I enter an apartment on the outskirts of both the Tenderloin and Downtown San Francisco. It’s not the nicest, but for the right college student, it’s a luxury. Squeezed between a hostel and rent-a-car service, the place is tight enough to the point where your body slides along each of the walls. At the end of the second floor’s narrow hallway is the home of just another pursuing artist, Alix Castillo.
The place is tiny. A kitchen big enough to stand two people, a bathroom of equal-to-less size, and a living space that has become the setting for this interview. I believe the first thing to come to the eye is the random bits of money scattered about. A twenty here, a half-dozen one’s over there, and coins scattered across the floor. Then you have the endless amount of emptied cigarillo guts and packaging. Mostly Backwoods.
Alix leased this little home out himself for $2,000 a month. Regarding the fact that he’s a full-time college student, you can assume the struggle. Life is never easy, but when you’re trying to make it in the most expensive city in the country, it becomes a difficulty the average fella can’t handle. And that’s what makes Alix not your average fella. For since the age of 19, he’s been managing his income to afford San Francisco living.
When considering where any individual discovers the motivation for this sort of persistence, we must look into their roots. Alix was born and raised on the outskirts of Chicago. It’s well-known that this isn’t the safest of places in America and Alix’s childhood was no exception. A place where gunshots become nightly lullabies.
Growing up with a single mother, he saw the struggle of the everyday individual. Claiming that seeing someone work so hard in order to support you really puts your head into perspective.
In comparison to his hometown, Alix asserts that he feels as though he’s living the life he’s always wanted to. His tight-group of Chigacon friends has turned into a blooming San Franciscan crowd. He says the city is a place where people are more open and accepting of those around them. All while offering different perspectives to be considered. And without that attitude, living here wouldn’t be as manageable.
However, there is one other aspect that has helped him greatly along with his journey. Upon first moving to the Bay Area, Alix will admit that he smoked a lot of weed being that it was cheaper and of better quality. After living in a college dorm for some time, a number of individuals were asking him where they can find some. This led him into the business. It started off small but soon proved to be a very profitable part of his daily routine.
Alix would like to note that it’s not something he’s proud of. Nor is it something he wants to be known for. It’s a means of making an income, just like flipping burgers at a McDonalds. He doesn’t deny that it’s apart of him and has helped him greatly in the past two years, yet, he remains persistent on a persuasion that matters more. Producing rap and hip-hop beats.
Though he grew up listening to electronic and metal music, his step-father, Miguel, introduced him to hip-hop. This eventually led him to focus on the sounds of the beats. Asserting that it always sounded good to him and filled his head with an indescribable chemical. Upon telling his mother that he wanted to get into music, she had some objections – just as any responsible parent might. However, after years of persistence, she supports him in his venture.
Nowadays, Alix feels inspiration from fellow pursuing artists. He gives a shoutout to the African Cowboy.
Where do you desire to take yourself?
Honestly, I’ve been learning to make music since I was sixteen. I’m twenty now. And I’m going to school for it. I feel like I have the skills and I’m getting the connections to be able to just produce and collaborate. Eventually, I’d want to get to the point where I can just freelance and do whatever I want. By then I can be more subjective about my projects. I’d like to have my own studio where I can invite friends and just hang out and make music. I’m currently learning to make music for movies – at school – and it’s not what I originally wanted to do, but it’s growing on me. I think that’d be hella cool too.
How do you hope to influence other people?
I just want to influence other people the way I was influenced. Whether that be them just liking it or wanting to emulate it to where they can make it sound their own. If I can help them do that, it’d be awesome. I want to make a sound that people can just gravitate to and really appreciate it. A sound of my own. When you hear it, you know it’s mine. I think those sounds are what really inspire other people.
If you lived in a generation prior to rap/hip-hop, do you still think you’d be pursuing music?
Um… I have no idea. That’s a good question. [Laughs] I guess, maybe. Like I said, I grew up on more electronic and rock, but at that time, I never really thought about making music. Electronic music sounded too complex and I don’t play instruments. So, I never saw it as an option. I guess I probably wouldn’t be pursuing music. I think I’d be a chef. I like eating. [Laughs]
Besides money, what has been the biggest difficulty living on your own in San Francisco while pursuing your dreams?
Just the workload. I’ve never been this busy in my life. I remember in high school everything was just a breeze. Even though I didn’t like high school, I skipped a lot. But there was a routine that was easy to follow. I got too comfortable in that. It wasn’t until I got my own place that I really had to buckle down and prepare myself for the habits that you see now. Trying to slack as less as possible. Doing what I gotta do.
Any future plans?
I’ll be graduating in May, this is my last semester now. After, I’ll still be going to school. But I want to focus more on putting myself out there, collaborating, and just putting pieces and compositions out. I have a lot of things I’m sitting on that I’m not really letting people here and there’s no point to that. I want to go back and perfect them and see where they go. I just want to grow a following, honestly.