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midwxst Is Launching His Sound Into Hyperdrive

midwxst is fostering a playground for the next generation to thrive. As he prepares for his performance at Reading Festival, the eternally restless 20-year-old discusses his debut album, finding friends for life online and seeking inspiration from the quirkiest corners of the internet.

Words Sophia Hill (@sophia.nh)

Photos @steadylukey

midwxst doesn’t like to get too comfortable.

It’s all part of the creative process; “If you're not in an uncomfortable situation, you're not gonna grow,” he says, peering up and locking eye contact to drive home the point. With each foot he puts forward, the South Carolina-born and Indiana-raised artist is intent on going above and beyond, “You’ve got to outperform yourself each and every time you get on stage, or at least that's how I look at it.”

It’s early evening on a muggy day at Reading Festival and midwxst, aka E3, seems to be in that liminal space every artist confronts before bursting onto a big stage; he’s equal parts nervous as he is excited. As we approach, E3 seems to descend into a meditative calm, an ironic contrast to the bass-blasting raps he’s about to deliver onstage. Chants for his name grow louder and louder, and he gives his mum - a proud ‘momager’ - the kind of hug that tugs at your heartstrings and hurtles onto the stage. In that instant, I thought back to something he said during our interview just an hour before in the lobby of his hotel, “My parents have always been there to tell me when I'm letting things get to my head. And I'm so grateful for that. I try and return it in any way I can, for believing in me when I didn't even believe in myself. Without my family and friends, there wouldn't be midwxst.”

This unpretentious and endearing character is part of what makes the 20-year-old an anomaly in the dense forest of egos that saturate the music industry. “I want my music to help kids feel confident in themselves,” he shares, tugging at his dreads idly. E3 wants to pay things forward to those who have helped him reach this point, from Aloe (known under the moniker Nascar Aloe), his ‘Roblox day one’ who guided him as he learnt the fundamentals of production, to his college roommate Luke Stephens who played the guitar for ‘on my mind,’ E3 will always ensure to uplift those around him. “Before, I was really self-conscious. I was signed at 17 years old and you get exposed to an entirely adult industry.”

This isn’t a novel experience for him, however, having always braved the scrutiny of standing out from the crowd. In 2022 he made a surprise return to his high school to perform at their prom––a full-circle moment that felt like a cathartic release for him. “Coming back and performing at their prom felt like the biggest middle finger to everybody that was ever rude to me at that school”, he explains articulately. “I only had a handful of people from that school that I truly called my friends, they were solid people. But that school was hell for me. I got picked on because I was different. Growing up, I didn’t think I would ever amount to anything.”

There is a certain levity to E3’s sound; it’s simultaneously unguarded and playful as it is animated and pithy. It’s virtually impossible to define his music, with songs that encompass decades of pop rolled into one. Through a jittery style of production paired with his signature triplet flows, E3 has planted his feet firmly on the expanding experimental rap scene, often drawing comparisons to the late-2010s rage rap output. His latest arrival and debut self-titled album, ‘E3’, retains this energy. It’s weird, addictive, typically playful, but it also feels a little more fleshed out and developed: the sound of an artist growing up. While these are still midwxst songs – charged-up raps and charismatic lyricism over throbbing 808 patterns with a penchant for melody – they reflect a new working process that’s both freer and more hands-on, bringing the dexterous elements of E3’s previous work closer together. The album is a distant echo of his early experimentations with Garage Band, YouTube type-beats and Teen Titan samples. “If you’ve listened to my music, you would never have thought I was making that type of shit. But at the same time, you have to make those things in order to build a foundation to start rapping”, he expands.

E3’s fun-filled world is defined by such eclecticism. Countless interviews and reviews have commented on the sheer variety and experimentalism he brings forth, part of which is down to his knack for collaboration, but mostly due to his personal taste, which is vast––and a little geeky, in the best way possible. His latest release marks a return to form. “I feel like my musicality is starting to make a comeback in the way I want it to. I'll never sit here and say it took a hit or a deficit. I'm a big music person. But I didn't really start utilising that knowledge up until now,” he adds. Lately, E3 has been fine-tuning his ear for leftfield sounds. “I’ve been listening to Afrobeats, r&b, heavy alternative (think Deftones), metal, and a lot of Green Day too”, but his willingness to experiment isn’t new. In fact, it’s been inherent since he started making music. On early releases like ‘Useless’ you can even hear EDM influences, inspired by his younger years spent in Belgium, or glimpses of indie rock ballads on tracks like ‘riddle’.

If his earlier tracks were built for SoundCloud-led bedroom raves, this switch in tempo on his new material is custom-made for the live experience: mosh pits and all. His 2022 EP ‘Back in Action 3.0’ sees E3 soften the edges on some of the more frantic production, all the while capturing that zippy energy. His trajectory stands as a living testament to resourcefulness. Gathering mixing and mastering skills from the digital classrooms of YouTube and the camaraderie of Discord, his creative finesse emerges from a medley of self-driven curiosity and a knack for crafting an impenetrable support network. And as I listen through the new album, a particular (and very random) word comes to mind––hyperdrive. In science fiction, ‘hyperdrive’ is used to describe when something disregards the conventional laws of physics and ‘covers vast interstellar distances in a flash’. That’s how it feels to immerse yourself in his debut project. He launches his potential into ‘hyperdrive’, redefining the confines of genres with his gravity-defying, mosh pit-inducing sounds.

Raised on Roblox and a self-proclaimed nerd at the core, E3’s great gift as a rapper is his ability to create stormy songs purpose-built for an earth-shaking sound system. Something his friends can turn up to, and simultaneously resonating lyrically with age-mates worldwide via songs that simmer on the stove-top of online life. “With my new album, it’s the first time I've really had that pride to say that I truly love these songs. Now, I feel ready for everything. I've grown into my responsibilities and grown into my artistry and I feel like everything I'm doing is at the most refined it's ever been.”

Listen to 'E3' below


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