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“BE YOURSELF, BE YOUR OWN CROWD! I FLY SOLO. MY FEATHERS ARE CUSTOM MADE, BUT AT TIMES I WOULD FLY WITH SOME OTHER SOLO FLIERS OR A COOL FLOCK, BUT THEN I REMEMBER THEY ARE NOT ME.

- iLOVEMAKONNEN

December 2008, giving advice to
forlorn friend (possibly himself)

It is a brisk, sunny afternoon in early March, ten days before Makonnen Sheran is to move to San Francisco. A seven-block stroll down Broadway from the Flatiron Building has deposited him at Union Square. He now strolls through Union Square and surveys his surroundings.

He’s sleek, slimmed down from a 42-inch waist to a 32 in the past year, his hair shorn tight to the scalp. He warms his hands in the pockets of a custom Basquiat-ish bomber jacket made for him by a designer friend. Ornamental padlocks hang from the heels of his sneakers. Oversize reflective sunglasses swivel hither and yon. I walk beside him and comment on the surprising absence of people, litter, & sacks of garbage around us. It’s about a pleasant an urban tableau as you’ll find in New York. But Union Square’s mid-day serenity does not stir Makonnen. He shakes his head and wonders aloud: “Where is the reality?”

Makonnen’s current quest to locate reality is not the same quest he was on in early 2014 when he released “I Don’t Sell Molly No More.” Strawberita dreams turn to champagne reality. That quest was aspirational -- the quest of a budding artist with a modest yet passionate internet following.

A few months later, Drake’s “Tuesday” remix blew the lid off Makonnen’s industrious grassroots internet operation. Makonnen became famous overnight. He signed to OVO Sound and moved from Atlanta to New York City, thus making his formal entrance into the music industry. He has been in a tumultuous relationship with the music industry ever since. It demands much of him, and he demands much of it. Stardom is not the land of milk and honey he had hoped it would be.

Back at HNHH HQ after Union Square, Makonnen enumerates his industry frustrations. It’s not as lucrative as he would like (“I can’t even get a residency in Vegas off of my ‘Tuesday’,” he laments). It’s filled with simple-minded opportunists (“Rappers are fronts and fakes”). He must shoulder the burden of realness alone (“Unfortunately, it sucks that Makonnen is the realest person here”).

“I gave New York a chance,” he tells me. “I was searching for... I dunno, like the art scene, not the art scene, but something that I was searching for and I didn’t find it here. And I was just looking in Manhattan. I’m sure it’s out in Brooklyn.”

Makonnen was impressed by the number of locals yelling at parking meters last time he was in San Francisco. Other than that, he seems a bit unsure of what he will find when he moves there. “I’m not really moving there for music,” he explains. “I’m moving there to use my mind in different ways. Like technology.”

Aside from a potential tour with Lil B, Makonnen hopes to pivot away music and utilize his creative mind for entrepreneurial ventures, details of which he is reluctant to discuss. He needs seed money, and knows that many investors (or “big tech dads,” as he calls them) dwell in that distant peninsula of hills and fog.

Makonnen recently invited a 20-year-old kid from the projects up to his Chelsea apartment to help him pack his designer clothes under the pretense that they would be sold on eBay. “After it was all packed up, I told him, ‘you can have all this stuff, this if for you,’” Makonnen says. “Let it go to somebody who’s really gonna clothe himself in that OVO goose when it’s cold outside. Nigga probably doesn’t even have Instagram.”

IT WAS “A LONG TIME AGO” WHEN MAKONNEN FIRST CONCEIVED OF HIS ALTER EGO:

THE RED DRAGON

“As a kid, I used to see these monsters and things in my face and like scales,” he says. “And I never really knew what it was. Until I started going deeper in my mind and figured out what it was. It was weird, I used to scare myself looking in the mirror, I would see this beast in my face. It changes, its skin changes, I would look at myself and start seeing horns and fucking red scales, like a dragon. And then one time, I put all the bullshit aside and got into myself and just accepted what it is.”

Makonnen moved from LA to Atlanta when he was 13 to live with his mother, a nail technician. She bought him a keyboard and he would make beats for her to sing over. They made three albums together.

