Exclusive: iLoveMakonnen Talks New Music, Drake, & Life After Coming Out
iLoveMakonnen is still going up on a daily basis.
Fresh off performing at Avalon in Hollywood, the “Tuesday” hitmaker caught up with Rap-Up to discuss his whirlwind of a year. From his fallout with Drake and OVO Sound to coming out as gay, the 28-year-old Atlanta singer-rapper has been in the headlines, but he remains more focused than ever.
He recently collaborated with his “inspiration” Lil B and returned to the studio with Mike WiLL Made-It. Next up, the Warner Bros. signee plans to drop a new single with Rae Sremmurd, all while remaining true to his roots.
“I’ve just been working a lot with myself, getting back into producing, and getting back into the artistry because I was really a songwriter and producer at first,” he says. “My shit took off when I was like, ‘Man, let me give this artist thing a try.’ It really started happening so I focused my time on being an artist. Now that I have time to focus on my other skills, that’s what I chose to do.”
After coming out earlier this year, he faced his share of critics, but also received an outpouring of support, and hopes to inspire others in the process. “I’m gay, I’m all things, but I still fuckin’ love Makonnen,” he says. “Hopefully people out there can love themselves too and see that as a beacon.”
You dropped Drink More Water 6 and Red Trap Dragon last year. What are you currently working on?
This year, I’ve been working on songwriting and producing. I’ve been working on music with other artists for their projects. I’ve been taking a backseat as an artist, but I have a new song coming out next week with Rae Sremmurd and Mike WiLL Made-It that’s been in the works for some months now. We just got everything cleared and ready to go, so I should be dropping that officially.
What was it like to collaborate with Rae Sremmurd and Mike WiLL on this song?
We’ve known each other for years now, before we had notoriety. Mike WiLL was the most successful person we knew. In Atlanta, he introduced us, and he was always working with us. So, we’ve always worked on music together, before “Tuesday” came out. We’ve been friends before that whole fiasco happened when I went off and went with OVO. This is kind of like coming back home to the home team. It’s just good to see everybody doing their thing. Now, we have a sound that we felt was too new way back then, when we were trying to work on it, but now is the right time to link up. Everybody understands us as artists and they’re more open to hearing us try our artistry. We have a record that’s multigenerational, multicultural, something for everybody, but still true to us.
Is this a song off your new project? What can you tell us about it?
Yes. It’s definitely gonna be coming along with more stuff from me. I’ve just been taking my time with [the new project]. I’m usually in the studio freestyling. That’s how I work on all my songs, just to be really in the moment. But now, I’ve been doing a lot of freestyling and coming back and taking my time with the music, cleaning it up, and making each lyric make sense. I just feel like this project is going to still be Makonnen, but it’s Makonnen with him having time on his hands again. A lot of people say they want the old Makonnen, where my old songs were very meaningful in a different way to them. That’s because I was able to take my time with them. But I reached a great height of success and there was a call to do music, travel, and just get it. I was like, “Woah! Let me try this.” But now, I get to go back my roots, how I make music, where concepts come over days and I’ve been thinking about it, observing other people, seeing how it can relate to them, and how it can affect them, rather than just trying to do some quick shit for the moment to get everybody turnt up.
“Lil B has always been a big influence and inspiration in my life.”
Let’s talk about “Global” with Lil B. How did that collaboration come about?
Lil B has always been a big influence and inspiration in my life. I’ve been knowing him since 2008, from online, we’ve always had an online relationship where we talk to each other and he’s always giving me and everybody positive [energy]. There’s times when I remember talking to him about the bigger things, more than money, more than fame, more than all that shit. My music started getting big, I guess, I started traveling and becoming very popular. So I always wanted to reach out to him and be able to make some shit, but at times, there was just certain people in contracts that kind of didn’t want to work with him because he’s so underground, and he’s so not the so-called mainstream of chasing a hit. But I was like, “This is a cultural influence. This is something that’s way bigger than that for me. So I’ll risk whatever y’all feel because this guy is giving me confidence to come out here and do my thing and not care about what anybody else thinks.” We got to link up in 2016 and we made two songs in that session. We made the beat for “Global” together and he told me he was going to save that for his album. I was just super excited. I was like, “Man, whatever you need from me because I’m beyond a fan.” It was all love…I hope people love the record and enjoy it because we really had a great time doing it. It was so fun, man. We were all smiles that whole session.
