RL Grime: The Shapeshifter

by Tahirah Hairston / photographed by Jiro Schneider

RL Grime wears a coat and shirt by Burberry, pants by Hugo Boss, tie by Sand Copenhagen and belt by Emporio Armani.

Henry Steinway is reading your comments. The trap and bass DJ/producer known as RL Grime admits to frequently scrolling through mentions on his social media accounts. It takes less than 30 minutes to upload a song to Soundcloud or YouTube, and little to no time for pseudo music critics and Internet trolls to leave their immediate thoughts. It's the music industry's form of instant gratification. "Everyone says 'don't read the comments, just put your music out there.' That's bullshit, it's so hard not to do." he said. "It's hard to deal with, but fuck, it's the Internet. Everyone is getting shit."

And sometimes that's exactly what he gets -- from run-of-the-mill criticisms of his songs to  questionings of his entire music career -- though he's found a system for coping. "I stopped reading SoundCloud comments. I definitely will not read YouTube comments, those are my guidelines. Facebook can be nice. I think Twitter is the nicest social media because it's more of a person to person interaction," Steinway said.
RL Grime wears a coat and shirt by Burberry, pants by Hugo Boss, tie by Sand Copenhagen and belt by Emporio Armani.

But social media is also a way for the Los Angeles native to connect with his fans, and Steinway says it makes him happy that his music has the ability to resonate with people on a deeper level. In fact, positive feedback is how Steinway figured out producing was a path he should pursue when tracks, under his other alias Clockwork, started to get picked up by Dim Mak records and his videos were played at various festivals.

"It's hard to tell when you first start what is really good and what's not," he said. "You sort of need validation from other people to know that."

Now, the 23-year-old is more confident, and somewhat of a perfectionist. A stickler for simplicity, he knows when something is going to be a banger and when a track is better to sit for a re-work later. And with his upcoming album, to be released later this year, he's trying something new. Known for his heavy bass, trap-influenced tracks like his remix of Rihanna's "Pour It Up," and his collaboration with Problem on his track "Secondary" from his 2012 EP Beam, his debut album will have a mix of RL Grime's gritty signature sound intertwined with some more down-tempo, nebulous and melodic tunes.

"I don't want to be pigeon-holed into just making whatever a trap album is supposed to sound like," Steinway said. "I just want it [the album] to stand in its own place, and venture into places that people haven't really done before."
RL Grime wears a coat and shirt by Burberry, pants by Hugo Boss, tie by Sand Copenhagen and belt by Emporio Armani.

RL Grime is a project that started simply because Steinway wanted to try a new sound, but, he says, it was never supposed to get this big. He made the first five tracks when he was stuck inside during a brisk winter week in his East Village apartment while he was a student at New York University, from which he later dropped out. He created the name RL Grime after joking around with his friends and talking about the author of his favorite childhood books, Goosebumps, R.L. Stine (who even did a voiceover for one of his Halloween mixtapes). Three years later, RL Grime is signed to Fool's Gold, a member of the LA music collective WeDidIt along with some of his closest friends Nick Melons and Shlohmo, released three EPs, has over 200,000 followers on SoundCloud and has been touring for two years consecutively.

Under his other, older DJ/producer moniker Clockwork, which is currently signed to Steve Aoki's Dim Mak Records, Steinway produces more electronic, house/dance tracks. "Sometimes I'll sit down making a Clockwork song, then all of a sudden just want to take it in another direction, which is kind of the beauty in having two projects. There's a lot of freedom," said Steinway.

For a guy who used to lug his turntables around to DJ house parties in high school and started out making MSTRKRFT rip-offs on Reason, Steinway is making quite a name (well, technically two) for himself. Growing up in LA, he used to attend Coachella and other big music festivals like Hard every year in high school hoping that could be him one day. This year he played two shows for Coachella, which he says will be his most memorable moment for a while. Though aside from wrapping up his album and picking artists he plans to feature, he's not sure what's next.

"Maybe everyone could just fucking hate it, and everyone could unlike me on Facebook and I could go back to school. But, you never really know. I mean, right now, my only mindset is on the album and putting out a cohesive piece of work that I'm excited about. And we'll see where it goes from there."

Styled by Art Conn

Grooming by Traci Barrett for The Rex Agency using Davines

Photo Assistant: Paris Potter / Shot at Quixote Studios in L.A.


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