The night after his high school graduation in 2007, Makonnen sat in a parked car smoking weed with his friends. A gun rested on his friend’s lap. Makonnen had just watched his friend remove the clip but still wanted to remove the gun from the car. Not knowing there was still a bullet in the chamber, he reached for the gun. It slid off his friend’s lap and the trigger fired and the bullet struck his friend in the head, killing him. Makonnen spent the next month in jail and the next two years after that on house arrest, living with his mom, two dogs, Roland keyboard, and Gateway computer while he waited for the case to go to trial.

He launched a blog called The Newness in January 2008. For four years, The Newness served as a creative outlet and public journal in which Makonnen documented his adventures on the digital high seas. He interviewed future stars like Lil B and Miguel, posted tributes to his favorite bands, and shared new movie trailers and European fashion trends. The blog has since been taken down but a few dozen screenshots have been preserved in digital amber at WaybackMachine.org.

In 2009, Makonnen was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to five years of probation. In 2010, he started posting original music to his blog. In one 2011 music video titled “The Newness”, he wanders around Atlanta carrying Martha, one of the mannequin heads he had saved from his brief stint at cosmetology school. Martha wears black lipstick, a shock of magenta hair, and a red Phantom of the Opera mask. Written in marker across her hairline is “ILOVEMAKONNEN” -- the moniker Makonnen chose for himself to fight depression and an apparently never-ending torrent of internet hate.

“It was just a big Makonnen Ain’t Shit Fest,” he recalled in a 2014 interview with The Fader. “All the negative shit that you could think about the name Makonnen, they threw it at me. If I let the outside hate get inside of me, I would have probably killed myself. That’s what they were trying to push me toward. But I knew the truth about me. I love Makonnen. Just say it in your mind and you’ll start believing it. I used to chant it in my house. I had to love myself and stay strong.”

Makonnen says he’s since grown immune to the hate, but he still frames his personal struggles with fame as a dissonance between Makonnen, self-contained individual, and iLoveMakonnen, public citizen. “It’s not easy being Makonnen,” he says. “But it’s a little easy being iLoveMakonnen. So I like to just hide behind my brand.”

It is ironic that someone obsessed with realness would create a persona -- iLoveMakonnen -- whose very purpose is to love and protect the real Makonnen.

“I’m a guy from the internet,” he says angrily. “The whole iLoveMakonnen brand is about being a person that’s a real person. Now I feel like I can’t be that anymore, I have to start faking it up and living the Hollywood life. Because I’m famous and because that’s what people are interested in!”

“People think that when you get famous you hang out with Drake every night at Il Mulino, and you hang out with all these fashion people, and people give you free clothes, and you party, and your drugs are free, and everything’s just free, free, free,” he told GQ in 2015. “And you’re rich! You’re rich! But I’m just a regular person. I’m just another kid that was laying in his room the other night, jackin’ off, you know?”

The Paradox of Makonnen is that the more famous he becomes, the more he feels like another kid jackin’ off in his room.

“Sometimes I wish I could leave Makonnen,” he tells me.

Do you wish you could leave iLoveMakonnen or do you wish you could leave Makonnen?

“Both.”

Who would you become?

“Just a Red Dragon, flying around the lands in pure Red Dragon form. Naked. Literally. Just, take off all my clothes, show my scales, my wings pop out, my tail, and I’m going [to go] out this window and fly.”

Over the course of the last couple years, the number of pit bulls in Makonnen’s possession has dwindled from eleven to zero. Two died. He dedicated “Live For Real,” a song he released in December, to his late pooch Daisy. He gave the other nine away, one by one. He gave away his last dog around New Years to a couple he met on Twitter.

He originally intended to launch a dog toy company as a part of his move to San Francisco, but the void of dogs in his life has extinguished that flame: “I used to have different dreams when I had my dogs.”

He turns sullen when the topics turns to his dogs, bitter that the demands of the life of a recording artist have taken him from his pets. “My dogs were sad,” he explains. “They became unhealthy. I had to make that sacrifice and give them to others and help them get their health back and become lively dogs. I can’t be that guy running around here, standing in the fucking club while my dogs are stuck in a cage.”

For the first time in his entire 26-year-existence, Makonnen is dogless. He believes that he will never own dogs ever again. “I’m my own pet now,” he says wistfully. “The Red Dragon is my favorite pet now. The only one that I can take care of at all times.”

In the past, Makonnen has listed artists like Brandon Flowers, Bloc Party, and Shania Twain as his central influences. But when I ask him about rappers that have inspired him, he tells me, “I don’t like inspiration. I feel very inspired by Makonnen. This is very inspiring to be because I was supposed to be dead. I was supposed to be in jail.”

Over the course of the interview, Makonnen expresses a respectful indifference towards nearly every contemporary rapper I mention, including Kendrick Lamar. Which is odd, because he has no trouble expressing admiration for non-hip hop artists like Taylor Swift. Makonnen’s rap game worldview appears to be zero-sum – every man for himself. Which would explain in part why he seems to see himself as a bastion of reality positioned in the eye of a giant hurricane of bullshit. Is Makonnen the only non-bullshit rapper in the game? I ask. “Probably,” he says. “Well, Lil B as well.”

Ever since he befriended Lil B on MySpace, Makonnen has identified strongly with the Based God. “[Lil B] definitely influenced me,” he told Noisey in 2014. “I definitely want to put that on the record, to say that Lil B is somebody that made me just say fuck this shit, I’m recording my music in my room and I’m putting it out.”

It almost seems like Makonnen is searching for a career like Lil B’s, delivering motivational speeches on college campuses and knighting fans on stage. But maybe the OVO spotlight that was cast upon him at such an early point in his career has made that nearly impossible. Lil B’s appeal is that some of his music is great, some of its garbage, but it’s all honest and direct with fans. That’s what Makonnen wants -- his goals with music don’t necessarily have anything to do with quality or prestige.

Makonnen was burning the midnight oil the night before our interview. Plotting, conducting research, plumbing the depths of the deep web in search of artists to sign. Not just any artists... true internet artists. Lil B-caliber artists. He hasn’t signed anyone yet. “I really don’t know anybody that’s willing to take the risks that I am, that go on and be as improvisational, improvise like I do, and just go out there and do it,” he tells me.

One artist, however, has piqued his attention -- Ugly God, an 18-year-old Houston rapper who wheels and deals under the Instagram alias @imreallyugly and masterminded such tracks as “Booty From A Distance” and “I Beat My Meat.” Makonnen digs Ugly God’s steez and natural trolling instincts. He vows to sign Ugly God. “I listen to that shit and be like, ‘Man, this shit is dumb, but it’s catchy as a fool, and I like it,” Makonnen chuckles. “‘Booty From A Distance,’ I been catch myself singing that shit all day. If that’s what the kids want? Run that shit!”

Two days later, Makonnen posts a link to a live Periscope stream on his Twitter account. He’s wearing his trademark sleeveless t-shirt. He’s at his crib. Fans viewing the live stream comment the location from where they’re watching. Makonnen good-naturedly reads them all aloud. “El Paso... Buffalo... UK. Y’all ready?” he asks.

He proceeds to freestyle for the Periscope faithful for 14 consecutive minutes. He is a bottomless pit of bars. “Uber Everywhere,” “Summer Sixteen,” “Real Friends” -- no beat is safe from the earnest, straight-off-the-dome stylings of Makonnen. “Niggas want some Cheetos, I hit them with some Fritos.”

Periscope, it seems, is Makonnen’s happy place. Supportive and passionate fans are likely to stick around to watch. He’s just spitting pure stream of consciousness. 24 hours from now, this video recording will cease to exist. Periscope (and Snapchat) represents Makonnen’s entire approach to music -- he lives in a world where art is casual, disposable, not an installation to be labored over, polished, but a single gesture, inspired by the moment. Self-expression is an end unto itself. Makonnen’s music at times comes across as amateurish and unpolished, but immediate and relatable. You feel like you’re there with him. The distinction blurs between art and artist.

Makonnen’s modus operandi is: one take. This system can be traced to when he used to make songs on a keyboard that could literally only record one take. He estimates that of the 300+ tracks he made for his new mixtape Drink More Water 6, the 11 that ultimately made the cut were recorded in one session last June. He is immensely proud of one particular YouTube video in which he makes 12 songs in one eight-minute freestyle. “Amazing shit,” he calls it.

Does Makonnen believe that it is inauthentic to make art via a methodical iteration process? Probably not. But the spontaneous manner of living and art-making that he prefers serves as both a shield against criticism and a more intense baring of the soul. He is unwilling to accept the world on anything but his own terms. This way, he can find himself somewhere between Makonnen and iLoveMakonnen, somewhere between the extremes of depression and limitless optimism, where the Red Dragon can roam in peace.

