Syd Isn't Rushing Her Moment : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders It's Tuesday: Sam talks to Syd, a breakout star of the hip-hop collective Odd Future, about her new band, The Internet, and about being free to bring herself to the music. Tweet @NPRItsBeenaMin with feels or email Tickets to our October 2 live show in LA are at
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Syd Isn't Rushing Her Moment

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Syd Isn't Rushing Her Moment

Syd Isn't Rushing Her Moment

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Hey, y'all. From NPR, I'm Sam Sanders. IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. Today on the show, Syd, formerly known as Syd the Kyd. She is a songwriter, a producer and she's the lead singer of the band The Internet. Syd is having a moment right now. She was featured in Drake's "Nice For What" video. Her songs have appeared on HBO's "Insecure." And her group The Internet, they're out with a new album called "Hive Mind." Syd first came to prominence as a part of Odd Future. It's this Southern California hip-hop collective that has made a few stars - Frank Ocean...


FRANK OCEAN: (Singing) A tornado flew around my room before you came...

SANDERS: ...Earl Sweatshirt...


EARL SWEATSHIRT: (Rapping) Something sinister to it. Pendulum swinging slow, a degenerate moving.

SANDERS: ...And the leader of Odd Future, Tyler the Creator.


TYLER THE CREATOR: (Singing) I said, I'm sick of, sick of, sick of, sick of chasing. You're the one that's always running through my daydreams. I can always see...

SANDERS: In Odd Future's heyday, the group, especially Tyler, they got a lot of criticism for lyrics that some people thought were sexist and homophobic. And Syd was in the middle of all of this. Those weren't her lyrics, but she was the only female member of the group. And there was also media speculation about her own sexuality. Syd talked to me about how she's navigated all of that then and now. And we also talked about her newest album with The Internet "Hive Mind," which I got to say is this perfect, chilled-out R&B for a late summer drive in Southern California or anywhere you might be for that matter. As a warning, this chat includes some vulgar words a bit later. We do not bleep them. All right. With that, here's my chat with Syd. She joined me in our Culver City studios. Enjoy.


SANDERS: You seem very much like a West LA person.

SYD: I'm from midtown.

SANDERS: Where about?

SYD: Like Crenshaw and Venice.


SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: I was saying that because so much of the new album gives me this, like, kind of close-to-the-beach vibe.


THE INTERNET: (Singing) And I want those eyes.

SYD: I get that. It's a vibey, flowery, kind of breezy...

SANDERS: It's in no hurry.

SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: It's in no rush.

SYD: Yeah. That's LA for sure.

SANDERS: Right? I like that.

SYD: Yeah, I was talking to somebody about it last night. They were saying they love New York 'cause basically there's always something to do. And I was like, yeah, I get that.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SYD: She said, like, in LA, I just feel like I could just sleep all day.



THE INTERNET: (Singing) Today or tomorrow, what we've come to...

SANDERS: Like this song is not in a hurry.

SYD: (Laughter) It's not.

SANDERS: It's just, like, vibey. Like, what is the vibe? Describe that vibe.

SYD: Well, it just - it gave me a reflective vibe.

SANDERS: I could see that.

SYD: You know, so...

SANDERS: Reflecting on what?

SYD: Reflecting on just where we are as a human race.


THE INTERNET: (Singing) They're going to get us to come together.

SANDERS: Do you think it's at a good state right now?

SYD: I think it's been worse, and I think it's been better (laughter).


SYD: I just try to look at the bright side and what we can be grateful for.


SYD: And of course there's always something for us to work on as human beings.

SANDERS: What are you working on right now as a human being?

SYD: Being more present...


SYD: ...'Cause I've suffered from depression and anxiety in the past.

SANDERS: Really?

SYD: And I think it's all brought on by either focusing too much on the past or too much on the future. So lately I've been trying to really just enjoy the moment and not be in a rush.

SANDERS: You made a bunch of music in your parents' house coming up.

SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: When did you start making music?

SYD: Fourteen, I started just making beats.

SANDERS: With what stuff?

