Linafornia easily has one of the best stories to come out of the L.A. music scene this year. In 2013, a serious car accident put her in the hospital for two weeks and kept her away from the scene for months. It was a close call that gave her a respect for the fragility of things, and the lengthy recovery time gave her the space and motivation she needed to hone her beatsmithing skills. Her debut YUNG is intimate and personal, a journey through her own taste and a worthy continuation of the work done by predecessors like Madlib and Erykah Badu, who have both strongly influenced her. We met up outside a cafe in Leimert Park on a recent warm afternoon to talk about her newfound success and her plans for the future. She performs Upstairs at the Ace Hotel on Fri., Mar. 4, with DJs XL Middleton and Clifton a.k.a. Soft Touch. This interview by Chris Kissel." /> L.A. Record


March 3rd, 2016 | Interviews

Linafornia: I can’t do that. If I’m not fully confident in it, why would I present it? The feedback I get from people is always really positive, and it reaffirms what I already believe. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. If my pickiness and being hard on myself and giving myself the time to work on it until I don’t have any doubts is getting me all these opportunities, I’m going to keep that with me. I do want to find ways to expedite the process, and create beats faster. But as long as I’m satisfied with what I’m putting out there, that’s what matters to me. I know that if I am to put myself out there, I don’t want to half step. I do sometimes feel like some women—not all women, but some women in the music industry might half step, and feel like they deserve accolades and opportunities just because they are a woman pursuing music. Of course I’m a woman—yes I am—but I don’t want to be completely defined by being a woman. I just want to be dope, period. Beyond age, beyond gender. I just want to be talented and really exceptional at my artistry, period, regardless of my gender. That’s all. It’s cool that I’m a girl! But I’m good at what I do, regardless. No one wants to feel like, ‘Oh, she just won that battle because she’s a girl.’
You don’t want to be labeled a ‘girl producer.’
Linafornia: Yeah. I mean… there’s so much you can say about this.
We have a tendency to…
Linafornia: Focus more on me being a woman.
To make it a label.
Linafornia: Yeah.
Rather than just accepting it, knowing the music is made by a woman without using gender to push people into a niche.
Linafornia: I don’t want to be a niche. But there’s so much to be said about being a female producer, and going to these shows and being surrounded by males, who are also producers.
Do you feel like you have to try harder to prove you’re good?
Linafornia: Ninety percent, no. If I’m getting that many bookings, with this artist or that artist, with seasoned artists who created this type of music, or community—like Dibia$e or Ras G, they’re the forefathers, the foundation of the beat scene. If I’m getting booked with those people, it’s for a reason. And I don’t think I’ve ever been discriminated against. I’ve been embraced and welcomed. Just because of my art. They base it on if it sounds good. They don’t care what you look like, or what gender you are. If it sounds good, they’re gonna rock with it. That’s how I feel. If it’s dope, it’s dope. If it’s wack, it’s wack.
What first sparked your interest in making beats?
Linafornia: I was always a supporter. I remember going to my first show in 2011. My brother took me to this really crazy event called Bassface around Christmastime in 2011. It was my first beat show. There were so many heavy hitting artists there—Flying Lotus, Ras G, Teebs, Def Sound, Mono/Poly. It was my first experience watching these beat sets, and that’s what sparked my whole interest in the beat scene. That’s what sparked it. Being in front of these big huge speakers, with Ras G’s pounding bass vibrating through my whole body. And I was standing in the front row, like ‘Oh my God, this is amazing! I might be deaf tomorrow, but I don’t care!’ It changed a lot. The fact that [producers] are able to express themselves without having to say anything, that had appeal to me. I love that. I love to be able to express myself through the music. I don’t care as much for getting on the mic . I like being able to play these beats, and cut all over them, and do these weird effects. I’m expressing myself without having to talk.
You started making beats in 2014, right?
Linafornia: I started making beats in 2013, actually. I got my first SP-404 in 2012, and for a year I learned everything I could about everything the SP-404 could do. I experimented on tracks I like to listen to on the regular, by, like … Ras G and Samiyam and Flying Lotus and Madlib. I got into a car accident in the summer of 2013, and I was incapacitated. I fractured my hip and femur on my left, and I dislocated my elbow on my right. So I spent the summer and fall and winter learning how to walk again, and learning how to use my hands again. And making beats—trying to keep up with what other people were doing. Before the car accident, I was a volunteer for the street team at Stones Throw, for the premiere of Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton. [It] was so much fun. They showed me a lot of love, and I got a lot of free music because I was doing so much and spreading out all over the place. Stones Throw is definitely influential in my sound, and in my desire to make music. Before my accident, when I was promoting there, I had the idea that I wanted to do something with music, and to continue to do stuff with Stones Throw. But after I got in my accident it was hard to keep touch. So when I was recovering from my accident, I just wanted to work on music. Music has always been a huge part of my life, whether I was playing piano at the age of 8, or wanting to DJ at age 12, creating mixes and selling them at school, or rapping and writing lyrics at the age of 18 or 19. Music has always been something constant.
