Who is Carter-senpai?
A neurotic songwriter and producer, the majority of the time Carter that spends on a musical project goes into rehearsing the intonation of syllables and fine-tuning barely-audible effects in the mix.
Carter presents pointed and unfiltered social commentary—inspired by the Roots Reggae and East-Coast hip-hop heroes of his youth—and delivers it with confident whimsy in an attempt to brighten a boring dystopia. Power metal, future bass, drill, and anime openings are just a few of the ingredients one might find in a Carter concoction. "Hip-hop is my main-squeeze, EDM is my mistress," Carter states, in an attempt to most succinctly describe what to expect when a musical project is in the works.
Growing up, much of Carter’s recreation occurred in isolation. A swelling inclination towards self-reliance over two decades culminated in Carter-senpai's independently released debut studio album, Midnight On Broadway & Myrtle, at the age of 23. Carter is credited for every role in the project from composer to engineer to illustrator, which explains why MOBAM required over 100 hours of studio time to complete. The majority of the project came to fruition in a bedroom in a basement. “Daily Dabble,” the first song that appears on MOBAM, was the last song written for the album, and the first song to be recorded in the studio personally designed and built by Carter for the realization of present and future artistic dreams.
Interviewer: What first got you into music?
Before I was old enough to start finding music on my own, I was usually stuck with whatever my dad put on, which was primarily Reggae. I also spent a lot of time with my older cousin who had Brtiney’s “...Baby One More Time” CD, and a surround sound. Brtiney was my favorite artist up until elementary school when I started listening to hip-hop.
Interviewer: Who or what inspired you to make music?
I started playing music in third grade when they brought out the recorders. The teacher thought I was pretty good, so I was invited to the early morning piano class that she held every other day before school. I went a few times, learned some piano basics, then realized I’d rather spend my mornings hooping and left the class to do that instead.
In middle school, I took up the alto sax for another music class. I never took it seriously enough to ever practice outside of school, but I’ve always been big into history and math, and have maintained an enthusiasm for music theory since then.
When I was 19, one of my bros who had just started recording music hit me up like “Learn Fruity Loops--I don’t want to buy beats,” so I did. It quickly became my favorite way to procrastinate while I was in school. I always had my laptop on me, and I ended up sinking pretty much every waking moment of downtime into playing around with music production. My bro stopped rapping before I could even produce a single song for him, so by the time I was 22, I was sitting on like 100 gigs worth of beats. I thought “fuck it, I’ll write something.” Then, over the next year, I wrote all of the songs on my debut album, Midnight On Broadway & Myrtle.
Interviewer: What is your creative process like?
I could spend the rest of my life answering that question, so for now I’ll just describe how I assemble lyrics into songs. Over the course of a day as my mind is ricocheting between ideas, I’m constantly rephrasing and reframing the ideas that repeatedly pop up as my emotions fluctuate throughout the day and my perspective shifts. When I say something with a particularly rhythmic cadence or that I find clever and provokes critical thought, I stop to write. Usually I end up taking a period of 1 to 4 hours to write and refine anywhere from 4 to 64 bars in a sitting. By the time my rhyme book has about 200 new, unpublished bars, I’ll have recited them so many times that I can clearly see the connections between months worth of spontaneous thoughts. There might be two bars or two verses that were written in different drafts on different days, and I notice that I feel the same emotion when performing both of them. I’ll put them together and see if that feeling is amplified. Any song I write is a weeks/months/years-long stream of consciousness that only starts to make sense to me as I piece my emotions together in meter.
Revising lyrics to fit a beat is actually pretty easy because English has like literally a million words to choose from, and is pretty forgiving regarding syntax. Pretty much, my primary focus when writing is nailing the thematic concepts, because there’s effectively a limitless number of ways to paraphrase anything.
Interviewer: Has your musical journey had a deliberate direction?
Initially, it did not. When I started producing music for fun, I didn’t expect to ever drop an album. Now that I’m a full-fledged musical artist, I’m deliberate in making sure that having fun is my primary motivation. Whenever music starts feeling like work, I just step away and live my life until I feel like making music again.
Interviewer: What is your biggest musical challenge?
Currently, my biggest challenge is deciding what to write about. I’ve never deliberately chosen a topic and written an entire song about it. Bars often come to me at random, sometimes inconvenient instances, and I have to drop whatever I’m doing to write them down and flesh them out because I never know when that next spark of inspiration will come.
Interviewer: What would you be doing right now, if it wasn’t for your music career?
I have no idea. I had already started a STEM career before I decided to write an album, and so far they haven’t interfered with each other. I feel as though I have greater difficulty settling on something to do than coming up with something, because I feel as though I can always find whatever opportunity I’m looking for.
Interviewer: How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
I feel that the internet has improved the music business during my lifetime in that it has empowered artists so that they needn’t rely on others as much as they used to for the non-artistic aspects of the industry. It’s like Marx in music--the net is allowing artists to seize the means of production. I recorded an album by myself and made it available worldwide all from my parents’ basement. Tupac didn’t have that tech.
Interviewer: What is the best advice you’ve been given?
When I was little, my dad always advised me to be patient and to do things right the first time around (tortoise and hare type beat). I eventually developed a meticulous attention to detail in even the most tedious of work. I feel that this has enabled me to consistently plan and execute my ideas.
Interviewer: If you were talking to a younger version of you, what advice would you give yourself?
You don’t have to fight fire with fire. Every person you burn will haunt you for the rest of your days.
Interviewer: If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
The music industry has a long legacy of artists getting finessed out of their royalties by shrewd entrepreneurs. I’d educate artists and audiences about how they might be taken advantage of. I’ll try to progress the movement to “seize the means” in the music industry.
Interviewer: What’s next for you?
I’ve written about half of my next album, and I’ll be scheduling some singles releases this fall. I feel like I’ve significantly improved both my writing and production ability since MOBAM, and I’ve been experimenting with a broader variety of musical techniques, so I expect the upcoming releases to come out better than my first project.
Also, I really want to make a musical. I’ve always loved musicals, and I performed in a bunch at school when I was a kid. Carmen (for some reason nobody ever talks about an opera starring Beyonce), Hairspray, High School Musical, The Book Of Mormon, Hamilton--I’ll watch any theatre that comes with a rhythm. As soon as I figure out what to base the story on, I’m bussin’ out a musical.
STREAM CARTER-SENPAI'S MUSIC ON SPOTIFY BY CLICKING HERE!