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Never Land Series: An Interview with Andy Mineo
NRT's Joshua Galla speaks with the hip-hop star about his latest project, 'Never Land II'

AN NRT EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, Never Land Series: An Interview with Andy Mineo
Posted: October 18, 2021 | By: JoshuaGalla_NRT
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One of Reach Records’ original artists, Andy Mineo, has released his highly anticipated sequel to his 2014 Never Land EP.
Andy has been openly sharing his creative struggles, both emotionally and professionally, over the past seven years and the result is an album that is one of his most transparent, vulnerable, and creative projects to date.
Never Land II resets the creative peaks of the Christian Hip-Hop space, providing artists big and small with a checkpoint of creativity to strive for. I had the opportunity to speak with Andy to dissect the new project and cover some other topics.
Congratulations on the completion of Never Land II. How's it feel?
I’m excited to be done. I worked relentlessly on this stuff, and now that it's done, I don’t even know what to do with myself, but now it's time to focus on the videos and marketing. I like to delight people with cool content, music, and art. I get to see my work pay off as people start interacting with it.
When did you officially start working on content for the album?
There's stuff on the album that’s three months old, as well as three years old. There are certain songs that I've endlessly tweaked and finessed over the past three years. Then, there's the stuff I recently created, such as “It Could Be Worse.” I rapped it on the way to the studio. I was just inspired and it happened really quickly. I arrived at the studio, we recorded it, we finished it, and we moved on.

What’s important is that the music is brand new to everybody else. I’m always working and creating stuff, but I always try to figure out where the music fits best and the right timing. I've also got songs that didn’t make this album and, most likely, will come out on something else.
How did the intros and
unique instrumentations to “Am I…” and “…Falling?” enter into the creative process?

Artists Tyshane Thompson, Gabriel Alejandro Callejas, and my producer, BEAM, helped me with that one. They had a piece they had been working on and showed it to me when I was working on my 2017 project, Magic & Bird. I’ve been holding on to the piece since then and have been having a really tough time catching cadences and flows trying to write to it. 

I ended up going in and making some tweaks. I remade the beat, put in new drums, and then it just opened up. The cadences and the pocket started to come together and here we are, four years later. Finally, the poem I wrote at the beginning really ties together the four elements I've been using lately: arrow, sword, feather, and key.

I love those epic, long-winded intros. Part of me wants to get away from that, just drop the beat and get this thing started. The other part of me likes the suspense and movie-like buildup. It’s not for everybody, but for the people that are invested and like the journey, it’s going to be a cool moment for them.
Before we dive into the meat of Never Land II, let's talk about the cover art created by designer Kevin Hackett. How did it come together artistically?

I’ve always been inspired by the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, by author Maurice Sendak. Max, the main protagonist in the book, leaves his bedroom and goes off into this other world. I’ve always gravitated to those kinds of concepts where there's another world outside the window. Places to go. Adventures to go on.

So I came up with this concept of a bedroom out in the middle of nature. A young dreamer on the bed, surrounded by his favorite childhood things. He's tossing a basketball, while the world is moving around him. I wanted people to look at the cover, and using their imagination, go anywhere they wanted to go. The cover brought that concept to life for me.

Originally, we were doing the photoshoot outside, however, we discovered that it would be a logistical nightmare. So we brought the concept to life using Adobe Photoshop magic.

There are so many things around the bedroom that are directly connected to my life: the Syracuse Orangeman mascot, the monkeys in a barrel, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball trophies, and the New York 34th Street sign. The blanket on the bed is an Italian afghan, something like what my grandma would’ve given me. There are pictures on the wall from my childhood like my first rap group ever. Nobody’s going to catch everything, but most of my fans will capture a lot of it.
Diving into the tracklist, we have "Be About It" featuring hip-hop icon, Lecrae. What led you to collaborate with him again? And what's the concept behind the track?

I linked up with Lecrae and pop artist Shama “Sak Pase” Joseph, the team from my single, “Coming in Hot.” So, as the record was about to go gold, I told the team, “Let’s run it back.” Lecrae and I hit the studio like two to three Tuesdays in a row. We set up a once-a-week schedule. I thought, "Let’s just get in the studio and cook up some things and see what happens." Together, we made three songs. "Be About It" was one of the three. 

We have great chemistry together, so it made sense for us to get the same producer and the same team to get the new music done. We loved the finished product. 
I’m proud of this record. It has that calling card at the beginning, that “Pump Up That Bass” (I made that part. It’s my voice. I tweaked it from my producer hat).

I’ve always loved records that start with a big calling card. When you perform the song live, it just triggers the crowd as they know what’s coming next. I think the song is really going to resonate well with people, especially the music video.

Next up is "You Know the Drill," featuring music great John "Wordsplayed" Itiola. Again, the chemistry was key. How did the concept come together and why bring Wordsplayed back? 
I had started something with just a beat and some written raps. I have millions of songs like that in the studio, just unfinished with a bunch of bars on them. So, for this song, I wrote the opening bars and then sent it to John.

Normally what I do is when I write something I’m unsure about, I connect with a handful of people via text for feedback. John was inspired when he heard it. So, he wrote his part and just sent it back. It was crazy. After that, I didn’t know what to do with this record because it was just us (John and I) rapping over this bass sound. I have a handful of hook ideas just randomly written down on my phone. One of those gems was used for this track.

