Being Part of A Global Hip Hop Collective: An Interview with Cole Hamilton from Youth // Service

By: Mark Ramzy    

    Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of boy bands take the entire world by storm, but we’ve never seen anything quite like Youth // Service. The alternative hip hop collective has redefined what it means to be global, as its seven members are spread out across the globe, from the United States and Canada all the way to Australia and New Zealand. Youth // Service was founded in 2018 when a few Brockhampton fans got together on Reddit and decided to make some music. Almost three years later, their ambitious and experimental project has become a reality. They’ve released 3 outstanding projects to date, with the latest one, Out of Focus, coming out this past September. The craziest thing, however, is that they’ve done it all while only meeting once as a group. In an ironic twist, this has made them uniquely prepared to collaborate during the pandemic. We sat down (virtually) with group vocalist Cole Hamilton to discuss the album’s creation and the group’s future.

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FP: What was your favorite part during the creation process of the album, especially having done most of it remotely?

Cole Hamilton: I think the most memorable experience was actually going to Cleveland and meeting the guys that I had just known for a few months at the time. We were still close but just being able to work together side by side and get to live under the same roof for about a week got us even closer and more connected as a family. Just being able to get that constructive criticism up front instead of over text helped me improve a lot in my work. That’s probably what I remember most. Another thing is how much I grew throughout the creation of the album. I think I lost about 80 or 90 pounds throughout the entire lifespan of the album which I cherish a lot.

FP: So how long did the process of creating the album take?

Cole Hamilton: We started the album August 16th and we finished it sometime in July the year later. So about 11 months. We originally wanted to drop it exactly a year after we met in Cleveland, but we pushed it back a bit just to perfect it and make the rollout a better experience for us and the consumers.

FP: I noticed how introspective and vulnerable your verses are on the album, as you opened up about your weight loss journey, failed relationships, and your aspirations in life. What’s your mindset like when you’re writing these songs?

Cole Hamilton: My main inspirations are what I’m going through at the time. A lot of my verses will be snapshots of my life and I try to capture exactly how I’m feeling at the moment. But sometimes I’ll also think about the past and an example of that is the “It’s Alright” verse which I wrote when I had lost the 80 pounds so I was looking back to when I would look at the mirror and see myself and I would transport to a dark place and I’d only be left with my thoughts at night and that can just cloud your mind and leave you with a lot of negative feelings which is even more reinforced with all of my insecurities and my self-esteem issues at the time. So mainly it’s just past stuff and what I’m going through at the moment. Sometimes I do like to just rap my ass off and show some confidence like my “Death Row” verse.

FP: What’s your favorite song you’ve made and why?

Cole Hamilton: Probably “Keep it For Me” or “It’s Alright,” because those are the two songs that hit me the most and I’m tied emotionally to them. Another one that I didn’t really have too much creative control over is “Carry My Name”. Whenever I go back and listen to the early demos, I get taken back to when I could visualize Julian recording his verse and just having that connection with that song is really nice to me and it’s nice to get transported back to a time that I could look back on in good light.

FP: How does being spread out all over the world affect the creation of your music?

Cole Hamilton: It definitely makes the experience [meeting each other] more special just because how scarce it is. But there are hardships that we experience, especially with the different time zones. I could write a verse at 2PM and Liam would be asleep and wouldn’t get to hear until maybe 8 PM my time. There are definitely troubles with that plus everyone has their own life so we can’t always be working on the music. For example, Liam is a director who made the Dance Monkey video and that has 1 billion views on YouTube, so he definitely has his own work. So it definitely would be so much easier if we could just go hard and work on the music fully in the same house, same time zone. We could have studio sessions more often. We actually do have studio sessions where we’re all in a discord call and Liam will have Logic Pro open and we’ll all just be writing and working and sending in our verses. That stuff is nice but it would just be nicer if we could experience it in person more often than not. We do plan on eventually meeting up in person again but with Covid-19 it might take a while.

FP:  How are you guys planning on building on the success of Out of Focus?

Cole Hamilton: I think we definitely want to experiment more with what we can do. Personally, I am experimenting with what I can do vocally. I don’t think I sing too much on any of our released stuff but I’m exploring that vocally too. I’m excited for the next album because I will have some more melodic singing verses there. We just want to keep expanding while also getting better at what we’re already good at.

FP: I see that most of your work has been with the group, do you plan on maintaining your focus on that or do you see yourself giving more attention towards some solo work?

Cole Hamilton: My main focus right now is with Youth // Service. But I do want to work on another album with Brady [Jay Powers] on the side. I haven’t made a solo project since 2018 but I don’t know if it’s something I’ll really look into right now. I’d rather just focus on the group aspect of Youth // Service just because it’s where a lot of the cohesion is and just the experience I have working with them is a lot nicer than working on my own. I’m not that amazing at it [working alone] because my ears aren’t trained for mixing and all that so it’s nice working with the group.

FP: As an up & coming artist/group, where do you see your music career in five years?

Cole Hamilton: I kind of struggle with hope because I don’t want to dream too much then have it shut down, but I would love to see us in the same house together working on music as a job and not as an aspiring job. I’m going to college to study film, which is pretty cool, but it might come in the way. I do still want to focus more on the music side of things, and I would love to see us in a place of stability in 5 years. I know it’s not promised and we’re going to have to work our asses off, so that’s what we’re going to do. 

FP: Do you have anything else you want to tell the people reading this?

Cole Hamilton: Stream Out of Focus if you haven’t heard it yet. It’s a really great album and we put our hearts into it and if you’re from HipHop IG, it would be really nice to finally get the respect that I feel like I worked for and I haven’t gotten it yet. I’ll catch you all on the next Freezepeach interview. Thanks for having me!

 

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