Who else have you been collaborating with lately?
I’ve been working with Lil Peep a lot. We have a collaboration that I think is very good. I’m very excited about it. It’s probably one of the most exciting things I’m working on right now. It’s a blending of genres. It’s a real collaboration. Most times when people collab, everybody with the same swag is kinda like, “Let’s just swag one track out.” But a real collaboration is, you be the best in your world and I’ll be the best in my world. Let the best come together and be the best for the world. That’s what I’ve been working on with him. He’s a young artist I admire so I’ve been honored to work with him. Me and Mike WiLL have got a few more tracks that we’ve been working on. We stay working whenever we see each other, finishing ideas and working on new stuff.
Earlier this year, you made an impact by coming out publicly. How has your life changed since then?
Nothing has really changed, honestly, but a lot of bullshit has been cut out of my life. That’s what I’ve been trying to do, trying to cut out all the bullshit. I don’t know what everyone else is here for in my life. I could just let y’all know about me. I’m here to do music. I’m also gay. That’s my orientation of what I’m into…I love humans. I love people and shit. I just want to portray that in myself. I was just coming out as gay to say, “This is me. I accept me.” I know other people out there are dealing with the same shit but we don’t have people in positions like mine that they could relate to, somebody that you could look up to, that’s done it before. I’ve fuckin’ been pioneering all my life so it’s something I did for me and the world and other young people out there to let them know they can feel better about themselves. I know there’s times where it’s not accepted. I’m just like, if y’all paying attention to me, I accept myself. I was that, I was this, I’m gay, I’m all things, but I still fuckin’ love Makonnen. Hopefully people out there can love themselves too and see that as a beacon.
“I’m gay, I’m all things, but I still fuckin’ love Makonnen.”
I’m sure fans have responded in kind. Have you experienced any of that?
Yeah, I get it from people in person. I played Gay Pride in Los Angeles this year and I got to see that it was really a good thing for different people. It made them feel stronger and accepted. They fuck with it because it’s like, “You’re not lying bro! You’re not out here hiding. At least you’re not telling us you got 30 bitches on your dick. At least you’re just being honest with yourself.” That’s all people want in the world. What all do we have besides being honest with ourselves? I’m just being me. Fans are dealing with it too, because it’s a reflection of what’s going on in the world. I’m like, “Hey, I’m me. This is me. Can I get back to doing music?” It seemed like everybody got caught up in my gay shit but I’m here to do music so it’s like, “Let me just let y’all know.” But that’s just how it’s been. Nothing’s really changed. People are still people. It’s not like, “Oh! Everybody’s fucking with you now because you’re gay” or “they’re not fucking with you because you’re gay.” They’re just out here doing them and I’m out here doing me.
“There really is no issue with me and Drake. We just haven’t had communication.”
When you left OVO Sound, you talked about a falling out with Drake. Where do you guys stand now?
I really don’t know, at the end of the day. It’s a lack of communication, of where it is, and I think it’s a whole bunch of misunderstandings. Things get so blown out of proportion from other people that aren’t really there. They just want to make a name for themselves online so a lot of people get misinformation. There really is no issue with me and Drake. We just haven’t had communication so other people that are around that like to stir up shit, they sort of made it seem like we have some sort of issue with each other, but it’s like, they’re them, I’m me. It’s just a lot of miscommunication. From what I’ve heard, it’s all love. I haven’t seen them. They haven’t seen me. It’s not on me anymore. It’s more on them because it feels like I’m saying too much of a one-sided story where I’m looking foolish out here. I don’t have anything to say. People need to ask OVO where they stand with Makonnen because they’re the ones who brought Makonnen to the world stage. Makonnen was always in Atlanta doing his own shit and then they brought me in the mix like that. I’m thankful for the opportunity, we went our separate ways, but I don’t have any issue. It’s more of a lack of communication and more people haven’t heard their side of what’s going on with Makonnen to them. It was always, “Makonnen left OVO.” It wasn’t, “How does OVO feel about that?” It’s always just been a Makonnen-Makonnen-Makonnen thing. So, people start saying, “Makonnen is a hater. He’s in the OVO sweatshop.” All of these little lies and rumors and shit to make content online so they can get a career. That’s just the Internet, but in real life, motherfuckers know Makonnen. If they ever want to talk to me, somehow, they can talk to me. But there’s no issue or no hard feelings for anybody.