SYD: GarageBand (laughter).


SYD: Yeah, I just had, like, a little MacBook, so I started playing around on there. And then, slowly but surely, I started buying, like, equipment to record...


SYD: ...Other people.

SANDERS: Yeah. Were you good at first?

SYD: No. I don't think - I don't know if anybody's really good. There are probably beats that I would look back on and be like, wow, that was fire. But at the time, I thought it was trash.


SANDERS: One song that I'm hearing all the time is "Roll - in parentheses - (Burbank Funk)."

SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: You know you're all over KCRW, right?

SYD: Really?

SANDERS: Oh, my goodness. They're playing this song every two hours.

SYD: What?


THE INTERNET: (Singing) Listen to your heart.

SYD: That's awesome.


THE INTERNET: (Singing) Listen to your heart. What's it saying?

SANDERS: And, like, this is one of the tracks on the album that's a little more up-tempo.

SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: But it's still chill...

SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...Which I like.

SYD: We were feeling very - what's the word? - righteous that day.

SANDERS: Really?

SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: Explain this to me.

SYD: We made this instrumental in Burbank, hence the title.


SYD: And it's - Patrick pretty much made the whole thing. He gave - he came in with this drum loop that he had gotten...


SYD: ...From a folder that Steve gave him. And then...

SANDERS: These are both guys in the group?

SYD: Yeah.


SYD: Patrick's the bass player. Steve's the guitar player. And so Patrick came in. He's, like, man, I have this bass line to this drum loop.


SYD: It's been stuck in my head. And he played that, and we were, like, yes.

SANDERS: (Laughter).


THE INTERNET: (Singing) As you're coming down...

SYD: We didn't write this song - the lyrics - until we rented this house in Agoura Hills.

SANDERS: So y'all were just making music all over the place.

SYD: All over the place.

SANDERS: I love that.

SYD: Yeah, it was great. It was a good vibe - and just all living there for, like, a week and...

SANDERS: Really?

SYD: ...Going to the store, getting groceries for a week. Chris'll bake some chicken, or Matt'll make some pasta, and we'll invite a couple friends over and just live for a week.


THE INTERNET: (Singing) Star shine so bright. It's all in your heart. They're up so high. It's all in your heart. I want to fly...

SYD: Honestly, for the first five days or something, we didn't make any music (laughter).

SANDERS: Really?

SYD: We just played laser tag and...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SYD: ...And, like, listened to music really loud. And, like, it was fire.


THE INTERNET: (Singing) All night, all night, all night, all night, all night.

SANDERS: So it seems like you all get along pretty well because you're holed up in these houses for weeks at a time. Y'all can just chill and vibe and...

SYD: No, we...

SANDERS: ...Eat and cook and be together.

SYD: Yeah. We really - we're really friends in real life. I'm really grateful for that...


SYD: ...Because throughout my whole childhood, I've always been slightly an outcast in a lot of the circles that I have...

SANDERS: Just slightly?

SYD: ...Found myself in. Yeah, just slightly. Like, I'm really shy. I was really shy, so I ate lunch by myself. But I played basketball.


SYD: And so, like, I was at the basketball court every day with the boys, so the girls didn't really know me like that.


SYD: And then middle school, I started just sitting near, like, the black kids.


SYD: It's (laughter) just - that's all I can really say...


SYD: ...To describe that. I started sitting around the black kids and then playing basketball still, so I knew all the boys. But I was always really quiet. Like, nobody really knew me.

SANDERS: Did you want to give off that vibe? Or do you think external forces made you quiet?

SYD: No, I - I don't know. I think I'm just really shy.

SANDERS: So there's five people in this group. Seems as if you were not shy around the other members of the group.

SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: How did you get to that place with them? And how did you meet them if you're so shy?

SYD: So I met Matt on Myspace (laughter).

SANDERS: Whoa (laughter).

SYD: ...2008.

SANDERS: Throwback.

SYD: Yes. Like, 2007, 2008.

SANDERS: Who hit up who?

SYD: I hit him up.


