was talking about 21 Savage and he has a song that says, “I’ll pull up to your mother’s house and put some rhymes in it.” And it’s like why? What are you threatening my mom for?

I am trying to embrace what people say, and that’s like where people came from. And I can’t really be mad about that much. Because that whole gangster rap part of hip hop is becoming a lot smaller than people realize. Now there’s a lot more of Lil Yachty’s. Even when like the gangster shit is mentioned in hip hop, it’s not like the main part of the song.

Even with Bad and Boujee, the song is about a girl that is bad and boujee, but occasionally Lil Uzi will put a reference in there about shooting somebody. It’s not like NWA type “Fuck the Police.” Also, I think there’s a little bit of satire in it. If you listen to 21 Savage, his adlibs in it, for a gun is “pew pew pew pew pew.” It has to be satire. So I am convinced that we are now being a caricature of what rap was. And it just kind of…it’s working, it’s working, I guess. I tried to be mad, but the second that I embraced what it was, it just kind of gave me a better understanding of why what I am doing is more unique than what they’re doing. And it’s not bad or good. It’s just different.

It is different. How would you characterize your style then? You have unique instrumentals, with jazz influence.
I would say that it is nostalgic…nostalgic hip hop. And I hate that word. It’s almost like trying to bring something back, but that’s not what it is.  It’s just what I grew up on and what I find pleasant to the ear. It’s an older school sound. And even the whole Old Man Saxon is not meant to be…like everyone is Lil this, Lil that. That’s who they are. It sounds like you’re young. And so, for me I’d rather kind of play in that older sound. I’m the only one who will be able to grow into his name. So, yeah I think its nostalgic kind of older feel. That is sort of timeless. Timeless, yeah that’s the word I’m looking for.

My dad, whom I got my name from… when he died he was like 70 years old. I was always raised by a person who was much older. His values were from a different generation, and he would listen to a lot of jazz, like Cannonball Adderley. So when I first heard that beat [in The Perils], I was like, “This is super fucking old school.” So, I was honestly like that song was the first time I really realized that’s what I wanted for the Old Man Saxon feel. It wasn’t something I actively thought of, but when it came it made sense.

Do you think that you’re still growing into that name, Old Man Saxon?
Oh yeah. I think it’s weird for everyone. Where are you from actually?

I’m from Eagle Rock.
Oh wow! Alright, cool. So you’ll be back in LA soon. So you’ll see my live show is very tailored to an older audience. Not even in the sense of bands or whatever. As of recently I haven’t been playing with a band. If you look up Rudy Ray Moore, he’s an old comedian, really vulgar, based around story telling. So I’ll come onto stage and I’ll tell people and I tell them what I’m going to do before everything song, and where I was when I wrote the song. I want these people to have an understanding of who I am as an artist and they listen better. Even that is realizing that I’m still growing into my name, just by how I am on stage, who I am recording, everything. The more that I perform, the more I realize that I am Old Man Saxon. I’m wearing a suit and tie, gators on. So yeah, I’m definitely still growing into it.

Where do you see yourself in the future?
After the Hiero show I signed about 20 autographs. That’s fucking crazy. I feel like I’m at the point where if I don’t stop and smell the roses then I’ll miss it. I’m at a place that I didn’t think I’d be two years ago. I’m definitely trying to expedite the blowing up process, but right now I’m enjoying it.

Is there any advice that you can give to aspiring artists, especially rappers?
Yes. I just did a TED talk in New York. The title was Don’t Wait.  What I spoke about is the advice I’d give. I said don’t wait for your life to be perfect to tell people your story. The more that you’re truthful with yourself, the more the audience will be able to soak that in without question. The second that you start lying and talking about shit you don’t have, the audience will feel it, even if they don’t quite know what the fuck is going on.

The main thing that I can tell people is… the thing about with hip hop is that it’s a genre where authenticity is the number one thing. It’s all about being real. I think a lot of people get the idea of being real mixed up with being extravagant. I’m poppin’ bottles and I’m shooting people, and all this shit. No, real can be as easy as you slept in your car for a year and you talked about it. Real can be that you’re having problems with depression. Talk about it. Real is what you go through.

That’s my advice and it sounds cliché as fuck, but don’t try to be something that you’re not.

So definitely pull from your life experiences, and don’t fabricate for the sake of sounding good.
Exactly. A lot of people in my class are trying to be rappers. They say they’re trying to be rappers, so they’ll rap about what rappers rap about. I try to tell them don’t just try be a rapper. Be you as a rapper. That’s a whole different thing, because saying you just want to be a rapper means you’re going to say a lot of recycled shit that everyone’s been saying. The second that you’re being you as a rapper, you’ll be able to talk about your experiences in a way no one else can. It’s way easier to spit what you need to spit.

Check out his newest music video for ‘Sunday Saxon’ above and follow Old Man Saxon on:

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