The car accident helped you focus on exactly what you wanted to do.
Linafornia: Yeah. I got into that car accident, and I feel like my whole paradigm shifted about where I want to be and what I want to pursue. And now doing music … it’s got me more opportunities. If all these opportunities are presenting themselves on this journey, this is something worth doing, to see how it’ll pan out.
So you got in this car accident, you started making beats at home, and then a year later, in 2014, you started performing them in public?
Linafornia: Yeah, I started coming back to Bananas the following year. I was walking. [And] I was still practicing my beat sets. I was always working on transitions, how to move from one beat to another. Then I finally started doing my own beat sets in the summer of 2014. And I’ve been booked almost every weekend since.
And the first time you ever performed music live was when you were doing these beat sets that summer?
Linafornia: Pretty much. I was in plays in middle school, musicals and stuff. But being in plays and reciting lines is totally different. I started doing the whole live beat mixing aspect in 2014. I’m friends with a lot of artists who like to throw events. Before I even decided to pursue the whole beat journey, I was already friends with these people. I love going to shows with beat sets. I love seeing Samiyam and Flying Lotus and Dibia$e. So for me to decide that I want to do it—and being already cool with different people who throw events—it was like they were already ready for me to do things. Before I started making beats, I would be rapping in cyphers with friends, and they wanted me to perform as a rapper, but I wasn’t really interested in performing as a rapper on stage. But I wanted to put myself out on the stage as a beatsmith—as a producer.
This all happened so fast. All of a sudden you’re winning these huge battles.
Linafornia: [laughs] Yeah. My first battle was in December, 2014, and it was a couple months after I’d started doing shows. I’d heard about Beat Cinema Beat Battle, and I thought, why not? I’ll submit and we’ll see what happens. And I got chosen to compete. So I went down to compete, and then I won. It was like… ‘OK! Cool!’ One of my most proud moments.
Do you have any leftover desire to work in the music industry—the path you were on?
Linafornia: I definitely don’t want to limit myself to just music. Before I started doing music, I wanted to come out with my own vintage collection for plus-size women. I still have my test shots and I have the clothes, and I never got it started because the music took off so quickly. I’ve always loved thrifting and fashion and clothes. Especially being a plus-sized woman in L.A. trying to find cute clothes—it’s not easy, and it can be really expensive. But I find ways to make sure I look the way I want to look and save money on that, and I want to provide a way for other women to do that, too. It’s another avenue, and I don’t want to limit myself.
What are your favorite records to just listen to?
Linafornia: Aquemini, by Outkast. I love Outkast so much. A Tribe Called Quest, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. ‘Luck of Lucien’ is one of my favorites. I can’t think of a more perfect debut album. Arthur Verocai. He’s a Brazilian composer who makes this beautiful music with strings and psychedelic guitar. And Quasimoto! Madlib is my favorite producer. Quasimoto The Unseen, and Madlib’s Medicine Show, Volume 2: Flight to Brazil. I have this really crazy story about how I got put on to Madlib. I used to be really cool with this guy named Vyron. He’s now known as Left Brain, from Odd Future. We used to go to Crenshaw [High School] together. I used to go over to Vyron’s house, and the first time I went over to Vyron’s house, he was playing that CD. He had a crate full of merch from Stones Throw, because Stones Throw was giving Odd Future a lot of love at the time. So he had a box full of dope music, like Lazer Sword, Madlib, all types of craziness. That was the first CD he gave me—Madlib’s Medicine Show, Volume 2: Flight to Brazil. Ahh. [sighs] I went down the rabbit hole and I never left. It changed everything for me. Because the way Madlib picks the records—his record collection weighs a ton. The [Medicine Shows] are basically collages of his record collection, and on this one, where he goes into music from Brazil, the compositions he picks… it’s so beautiful! It gives me chills every time I listen to it. For real. Also Erykah Badu, for sure. New Amerykah. That was one of my favorite albums to listen to. I know it’s a more recent one, but it’s my favorite. There are lots of really dope producers on it. Shafiq Husayn and Madlib produced it, and a bunch of other producers who are really amazing.
Is there anything else you want people to know about you at this point?
Linafornia: I don’t know, you know—this is all so new to me. I’m not used to doing photo shoots or being in front of a camera. Before my car accident, I never used to take pictures. I would go to all these shows, and I would never take pictures of myself with people. I think my attitude was like, ‘I’m here, I’ll remember it. Let’s live in the now! Why do we have to have our phones out all the time?’
What changed your mind?
Linafornia: I got into my car accident, and I was like, ‘Damn, I could have died.’ And nobody would have any memory of me, because I didn’t take any pictures. And now I’m doing all these shows … I have to document this. This is important. It’s really big for me. I have to document these moments. I have to have pictures from the beat battles that I win. I want to have memories.


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