It’s been well over a year since I met Super Smack in our last interview for his song “Black and Gold” featuring Mega Ran, and we’ve talked and hung out several times after. So when he approached me about interviewing him for the singles off his new project, I was a bit hesitant at first, but my curiosity and excitement won out. I’m happy to say that this is the first of many short interviews with Super Smack for each of his upcoming singles and debut album.
Super Smack isn’t just some run of the mill artist in the age of the influencer. When he is seeing friends, spending time with his family, and building his craft as an artist, those are the times I’ve seen him at his brightest. Sure, clicks and likes are important, but the constant strife for clout is something barely on his radar. . His music speaks first and speaks loud. It’s no surprise that last year his upcoming album, Booty & the Brain, not only hit its Kickstarter goal of $6,000, but raised an additional $5,000 by the end of the fundraiser. So, what better way to ring in the new year by releasing the first single off the album, and one of my personal favorites from his catalog, “Cute!”
“Cute!” is cute. Its island-like sounds and bubbly percussion feel like the first soda of the summer, gulped down on a hot day. It’s an earworm to dream up fancams for your favorite rom-com meet-cute scenes, but for Smack it is more than effervescent joy. It is a song that is meant to be sugary and sweet on its surface but textured and personal at its core. Hearing clips of it last year, both live and its demo, delivered the vibe it was going for, but the finished product was something else to indulge in. It’s pulsing bass carved its way into my car as I cruised down to, Luanas Coffee & Beer, our meeting spot.
It’s a local coffee shop in the area, but it feels so Arizonan I could’ve gotten lost just sitting inside of it if I didn’t have this interview. Its vintage unmatched-on-purpose, furniture, dim year-round christmas lights, floral wallpaper, outdated TVs, VCRs, and radios, all fashioned itself as a house lost in time. A place one goes to be wrapped in the warmth of nostalgia and away from the noise of the outside.
It’s a place Super Smack goes often to work, and he recommended it to be our first interview location. When he entered the shop, his outfit reflected his neon red/neon blue era attire but it was more subtle. His black jacket drew your eyes to the Hello Kitty graphic on his shirt. Super Smack had arrived.
“I’m great. New Year. Fresh Start,” was the first thing Super Smack said when we started catching up. It had been about a month or so since I had last seen him. In the interim he spent as much time as he could with family and finished up the last touches on “Cute!” before he became too busy. I could relate to that feeling all too well, but unlike me, he was excited for it.
So what did you do over New Year’s?
Super Smack: I had a lot of family coming into town. So it was nice. I’m really close with my cousins. So we were able to entice them to come in from Vancouver, Toronto, and California. It was the first time we’ve really been together in a while and we just did what we love to do, which is eat, hang out, play video games, and watch shows. It was just the best. We played a lot of Overcooked. You ever play?
Four player Co-Op. We’re all super intense. We’re like, “Oh, we gotta get the maximum score on each level before we move on.” So, that was pretty dope. And we watched a good good amount of Terrace House, too. Are you a Terrace House fan?
No, describe it.
Terrace House is a deep, bright vortex of wonder. It is this Japanese reality show. It’s just really fun to see Japanese dating culture through a pretty unfiltered lens. So, it’s a really, really, really good show. Yeah, I really like the dating stuff, especially. Just because dating and romance has been on my mind over the past year – I would say even more so than any other year I’ve ever had.
I think when you see something through the perspective of a different culture, it makes it feel a lot more universal. You’re like, “Oh, everybody goes through this shit?” It makes all of my own adventures and awkwardness through dating feel a lot more like, “Oh, okay, I don’t feel so weird anymore.”
That’s a really good segue into “Cute!” What inspired it?
So about a year ago, I found myself going through all these life changes. I had just gotten out of a really tough relationship, a really tough breakup. I was moving from New York to Phoenix and I was about to go full time into music. As I was on this solo road trip I listened to Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer, Kimbra’s Golden Echo, a couple of Lizzo’s albums, and this JRock band called Sambomaster.
[At this moment, Smack leans back, almost as if he was back in his car carrying his thoughts and dreams to this dry, sunny state.]
It let me reflect on the themes that have become really important to me over the last 12-18 months. For me, self confidence and how it relates to romance, personal life, art, professional life, and political life.
[Smack adjusts his posture as he takes another sip of his coffee, continuing his thought.]
That confidence has been a bit of a journey — that is hard for a lot of people and for me. One of the positive things that I got out of the relationship, as hard as it was, was learning that, like, we are really in control of our own self image. So I was like “I want to write just a bop about that”. Something that’s so core to my life experiences.
[Something that I, myself could relate to immensely. You wouldn’t recognize it during your first listen through of “Cute!” Its Kpop inspired roots eludes the chorus chant of “Don’t you think I’m cute?” Something I have seen Super Smack encourage the audience to sing back during the performance. A subtle self reaffirmation not just for Super Smack but the audience themselves. Something I catch myself doing often whenever the song comes on in my rotation.]
I wanted to write something that reclaimed aspects of my physical appearance. Whether that’s being Asian, being five foot five, having a round face, lack of facial hair, or even having special glasses that make sure they don’t slide off my nose because I don’t have a bridge on my nose. How can I sum all these aspects of me? And I was like, Oh! Cute! Cuteness. Let’s write a song about bouncing back by reclaiming cuteness.”
So how did Super Smack get born exactly? Because, personally, I’ve always used my middle name as my artistic name to get away with creating things or trying things without the feeling of being me. So I’m wondering if Super Smack might have been something similar? A way to branch out that you couldn’t do before.
I’ve heard some other rappers tell me some stories, like, where they kind of create this rap persona that’s like, like a bigger, larger than life version of their normal self. Some of that kind of resonates with me, some of it doesn’t, because I don’t feel like I created Super Smack to invent a new persona. I felt like the persona was actually already there.
I have three different names: Juan at work and school, JD with friends and family, and Smack with art and music. Super Smack allowed me to better organize and harmonize different aspects of myself. My favorite superhero is Superman and one of the things I love about him is his secret identity and his superhero identity are actually both him. He’s always been Clark Kent and he’s always been Superman and he’s always been Kal- El, right? He is equal to all three of those things. That’s how I feel about being Super Smack.
So, then what do you think your message is for you as an artist? This album, and in particular, this single?
For the Cute! the message is “Feel good in your body. Own that as you go out and you romance with people,” you know? Fuck whatever perceptions of what is attractive or what is not attractive; you are your physiology and you are your mind state. Own those things. For Beauty & The Brain, as a whole, the message is even bigger. We — all of us — as we go on our journeys and crazy love lives and growing up from being kids to adults, as we go along that journey, let’s make sure that we acquire three big things, a feeling of sexiness, a feeling of smartness, and a feeling of silliness. Sexy, Smart, Silly. Being in touch with our intellectual needs and emotional health, making sure that we feel good and attractive and sexy about our bodies, and not taking ourselves too seriously along the way, even as we grow up. That’s what this album is about.
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