SYD: He had a group at the time called the Super 3. And so I reached out to him. I was a fan. And I just said, hey, man. Like, I really like your music. Your beats are sick. Like, I wish I had a production partner, too, like, you know, because, like, my beats are cool, but I - there's always something I feel like is missing. And he was like, you don't need nobody. Like, you know, keep working on it. And I was, like, OK, cool. A little while later - maybe, like, a year or two later - I became a part of Odd Future. And he was already a part of Odd Future when I...


SYD: ...Initially hit him up.

SANDERS: So you liked Odd Future as well.

SYD: Yeah.


SYD: I liked their music. It was different.


SYD: ...Like, the production.


ODD FUTURE: (Rapping) He did come back, though.

To have some type of knowledge, that is one perception. But knowing you own your opponent is a defeating bonus. I'm Zeus to a Kronos...

SYD: It taught me a lot about performing. I never performed before until I started DJing for them.

SANDERS: How old were you when you began to DJ for them?

SYD: Eighteen.

SANDERS: How was it?

SYD: It was stressful.


SYD: ...Because I didn't know what I was doing. Like, I...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SYD: I started DJing two months before my first tour.


SYD: And just - you know, they needed a DJ, and they didn't trust anybody. So I would have otherwise just been at home.

SANDERS: You're in this group, this collective, Odd Future, and, like, a part of whatever that family is. Like, but were you more comfortable in that setting, or were you still kind of outcast, kind of shy in the way that you were in school? Was it different for you?

SYD: No. I was still very shy and kind of outcast. I was good at outcasting myself just by being so quiet, you know...


SYD: ...What I mean?

SANDERS: And you liked that?

SYD: No, I didn't. I didn't. I don't know how I feel about it now. Now, I don't so much mind because I have good friends (laughter). Like...


SYD: You know, I'm an adult. I've got those friends that I've had for a long time. I've got enough friends.

SANDERS: And they get it.

SYD: Yeah. And I've got my family. Like, we're good. But growing up - no, it was more of a hindrance than anything, I think.

SANDERS: Being quiet.

SYD: Yeah, just being quiet, sometimes being too scared to speak up and ask for things. But I will say that that's the reason why I probably know how to do so many different things.

SANDERS: Because you were quiet.

SYD: Yeah. I was too scared to ask somebody else, how do I do this? So I would just go learn, teach myself.


SANDERS: All right. Time for a quick break here. When we come back, more music from Syd and The Internet. And we talk about how she's handled speculation about her sexuality. BRB.


SANDERS: There is this wonderful thing y'all do on the album where, like, these songs will kind of roll into other songs.

SYD: (Laughter).

SANDERS: ...Like, right on the same track.

SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: And I like it.


THE INTERNET: (Singing) You were nothing but a momental (ph) face.

SANDERS: There's this moment where "Next Time" becomes "Humble." I want to just play it so our listeners could...

SYD: OK, cool.

SANDERS: ...Hear it.


THE INTERNET: (Singing) Said hello...

SANDERS: So we're, like, in one song. I'm vibing. I'm cool. I'm cool. I'm, like, in the car with you.

SYD: (Laughter).

SANDERS: Fine. Fine. Fine.


SANDERS: And then I'm, like, OK.

SYD: (Laughter).


SANDERS: I'm, like, uh-oh.

SYD: (Laughter).

SANDERS: The car turned right.

SYD: (Laughter).

SANDERS: But where are we going?


SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: And then, before you know it...


THE INTERNET: (Singing) Hey, Miss Dreamy, tell me...

SANDERS: It's a different song on the same track.

SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: What are you trying to do there?

SYD: For one, I felt like both of these songs weren't strong enough to stand on their own. Let's just put two songs together, you know? Why not?

SANDERS: OK. So maybe I'm reading too much into it.

SYD: Well, that is kind of why "Next Time" came after "Mood."


THE INTERNET: (Singing) You wearing something kind of nice, too. I'm trying to get you in the right mood. Let me get you in the right mood.

SYD: ...Because on the end of "Mood," I say, baby, next time, I'll bring you flowers...


THE INTERNET: (Singing) Flowers, roses, exotic daisies. Next time I take you out, girl, don't you...

SYD: So then, from there, it's, like, OK, "Next Time."


SYD: OK, we have a song called "Next Time." Let's (laughter)...

SANDERS: And there you go.

SYD: Let's throw that next.

SANDERS: I love it.


THE INTERNET: (Singing) Say, baby, don't hate me. Scratch that. You probably gon' hate me. I'll probably drive myself crazy. My mind, the cloud is so hazy. But shawty (ph), would you be mine?

SANDERS: Do you ever hear from folks who are like, here is a deep thing I got from your music, and you're, like, no?

SYD: Yeah. For sure. But, like...

SANDERS: What's the weirdest interpretation of your music that you've heard from a listener or a fan?

SYD: Well, I don't think we get anything that's really too weird.


SYD: I think our music's pretty straightforward.


SYD: But I think just the general consensus over my career has been, at least with some people, that I'm, like, really doing this groundbreaking thing by singing songs about women and that I'm, like, doing it on purpose. And I'm really not (laughter), which is great.


SYD: You know?

SANDERS: It's just kind of, like, where you're at.

SYD: Yeah, I just - I date women, so I'm...

SANDERS: Well, and you...

SYD: ...Not going to write a song...


SYD: ...About a man. It just wouldn't be real, you know?

SANDERS: (Laughter) Yeah. Well, and then there are going to be folks that are going to hear you say, I date women, and not be satisfied with that.

SYD: (Laughter) Right.

SANDERS: Because there have been times where people...

SYD: What do you mean date?

SANDERS: Exactly.

SYD: You don't love women? Like, all right.

SANDERS: Like, is there a label on you? Is there a label on this?

SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: People are so - they want a label.

SYD: What's your pronoun and all that?

SANDERS: Do you do any of that stuff?

SYD: No. I typically just call myself gay.


SYD: ...Or Syd.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SYD: Matt told me this morning - he was, like, you're not even gay; you're just Syd, so, like, it doesn't even matter, you know? It's, like...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SYD: Cool.


SYD: That works for me.

SANDERS: Well, because there is a certain kind of - the culture, it seems, needs for people that they - that are queer - however you define it - to define it. What is your pronoun? What is - is it pansexual? Is it bi? Is it ambi? Is it this?

SYD: Right.

SANDERS: And you and a lot of other folks in Odd Future have been, like, F a label; I like what I like, and if I tell you a bit about it, you'll know, and if I don't, you won't.

SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: Do you get pushback from - I don't know - people in the LGBTQ community over that approach?

SYD: In the beginning, I did, because, you know, Tyler was thought to be homophobic (laughter) - like...

SANDERS: Well, this...

SYD: The group was thought to be homophobic.


SYD: And people were always questioning how I could be a part of such a group.

SANDERS: You know, I was reading - because you've talked about this before - Odd Future and the lyrics and how people were dealing with all that. But you've said before that, quote, "people choose what to get offended by." Why do you think people chose to get offended by some of the lyrics that Tyler was spitting with Odd Future?

SYD: Because, you know, a lot of people have experienced hate by way of these words. You know what I mean? Like...

SANDERS: Have you?

SYD: No. No, I've steered clear of it. You know...


SYD: Like, I've never - no one's ever come - yelled, you faggot, at me or anything like that. Nah, I've been very lucky.

SANDERS: I've gotten - I'm trying to think if I ever heard the F-word. I probably - I think I heard faggot.

SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: You get stares. Like, you know when you get the stares?

SYD: Yeah, yeah.

SANDERS: And that's usually...

SYD: I've been very lucky because I think, for one, a lot of people when they see - a lot of people that ignorant to have - people who are ignorant enough to do that usually think I'm a dude.

SANDERS: (Laughter) How does that feel?

SYD: I don't mind it.


SYD: It's only annoying when they try to tell me that I'm in the wrong restroom. Then it's like...

SANDERS: Then what do you do?

SYD: I tell them to mind their business (laughter).

