Curtismith Talks Failures, Growth, and Rising Above the Noise
Originally published on STATUS Magazine, February 2019.
Careless Music Manila’s CURTISMITH is no foreigner in the Philippine music scene. With a mixtape and three EPs under his belt and another one on the way, the rapper has clawed his way to the top, sparing no soul who dared get in the way of his success.
Crediting his affinity for music to his parents, Mito Fabie, the man behind the persona Curtismith, fondly recalls tunes like “The Game of Love” by Santana and “Frontier Psychiatrist” by The Avalanches playing in the background during his childhood. “Music has always been a part of my life as far back as I remember, and although my parents didn’t necessarily have a musical background, [but] they definitely had great taste that helped me develop my palette at an early age,” he shares. The vast selection of music provided by his parents opened multiple doors for him, broadening his horizons and allowing him to appreciate the different genres and eras of music.
Upon developing his own sound, his curation focused more towards influences like Kid Cudi and Drake. Curtismith began writing music at the age of 14, and although he moved towards the hip-hop end of the spectrum, he wasn’t too adamant on sticking with that particular genre. “Rap was the best way I could express myself without having to worry too much about the amount of words I was saying to express myself,” he explains briefly. Releasing his first mixtape IDEAL back in September 2015 and following it with EPs Falling Forward, Soully Yours, and REHEARSALS in the succeeding years, his sound has progressed from bars over jazzy beats to bars over heavy 808 kick drums. “I try to change my style and dig deeper to keep things fresh and honest. I also believe that now less is more, and I try to deliver a message clearly without having to say too much.” He continues, “I’d like to believe I’m experimenting and straying away from my current brand of hip-hop now. I will always love hip-hop, but there’s a wide array of genres that I want to incorporate as well.”
After bowing out from creative collective LOGICLUB and taking his talents to Careless Music Manila, Curtismith is working at a steady pace, away from the chatter set to drag him all the way back down. Gearing up for the release of his solo EP Dining Table, he speaks to us about lessons learnt, getting out of his own head, and what we can expect from him in the coming year.
“Every phase in life comes with its own trials and it’s up to you to keep adapting and evolving to adjust to whatever you’re dealing with.”
A couple years back, you spoke about your numerous failures as a student, entrepreneur, salesman, and stockbroker at a TEDx event. Looking back on it now, what is the biggest lessons you’ve learned from each of those attempts?
That the corny saying “it doesn’t get easier, you get stronger” has a lot of truth to it. Every phase in life comes with its own trials and it’s up to you to keep adapting and evolving to adjust to whatever you’re dealing with.
You’ve been part of two collectives—LOGICLUB and Careless Music Manila—since your rise in the Philippine music scene. What would you say is the best part about being involved in a group?
It’s nice to get out of my own head. Being able to get all these perspectives from a bunch of different personalities is helpful for someone like myself. LOGICLUB is the collective and Careless is the label. What I like about working with Careless is that we have full transparency with one another and we try to find win-win situations rather than the usual label that does whatever it takes to undercut the artist through contracts and business jargon.
“I guess [Dining Table is] my attempt at making a concept that is helping me try to understand who I’ve become growing up with the parents that I had. Both my parents are very interesting individuals so I try to embody them in particular tracks.”
What would you say are the biggest differences between your upcoming EP Dining Table and your previous works?
I guess this one’s my attempt at making a concept that is helping me try to understand who I’ve become growing up with the parents that I had. Both my parents are very interesting individuals so I try to embody them in particular tracks. Mix that attitude with an update of how my life has been, without any filter; that’s essentially what the EP is.
“The idea of knowing the difference between response and reaction has become more ingrained in my head and I just have to be more mindful to be able to catch myself in how I’m approaching things.”
You’re no stranger to controversy and many have tried to exploit your certain connections and even songs as ammo against you over the years. The presence of social media and its occasional mob mentality can get toxic and infuriating, but how have you been able to handle not falling into the trap of reacting to the noise?
Through being burned by the fire. The idea of knowing the difference between response and reaction has become more ingrained in my head and I just have to be more mindful to be able to catch myself in how I’m approaching things.
You’re becoming one of the most prominent names in the Philippine music scene. As a self-taught lyrical poet, what advice would you give to people who are just starting to explore their creative paths?
Never stop learning. There’s always something new to explore and develop. Broaden your horizons in life and music, and speak your truth, not to gain anyone’s approval. If you really love something there’s nothing I tell you that will make you leave it, and if that’s music for you, the universe will unravel as it’s meant to.
Written by Sophie Caraan
Photographed by Ed Enclona
Groomed by Pamm Merrera