Seers is a rapper. He grew up in Brevard, North Carolina, a sleepy, rainy and woodsy place outside of Asheville. At the moment, Seers isn’t eager to give out the name on his birth certificate. He wants people — listeners — to focus on the music, not on the story of the guy making it. Seers, 21, is a student at UNCG, studying communications, and he’s releasing a new eight-song E.P. — or maybe it’s a mixtape, depends on who you ask — called Where The Water Falls. I spoke to Seers this week by phone. He’ll be performing, with guests, following a listening party to celebrate the new release at Limelight in Greensboro, Thursday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m.
The music on Where The Water Falls has flashes of recurring Asian accents, a Chinese flute loop here and a kind of spartan rippling pentatonic zither sample there. If there’s a theme, the music is about understanding the cycles of nature, and finding fulfillment within that world, even if that means stepping back and boldly doing your own thing. His name, Seers, is plural, suggesting the inclusion of anyone who shares his vision.
“To become what you wanna be you gotta be what you wanna become,” raps Seers on “Run, Run,” a track off the new release.
It’s not hard to find hip-hop that’s about seizing what one is entitled to, defiantly demanding dignity, status, wealth and fairness in a world where one might feel denied those things. A proud confidence and swagger is part of hip-hop.
Seers isn’t making self-help rap exactly, but there’s an element of simple positivity, which isn’t always so simple in the end, encouraging people to be true to themselves.
“I think you should do what you like, look how you want, don’t fake it. Be who you are,” says Seers. He wants his music to somehow serve to advance that aim. “I want people to have a good time and for people to do what they wanna do.”
If you wanted to make simple knee-jerk assumptions based on superficial appearances, Seers might not seem like a rapper, judging from his outward style. A white dude, with long hair and a beard and necklaces, he could pass for a hippie.
Hip-hop is African-American music. It emerged from a party culture, in urban settings, in the late 1970s, with DJs, rappers and creative musicians piecing together sounds and textures using rudimentary technology and the funk and soul records of the recent past as source material. But hip-hop — like jazz, and blues and rock — has basically become American culture. Elements of the hip-hop aesthetic infuse pop, fashion, film and the visual arts. Seers gets all that.
“You definitely have to pay homage to the creators of this,” he says. “This is pop culture now, and this is how I was raised, but this was created by African-Americans.”
Seers says he’s been writing verses since he was in 8th grade or so. He says a taste for free-styling emerged during what he describes as a delinquent phase. He started putting out mixtapes in high school. He remembers Outkast, Beck, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash and C.C.R. as being the formative music he heard as a kid.
Some rappers flex their syllable-cramming skills. But there’s a lot of trap-tinged hip-hop that is less about dexterously rapped verses, with the focus being on hypnotic hooky loops, with fun-mirror effects on layered processed vocals. Seers uses multi-tracked vocals, digitally harmonized in some places and actually doubled-up and sung in others. The effect is kind of woozy, with piles of echoing and ricocheting vocals and vocal snippets ping-ponging around the mix of ominous string swells or mellow keyboard patterns. Elsewhere there’s a sleepy mush-mouthed flow, as if Seer is too chill to get worked up or animated about things.
There’s also a strain of stoner abstraction to some of Seers’ tracks. “Captain Oblivious” is built on a hypnotic lopsided jazz horn loop, with a lyric about how his “short-term self” isn’t paying much attention to its long-term counterpart, a variation on the live-fast-die-young theme. It also extolls the idea of building a hut in the woods and eating psychedelic mushrooms — checking out from the world.
I ask Seers if that’s a real-life goal.
“Hell yeah, dude, I’m definitely gonna build a cabin in the woods, for sure — that’s where I’m gonna do all my music,” he says.
Hip-hop — like jazz and the blues and indie rock — has its regional styles. And Seers is pretty excited about the caliber of music coming out of the state.
“North Carolina is definitely, definitely, definitely on the come up,” he says. “We have so many talented artists here.” He mentions High Point’s Tange Lomax as an example.
There’s regional pride, but Seers is also keen to collaborate with like-minded artists from around the country, having worked with producers and other rappers from the West Coast, D.C. and elsewhere. The fact that Seers is still in school means that he’s focused on a couple different things at the same time. He does shows around the state, but isn’t necessarily going on the road nationally any time soon. Seers says his studies in communications have helped him with music, and hip-hop has helped his studies as well, mastering confidence, public speaking and distilling a message. Ultimately, though, he sees the music as something more than just a way of transmitting an idea.
“I don’t want people to have to think so much about the songs,” he says. “I want people to just be able to zone and feel it.”
Seers performs, with guests, following a listening party to celebrate the new release, Where The Water Falls, at Limelight, 113 S. Elm. St, Greensboro, Thursday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m., limelightgso.com