Eventually, Makonnen lets me in on one of his plans for San Francisco – developing a smartphone app that can “manipulate a cloud to literally produce rain in your little bubble area.” I can’t tell if he’s joking or not. Either way, I am impressed by the audacity of his vision.

Here are some things that happened after the interview and before Makonnen left New York:

Makonnen signs Ugly God, as promised. They cement the deal via FaceTime and bond by vibing out to Ugly’s “I’m a Nasty Hoe.”

Ugly God releases two songs entitled “Bernie Sanders” & “Bitch, I Got Yo’ Bitch.”

Makonnen changes his Twitter name from Pre-Order Makonnen to March Makonnen to Red Dragon Makonnen to Gold Dawn Makonnen to Learning Makonnen to Traveling Makonnen.

Makonnen returns to Madison Square Park, where the interview began. He sits on a park bench in the shadow of the Flatiron Building. He posts a selfie video to Snapchat. “Chilling in the park alone,” it reads. It’s kind of sad. But beautiful. He seems happy.

iLoveMakonnen’s new project, Drink More Water 6, is now available on iTunes.

 
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“BE YOURSELF, BE YOUR OWN CROWD! I FLY SOLO. MY FEATHERS ARE CUSTOM MADE, BUT AT TIMES I WOULD FLY WITH SOME OTHER SOLO FLIERS OR A COOL FLOCK, BUT THEN I REMEMBER THEY ARE NOT ME.

- iLOVEMAKONNEN

December 2008, giving advice to
forlorn friend (possibly himself)

It is a brisk, sunny afternoon in early March, ten days before Makonnen Sheran is to move to San Francisco. A seven-block stroll down Broadway from the Flatiron Building has deposited him at Union Square. He now strolls through Union Square and surveys his surroundings.

He’s sleek, slimmed down from a 42-inch waist to a 32 in the past year, his hair shorn tight to the scalp. He warms his hands in the pockets of a custom Basquiat-ish bomber jacket made for him by a designer friend. Ornamental padlocks hang from the heels of his sneakers. Oversize reflective sunglasses swivel hither and yon. I walk beside him and comment on the surprising absence of people, litter, & sacks of garbage around us. It’s about a pleasant an urban tableau as you’ll find in New York. But Union Square’s mid-day serenity does not stir Makonnen. He shakes his head and wonders aloud: “Where is the reality?”

Makonnen’s current quest to locate reality is not the same quest he was on in early 2014 when he released “I Don’t Sell Molly No More.” Strawberita dreams turn to champagne reality. That quest was aspirational -- the quest of a budding artist with a modest yet passionate internet following.

A few months later, Drake’s “Tuesday” remix blew the lid off Makonnen’s industrious grassroots internet operation. Makonnen became famous overnight. He signed to OVO Sound and moved from Atlanta to New York City, thus making his formal entrance into the music industry. He has been in a tumultuous relationship with the music industry ever since. It demands much of him, and he demands much of it. Stardom is not the land of milk and honey he had hoped it would be.

Back at HNHH HQ after Union Square, Makonnen enumerates his industry frustrations. It’s not as lucrative as he would like (“I can’t even get a residency in Vegas off of my ‘Tuesday’,” he laments). It’s filled with simple-minded opportunists (“Rappers are fronts and fakes”). He must shoulder the burden of realness alone (“Unfortunately, it sucks that Makonnen is the realest person here”).

“I gave New York a chance,” he tells me. “I was searching for... I dunno, like the art scene, not the art scene, but something that I was searching for and I didn’t find it here. And I was just looking in Manhattan. I’m sure it’s out in Brooklyn.”

Makonnen was impressed by the number of locals yelling at parking meters last time he was in San Francisco. Other than that, he seems a bit unsure of what he will find when he moves there. “I’m not really moving there for music,” he explains. “I’m moving there to use my mind in different ways. Like technology.”

Aside from a potential tour with Lil B, Makonnen hopes to pivot away music and utilize his creative mind for entrepreneurial ventures, details of which he is reluctant to discuss. He needs seed money, and knows that many investors (or “big tech dads,” as he calls them) dwell in that distant peninsula of hills and fog.

Makonnen recently invited a 20-year-old kid from the projects up to his Chelsea apartment to help him pack his designer clothes under the pretense that they would be sold on eBay. “After it was all packed up, I told him, ‘you can have all this stuff, this if for you,’” Makonnen says. “Let it go to somebody who’s really gonna clothe himself in that OVO goose when it’s cold outside. Nigga probably doesn’t even have Instagram.”

