Laddie Moran's first album since 2016's "Cartoons and CeReal" begins with a sample of a sensei motivating a student. As with all 10 tracks on "Growing Painz," the meaning is left for the listener to interpret as they see fit. Could it be the Lancaster rapper serving a lesson to his young son, or a message from the Moran of yesterday to the one releasing a long-anticipated new album this week?
"Growing Painz" represents a noticeable artistic leap for Moran. Beats are more pristine and the lyricism, with verses dedicated to family struggles and inner turmoil, shows diligence of time spent deep in a notepad.
Last week, we holed up in a Slice of Brooklyn to discuss the making of "Growing Painz" over some pizza. Read the interview below:
Fly After 5: We’re talking in an interesting time frame, where the album is complete, but no one has heard it yet. How do you feel?
Laddie Moran: I’m anxious, man, for real. I’m anxious to see what the public is going to think about it. And, I’m sorry [laughs]. Dad life.
FA5: Since you mentioned “Dad life,” let’s talk about the family stuff on the album. There’s a song specifically where you’re talking to your son and his voice is on the record. How do you feel about those songs in particular hitting public ears?
LM: I don’t know yet. I think that when I wrote the songs, it was more to just get it off my chest. When I was recording them, it was like, “Well, I guess I should put them on this project.” They’re hard listens for me. The point of this project is transparency and trying to be honest with myself. There’s a lot of embarrassing moments on there for me and the people in those stories, but that’s life. I think what I wanted to get across is the growth of a person, the things that people have to go through to get to the other side. Songwriters beware – when you talk about people in your music, they’re going to get mad at you.
FA5: Other than the lyrical content, one of the things that struck me about "Growing Painz" was the brevity of the project. Was putting out something short and concise important to you, or did it just end up that way in the end?
LM: We had 15 songs originally, but then we started chipping away the pieces that didn’t enhance the album or give it the feel I was looking for. It was really hard to get major life events into 27 minutes and 22 seconds. Not saying the other songs are filler, but there were a bunch of songs that just didn’t fit. For example, there’s a song called “Holiday” that I wrote from the perspective of another up-and-coming rapper who gets killed because of lack of understanding. I took that one off the album because it wasn’t my own perspective, which is what I wanted this album to be.
FA5: How involved were your C.O.O.L. cohorts Ro$e Golde and Van Blue in the making of the album?
LM: They were super instrumental in it. Those two, [engineer] Carl Bonner, [fellow artist] Wednesday and [producer] Pineapple Papi were very involved in making sure the songs sound a certain way. All the beats got changed, songs were re-written to fit beats and all types of stuff. I sang a lot on the album – terrible voice [laughs]. But listen, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do that without their help.
FA5: The song has been out for a little while now, but how did you approach Tuck Ryan to get him involved on "I Try?"
LM: Honestly, it was as simple as a DM on Instagram. He was super cool about it. I sent it to him and didn’t hear from him for a week, then he sent it back with the vocals on it and it was super dope. I would love to do the song live together at some point. I want to perform the album live with Tuck and his band, that would be so crazy. Playing with a band is something I’ve always wanted to do, it’s just hard to get people organized. But it’s alright, I’ve got the vision.
FA5: A re-occurring theme I noticed both online and at shows over the past two years was people bugging you about when you would "finally" drop the album. Do you think there’s anything about the music-making process that people generally don’t understand?
LM: The work behind it. I think people think we press ‘record’ then say a bunch of words over a beat and then put it out. It’s very intricate work, especially when you’re putting an album together. Like I said, song structures and rewrites alone take a lot of time. Originally, I had written two intros and three outros. I was in this thought process where I was like, “We’ve gotta keep all the tracks, so what if we release a b-side to the album with bonus tracks?” And people were like, “No, you’re doing too much. Nobody wants to hear the outro three times, bro” [laughs]. But the strongest one is the one that we put on the album.
FA5: Between “Cartoons and CeReal” and “Growing Pains” is a big span of time. What do you think you learned, whether it’s music, life or otherwise, that helped you get to where you are on this record?
LM: I learned about myself, more than anything. To say that people don’t change is crazy. Being a father definitely put a lot of different things in perspective for me. Not just with him, but with music. It hasn’t been a game, but it definitely is not a game anymore. I want to be able to leave a legacy for my son.
FA5: Have you played any music for your son yet?
LM: Nah, he’s still too young. He’s only 4, so even when he’s 11 or 12 years old, he might hear some of the things on this album and be like, “Wait, what?” He might feel a certain way, and then get older and listen again and think, “Maybe dad wasn’t really such an asshole after all.” Honestly, my approach in making music right now is letting him know that things are going to happen in life eventually. That’s why I put a lot of myself in the music, because we’ve all been there.
FA5: Are there certain venues where you do your best shows?
LM: I really love intimate sessions. I like to be in your face to see how you react. To rock a crowd is dope, but I love the smaller places. Dankaster [at Station One Center for the Arts] is a recent example of that.
FA5: I was curious about the sample of the motivational speech at the very beginning of “Growing Painz.” What’s the story behind that?
LM: That is a sensei speaking to one of his students. He’s doing a test trying to instruct the student to break a board with his hand. It’s the type of speech I wish someone had given me when I was younger. It just popped up one day online, and when I heard it, it sounded perfect. I talk about my father passing away, I’ve had friends that have been killed, I wish someone had prepared me for stuff like that. It’s so aggressive, I was so mad when I wrote that.
FA5: Do you have certain hopes for the album once it’s out?
LM: I hope people can see their own struggles in it and understand that it’s not going to last forever. I hope somebody who is going through the same things I did, listens and know that it will be alright.