Stonie Blue is an explorer in every sense of the word. Through his constant exploration of the world, Blue is on a quest to bring Black people back into a music genre they created: House Music.
Shortly after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a fresh Stonie Blue bought a one-way ticket to New York in the hopes of landing an internship at Karmaloop. Arriving a couple of days before, the young 20-something did what most people do when they go to New York; He explored the city and went shopping at the BAPE store…as a preemptive consolation prize just in case he didn’t get the internship.
Stonie ended up getting the internship and now calls the bustling streets of New York his home. He quickly realized that the more skills you have, the more job opportunities are made available to you – Stonie started taking his hobbies seriously. With that in the back of his mind, he began expanding his creative toolbox, doing anything to keep himself busy and paid.
Stonie Blue is a renaissance man. Whether creating animation studies on his @antnamation account, taking photos of your favorite celebrities, or creating genre-blending flips in different cities for his “Practice” series, the Texas native is exercising every creative bone in his body.
With only having discovered house music after moving to New York, his affinity for it quickly grew as he began to DJ around the city more. Stonie’s sound is clean and simple, effortlessly combining earworm classic house loops with solid driving bass.
In 2019, Stonie Blue released his brilliant 4-track “Black House Brownstown EP” and traveled all around the world as a DJ, doing live sets in Berlin and Sao Paulo, keeping busy with his “Practice” series in Paris, San Francisco, and New York. His ability to consistently be curious and explore the world around him is what sets him apart. He’s stretching the lengths of his imagination and his creative toolbox for the world to see.
As part of our ongoing ADP Guest Mix Series, Stonie Blue brought his Black House Brownstone to the ADP booth for a guest set. After, we talked to the Texas native about how he got started as an artist, the record label BIYDIY he co-founded with longtime friend Matthew Nelson and navigating the music industry.
Primo: How was the artist Stonie Blue born?
Stonie: Well I guess, I don’t really know how to answer this, but I started DJing in 2014. In college, I was in this talent show and I didn’t have a name. They asked me my name and I told them my name was Stonie Blue Moon. I think I got like second place in the talent show on some freestyle rap. When I came to New York, when I started DJing in 2014, I just ended up picking the name Stonie Blue just to do all my music stuff through. Because I was already shooting, doing photo and video stuff, I just wanted to keep it separate just as a way to not confuse the two. But not much drawing, I guess I learned drawing in school but I don’t really focus on too much stuff besides like animation work. That’s just like an art practice to keep busy with and learn while I’m not working on all this other stuff.
P: Could you summarize your first week in New York for me?
S: First week? I guess I came here like two days before a job interview so I wasn’t even sure if I was going to stay or not. So I was kind of exploring, like coming from Nebraska to New York is a complete opposite. So I was just exploring the city and trying to see as much as I could because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be staying there or not. So I guess one of the things I thought was cool was when I went to the Bape store. I was like fuck it like if I’m in New York I might as well go to the Bape store and get a shirt. If I don’t get this internship at least I got a shirt from the store. So it was just super fast-paced and, you know, wide-eyed first time in New York. I ended up getting the internship and just staying forever.
P: Coming from photography to DJing and producing, how do you express yourself using these different mediums?
S: It’s just different ways of expression. All of the music stuff came as a blessing because, again, I didn’t set out here to do any of that stuff. But it’s just like just seeing the opportunity in a place like New York where people are kind of…like you can’t just do one here. I mean, a lot of people have to do x,y, and z to survive. I was shooting photos to survive and doing video stuff. Trying to find side gigs to shoot all the time, just so I wouldn’t have to work at a coffee shop or something like that. So it’s just that you see an opportunity like these rows that need to be filled. So if you learn how to do them well, then you can actually apply that and take opportunities that are being offered around this place. Especially in an art community, if you move here to do like sculptures and you see that the same people you know are hiring people that paint, if you know how to do both of those skills then there’s a chance that you could have your name in more pots. So I’ve just been exploring and taking a risk. Does that make any sense?
P: What does Black House Brownstone represent for you?
S: Oh Black House Brownstone was just a play on legit house music. So being here in New York I was thinking about like, what kind of houses do we live in? We live in a brownstone, there are brownstones all over, so it’s just a play on like house music. I made the music at home, and then my name being Stonie Blue, so its like Brownstone is like a play on me like this black kid, Brownstone, living in the Brownstone. So it’s just like a play on a ton of words that all circle back to house music. And then that was just a representation of me being a black person. So trying to bring the light and shed some light back on black people making house music.
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P: Yeah, so it sort of all comes back to putting more of our people out there into the genre that we created?
P: Where does your love for house and dance music come from?
S: My love for house music comes from, you know, just like when I work on artwork at home I listen to stuff that I can work too. A lot of times in the past listening to rap music you get cussed out a lot. Some of the messages don’t relate after a while, we’ve heard so much hip-hop music and at a certain age it’s like some of the shit they talk about doesn’t really resonate with the way you live. And so I was just kind of looking for something more honest and then found house music just through like YouTube. The messaging is kind of positive and like even if you remove the words, if you listen to instrumental music house music it’s like a bit you can kind of imagine, where you can imagine the story or you can just work to it. You don’t have to get cussed out and hear like “I have to take your girlfriend from you.” And then just the feeling too, the feeling around [house music] too is simple and kind of groovy, I was just pulled in. I didn’t really start discovering house music until I moved [to New York] and started DJing more and opening up the pallet. I think that’s kind of the cool thing about music is just having open taste buds. Knowing that it’s the foundation of all of this is music, the subgenres and shit are a place to organize it, but you know what you resonate with is always a great way to unlock and explore new music.