IT WAS “A LONG TIME AGO” WHEN MAKONNEN FIRST CONCEIVED OF HIS ALTER EGO:

THE RED DRAGON

“As a kid, I used to see these monsters and things in my face and like scales,” he says. “And I never really knew what it was. Until I started going deeper in my mind and figured out what it was. It was weird, I used to scare myself looking in the mirror, I would see this beast in my face. It changes, its skin changes, I would look at myself and start seeing horns and fucking red scales, like a dragon. And then one time, I put all the bullshit aside and got into myself and just accepted what it is.”

Makonnen moved from LA to Atlanta when he was 13 to live with his mother, a nail technician. She bought him a keyboard and he would make beats for her to sing over. They made three albums together.

The night after his high school graduation in 2007, Makonnen sat in a parked car smoking weed with his friends. A gun rested on his friend’s lap. Makonnen had just watched his friend remove the clip but still wanted to remove the gun from the car. Not knowing there was still a bullet in the chamber, he reached for the gun. It slid off his friend’s lap and the trigger fired and the bullet struck his friend in the head, killing him. Makonnen spent the next month in jail and the next two years after that on house arrest, living with his mom, two dogs, Roland keyboard, and Gateway computer while he waited for the case to go to trial.

He launched a blog called The Newness in January 2008. For four years, The Newness served as a creative outlet and public journal in which Makonnen documented his adventures on the digital high seas. He interviewed future stars like Lil B and Miguel, posted tributes to his favorite bands, and shared new movie trailers and European fashion trends. The blog has since been taken down but a few dozen screenshots have been preserved in digital amber at WaybackMachine.org.

In 2009, Makonnen was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to five years of probation. In 2010, he started posting original music to his blog. In one 2011 music video titled “The Newness”, he wanders around Atlanta carrying Martha, one of the mannequin heads he had saved from his brief stint at cosmetology school. Martha wears black lipstick, a shock of magenta hair, and a red Phantom of the Opera mask. Written in marker across her hairline is “ILOVEMAKONNEN” -- the moniker Makonnen chose for himself to fight depression and an apparently never-ending torrent of internet hate.

“It was just a big Makonnen Ain’t Shit Fest,” he recalled in a 2014 interview with The Fader. “All the negative shit that you could think about the name Makonnen, they threw it at me. If I let the outside hate get inside of me, I would have probably killed myself. That’s what they were trying to push me toward. But I knew the truth about me. I love Makonnen. Just say it in your mind and you’ll start believing it. I used to chant it in my house. I had to love myself and stay strong.”

Makonnen says he’s since grown immune to the hate, but he still frames his personal struggles with fame as a dissonance between Makonnen, self-contained individual, and iLoveMakonnen, public citizen. “It’s not easy being Makonnen,” he says. “But it’s a little easy being iLoveMakonnen. So I like to just hide behind my brand.”

It is ironic that someone obsessed with realness would create a persona -- iLoveMakonnen -- whose very purpose is to love and protect the real Makonnen.

“I’m a guy from the internet,” he says angrily. “The whole iLoveMakonnen brand is about being a person that’s a real person. Now I feel like I can’t be that anymore, I have to start faking it up and living the Hollywood life. Because I’m famous and because that’s what people are interested in!”

“People think that when you get famous you hang out with Drake every night at Il Mulino, and you hang out with all these fashion people, and people give you free clothes, and you party, and your drugs are free, and everything’s just free, free, free,” he told GQ in 2015. “And you’re rich! You’re rich! But I’m just a regular person. I’m just another kid that was laying in his room the other night, jackin’ off, you know?”

The Paradox of Makonnen is that the more famous he becomes, the more he feels like another kid jackin’ off in his room.

“Sometimes I wish I could leave Makonnen,” he tells me.

Do you wish you could leave iLoveMakonnen or do you wish you could leave Makonnen?

“Both.”

Who would you become?

“Just a Red Dragon, flying around the lands in pure Red Dragon form. Naked. Literally. Just, take off all my clothes, show my scales, my wings pop out, my tail, and I’m going [to go] out this window and fly.”

Over the course of the last couple years, the number of pit bulls in Makonnen’s possession has dwindled from eleven to zero. Two died. He dedicated “Live For Real,” a song he released in December, to his late pooch Daisy. He gave the other nine away, one by one. He gave away his last dog around New Years to a couple he met on Twitter.

