Artists Weekly: Alex Aff

Photo courtesy Jordon Kornegaye

Photo courtesy Jordon Kornegaye

Vincent Johnson
    Staff Writer

Alex Aff is young rapper and producer from Durham, N.C. who is focused on his craft, his cash and most importantly, his grind. In September, he released his latest project, an album titled “Forever,” and received positive reviews from both critics and fans.

As an artist who both raps and produces the bulk of his own material, Aff has developed a style that is reminiscent of other established acts like Big K.R.I.T., legends like Kanye West, and of course other Carolina kings like 9th Wonder, King Mez and J. Cole. Over the years, Aff has grown as an artist, but his initial inspiration came while he was a teenager.

“I don’t know exactly how old I was when I became inspired from music but I remember my earliest memories of rap was being like 15 or so, heavily listening to Big L, Eminem and Jay Z,” Aff explained. “I started myself in the music, got a telemarketer headset in my mom’s room when I was like 16, and started recording myself in my room,” Aff said. “But let me go on record to say that I’m not a super duper ‘90s hip-hop head. As far as my earliest memories of listening to hip-hop, it was a lot of them.”

One interesting thing about Aff’s style is that he produces almost all of his own music. As a rapper and producer, it’s easier to build chemistry between the lyrics and the beat, creating a sound that is that much more melodic. This aspect of his style is what puts Aff’s music in the same vein as other artists like King Mez, Big K.R.I.T., J. Cole and of course, Kanye West.

“Yeah, I handle a smooth 99 percent of my own production,” Aff elaborated. “My brother is good with computers so he put FL studio on my laptop when I first got it in 2011. And I didn’t do anything with it for a while until I got to the point where I was tired of rapping on 9th Wonder instrumentals all day. So I took the initiative to start making my own beats. Plus, I also can’t afford anybody else’s beats so that also inspired me to make my own.”

“For a while, my beats were God awful,” Aff laughed. “But I just kept doing it until they started to sound better as I kept learning. Now I feel like I have a certain style when it comes to beats. I still feel like my beats can be better. My goal is to take my production skills to another level.”

Now when it comes to music, just as singers are inspired by other singers, and rappers are inspired by other rappers, producers are usually inspired by other producers. But as a multitalented artist, one tends to gain inspiration from other multitalented artists.

Aff explained, “Listening to J. Cole and Big K.R.I.T. inspired me to be good at both. That level of creation to make your own beats and write the songs was really cool to me.” Aff said, “So I wanted to be like them in my own right. 9th Wonder is an inspiration for sure.”

As he continued to discuss his inspirations, Aff also began to detail his songwriting process. “If I’m not looking for samples, I’m trying to put some chords together and use my sounds to create something wavy. Usually I go in with zero expectations and just create as opposed to coming in with a certain idea.”

One thing that is exciting about this approach to music is the lack of expectations. When an artist goes in without expectations, their mind is open to new possibilities, and so are their ears. One of the most beautiful things about music is the fact that accidents can evolve into some of the greatest moments. When an artist begins the creative process with open ears, these types of beautiful accidents occur more naturally, and more often.

However, beat-making and production still only account for half of the song. The other vital component is song-writing.

“As for the writing, I usually try to write to perfectly fit the beat,” Aff stated. “I like to be clever and use wordplay, but not force words through the beat because that can sometimes decrease the listening experience. So I try to write as natural as possible and sometimes it can be challenging.”

Aff explained, “Writer’s block comes around every now and then. But when words come natural, I know I’m going in a good direction with writing. When it comes to subject matter, it usually just depends on however the beat makes me feel. I write after vibin’ out with my beats. My subject matter is pretty consistent for me right now. But still, some beats just make me feel a certain way and guide my writing. Life is the main thing I rap about. That, and the grind. It’s a topic that can never run dry. So many provoking thoughts fill my mind daily that I like to write about. And I also like to talk about my thoughts on the world, from my perspective of a regular guy from Durham, N.C.”

After the beat for a song has been produced and the lyrics have been written, the final part of the process that ties those two together is recording. As hip-hop has progressed over the decades, recording has evolved as well. And the same way Drake went from “recording in the bathroom” to one of the top musicians in the world, Alex has gone from recording on his mom’s telemarketer headset to being one of the youngest buzz makers in North Carolina.

When detailing his recording process Alex explained, “My recording process is simple. I like to go to the studio when I got a couple whole songs written so I can just go ahead and knock ’em out. I really don’t even ad lib verses like most rappers do. I usually just do a single vocal for verses and add more things with hooks. But I record fairly quickly due to the fact that I come to the studio prepared and already knowing how I want to layer the song.”

Alex Aff has a big work ethic and an even bigger dream. And the title of his latest project “Forever,” speaks directly to that dream. When talking about his inspiration behind the title of the project he explained, “I wrote the title track to it really early in the process. And after writing that song, I knew I wanted to call the project ‘Forever.’ For me, it’s just how I feel about the type of legacy I want to leave. Not to sound too dramatic, but I want my music to go beyond time itself, to still be fresh 10 years from now. ‘Forever’ is the perfect word to describe my mentality at this point in my career. I’m just a kid that’s tryna get in the game and stay in it as long as I want to.”

For now, Alex Aff’s message is pretty straightforward. He’s young, he’s hungry, and he wants his. And if he can manage to make music the type of music that transcends time, he’ll get it.

You can follow Alex Aff on twitter @ImAlexAffMayne, and be sure to download his latest project “Forever,” from Check out his latest visuals for “Made for This,” and “Salute Me,” on YouTube.

Categories: Artist Weekly, Arts & Entertainment

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1 reply


  1. UNCG’s Student Newspaper “The Carolinian” Interviews Alex Aff | Alex Aff Website

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