P: So what do you hope to achieve by being a black house producer?
S: I hope to add more and more people who look like us to what’s happening because there’s plenty of people doing it’s just that you see at the end of the year they always come out with these lists and shit and they’re like, ‘these are the top producers’ and it’s wack to see that Black Coffee is the only black person out there like. It’s only two people that kind of get highlighted and all around Europe, people are taking advantage of a sound that was created here in the states by black people. I’m just gonna add in a face kind of hoping that people looking up to me would be open to exploring the stuff that they’re into and not kind of being turned away from me if we can change the opinion on it. Like when I play it out sometimes people are like ‘why you playing this type of white people stuff’ it’s like bruh you don’t even understand the foundation of what this is. So I’m just trying to change that narrative at least add and kind of write my history into part of the narrative and bring it back. You know?
P: When did you first have the idea for Believe In Yourself Do It Yourself Records (BIYDIY) and what is the story behind its origin?
S: So originally it was Matthew, Matt Nelson, he came up with the concept of BIYDIY when we went on tour. The tour was called the Believe In Yourself Do It Yourself Tour, and me and Matt worked together for so long, we were doing parties called Next Level Vibes when he lived in New York, he moved to Puerto Rico in 2014. Before then we were doing parties here in New York called Next Level Vibes and so from there, he moved to Puerto Rico. I started DJing when he moved because he was like our resident DJ for the parties. So with those like coming together as a DJ, we started a tour and we booked like ten cities, we booked ourselves funded through crowdsourcing. And he came up with the name Believe In Yourself Do It Yourself Tour, this is 2015, and so once the tour concluded we just turned it into a label. And that was how BIYDIY was founded, almost five years ago, we’re coming up on our five year anniversary next year.
P: I see, so what artists and stories do you hope to bring into the spotlight with BIYDIY?
S: Right now we’re kind of focusing on our music, me and Matthew. He’s branched out and worked with an artist from Dallas named Dave Morgan and they have a joint project. So we kind of just work with people we like, and if the music is good enough we put it out through the label. It’s usually not a matter of good enough or bad enough it’s just if we make it and we like it then that thing is going to come out through the label. Outside artists are kind of like, we just worked with our friends so far and just try to make something good that stands the test and stands the message of doing it, believing in the music, and putting it out because you made it you know.
P: How would you define success for yourself?
S: Success for me is, oh I don’t know, I have the space to influence people so that’s why I do it. If I can spark an idea that makes someone else want to get up in the morning and get to work on their own stuff, then I feel like there’s success. And I feel just like expressing myself, if I can express myself and turn that into checks to support my family then I feel like that’s success as well. And so success is really just enjoying what you do and inspiring others to do it.
P: How do you navigate an industry that’s constantly propelled by self-promotion?
S: I mean I don’t know I feel like I’m learning every day how to navigate. The deeper I go because, again, I just started, by throwing parties and djing stuff that my friends would have or djing stuff that I was invited to, so it was just kind of a natural thing that was placed on to me. The deeper you go it kind of gets more, it gets more weird where I don’t necessarily have answers, so I just kind of navigate and stick to my core. If it don’t feel right then I shouldn’t be doing it. It just kind of stayed close to my heart or what kind of core values I have, and just being honest with yourself. If you take on an event and you know it’s kind of wack, like they telling you what to play, then you kind of still have to fight for what’s right. You have to let them know: you hired me for a reason, and just kind of speaking up for yourself really is how you navigate, because you can get sucked into some bullshit real fast just from not having the knowledge or not knowing what’s going on; your heart will be the biggest guide that will guide you through any industry I feel like. Knowing what’s right or wrong, knowing if the opportunity’s good enough to go through it all the way. And so it’s just really just hard work knowing that if you say yes to something you gotta go one hundred percent, knowing if something is wack then speaking up and letting people that you’re working with know that it’s wack and why it’s wack, and just kind of just, you know, being passionate about what you do is how you navigate it.
"Your heart will be the biggest guide that will guide you through any industry"
S: Being willing to change the rules when people tell you the rules, being open to letting people know how fucked up those rules are.
P: What is one message that you want to send to the world as an artist?
S: Never stop exploring and take risks. Continue to take those risks. You never really know what’s gonna happen. Don’t get too comfortable.
P: Would you say that that’s sort of how you’ve navigated your own career?
S: Definitely. There was a point in my career where I was saying yes to everything whether it was photography or djing just because of the amount of reps you get. You get different experiences every time and you never know who you’re going to connect with through those experiences. So I was open-minded enough to say yes. Some people get into some shit and just turn down so much stuff where they never even built up a body of work, so with me saying yes to everything I was able to build up work in photography or build up my name as a DJ in New York, which was spread and connected with however many people. Like if someone’s looking for a DJ, because you say yes to so many things, your name will always be at the top of the list because you’ve done the reps, you played over hundred-something shows or did hundred-something gigs. So again, just being open-minded and knowing what opportunities are bringing if you do them at a hundred percent.
Watch Stonie Blue’s live set on All Day Play FM below and listen to his latest EP Black House Brownstone.
— alldayplayfm (@alldayplayfm) September 18, 2019