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

SYD: It's cool, you know. I get it. I'm not - I don't get mad unless they come at me a certain type of way. If it's somebody, like, um, excuse me. You know this is the - I say, yeah, I know. And they're like, oh, I'm sorry. It's OK. But, for instance, recently, I was on a ferry, and I was in the restroom.

SANDERS: Where to?

SYD: From London to Ireland.


SYD: Yeah, I'm in the restroom. And I come out the stall. I'm washing my hands. Mind you - I've already left the stall, and I'm washing my hands.

SANDERS: You're done.

SYD: I'm done. Like, this woman comes out of the stall. She says, oh, this is the women's room. And I'm like, yeah, I know. I'm a woman. And, like, as I'm leaving the restroom - I'm drying my hands, and I'm walking out - another woman comes - is leaving the restroom, opens the door and points at the sign and like looks at me.

SANDERS: Oh, come on - like you can't read the sign.

SYD: And I'm like, didn't you just hear me tell this other lady that I'm a woman? Like, mind your business. And it's OK. Like I said, like, I can't be mad at someone for making a mistake like that - making an honest mistake. But when it gets kind of nasty...

SANDERS: That's not fun.

SYD: ...Or suspect, then I'm going to talk.

SANDERS: You've said, before in interviews, that your mother wanted two girls. She ended up with you and your brother Taco. And you say that that disappointed her. That hurt my heart hearing you say that.

SYD: You know - I mean, yeah, for sure. When I was like around 18, that's when I kind of started wearing more boys' clothes. And she didn't have a problem with me being gay at all.

SANDERS: Really?

SYD: But I think - you know, I'll let her speak for herself when I get home. But I think that she had built this idea in her head of having two daughters in the future and going shopping with them and dressing them up in girls' clothes when they were younger and stuff. And I was never into that. I mean, now she accepts me for who I am. She's like my biggest fan.


SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: I love it.

SYD: And she's the only one, I think, who's like truly honest with me too. And I appreciate that because now, you know, sometimes it gets hard to, like, find somebody who's willing to hurt your feelings...

SANDERS: To help you.

SYD: Yeah, to help you.


SANDERS: One more quick break here. In a minute, Syd's thoughts on why there are so few women producing and mixing in hip-hop today, also the R&B singer that she always reminds me of - BRB.


SANDERS: There are not a lot of women producing R&B or hip-hop or anything in that vein. Did you - like, in your production and your work, how many times have you crossed paths with another woman, female producer?

SYD: I know a few. I know quite a few nowadays. I run into more songwriters that are women. And I know a couple of female engineers now too. I'm trying to advocate for more of that kind of stuff.

SANDERS: Why do you think there's been a lag to get women into the production-engineering side, not so much the writing-singing side?

SYD: To be honest, I think a lot of it is interest - just general interest. I don't think there's as many women interested in that career path.

SANDERS: Why do you think that is?

SYD: And maybe it's a nurturing thing. You know how it is when you grow up not thinking that something is possible 'cause you don't see it as something that's common. So maybe there's that. I know my mom wanted to be a producer.

SANDERS: Really?

SYD: Yeah, so - and I didn't find that out till after I had already started doing it, but I always knew she loved music. And for her, you know, she was just, like, yeah, it's a man's industry. And I...

SANDERS: She would say that?

SYD: Well, a man told her that, like, when she was coming up and, like, she was sitting in on some mixing sessions. She told me that once - one of my mentors actually - he became one of my mentors for a little while later on. But she told me that one time he told her, like, this is a man's industry.

SANDERS: Really?

SYD: So - and I don't know if he said that to mean, like, you don't belong or just to say, look, there's mostly men in here.


SYD: It's just a fact.

SANDERS: Did that make you want to do this more?

SYD: No. The driving force behind my desire to make beats is just being able to take credit for fire beats.

SANDERS: I wanted to ask you about your influences because there are - sometimes when I hear you sing and when I hear the songs where I am totally hearing and channeling one musician in particular. Can we hit "Know?"


SYD: (Singing) Baby, don't - let me go, babe.

