I recently learned about a really cool LA-based indie hip-hop artist named Rafael Vigilantics who just released his new EP, Crime Is The Only Honest Pursuit, with Blank City Records. I enjoy covering talented people (regardless of the style of music) and this guy is an absolute phenom with incredible flow and socially conscious lyrics who’s on the cusp of a major breakout.
Let’s get to know Rafael a little bit better…
Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about you.
Hey, Hollywood. I’m Rafael Vigilantics, a musician/lyricist born in New Mexico. I grew up living in tents and buses and listening to my mother sing old folk songs. I was always making songs out of my long walks through the dry desert, singing the soundtrack of the Southwest.
You just released your debut EP Crime Is The Only Honest Pursuit – what was that like for you?
My EP, Crime Is the Only Honest Pursuit, is a really special release for me. It’s coming out on a label I’m really proud to be a part of – Blank City Records. The format is really amazing as well. All orders will consist of a digital, a flexi, and an X-ray that plays on a turntable. All the X-rays are made in Czechia; mine comes out exclusively on the X-rays of animal bones. This is a throwback to a time when art was considered a crime [in the USSR] and music had to be snuck into the Soviet Union, pressed into material that didn’t look like it could play on a turntable.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
My music is a blend of storytelling, southwestern-punk and indie hip-hop. It’s not what people expect when they look at me. The producer used very few samples to create the sound; it’s almost all live instrumentation, chopped up.
Do you play any instruments? If so, did you play any on your EP?
I play guitar and some bass but I let SMOKEM2D6 handle most of the instrumentation on Crime. I was able to talk to him about what I wanted as far as a definitive sound and he understood, so there was no need for me to step in and do any production. I had the freedom to just write.
What is your songwriting process like?
When I’m writing, I try to figure out what I wanna say before I start caring about how I wanna say it. I start with a point and move backward, refining it as I go. I never put rhyming above the message. I really love playing with words in a way that makes me feel like I’ve described my subjects with a unique perspective.
What do you like to talk about in your lyrics?
A lot of what I write is personal philosophy, I also mix in big stories and themes like anthropology— and, of course, there’s always heartbreak and a bit of violence.
Who would you count as your influences?
I have a lot of old country influences; I love Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen as well. I’m driven by lyrics, so certain authors have influenced me deeply – Steinbeck, Wade Davis, and a lot of the original beat poets as well. Certain criminals like [Carl] Panzram have also had a hand in some of the ideas that end up in my music.
Have you been a part of other projects before this? If so, what?
My solo career has been my only serious project. I played in a few punk bands growing up and am collaborating with different artists now, but Vigilantics has been my main labor.
What are your goals as an artist?
As an artist, my goal is for someone to feel like I’ve helped express something in them that they never quite knew how to say. I want people to feel a connection through my words into places that they were scared to go on their own, knowing that I understand them.
Outside of that, it’s continuing to tour the world and find a way through this life that never feels typical or without poetry. (Hearing my songs in a movie would also put a big smile on my face!)
What was your experience like touring Eastern Europe? Did you have any eye-opening experiences?
Eastern Europe was intense. I have to say I was probably more sober than 90% of Slovakia, haha. People were rowdy and hearty and treated us like we were long lost brothers. The food in Ukraine was some of the most healing, well-made meals I’ve ever had.
We played a tiny town in Latvia that was far north enough to be light out 24 hours a day, a shipping port full of old sea captains, prostitutes, and Russian mobsters. The bar we played was called the Fontaine Palace (a Dutchman had opened named Jimmy Fontaine).
It was a wild night. The sound guy said it didn’t matter if we played at 7AM or 7pm – there would be just as many people drinking. And then, when we ran into sound issues, this guy puffed his cigarette, leaned back on his heels, and slurred out “just play your fucking songs, man. It’s gonna be alright.”
We had a lot of great adventures and met so many amazing fans.
What does your tour schedule look like this year?
I’m only gonna do a west coast tour this year, I wanna stay in LA and work on a few things. I’ve been on the road so much the last 3 years, I feel like I should play a lot of shows on the west coast right now.
If your music gives you a large platform, would you use it to speak out for, or against anything? (do you have a “cause” in particular?)
I think it’s always good to use our voices to stick up for what we believe in. There are so many issues to take up. I feel it’s best to start with the things that have affected us personally— for me that would be things like prison reform and homelessness.
In closing, is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has taken the time to listen to the new EP; I really tried to make something that was worth your time and I feel like I succeeded in that. I’d also like to let people know I’ll be doing a Los Angeles residency; it’s my first set of gigs with a full, live band — every Thursday this June at Bigfoot. Gonna be a good damn time.
Thanks to Rafael Vigilantics taking some time with us and answering our questions! We expect to follow a very bright career for this young man.
Check out his new EP here: