From Richmond with Love: Ant The Symbol’s RVA All-Star Album is Here

by | Jun 12, 2023 | HIP HOP & RAP, MUSIC

Welcome to an exclusive interview with Ant The Symbol, the multi-talented artist and music producer who recently released his fantastic new album, I Know Who I Am. Today, we dive deep into the creative process, inspirations, and collaborations behind this album. Let’s find out more about the journey that Ant The Symbol embarked on to create this musical gem.

Welcome, Ant! First of all, congratulations on your new album. Do you feel like this album has brought you closer to knowing who you are as an artist?

Absolutely. And I don’t think I would’ve been able to make this album if I didn’t. I’m not just one thing, either. That’s why I went against my initial idea of releasing this name under a different moniker. I don’t have to just be what everyone is familiar with.

What inspired you to create this new album?

Basically, I wanted to make something for everybody. I’ve had so many different influences from so many different genres, and I’ve been looking for a way to create something that allows me to show the range that I knew I could. This was it. It felt like a scary, daunting task at first, but for real, what was I so afraid of?

Ant The Symbol 2023
Ant with local musicians Kenneka Cook, Deau Eyes, Trevor Pietsch and Erin Lunsford

Your album features an impressive lineup of artists from RVA. How did this project become such an RVA all-star, all-genre roll call affair?

That was exactly what I planned on from the beginning. I’ve always kept my ears open as far as Richmond music goes. Because of that, I was able to find so many different artists I really dug. I didn’t even get to work with a lot of ‘em, but it’s unrealistic to squeeze all of them on one project, so I had to narrow it down. I feel like I got some of the best, which is crazy considering most of them probably didn’t know who I was.

It’s been three years in the making. How does it feel to finally reach the record release milestone?

Biggest relief ever. I worked on it from June 2020-March 2023, so it felt like the process would go on infinitely. I did what most artists probably do and said “You’ve gotta stop working on this. If you don’t now, you never will.” I knew things would be different once this album dropped, and I think that, subconsciously, I wouldn’t release the album until I was ready to make that leap.

Was there a particular moment when you realized that this project was truly special?

When I heard the demo for “Pride Like A Pendant”. Deau Eyes made an extremely affecting, relatable song, which was the first song recorded for the album. All of the reactions from the song were very strong. Like nothing I’d ever experienced before.

Ant The Symbol 2023
Ant with Johnny Ciggs of Gritty City Records

Can you tell us about the affiliations, collectives, and labels you are a part of, and how each represents different aspects of you as an artist?

I’m part of Gritty City Records, which represents the raw hip-hop side, inspired by J Dilla and 9th Wonder. Shockoe Records represents the more universal artist side of me. Vintage Youth Music is a label I’m building for collaborative projects with other artists.

What was the songwriting process for this album like? Did it differ from your past work?

The first thing I did was created a bunch of beats and ideas based on the mood I was trying to create for the album. Next, I narrowed them down to the ones that I liked the most and that fit the best. Then, I would sequence them into an early version of the album. As the creative process continued, I would add songs and artists until I finally felt it was finished. The only thing that differed from my normal process is the fact that once the demos came back, I decided who/what to add to each song to give it a new level of sound. For example, Reggie Pace elevated the sound of “Poema Inútil”. That’s probably a part of the process that I’ll stick with for the rest of my life.

In your whole career as a producer, which song or collection do you consider a hidden gem?

“Nothing In Particular”, which is exclusively available on my Bandcamp. That album is an intentional hidden gem that was supposed to be the album following The Motions back in 2019, but my creative path ended up leading me elsewhere. I finally dropped what I had of it in 2020 during my pandemic release series. I think that the amount of music I released that summer caused that release to get lost, but I kinda just hoped that people would just find it when they dig deep into my discography.

Many people debate the “Greatest of All Time” in music. What are your thoughts on this conversation?

I refuse to believe that we lack the necessary diversity to be able to appreciate the different exceptional qualities of different artists. I also refuse to believe we lack the ability to understand the simple fact that there are things called opinions, which just so happen to differ from person to person. It’s bullshit to me that if someone has a favorite, there’s gonna be someone there to tell them that they shouldn’t be your favorite. It happens on social media all the time. Social media definitely has its pluses, but I swear people need to pull their heads out of their asses and realize that their opinions aren’t more important than someone else’s. There’s no such thing as a true GOAT in anything. It can all be argued, because it’s just a bunch of opinions from a bunch of people.

Without comparing the songs on this album, what elements make each song a favorite for you?

The song structure and how the artists use it to make the song stand out. Also, the vocal arrangements. There are a couple songs that took hours to mix correctly, and even after the song was finished, I would just mute all of the music and take the vocals in.

Were there any works that inspired this album?

I never even thought about that. Strangely enough, this album was the first in its lineage. I don’t really go into an album thinking of a specific album like “I want this to be my _.” I just follow my own creative desires, you know? I feel like I need to create my own aesthetic instead of replicating one that already exists.

Can you share any highlights from the process of producing the songs on this album?

Specifically, sessions with DJ Harrison were always exciting, because I got to actually feel the energy in the room while we were recording. In one instance, I got to record with a new collaborator, one who I respect highly as an overall musician. Nothing can really top those sessions. Overall, and this is gonna sound kinda corny, the friends I’ve made through this process. I knew a few of the people I worked with before this process, but I’ve met so many people that I not only wanna work with again, but I also just wanna kick it with ‘em in general. If I can’t connect with someone on some non-musical level, then I’m really not getting much out of it.

Ant The Symbol 2023
Photo courtesy of Ant The Symbol

What’s next for you that can be shared or teased?

I’ve got a few collaborative albums coming up. The next one coming out is with T.R.I.G., and it’s entitled Arthur Ashe Blvd. There are a bunch of artists that I’m producing songs for that I don’t wanna announce yet, because I don’t wanna prematurely get people’s hopes up and then things fall apart. As far as solo projects, I’ve got a mixtape in the works entitled An Apollo Legend, which includes an all-star lineup of Richmond rappers. I’m gonna finish that later this summer, and that’s gonna be my final hip-hop compilation. I’ve gotten to a point in my career where I don’t wanna be working on too many solo projects. I want people to be able to properly digest what I’ve given them. Plus, I just got a different feeling of joy from the process of I Know Who I Am that I’ve never gotten from an album before, and I fully believe that the listeners are feeling the same way. I’m gonna take my time and take all of this in, and then I’m gonna focus on the follow-up. Hopefully, I’ll be experiencing another form of joy in that process.

Thank you for sharing your insights with us, Ant. We’re really excited about your new album. Where can people stream it and find you on social media?

I Know Who I Am now streaming everywhere, CDs available at Plan 9 and Vinyl will be available later this year.

Give Ant The Symbol a follow @antthesymbol
Gritty City Records @grittycityrecs
Shockoe Records @shockoe_records

Todd Raviotta

Todd Raviotta

Artist in many forms. Sharing love for cutting things up as editor and fine art collage media mixer, love of music as a DJ, and love of light in photography and video. Educator of Film Studies and Video Production for over two decades. Long time RVAmag contributor and collaborator.

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