He originally intended to launch a dog toy company as a part of his move to San Francisco, but the void of dogs in his life has extinguished that flame: “I used to have different dreams when I had my dogs.”

He turns sullen when the topics turns to his dogs, bitter that the demands of the life of a recording artist have taken him from his pets. “My dogs were sad,” he explains. “They became unhealthy. I had to make that sacrifice and give them to others and help them get their health back and become lively dogs. I can’t be that guy running around here, standing in the fucking club while my dogs are stuck in a cage.”

For the first time in his entire 26-year-existence, Makonnen is dogless. He believes that he will never own dogs ever again. “I’m my own pet now,” he says wistfully. “The Red Dragon is my favorite pet now. The only one that I can take care of at all times.”

In the past, Makonnen has listed artists like Brandon Flowers, Bloc Party, and Shania Twain as his central influences. But when I ask him about rappers that have inspired him, he tells me, “I don’t like inspiration. I feel very inspired by Makonnen. This is very inspiring to be because I was supposed to be dead. I was supposed to be in jail.”

Over the course of the interview, Makonnen expresses a respectful indifference towards nearly every contemporary rapper I mention, including Kendrick Lamar. Which is odd, because he has no trouble expressing admiration for non-hip hop artists like Taylor Swift. Makonnen’s rap game worldview appears to be zero-sum – every man for himself. Which would explain in part why he seems to see himself as a bastion of reality positioned in the eye of a giant hurricane of bullshit. Is Makonnen the only non-bullshit rapper in the game? I ask. “Probably,” he says. “Well, Lil B as well.”

Ever since he befriended Lil B on MySpace, Makonnen has identified strongly with the Based God. “[Lil B] definitely influenced me,” he told Noisey in 2014. “I definitely want to put that on the record, to say that Lil B is somebody that made me just say fuck this shit, I’m recording my music in my room and I’m putting it out.”

It almost seems like Makonnen is searching for a career like Lil B’s, delivering motivational speeches on college campuses and knighting fans on stage. But maybe the OVO spotlight that was cast upon him at such an early point in his career has made that nearly impossible. Lil B’s appeal is that some of his music is great, some of its garbage, but it’s all honest and direct with fans. That’s what Makonnen wants -- his goals with music don’t necessarily have anything to do with quality or prestige.

Makonnen was burning the midnight oil the night before our interview. Plotting, conducting research, plumbing the depths of the deep web in search of artists to sign. Not just any artists... true internet artists. Lil B-caliber artists. He hasn’t signed anyone yet. “I really don’t know anybody that’s willing to take the risks that I am, that go on and be as improvisational, improvise like I do, and just go out there and do it,” he tells me.

One artist, however, has piqued his attention -- Ugly God, an 18-year-old Houston rapper who wheels and deals under the Instagram alias @imreallyugly and masterminded such tracks as “Booty From A Distance” and “I Beat My Meat.” Makonnen digs Ugly God’s steez and natural trolling instincts. He vows to sign Ugly God. “I listen to that shit and be like, ‘Man, this shit is dumb, but it’s catchy as a fool, and I like it,” Makonnen chuckles. “‘Booty From A Distance,’ I been catch myself singing that shit all day. If that’s what the kids want? Run that shit!”

Two days later, Makonnen posts a link to a live Periscope stream on his Twitter account. He’s wearing his trademark sleeveless t-shirt. He’s at his crib. Fans viewing the live stream comment the location from where they’re watching. Makonnen good-naturedly reads them all aloud. “El Paso... Buffalo... UK. Y’all ready?” he asks.

He proceeds to freestyle for the Periscope faithful for 14 consecutive minutes. He is a bottomless pit of bars. “Uber Everywhere,” “Summer Sixteen,” “Real Friends” -- no beat is safe from the earnest, straight-off-the-dome stylings of Makonnen. “Niggas want some Cheetos, I hit them with some Fritos.”

Periscope, it seems, is Makonnen’s happy place. Supportive and passionate fans are likely to stick around to watch. He’s just spitting pure stream of consciousness. 24 hours from now, this video recording will cease to exist. Periscope (and Snapchat) represents Makonnen’s entire approach to music -- he lives in a world where art is casual, disposable, not an installation to be labored over, polished, but a single gesture, inspired by the moment. Self-expression is an end unto itself. Makonnen’s music at times comes across as amateurish and unpolished, but immediate and relatable. You feel like you’re there with him. The distinction blurs between art and artist.

