There is no denying it, life is about change. Cliché as it may be, but the harsh truth is this life is built on impermanence as empires fall and new civilizations rise from its ashes. As part of this struggle, we are all met with obstacles that promote such change and based upon our own decisions; we effectively create our own destiny. As we trudge through the struggle, the simple act of faith that ‘tomorrow will be better’ can sometimes be enough to endure the pain we are dealt. Alone, that faith without the labor will be enough just to help get by until the next day. It takes action to overcome these hurdles in order to see those Better Days and that sentiment shines through on Minneapolis’ MC, Sean Anonymous & Producer, Dimitry Killstorm’s debut full length.
Between the disbanding the Bottom Feeders and raising popularity of Wide Eyes, Sean Anonymous knew that 2012 was now or never to make a name for himself as he set out as a solo artist. Determined to prove his merit for mystifying wordplay, he quickly began hopping on every feature that was sent his way while crafting out songs for upcoming Wide Eyes project as well as a solo project with DJ Corbett. Shortly after that, Sean Anonymous dropped his debut EP, Anonymo and launching his quick witted and quick spitting flows up the CMJ Charts and whipping crowds into frenzy across the map. Yet with all of acclaim, the Minneapolis MC felt like he needed to dig deeper on his full length debut. Thankfully, he was joined by his Wide Eyes’ producer and high school friend, Dimitry Killstorm to embark on their collaborative debut.
“The big difference between Anonymo and Better Days is that Dimitry and I were actually in the same city when working on the thing,” said Sean Anonymous. “When I was doing Anonymo, I started it when DJ Corbett was living in Minneapolis. But then he moved to Cincinnati. He was living halfway across the country, so he would just send beats and I wrote some raps that I thought were pretty tight and I flew out to Cincinnati to record it. There was less back and forth between him and I where Dimitry and I were going back and forth all the time. Dimitry lives 12 blocks away from me and we’ve always been really good friends. I would rap him the song as I was working on it. We would do post production stuff in the studio where we would chop up the beats certain ways. So it was kind of like a living breathing entity. As we worked on the album, it changed where we added another chorus to this song, added together breakdowns to this track. So it was more of a group thing and an evolving process.”
With Dimitry Killstorm’s masterful mix of sped up samples and thunderous collection of drums, Sean Anonymous was prepared to dive into some of the most intimate tracks of his career. Starting with the title track during the Anonymo recording period, he recounts trading verses with local rappers Shelltoe and Slim Chance of the Crunchy Kids when he pitched his second verse. Before he could finish the verse, the two by standing MCs spontaneously called out the intentionally omitted response portion of the song, leaving awakened Sean Anonymous to the magic before him.
“The album had a different name when we were starting out, but after listening to ‘Better Days’ a couple of times, I knew that this was the vibe of the album. I’m not sure if it was because we made the song and I focused on those words ‘Better Days,’ but somehow all the songs kind of went along with this concept and I hate saying concept and I don’t try to make concept albums at all. I’ll take a vibe over a concept and Better Days was the vibe…Long story short, Better Days to me was working through a lot of personal problems that I had in life and trying to make it better. So I think the whole album has a slightly morose vibe with a tinge of things will get better if you work for them.”
As they continued to create, the former GrindTimeNow battle champion found himself going bar for bar with some of his longstanding idols including Del the Funkee Homosapien, Aceyalone and Wordsworth as well as respected peers such as Haphduzn, Metasota, P.O.S. and former roommates, Lizzo & Phillip Morris. Despite his pride of kicking lyrics with the legends, Sean Anonymous was out to defy the old battle rapper stereotype and write songs with more depth. One such moment was captured in the song “What is Your Name” by allowing the listener to share in his own revelation of his namesake.
“I felt like I’ve known who I am for a while now, but I took the song very literally. The sample said ‘what is your name’ and right before writing that song, I googled what my name meant. My first, my middle and my last name. The first one, Sean turned out to be mean ‘a gift from God.’ So the verse was inspired by who I am obviously, but the idea of why did my parents name me this? Since they took their time in naming me, what does that say about me as a person since my parents chose this specific name for me? That’s what that verse is about. Looking into what my name meant and my reaction to it. That’s why I say ‘name’s Sean Anonymous, son of an Irish Immigrant’ for my Dad to come to this country and still be alive to this day is a trip and for everything that he went through in this life. And for my mom and everything that she went through in this life. For them to give me a name like that, it had me floored. Thinking about it makes me get goosebumps. That’s what that song is about living up to the name that my parents gave to me. I’m not a religious person, but to be named a gift from God is a very beautiful thing and doing what I can to live up to my name.”
