“This is a movie. It’s a story and you have to struggle for greatness and without it, the greatness means nothing.”
Derek Smith, former drummer of post-hardcore band Four Letter Lie, began his journey as hip hop artist MOD SUN eight years ago, and has garnered a respectful and loving following through numerous projects and relentless touring. Up until recently MOD SUN operated independent of a record label, but has since signed with Rostrum Records to release his last two projects.
MOD SUN preaches a pseudo-hippy mentality, and promotes living the happy life to who he calls “friends” instead of “fans,” and his passionate following eats it up. Perhaps they love the message, or perhaps they love that MOD SUN lives his words every day, rather than just saying it. Whatever that may be, everything that MOD SUN is doing, is landing successfully.
Editor-In-Chief, Robert Sherman, sat down with MOD SUN right before he took the stage for a sold out show at The Shelter in Detroit.
Robert Sherman: So how is tour going so far?
MOD SUN: Best tour of my entire life that I have ever done. I’m having moments on stage where I do have them live, on all kinds of shows I’ve played, like when it was for no one. But now I’m like, “Damn, I feel like there is really something happened, there is something in the air.” It’s fun. I’m seeing a lot of new people, bro. Brand new people that I’ve never seen before. That’s kind of what you want the whole time, like building a substantial way to tour, you know? You do your work in that city, and people there tell other people, like “you can’t miss it next time.”
RS: The first time I saw you play, was right after Happy As Fuck dropped, it was up in Pontiac at The Crofoot – the upstairs in The Pike Room – and there was probably like thirty people there. So now, we fast forward to seven years after that dropped and you’re selling out places. How does that feel, going from that change, and all the hard work that you put in and preach to other people, how does it feel for you?
MOD SUN: It’s like this, like you said…seven years…so add another seven years onto that and that’s how long I’ve been touring, as a person in this world making music. So fifteen years of my life. So, at the point of, like, three years ago, my mind kind of already shifted to: I know I’m a performer. I know when I get on stage that it’s a special holy place for me. But I was already content with the fact that, if this shit doesn’t pop off, it doesn’t mean that I suck, you know? My mindset shifted to: if there’s not a lot of people at my shows, it doesn’t mean that I’m not popular, it doesn’t mean that I’m not doing good.
So, it’s funny to me, because if like five years ago, if I was at where I am now and shows are selling out, it could have affected and deterred my whole mission. Once you see what people want from you, a lot of artists will just start doing that, and I have never popped off, it’s never been like “Holy shit, it’s going down.”
Having it happen this far into my career is actually a really big reward, because I’m not nervous when I get on stage now. It’s really nice and it ties into my message. This is a movie, it’s a story and you have to struggle for greatness and without it, the greatness means nothing. At this point it really describes what I’ve wanted to do this whole time.
RS: Speaking of that, you’ve always had a message behind your music from the beginning, how has that evolved from the first EP you made, the one with P.O.S., on it. That was the first song I ever heard was “Keep It Moving,” you started with that, and there’s a message there, where has that gone to?
MOD SUN: Fuck yeah! See that’s nice because look at that song: “It don’t matter what you’re doing, just keep it moving,” It’s like that, that was always my mission was to in your mind continuing to push yourself and believe that you’re changing the world. Believe that you’re making a difference and believe that your story is historical. You can’t just have this perfect ride, man. There has to be something, you have to have that struggle, so the mentality of that song is the same type of shit that I’m still on.
The music has evolved, but I think that right now the music that I’m making has kind of come back to where it started, just mixed in with ten years of the MOD SUN experience. I produced all the beats on the first project that I dropped, then I went all this time working with other people, to then now in my recent project I produced all the tracks on it except for one. I feel like that’s a big part of my essence, when I’m behind the whole creative part of it.
I’ve definitely tried a lot of things and experimented, I’ve never been afraid to experiment. My message is the same. You don’t hear me talking about doing hard drugs, and having sex, and all this shit. You don’t hear me doing that. You hear me doing songs like “We Do This Shit” where we’re going out and having fun, because that’s a real part of my life.
I think at this point in my life, I’m making the best music of my entire life and the stuff coming out are songs that go farther than my name, or anything. The type of shit where people know my song but don’t know what I look like.
RS: You put out Movie in 2017, and you put BB out in 2017 as well. What we’re the differences between those.
MOD SUN: I wrote Movie like it was the last record I was ever going to make, purely one hundred percent. I wanted it to be a story that started and ended, the last track is “The End or Start Again?” that’s the whole point of the movie. I wanted it to have a story line, to start and finish. The effort put into that was conceptual.
BB was totally being channeled. No second guessing, make the beat in twenty minutes and turn the microphone on, get up to the mic to rap your ass off, sing your ass off, put it all together, and be done with that shit. Very little going back. That’s the take, I don’t care if you don’t think it sounds perfect.
RS: Kind of like the acoustic EP you put out.
MOD SUN: Very much like First Take. Cool bro, you know all my shit man!
RS: Movie hit the BillBoard Heatseekers, was that a first for you, even with Four Letter Lie and everything?
MOD SUN: I think Look Up might have touched something like that. But yeah, it was and those motherfuckers still never sent me nothing to put on my wall that says it! Look, In Mod We Trust went number one on iTunes in hip hop. That whole thing made me feel like this doesn’t even feel real, but I don’t really believe in that shit anyway. That sales shit, those streaming numbers; I really don’t believe in them. I don’t think that determines shit, because I see artists all the time with a video that has thirty million views and can’t even go on tour, it doesn’t work.
It’s cool when that happens but until I have a plaque, that’s what I want. I want my MOD SUN plaque [laughs] for half a million records sold or a million records sold, I don’t care just give me one [smiles].