(Laughter) Aaliyah?

SANDERS: You know.

SYD: I get that a lot.


SYD: (Singing) Baby, don't - don't you know, babe?

SANDERS: That sounds like Aaliyah.

SYD: Everybody says that. That's crazy.

SANDERS: (Laughter) How do you feel hearing that?

SYD: I'm flattered. I love Aaliyah's voice.


SYD: Yeah.

SANDERS: Were you into her growing up?

SYD: Yeah, I got her greatest-hits CD from a swap meet when I was a kid.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

SYD: And it was - it's amazing. Like, even her - just, like, even her stuff was Ginuwine, like "Final Warning," all - yeah, the Static Major...


SYD: ...Background...


SYD: ...Arrangements. Yeah.


SYD: (Singing) Here we are. All alone, babe. If we had a little more time, I'd take it slow, babe.

SANDERS: And you can hear - so, like, she's singing - (unintelligible) you're singing.

SYD: (Laughter).

SANDERS: The thing that I like about you and Aaliyah is that, like, there can be these moments where you're singing very delicately.


SYD: (Singing) Say no...

SANDERS: But I can still hear that you're in total control of your voice. You know exactly what you're doing. There are some people where they sing a little down because they don't - 'cause they can't do more. But, like, you're doing this on purpose.

SYD: Yeah (laughter).

SANDERS: And I can hear it, and - I don't know. It just works for me.

SYD: Thank you.

SANDERS: I like it.

SYD: It's interesting 'cause, like, I'm not - definitely not the best singer. I started late, and I know a lot of singers who can only do one or the other. Like, they can't - they either can't use their falsetto, or their high voice, or they can't use their chest.


SYD: I'm better at the delicate stuff.



SYD: (Singing) Don't tell them about it, baby. Don't let nobody know.

SANDERS: You've talked before about, like, not wanting to be in the spotlight, not wanting even to have, like, pictures taken of yourself sometimes. I forget where it was, but you said, quote, "I think I see myself differently than most people see me. I think everybody for the most part struggles with how they see themselves versus how the world perceives them." Explain that.

SYD: You know how it is when someone posts a picture of you?

SANDERS: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

SYD: And you hate it. And you're like, why would you post this of me?

SANDERS: That's most pictures of myself.

SYD: That's me.


SYD: So...

SANDERS: Why do you think that is the case?

SYD: I think, like I said, I see myself - I see the perfect version of myself from another angle. I've never been one for attention. Like, I'm not the type to yell in public 'cause I don't - don't look at me.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

SYD: When I'm onstage, it's another story.


SYD: When I'm performing...

SANDERS: Yeah. You're a different person kind of.

SYD: Yeah, when I'm, like, shooting a video or something, I throw this other version of myself. It's still me. It's just a side that - I don't know - I'm more comfortable with showing to people who care.

SANDERS: Do you have a name for that person - you know, like a Sasha Fierce going on or something?

SYD: I've been called Frisco (ph), the star child.

SANDERS: When you're onstage, or when you were, like, inhabiting...

SYD: Mostly just when I'm in my zone.


SANDERS: Frisco, the star child, aka Syd...

SYD: (Laughter).

SANDERS: ...Of Odd Future and The Internet. Thanks for being so open in this conversation.

SYD: Oh, thank you for having me.


SANDERS: That was Syd from The Internet. If you haven't already, check out their newest album. It's called "Hive Mind." They're also going to be on tour this fall, so you can see The Internet live. Speaking of live events, if you're in Los Angeles, we're coming to you on October 2 at the Montalban theater. Tickets are on sale right now. The link is in our episode data. Also, a reminder that this week, we're taking a break from our usual Friday wrap. In its place, you will hear not one, dear listener, but two conversations with Emmy nominees ahead of next month's awards. Talking with Brian Tyree Henry from the FX show "Atlanta" - he plays Paper Boi on that show - and also Rachel Brosnahan from "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." She is Mrs. Maisel. All right. Back to our regular schedule next week. Until then, thanks for listening. Talk soon.


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