In the newest edition of Up & Coming in the Coastal Bend – a series dedicated to highlighting the local creative talents of the younger generation – we meet Esme.
“I grew up enamored with the car radio,” Esme said, calling on their earliest memories of what has become a profound relationship with music. “Since I was a small child I’ve loved pop rap, RnB, radio rock and above all, Linkin Park,” they said, going on to describe the ‘LimeWire generation’ of listening. “In middle school, I discovered hip hop, alternative rock, dance music and J-pop,” they said, “and that’s when I think I fully fell in love with music.”
At just 21 years old, Esme is a multi-hyphenated talent: producer, writer, rapper, musician … the list goes on. Much like their personal background— Mexican-born and South Texas-raised— Esme’s work and inspiration has expansive roots in different genres, styles and schools of production. They cite MF DOOM as an early inspiration in the work they have come to create. “His story and prolificness as an independent producer and rapper inspired me to make beats and rap on them when I was in high school,” Esme said, also noting later inspiration in fellow local rapper gone global superstar Kevin Abstract, who galvanized them into starting their first group—VHS or Village Hate Society— with friends and to pursue a career in music. “I owe everything to them even if they don’t inspire me anymore,” they said.
Esme’s approach to both writing and production is painstaking in practice, and not for no reason. Their style achieves a blend of genres, marrying qualities of lo-fi and garage rock in heavily distorted instrumentals with unshy lyricism and biting humor that stem from newer schools of rap. “Songs usually begin with an idea or a concept, whether it be musical, stylistic or lyrical,” Esme said of their process of writing and production. “Progress is extremely iterative and I’m a perfectionist so it can take me months to finish projects,” they said. As a seasoned artist, they describe the balance of making quick decisions, especially when working with other artists, but find solace in the freedom to take their sweet time on their own projects, allowing the work to live and grow.
As an artist and producer, Esme doesn’t shy away from new ventures and considers experimentation important to cultivating range in their catalog. In their production work, they seek out challenges and opportunities to flex their creative muscles. “I always want to push myself to try producing in new styles or write from different perspectives,” they said. A frequent collaborator with local artists of varying genres, they are currently at work co-producing for local artist Chris56 with El Dusty as well as producing for Fatboyshaun. Esme credits the local music scene for having accepted and uplifted them in their work since high school and looks forward to continuing their work in the community.
With producing demand at a steady incline, Esme still finds time to go back to basics with their personal projects. Finding inspiration in various mediums such as animation and comics and diverse genres. The hearth of inspiration these days is in artists like VHS co-founder Renzo, $quib, Nvah, Designer Pets, The Sleeping Bag, JPEGMAFIA, and their co-collaborators. “I’m in two rap groups, VHS and The Carloses,” they said, “and I’m working on a solo Esme album that is my best work so far.” For Esme and their listeners, the best is yet to come.