A conversation with Jelani Aryeh

Jelani Aryeh is young. And with his age comes vision and a unique way of approaching the next version of the music industry as we know it. We’ve heard of people using the internet to connect to peers and creators, but the California based artist is aiming for something bigger – a collective, a shared space for creators with the same vision, a community.

In following this vision, he founded Raised by the Internet. Together they put together their first EP. Suburban Destinesia takes changes and experiments with an array of sounds and influences. We could talk about it, but it’s best to read what Aryeh had to say.


First off – what’s your background? How did you get into music and creating? Was there anything in particular that drew you to this path?

I’m 17 years old with a mixed heritage of African-American, Filipino, and Chinese, and I live in a tiny suburb called 4s Ranch. I draw a lot of my musical inspiration from the beautiful scenery in San Diego, and my writing is often fueled by the area around me.

For most of my life I played football, but last year I noticed that I had begun to lose my love for the sport. As my passion began to fade, my on-going desire to make music grew to take its place. I was 15 when I truly began to study lyrics and the meaning behind music, but production is what really got me hooked.

Simultaneous with my increasing involvement in music, SoundCloud’s popularity around my school began to grow, and many of the students began to make beats. It all started for me when I jumped on the newfound movement and made some terrible beats. A major part of my motivation was to show that I could be better than the other kids who had joined the hip-hop wave. The sounds I was creating were certainly unique, but I still wasn’t producing beats that showed any promise.

Many of the students began incorporating mainstream rap themes such as money and drugs into their music, but they were writing about money they didn’t have and drugs they weren’t involved with. I decided to switch it up and make a song that held more sentiment, and this vision turned into “Family Man.”

Following the inception of this song, people began to respect me more as an artist and my musical journey was kickstarted. I think if there was one particular aspect of my life that drew me into music, it would be my uncle. He was a former rapper, and getting to watch him make music as I grew up was a powerful inspiration for me. My uncle often left his equipment at my house, and when I saw that mic sitting on the table I knew I had to continue his legacy.

How did you come up with the idea for your Raised by the Internet project? Has the project changed you as a creator or put you on to something new you might not have tried before? If so, how?

Well, one of my favorite artists is Kevin Abstract and I would be lying if I said he didn’t inspire me to make this collective. I posted in the Brockhampton, Frank Ocean, and Odd Future Subreddits looking for people to join a collective. Our generation practically lives our life on the internet; that’s why we felt Raised by the Internet was a fitting name. Also the fact that we all met online and have never met in person contributed to it.

The name was actually originally the bio of our group SoundCloud account, and it ended up sticking as our name. It comes from the Injury Reserve line on their track “Oh Shit” where Ritchie with a T says, “This that raised by the internet ain’t have no dad rap.”

This collective has already changed my whole life. These guys push me to be creative in every aspect of life and a big part of that is because we never settle. We always want to improve our sound, and the minor competition we have is beautiful. That’s what drives us as musicians.

We’ve found a good balance between competition and cooperation. We have members from the US, Canada, England, and the Netherlands. They have exposed me to things I wouldn’t have heard otherwise, especially a lot of alternative music, which influenced the sound of my EP.

We’re basically going to dissect Suburban Destinesia soon, but was it difficult to get people you may not have ever met before to buy into the idea of Raised by the Internet? How about just the logistics of it all? Do you go to them with lyrics or production, and they would do the rest? What was the collaboration like?

It was very easy actually. All of the guys in the group have a similar goal and when they saw my post, I feel like something just went off in their heads like, “This could be it. This is what I’ve been waiting for.” Half of the guys were just doing it to have fun but ended being amazed by how talented we actually are when we came together as a group.

The member I most closely work with right now is Jack Kolbe, a producer from Phoenix, Arizona. He’ll usually come to me with an instrumental and then I’ll write the lyrics. He almost single-handedly produced as well as mixed and mastered the whole EP.

(Producer Jack Kolbe on Raised by the Internet’s Creative Process): RBTI is a group that includes graphic designers, singers, rappers, producers, and engineers. Each collaboration we do starts from a different place.