Along with detailing his name’s origins, Better Day’s greatest strength comes from Sean Anonymous’ unflinching vulnerability in sharing the pain that sparked the overarching vibe. Inspired by the loss of his mother, Sean Anonymous admits that he fell into a rough patch in 2012 that left him broke, in doubt and to the vice of alcohol. Through the support of friends and music, Sean Anonymous was able to transcribe his hurt into songs such as “Pack Your Bags” and “Invisible Ink” where he is able to tackle issues such as his parent’s divorce as well as the friction of time devoted to family and ambition. Yet no song is more powerful as the closing track “Timeless” where the listener can hear the tears being choked back in his somber dedication to his mother.
“People will say that ‘I wrote this out of a bad feeling and I just needed to get this on the page.’ I totally dig this, but it made it hurt worse while doing it. There’s certain songs like Timeless and I wrote the song thinking that it would help get that off my chest, but it literally took me a couple of months to write. I’d work on it once or twice a week and I would write maybe two bars max before it got too real working on it, leaving me feeling depressed. People always say you should write it out and put it on the page and get those feelings out, but if anything, it made me focus on it way more. Looking back on this situation, I would rather look at these feelings than run away from them. In the long run, it is a therapeutic thing, but when I’m writing this thing out, it brought me back to the saddest place that I’ve ever been…At one point, I thought that I would never finish the song because nothing that I could write could give justice to a life, especially to the person that raised me and to one of the most amazing people to have ever lived.”
After 3 years of hard work and self-reflection, Sean Anonymous and Dimitry Killstorm are giving their album the justice of two night album release celebrations at the 7th St Entry on Friday and Saturday, July 17th & 18th with the company of some of the most exciting talent that the Twin Cities has to offer. On Friday alone, Sean Anonymous and Dimitry Killstorm will be joined by GRRRL PRTY’s Manchita, Crunchy Kids crooner Eric Mayson’s Detail, a storytelling set by the legendary Big Zach and hosted by MaLLy. And to make the weekend complete, Saturday’s show will be accompanied Haphduzn, The Rotation’s Finding Novyon, a production set from Mike The Martyr, Milwaukee’s own Klassik and hosted by Muja Messiah. With a lengthy list of local talent, Mr. Anonymo explains it’s more of a family affair than a rap show.
“I feel like I have specific reasons for everyone fitting into the bill. Number one, which is over encompassing of all of them, is that they are some of my favorite musicians and artists as well as all being people that have shown love over the last 10 years of me rapping. Starting with Big Zach, who was the first guy to ever put Wide Eyes on our first show when I was 17-18. I wanted him to be a part of this because I’m pretty sure he has been a part of every CD release that I’ve done since I started. I’ve known Eric Mayson through doing so many shows together with Crunchy Kids and Toki Wright. Not only does he have the best voices and plays keys beautifully, we’ve made some music together and he has always been a real supportive dude. Same with Manchita. I’ve known her for years and we have had great conversations. I’ve known Haphduzn from battles and he has always been a really cool dude. I know he would have my back if some shit hit the fan. It goes beyond music. I’ve chilled with all of these people and they have all been super supportive while being amazing talented musicians and artists. Really they’re people that I’ve been seeing for years and people that I’ve been respecting for years.”
As duo continues to make music together, Sean Anonymous admits that fans will have to wait another couple of years before releasing another full length. Until then, the Vermin Elite will be joined by DJ Name on tour before the year is out. While life may not be slowing down for them, Sean Anonymous seems to have found his way to a brighter tomorrow and he is not planning on changing course.
Check out Better Days on their Bandcamp. Better Days Release Shows are going down on Friday, July 17th & Saturday, July 18th at the 7th St Entry. Be sure to stay up to date with Sean Anonymous on his Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud and his website here.