I had this idea to do a drill beat over the phrase “you know the drill.” So, I merged that on there. You know, you just start piecing a record together. That’s all we had was the first verse and the chorus. A couple of weeks ago, the album was due that day.  I knew we really needed to finish this song because I really wanted the track on the project and I really wanted Wordsplayed to be a part of the project (because he’s my artist under Miner League).

Literally, in the final hour, the last few seconds, we pieced together that back-n-forth verse. It turned out really cool and will be fun to do live on the tour. This was the very last song to be finished for the project.
"Working On It" featuring gospel artists Chandler Moore and Taylor Hill is next. I know how you set up to mix genres, sounds, styles with NLII as it's prevalent on this track. How was it created? 

The track is another one of those songs that evolved over the years. In 2019, at a writing camp with creatives, I worked on a bunch of ideas. I worked on the chorus for this track with a couple of my homegirls: Rickie “Caso” Tice and Kimberly “Kaydence” Krysiuk, a writing duo out in Los Angeles. They worked on the chorus under a completely different chord progression than what’s on the finished product.

Also, I was in the studio with artist Taylor Hill. He moved from Los Angeles to Atlanta to work with me for the last year, so he’s all over the album. I really don’t want to just be rapping over trap beats. I wanted to work over some different tempos and music beds. Taylor is a musical monster; We laid down five or six bass lines and tried a few experiments.

Then, I sent it to one of my boys because it wasn’t sounding right. It was cool, but we needed to figure out what would take it to the next level. It was sent to Alex Goose next, a producer out in Los Angeles. He slowed the whole thing down from 130 bpms to 120 BPMs, and that’s where his voice started to tweak out. It gives that deeper voice vibes. That really set the whole track off.
This song has gone through five or six revisions. I worked it for over a year before finally getting the raps right. When we worked on the track, it was the first day I met gospel singer Chandler Moore. It was the first time Taylor Hill as well.  He came to the studio and we hung out for a while. It was a coincidence I was working on this particular song. 

Anyway, I asked Chandler to help me write the hook for the song. In response, Chandler started doing these crazy runs. I got up and ran out of the room (that’s how amazing they were).

I was like, “Oh, my goodness.” It wasn’t what I originally had in mind (to have him featured) because he didn’t really pop off yet. Everyone knows Chandler because of his collaboration with pop icon Justin Bieber. He was just getting started, making music, had a cool voice and a cool vibe. That’s who that whole thing came together.
We get our first skit, "New Father," featuring your mom, Fran Mineo. How did this play out for the album?

My mom was incredible. I found an old interview from Saturday Morning Car-Tunez, season three (2015). It had a bunch of stuff from it that never worked for the series. So, I ended up chopping up a bunch of sound bites from the interview and turned her into the narrator for this album.
Fans finally get the return of singing Andy on "Nobody's Coming." It's different and works well for the album. How did this track come together?
It’s just one of those songs that’s really vulnerable because the lyrics themselves are vulnerable, I don’t really sing like that so there’s a part of me that’s self-conscious. It’s a double whammy on the vulnerability side for me. So, it’s cool that you like the record like that and really vibe with it, as it was definitely one of those with a creative risk attached.
The song "Not Gon' Do," featuring artist Joseph Solomon, has some unique characteristics sonically. How did everything wrap together?
I produced this record all by myself, so I had a lot of lead way on the entire production process, chopping up Joseph Solomon’s vocals, and just experimenting with a lot of different things. It was another moment where I switched up the tempo and the BPMs to try and create something a little different than what I’ve done in the past.

I’m always trying to innovate a little bit because I get bored easily. It’s a strength and a weakness of mine honestly. Out of my boredom, sometimes I will be doing stuff that nobody really asked for. Sometimes you get something really innovative and cool. We landed on this one with a cool record that I’m definitely proud of.
The second single from Never Land II is "It Could Be Worse." Why did you pick this track as one of the singles?
For me, it makes for a good single since it’s a hard-hitting rap record. It’s exciting and resembles an adrenaline shot. Also, it’s a good way to start. I've been silent for a while, so I want to give fans a little “Andy’s back” moment. And, this track represents that for me. A little flash in the pan, then you can hit them with all the artistic stuff afterward. I don’t know. It just felt right to me for this to be one of the pre-release singles.
Looking at "Priorities," "Trying," and "Cross My Heart," which of these three hit a personal heartstring standing out during the creative process?
“Trying” was one of those songs that stood out personally for me. It also has a cool story attached to it. I started writing it roughly four years ago. I have so many versions of this song recorded. This is my favorite track from the entire album. It’s the one I’m most proud of and contains some of the most vulnerable and honest lyrics I’ve ever written. It probably won’t be one of the biggest songs, but it’s one I gravitate to personally.
What do you hope personally fans take away from a first-listen of Never Land II

Probably what my mother said at the end: “Life hasn’t been easy, but it’s been great.” I’m always trying to point people back to some form of hopefulness and that’s what this project is about. Trying to recapture that child-like wonder. Don’t let your difficult circumstances take away from how amazing this life can be--no matter how hard it gets. Always discover the beauty and the wonder that daily life presents.

What can I and our NRT team be praying for you?

Please pray for our upcoming fall 'Return to Never Land Tour. Pray that my team and I remain safe and make sound decisions related to tour details.

Long-time CHH contributor Joshua Galla has been with NRT since 2015. He's an avid hip-hop head originating a passion stemming back into the early 1990s. Joshua is a girl dad and a devout husband. Music is his therapy and escape from the mundane.

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