“Delusions” by Jelani Aryeh started as a vocal, and then I built the beat around. “Where We Go” began as a beat I made months ago and sent on a whim to Jelani when we were first starting Suburban Destinesia. Once we have an early version of a track, we’ll ask Joep, our graphic designer, if he can mock up some cover art ideas based on the track.

What Joep comes up with serves as inspiration for finishing the track, which is then mixed, mastered, and released with the art that Joep designed. As a group, we share most files via Google drive, the links to them are shared to the group on our Discord server, where our group originally began talking to one another.

Most tracks begin as a Google drive link to a beat that anyone is welcome to record over, and things build from there. Suburban Destinesia came about differently as Jelani and I collaborated fairly exclusively to bring the idea we had for the project to life.

The project began as a long discussion about our futures and the role music has in our lives and ended as a Google drive folder with 40+ versions of songs and seven “Final Mixes.” As a group, most of the talking happens in a group chat, where we not only talk strategy and production techniques, but also get a fascinating glimpse into the lives of our members that live across the world.

The group setting allows us to be individually influenced by the tastes and experiences of one another as we share them through silly videos, photos, and texts. Raised by the Internet has been easily the best thing to happen to me creatively. Without this group, I would have hundreds of instrumentals sitting on my computer that would never have seen the light of day, and I likely would have given up writing music by now.

Each track has its own vibe and rhythm and sound, but the message seems to arc all the way across. What was the story you were looking to tell?

In a sense I wanted it to feel like a movie. The EP was heavily inspired by the film Palo Alto. The ongoing theme in the project was ‘Destinesia.’ Destinesia is when you get somewhere, but you forget why you ever came there in the first place.

Most of the songs are feelings and thoughts I’ve gone through while suffering this Destinesia, and they all connect with each other in the sense that I’m still trying to find myself and my purpose here. It’s a narrative that is very introspective.

“Spectrum” is part early new wave, a little 80s R&B, a bit modern all rolled into one. How did you decide on that sound, and what made you go with that as the lead track?

“Spectrum” came about in a unique way from the rest of the tracks on the EP, something that contributed greatly to it sounding like an homage to a variety of styles. The synths were done by Dave, a member of Raised by the Internet from England, which Jack put drums over and mixed, and then I recorded over their beat last.

Dave played the synth parts prior to knowing any of us, and Jack didn’t finish the beat with any intention of it being specifically for me. Because of this, no one compromised their style and created a unique sound that was never really “decided on,” but came about because of our idiosyncrasies as musicians.

“Spectrum” became the lead track because its lyrical content and overall tone fit the idea that we wanted the EP to have. It is the least genre-bound track on the project, something we wanted to emphasize because we simply haven’t found a genre that we want to work in exclusively as of yet.

The lyrics came from these ongoing thoughts that replayed over and over in my head. I was thinking about how so many artists paint this false image of who they are. So I wrote the first verse from the perspective of one of these rappers that made it big. It gives a brief overview of how they’re currently living and how they made it.

A lot of people were shocked when they heard this because they thought I was talking about myself, and it caught a lot of people by surprise. It then transitions to the hook, where I come in and say, “I wanna show them art ‘cause what they’re making is not real.” This means that I want to show people the power of vulnerability and being genuine in writing music.

My second verse comes in, and I tell the audience where I am currently and what’s going on in my head. I named it “Spectrum” because even though I put a ton of thought and effort into what I’m making, I’m still at the bottom of the spectrum.

“Where We Go” has quite the Pixies feel to it, and the vocals are open and airy. Are you comfortable switching styles like that, or does something have to push you before you take a risk like that?

I’m beginning to become more comfortable with switching styles. To sing like that though I have to be fully committed and inspired, so before I go in, I usually sing in a more R&B style. I definitely think something has to push to where I’ll make something as emotional as this. Harry Styles’ Sign of the Times heavily influenced this track. The style of the production definitely influences the way I sing over an instrumental as well.

And I love how you aren’t afraid to tinker with song lengths. “Destinesia” is brief, almost ethereal in how quickly it floats away. Is there a story or deeper meaning to that track?

