Hugh Augustine is an anomaly. He’s simultaneously underground, but popping internationally. He’s a typical independent artist in that he’ll be spotted floating around small hip-hop shows in Los Angeles, but still doing all the footwork required to line up features and records for his projects, like “Tity and Dolla,” his single with Isaiah Rashad and Jay Rock that’s nearing 10 million streams on Spotify. He’s also toured the globe with Top Dawg Entertainment.
It’s easy to see that Hugh Augustine is making music for the love of it, not getting caught up in the promotional aspects of the industry or signing to a label. He’s just consistently making great music and growing his following organically.
Hugh recently released his second single “XTRAS” off his upcoming project Dubious. REVOLT sat down with him to find out about how he got his start in music, his upcoming project Dubious and his experience touring with TDE.
When did you start rapping? When I was in middle school at lunch.
Did you have other friends that were rapping? Not really, but I met a friend in my drawing class that was making beats. He had a brother who was 15 years older than him that was a producer in the 90s. He actually produced for Ahmad. So, that’s how I even started recording, because I met that friend who made beats. His brother hooked him up with sounds for his MPC. We kind of had a leg up. That was in 2003. We were recording on a 4-track tape recorder. We had a rigged-up vocal booth in the bathroom. It’s funny too listening back to that stuff and seeing how serious we were taking it.
What makes you feel like you were taking it seriously? The intensity. Just the fact that we had song structure. Our lyrics were coherent and stuff like that. We were actually making music for people to hear it. I definitely had that Wesy Coast influence. I was trying to rap like a Snoop [Dogg] or Tupac. I was on some trying-to-hold-the-west-coast-down type shit.
How long has it been since Massimo Ciabatta? That came out in summer 2015. I’ve been doing bigger features and crafting my sound in the background. We did the “Nights on Replay” single with Syd. Also, I went on tour with Isaiah Rashad. I think I ended up doing 30 or 35 dates. Something like that. We did the European tour, then the West Coast tour.
That’s a lot of work. At first, I was like “this is a lot,” but then I got used to it. I got into a schedule of, like, sleeping after the show, leisure time before the show. There is a lot of downtime. You see a lot of cool shit, it’s fun, it’s interesting. I’m not someone that gets homesick, especially when I’m doing something I love to do and experiencing new cool shit every day. [When I’m touring], I feel like I’m growing a lot and I find peace in the mission. You visualize this shit the whole time, then when it comes true it’s literally your dream coming true. I’m trying to be here, fully emerged in this whole situation.
What was it like working with Syd? Well, I’d already put the verses down but it was missing something. The record needed a voice, so I hit her up.
Have you guys collaborated before? That was the first track that we did together. I’ve known Syd for a while, but I’ve always just been doing my own thing like they’re doing their own thing.
“Tity and Dolla” has over 9 million streams on Spotify. How does it feel having a hit that big? It’s humbling. It makes you want to work more. If people are responding like that to this, I need to show them everything.
Tell me about the new album Dubious. The project is all about getting my fans back updated to where I’m at and kind of like how I’ve grown as an artist. It’s also an eclectic mix of my different sounds and where I’m taking it for the future. Like I said, I’ve been holding the West Coast down since middle school.
Who’s on the new project? There’s Syd, Ye Ali, Ray Wright, D. Sanders, Rory Behr, Huss, Jansport J, Deacon Blues, 2nd Roof, Huss.
Do features affect how you craft an album? Sometimes. When I’m making songs I’m not really making them with the intention of having people on it. It’s only a special time when I’m like, I need this person on the record because I think it’ll take the record to another level.
How do you go about choosing who you’re going to work with and why? In terms of the L.A. scene, I pretty much know everybody. I usually just go with who’s wowing me at the time and the people that have the same mentality about this shit as I do, because I feel like if you’re collaborating with anybody, you shouldn’t do it for whatever clout it’s gonna get you. You should do it because you two are actually catching a vibe. You guys need to have a purpose with what you’re collaborating on. I also want to work with people that 10, 15 years from now are still gonna be passionate about it. I’m making an investment into their career and they’re making it in mine. If we make a song and I’m doing a tour in the future and want to bring out a feature, they better still be doing music, not driving Uber. Nothing wrong with driving Uber, but it’s not okay to fall off.
What’s being an independent artist like? It’s pretty cool, especially having friends that are on major labels. I can work with them, but I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. Sometimes when you’re with labels you have to roll with that squad and that mission. I’m not restricted by that. It also makes me more appealing to other people because my affiliation is to me.
How has your sound evolved in the last two years? If anything, I’ve been adding that bass. [I’m] stepping away from the sample-loop, boom-bap type shit, while trying to create something that’s sonically still competitive and very personal to me. I want to make bangers that sound like samples, [but] that aren’t samples that people can play in every setting. I want to have something for everyone. My next project is a buffet, but it still has that L.A. energy, that warm, summertime vibe.
How long have you been around? I guess you can say I’ve been on the scene in L.A. since I was 15. I was kind of all up in the Melrose/Fairfax streetwear thing. Right when The Hundreds came out, I was at their first block party. A lot of that came from poetry because I was in the Poetry Lounge at Fairfax High school on Tuesday nights. That’s how I started meeting a bunch of young creative artists in L.A.
You didn’t go to Fairfax High School though, right? No, I went to Loyola High School.
How far was that? Would you take the bus after school? Yeah, after school I’d take two buses. That’s how I found out about a bunch of brands. What I would do is I would get off the bus where Union and Stussy is and then I would just start walking around up La Brea to Melrose, then down Melrose to Fairfax. You start doing that once a week, you start seeing the same people over and over. Then you start shopping. Then you start knowing the people in the stores.
Was that the first time that you found a community in L.A.? I was always in sports, so I guess that was a community, but that was the first time that I’d found other kids that were into what I was into outside of school and sports.
You had money for streetwear when you were a kid? I had a job actually at my school. I would answer the phones after school. It was cool because we got paid $8.25. At that time it was more than minimum wage. I was on, dude!
You’re bragging. You asked! I had a debit card and shit. The school I went to had a uniform. I couldn’t even wear any of this hot shit I was copping. I’d have to save it for the weekends. It was great, I’d look fresh on weekends, then weekdays it was back to khakis.