Eric LiBassi doesn’t like the term mixtape.
“I just think of a random guy on the street being like ‘Yo, listen to my mixtape,’” LiBassi said. “I guess I just like calling it a project. It’s just a body of work that showcases me a little bit more.”
And that’s exactly what he’s doing.
LiBassi, 19, just released his first single, “Small Hearts,” on Soundcloud this September. A two-part single, it’s LiBassi’s debut on the rap scene.
“I actually wrote that one last year in Syracuse,” LiBassi, now a sophomore, said. “It was just free flowing thought, I guess. The whole song was pretty much written in one day. It was just a lot about how I was feeling.”
LiBassi layered his quick and thoughtful lyrics over a carefully chosen beat created by producer Tom Misch.
“A lot of what I do is essentially writing verses down without any music, and then try to find good music that goes with it,” LiBassi said. ” It’s definitely one of my favorite beats ever. It’s just more old, timey, classic hip-hop influenced stuff, which I prefer.”
While LiBassi’s sound is unique, what really sets him apart is his ability to make it personal.
“I try to write pretty honestly, which can be scary sometimes because everyone has thoughts in their heads that they don’t really share with other people,” LiBassi said. “I talk about things that pertain to me. I don’t think I have any lyrics about driving cars I don’t have. Stuff like that doesn’t make sense to me.”
What does make sense to LiBassi is drawing upon his own experiences, talking about his family and what he’s seen growing up in his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts.
LiBassi’s time at Syracuse has also had a significant impact on his music.
“Originally it started off with things I didn’t really like and would just kind of question,” LiBassi said. “That was me being a little close minded and just assuming the worst in people. You just gotta cut people some slack and show them a little more of yourself.”
As LiBassi began to open up and share his music, he soon found himself surrounded by a tight circle of supportive friends.
“I guess I just learned that as much as I believe in myself and the vision that I have for it, it’s important to get other people’s feedback,” LiBassi said. “Sometimes you think you’re better than you are. My friends are supportive and kind of keep me in check.”
LiBassi is especially close with his older brother Jake, frequently referencing their strong relationship.
“I would definitely not be doing any of this without him,” LiBassi said.
This summer the two brothers holed up in their basement for 10 days straight, making music and bouncing ideas off of one another.
“That was an experience I’ll never forget for sure,” LiBassi said.
In just a few short months, LiBassi has come a long way from basement freestyles. In addition to his song release, LiBassi performed his first gig at the Great New York State Fair in September.
“I wasn’t as scared as I thought I’d be,” LiBassi said. “To me, this is something I’ve planned on doing for a while. But during the week leading up to it, there were definitely times I was in my room rapping in the mirror like a fucking weirdo.”
Later this month, he will be opening for artist Michael Christmas at the Westcott Theater, and he doesn’t intend to stop there. By March, he plans to have a full project out, and even a music video or two.
He even joked, “My mom’s birthday is in March, so I’ll be celebrating that.”
For now, LiBassi’s aspirations are clear.
“I want to connect with people through music,” LiBassi said. “I’ve found that some of my favorite music that’s helped me through a lot, has come from random 19 year old kids that I’ve never met. I’d love if that could be me someday, creating something way bigger than me or my friends.”