Makonnen’s modus operandi is: one take. This system can be traced to when he used to make songs on a keyboard that could literally only record one take. He estimates that of the 300+ tracks he made for his new mixtape Drink More Water 6, the 11 that ultimately made the cut were recorded in one session last June. He is immensely proud of one particular YouTube video in which he makes 12 songs in one eight-minute freestyle. “Amazing shit,” he calls it.

Does Makonnen believe that it is inauthentic to make art via a methodical iteration process? Probably not. But the spontaneous manner of living and art-making that he prefers serves as both a shield against criticism and a more intense baring of the soul. He is unwilling to accept the world on anything but his own terms. This way, he can find himself somewhere between Makonnen and iLoveMakonnen, somewhere between the extremes of depression and limitless optimism, where the Red Dragon can roam in peace.

Eventually, Makonnen lets me in on one of his plans for San Francisco – developing a smartphone app that can “manipulate a cloud to literally produce rain in your little bubble area.” I can’t tell if he’s joking or not. Either way, I am impressed by the audacity of his vision.

Here are some things that happened after the interview and before Makonnen left New York:

Makonnen signs Ugly God, as promised. They cement the deal via FaceTime and bond by vibing out to Ugly’s “I’m a Nasty Hoe.”

Ugly God releases two songs entitled “Bernie Sanders” & “Bitch, I Got Yo’ Bitch.”

Makonnen changes his Twitter name from Pre-Order Makonnen to March Makonnen to Red Dragon Makonnen to Gold Dawn Makonnen to Learning Makonnen to Traveling Makonnen.

Makonnen returns to Madison Square Park, where the interview began. He sits on a park bench in the shadow of the Flatiron Building. He posts a selfie video to Snapchat. “Chilling in the park alone,” it reads. It’s kind of sad. But beautiful. He seems happy.

iLoveMakonnen’s new project, Drink More Water 6, is now available on iTunes.

 
CLOSE
Jelly Stone
top comment
Jelly Stone
Apr 1, 2016

Dope! These keep getting better!

 
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The Greatest
The Greatest
Apr 2, 2016

Dope story, but I still dont like Makonnen lol

 
Reply Share
ouikk
ouikk
Apr 2, 2016

ease up on the scrollin mufuckas

 
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Sizzurp
Sizzurp
Apr 2, 2016

Makonnen > Drake

 
Reply Share
Xangough
Xangough
Apr 1, 2016

The fuck is this, fuck makonnen faggot ass

 
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notblackbear
notblackbear
Apr 1, 2016

Ihatemakonnen

 
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300 Bang Bang
300 Bang Bang
Apr 1, 2016

300 Bang Bang approves this shit. If Drake had his own personalized article this website would crash. Niggaz would be printing out the pictures to put on their wall6️⃣🙏🏽👀

 
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Weezy flexin 💪

no one will probably read all this shit but its fun to scroll through and see the transitions

 
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uhoh_oreo6793
uhoh_oreo6793
Apr 1, 2016

i thought this was a joke between him seeing himself as a dragon in the mirror to shooting his friend in the head trying to move the gun out the car lol

 
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Drake Stans Ruin HipHop

Fuck top comment this shit is lit. Makonnen is doing his own thing and having fun that's what it's about.

 
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Free Big Guwop
Free Big Guwop
Apr 1, 2016

This hard! Do 21 Savage next

 
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TakeALap
TakeALap
Apr 1, 2016

He wrokin with Mac Miller, Im Amped

 
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Llamas4President and All Dat

Also I think this website would be better with a black layout.

 
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Llamas4President and All Dat

Dope shit.

 
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JCOLEISAFUCKBOY
JCOLEISAFUCKBOY
Apr 1, 2016

good interview but fuck hnhh

 
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notblackbear

Then log out lmao

 
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Hip-hop L Delivery guy

Da fuck is this?

 
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Fabolous's Teeth

Was about to say the same shit

 
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Jelly Stone
Jelly Stone
Apr 1, 2016

Dope! These keep getting better!

 
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EvJurk

Who tf reading all this bout makonnen

 
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Llamas4President and All Dat

@EvJurk nobody lmao

 
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Tyler Coolez
Tyler Coolez
Apr 1, 2016

?

 
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