Andy Mineo Talks Rapper’s Activism, the LGBT Community and Prince
There’s a slight breeze in the air on a beautiful Saturday night in Los Angeles. It’s the first time Andy Mineo is in the City of Angels headlining his own tour. In honor of his sophomore album, Uncomfortable the Wiltern Theatre is packed for his Uncomfortable 2.0 Tour. Mineo’s fan base, which ranges from kindergarteners to adults of all shapes, colors and sizes are grateful; excited that Mineo has returned to the West Coast. The audience is not the stereotypical "hip-hop crowd." But the Andy Mineo experience is just not any rap concert. He is lead by faith and is a Christian who happens to be an MC--and it shows.
Swerve Banzinni set up the pre-game with a series of talented acts including SPZKRT; and after an appearance from Andy's wife, it's time for Mineo to take center stage. The room goes pitch black, as two perpendicular screens tease visuals. Seconds later the drummer and pianist are in unison and it’s not hard to figure out “Uncomfortable” is the opening track. A burst of excitement rips out from concertgoers waving cellphones up in the air in attempts to capture every moment.
We chopped it up with the "Vendetta" rhymer backstage before the show. Excited to be back in L.A. for the first time since fall, Mineo talked about the downfalls of Twitter, his favorite artists of the moment and how Lauryn Hill and Prince brought God into secular music. Peep the full interview below.
The Boombox: What do you think of the voice Christian rappers have in socio-political commentary today?
Andy Mineo: I am going to split it up into artists, then Christians, then Christians who are artists. I would like to think that the Christians are the most equipped to deal with the messiest and stickiest issues of life and be the ones who are leading in conversations about justice, race, forgiveness, reconciliation, equality etc. But sadly, in a lot of ways, the church in America needs to grow in doing better in those conversations and sharing the perspective of the Bible faithfully and lovingly in a changing culture. I don’t want to diss the church and say that they are not capable of having these conversations. I just think they are not leading in some of the conversations that are coming up today.
How did you step in and provide the platform for those discussions? As an artist, what do you bring to those conversations to your music?
It’s the personal responsibility of every person to be educated in matters of our history as a country. I make it my business to be around people that don’t look like me, or think like me or act like me. I want to learn from them. My wife [Christina Mineo] is a minority. She is Boriqua. I married a woman who has a totally different life experience than I had. By being married to her I have been able to learn and grow and be challenged in a lot of my perspective. A lot of my friends--I am the only white person in their circle. Being able to hear other perspectives besides the white conservative approach has really given me a perspective that I want to share and challenge people to think about. I take the time to talk about those things in my songs.
What’s life like in Washington Heights? What are some of your favorite spots to grab food?
Definitely have some spots. I mean Washington Heights in known for Malecón. Then I hit my spot Apartment 78 in Dyckman. Actually--rest in peace Apartment 78; they just closed down. The owner Jose is opening up a new spot. I also hit up España [La Nueva España], right around the corner from me on 207th. My wife and I also love Indian Road Cafe. We go there all of the time for breakfast.
You’re immersed in hip-hip culture just as much as you are in your faith. As a Deacon how do you bring hip-hop to church and vice versa?
It’s interesting being a leader at my church and having this public platform. Because you belong to the world in some ways. Hip-hop has always been about keeping it authentic and being authentically you. That is what I try to do in my music and when I speak about the Bible. In the Bible there is sex, drugs and rock & roll, adultery and murder. It’s real stuff. There are real things that are not really communicated in our Ned Flanders [of The Simpsons] idea of Christianity. There is space for artists like me who want to talk about reality. My faith is a part of who I am, so it makes its way into all of that stuff: sex, money, relationships and life.
When you listen to your music it’s interesting how you take ancient Bible stories and bring them to life in your rhymes.
You know Lauryn Hill, she took a lot of stories from the Bible stories and was able to communicate them simply on Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Because there is such beautiful wisdom in the scripture for everybody whether you agree with everything in the Bible or not. There’s a lot more common ground then people think there is.
Back in February, you sparked uproar on Twitter for your comments regarding rappers of faith using curse words: "Sad that so many Christians criticize other people on their faith journey. We don't leave space 4 them 2 be journeying. They're either IN or OUT."
Is social media making it easier for people to criticize one another?
The criticism is easier, because it’s like a bathroom wall. You write something and you don’t see the person. They are hiding behind a screen. A lot of things that I read and see on the internet--no one has ever said to me in my face. Social media is ruthless because there are no repercussions for your actions if you don’t have to show your face. Also it just gives little snapshots of people. We know that real people are a lot more complex and more than just their highlight reel on Instagram or their failed reel on IG. We take failed moments and expose them and I think it’s cruel. People are changing, evolving and learning and growing and when you put something on the Internet from five years ago it’s there forever.
On your song "Uncomfortable" you say: "I apologize for Christians with pickets sayin' 'God hates f-gs.' I promise Jesus wouldn't act like that." That's a powerful line. Why was it important for you show your support for equality?
I desired to honor them [LGBT community] as people in the image of God. Nobody--regardless of how they feel or behave--deserves to be on the other end of receiving hatred and discrimination. I don’t care who you are. There’s a bigger conversation there about honoring and respecting people who are different from you. One of the trickiest things [that] people can’t wrap their mind around is how you can honor and respect someone and still not agree with them. How do you look at Donald Trump or someone who is a polarizing figure and say ‘I respect you?’
Did you grow up listening to Prince? He was a secular artist but a lot of his songs like “Adore,” “1999” and “Let’s Go Crazy” were full of spiritual undertones masked in sexuality.
Honestly, Prince was before my time but I did know his big songs. Like, I don’t know the catalogue of all of his music. But I respected him for one, his ability to play basketball, and his crazy ability to play, like, 40 instruments. He was a child prodigy. He’s always been a legendary figure in music to me.
I am not sure if you know but Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness later in his career. Devout in his faith he still was able to create amazing music that spoke to people of all walks of life. Is it kind of similar to what you are doing?
Absolutely. I think what is interesting about art is that all art is not literal and I don’t think it should be. But that’s what gives us the creativity and freedom to pull different ideas and images. We can make things provocative and call people to think. We can cause people to question lyrics and think deeply when they engage with music and art that way. That is what guys like Prince did; what I am doing--and a lot of artists. Everybody at their core has some sort of desire for meaningfulness and purpose. I think that spirituality speaks most deeply to it and it’s woven in a lot of people’s music.
Who are you listening to now? Would you consider collaborating with any of them?
I have been listening to Jack Garratt a lot now. He’s the man. He has a song called “Worry.” He’s a freak; he plays, like, four instruments and does all of them at the same time live. My man Jon Bellion just dropped “Guillotine." It's crazy. He makes fusion music: soul, R&B, hip-hop and indie rock. I really like all of those genres and to get them all in one is everything for me.
What’s next for Andy?
I am working on a lot of music, man. After I get done with this tour I am going to start getting ready for summer festivals. I am also working on an 8-bit animation cartoon and a children’s book. The cartoon, League Chumps, is a mockumentary about tour life. It’s going to be released on YouTube. That’s coming soon.