Everything ihateyouALX does is authentic. His animosity-infused name isn’t a gimmicky attempt at a quick click, it’s simply because an ex-girlfriend said it to his face so many times that it finally stuck. In person, he’s quick to dive into excruciating detail about personal stories that inspired the shortest lines. And as you peel back his impressive Corazon EP layer by layer, it’s impossible to overlook the passion he puts into each creative choice, helping you understand not only what he’s saying, but why he’s saying it.
Corazon is ALX’s first EP, but for the multi-faceted creative from Palmdale, music has long been the passion. His abuela has an extensive vinyl collection, with original pressings of Abbey Road and Marvin Gaye as well as traditional, Hispanic music. His father made a similarly large impression on his early musical tastes, instructing him on jazz, cumbia and funk among other timeless sounds.
In high school, her quickly earned himself a reputation as “the kid with the fast raps,” who was always interested in poetry and writing of all forms. Eventually, he decided music was a passion he wanted to pursue in full. He told his father of his dreams, who quickly motivated ALX to learn the entire process rather than rely on outside instrumentals.
“He pushed me, he said ‘you’re going to learn how to produce, you’re going to learn how to mix,’” ALX says. “You’re going to learn how to do all this shit the right way.”
It took some time, but ALX eventually heeded his father’s wisdom. Years later, he’s still doing it the right way. ALX produced every song on Corazon, and also mixed and mastered the project by himself at his home studio. Calling it “cohesive” doesn’t do the project justice; it’s wholly self-reliant, with melodies, rhythms and lyrics building off of each other to create a fully intertwined soundscape.
When you first press play on Corazon, a patient trumpet loop greets you with open arms and welcomes you into his world. The images that flash through your mind as the trumpets billow back and forth may be different for everybody, and for ALX, it’s a different experience each time he listens.
“Once you play it from that first track, it’s like we have stepped into this environment,” he says. “It’s its own world. Now we’re walking through, on this pathway, as everything starts to rise and fall. It’s very tone-setting for me. When I hear that, it’s peace.”
Some of the EP’s song titles read in Spanish and some in English, while one contains meaning in both languages — “‘Sol’ is sun in Spanish, but we say ‘soul’ everyday,” he says. It’s one of the many ways he seeks to join both sides of his heritage throughout Corazon. In one breath, he pays tribute to his abuela with a voice tinged with emotion and a voicemail recited in Spanish. On “Cortez Freestyle,” however he uses Nike’s most iconic sneaker — and one that’s integral to the fabric of Los Angeles — to symbolize the difference between himself and a scorned lover.
The aforementioned “Sol” is especially noteworthy. The path to the song’s completion involved more hangups and setbacks than a Kanye West rollout, and ALX immediately holds his head in his hands when I ask about the process. He had just lost his job at the time, and was forced to put most of Corazon on hold to earn extra money by engineering tracks for others. “It wasn’t a good experience, bro, and it kind of brought my spirits down,” he admits.
Soon after, his dog passed away, and even after he recorded and mixed Nick’s Reed’s verse, he couldn’t come up with anything. It wasn’t until he woke up one morning and went in the booth that he finally found the smallest spark of inspiration, and built it up from there.
“I didn’t even waste time trying to write, I just put the headphones on, turned on the mic and sat there,” he says. “I let his verse run, and then I just came in with a bunch of random melodies and flows, and shrunk it down from there. Once I got that, I had a nice place to start. It was cake from there.”
Long before he created most of the music, a trip to Mexico inspired the EP title, and by proxy, the direction of the project. ALX had traveled to Puerto Vallarta with his camera, where he photographed a collection of Mexican candles that spoke to his soul. After he had returned home, he scrolled through his photos, and one in particular captured his eye.
“I was just flipping through the pictures, thinking ‘what’s the artwork going to be,’ he says. “I ran through one candle, it said ‘El Corazon.’ Not only was the artwork dope, it just explained everything that I was about to get into. It leaves a big open path for me to try this sound or that sound, and put things that have interaction with them.”
“That’s where I feel it can get disrespectful, if you start putting in things that you didn’t grow up on… Yes, I’m Mexican, I’m brown, but that doesn’t mean all of us have the rosaries, all of that.”
Unlike many of those Mexican candles, however, the final artwork that appears with Corazon is much more understated. That truth is a nod to his American heritage, and how it inspired his affinity for photography as an art form.
“I think the photography is that American inspiration,” he says. “The way it’s shot with the red background, it’s not as crazy as we could have gone with it, with the Virgin Mary’s and everything.”
That final point ties into his desire to keep it authentic to himself, not just his culture as a whole. “That’s where I feel it can get disrespectful, if you start putting in things that you didn’t grow up on,” he says. “Yes, I’m Mexican, I’m brown, but that doesn’t mean all of us have the rosaries, all of that.”
For ALX, a major part of his mission is to present his Mexican heritage in a way that won’t instantly turn off American fans. It’s the central reason why he praises Kendrick Lamar’s chef d’oeuvre by the name of To Pimp a Butterfly the way he does — “it spoke up for him, his culture, and his people, without being stereotyped as ‘just a pro-black’ album,” he says.
“Our culture has so much to offer,” he continues. “But I feel like we get a little overlooked, like it’s just cholo, it’s just Dickie pants and Shaka T-Shirts. No, this is us, this is the shit we grew up on. The hand-me-downs, the beans and rice when you come home from school. I want people to take it in… I want them to understand.”