In writing the EP I always wanted to have a brief interlude to bridge it all together. The goal in writing “Destinesia” was to have a brief song that bathes the ears of the listener in pleasing sounds so as to create a sort of surreal landscape of sound.

That ethereal quality is meant to represent a reprieve from all of the common teenage problems that are explored in the rest of the project. In the context of the project, the interlude symbolizes any escape that someone may find from the thoughts that keep them up at night.

For those that worked on “Suburban Destinesia,” the track is representative of the opportunity to run from the real-world that writing music is able to provide.

Do you find it hard to kind of temper yourself and pull back a little bit, for example, on a track like “San Clemente”? Other producers may have been looking for the place to push it over, but you keep it pretty even.

On “San Clemente,” I wanted to transition out of “Destinesia” by carrying on the ethereal feeling that the lyrics about travel and going to distant worlds bring. Instead of going right back to having another upbeat and over the top track, I wanted to continue the calm trend and make it sound like a daydream does to us.

On “Destinesia II,” it has a nice mix of chill wave and pop. Were you influenced by any artist, band, or sound in particular for this one?

The production on “Destinesia II” was heavily inspired by “Lost” by Frank Ocean, Toro Y Moi’s entire discography, and a general desire to create something that might’ve been a hit in the past but wouldn’t fit at all into the pop genre today.

Like I said earlier, I was inspired by Palo Alto, so when I made the melody I was also very influenced by Dev Hynes’ (Blood Orange) score of the film. When it came to vocals, I drew inspiration from him and Aaron Maine from Porches. The track also carries some of the same synth lines and melodies featured on “Destinesia” so as to create somewhat of a motif to help make the project feel a little more cohesive.

How did you end up hooking up with High Sunn to make “Jacarandas” possible? What was the artistic blend like for that?

After hearing High Sunn’s music it became a huge inspiration for the EP in general, and working with Justin’s guitar recordings allowed us to infuse his style with our own and create something that matched the sound we had in our heads for the EP. I commented on one of his Instagram posts, and he replied back to me.

I then wanted to further my conversation with him, so I dm’ed him and told him how much I appreciated his music. I really feel he’s about to blow up soon, so I told him that as well, and the conversation opened the door for me to share my music. I sent him the rough version of “Where We Go,” and he really liked it. We started talking about other things and I asked him if he could send me some trashed guitar samples. He offered to make new ones if I would pay him a little bit. He now has started to sell other guitar samples to people as a little business.

You end with “4US Ranch,” which has bounce and a boost of energy, but it’s decidedly brief. Is it the close of the book for this particular musical journey, or do you expect that sound and style to bleed into your future work?

The EP explores my struggles in growing up and figuring out where we are meant to end up, and 4US Ranch examines our surroundings by saying, “We so holy, oh so heaven sent, guess we know that’s evident.” showing that a lot of people in the suburbs believe that they’re high and mighty as though they have never done anything wrong.

In reality, everyone has their flaws behind whatever facade they may put up. The following line, “Acting like we innocent, that’s not what my inner sense say,” illustrates how everyone tries to cover-up their wrongdoings but everyone is still quietly aware of their shortcomings. As I continue to make music, my sound will hopefully become more focused and polished.

The next project I release will hopefully be a step towards creating a singular sound that is a mix of everything on Suburban Destinesia. The creation of Suburban Destinesia was most importantly a test of our abilities creatively and an attempt to begin to discern a particular style for all who worked on the project.

Speaking of which – what do have coming up in terms of releases, gigs, etc.?

I have a couple singles and features coming very soon, along with some new music from RBTI (a huge posse cut is in the works). Hopefully in the next year I can start doing some shows.

Finally, where do you see things moving for you as a creator? More solo, or are you focused on more collaboration and working towards something bigger with Raised by the Internet?

Well, right now, I’m more focused on making a name for myself because I’m still searching for my sound. I feel like if I release more projects, then I can get a bigger buzz around my name, and then carry that buzz to Raised by the Internet. Everyone in the group has decided to focus more on solo projects that are heavily collaborative within the collective for now instead of working on content that is credited to the group as a whole.

03.08.2017 / By Joey Smith