Philly-born but L.A. local Gianni Lee is a lot of things. DJ/Producer is one. Fashion designer and label owner are others. Ex-comic book artist, sample and remix ninja, and lover of shrimp pad sea eew are more still. Coming to blow your mind at a ClubIHC show this Friday is probably our favorite incarnation of the many things that Gianni is.
That’s why we were psyched to talk to him. We mean, a guy who’s this versatile has got to have a good story or two (which you’ll promptly find out about) and a thing or two to teach us. We talked to him about the many hats he wears, his impeccable blending of music and fashion, comics, food, the New Jersey vs. Philly club beef and just … a whole lot of other good shit. What can we say? The man’s an interesting guy.
First of all … What are you doing right now? Man! It’s 7 a.m. in cold, cold Brooklyn, NY. I am eating a pint of the finest shrimp and broccoli from the Chinese restaurant. Yeah … it gets real.
Um, salivating. You’ve got a clothing brand called Babylon Cartel. Where do you get the inspiration for your designs? As of late, I have been getting inspiration from everything around me. I try to pay attention to every detail of conversations, places I’ve been and things that I see on a day-to-day basis. I’ll take pictures or I’ll use the Adobe Color app to jot down color palettes that I can use later in my designs. World culture, historic and current events are still the key inspirations in Babylon Cartel. Much love to the rest of the team Aaron , Mark and Danielle!!
What do you picture people doing while wearing your clothes? Going to parties in our clothing is cool, but I want to make clothing so functional and everlasting that people thread my pieces into their everyday life. I want you to go to a job interview in my shit. I want you to pull up at an art gallery with some amazing woman you met the night before at some exclusive magazine party. Babylon Cartel is a part of life, that’s how I see. People can literally be doing anything in it.
What’s in the pipeline for Babylon Cartel? The new collection is all we are focused on. We had had the liberty to meet some amazing and talented people in LA that can take our brand to the next level. We have discovered a new aesthetic and various new color schemes and will be implementing that into the new collection. I will slowly be putting Babylon Cartel back into NYC. It’s been a while since you have seen pieces floating around, but a goal of mine is to make NYC one of the epicenters and cultural headquarters for the brand. It’ll be Philadelphia, NYC, Los Angeles and London.
You were in New York for NY Fashion Week. Any stories? I met this older man in a totally cheetah print suit. I mean, everything was cheetah print from the tie, the boots to the hat. He was telling me how I restored his faith in younger generation. You would have thought he was crazy at first glance, but I treated him no different from any of my other friends at that party. I told myself last year I would treat people better, regardless of sexual preference or social background. So it was refreshing to see somebody actually picked up on my humility and thanked me for it. I don’t think I alone speak for my entire generation and the one after mine, but I appreciate his honesty.
You recently won a DJ competition through Def Jam and VFiles. How did you do that? If you could win a competition for anything else, what would it be? I won the contest by reading the crowd. I wasn’t selfish and I played music for everybody. Many DJs become pricks and say,”I am only playing my music.”
I’m always like, “You are a fool, because everybody didn’t come here to just hear your music. Play other things to draw them in and then hit them with your custom sounds, you prick!”
If I could win any other contest, I’d definitely want to win the dark-skinned awards. They don’t really exist but if they did, I want to be that guy to take the crown home for all of my darkies out there. I just love my complexion … can’t help it!
I mean, you are pretty hot, so you’ve already won in my eyes. What’s the weirdest thing a fan has ever asked you? One time in Texas, a girl asked me to draw her on the spot. I didn’t even know she knew I could draw. Creepy …
Draw me like one of your French girls, Gianni. Are you working on any new music lately? Wow! Yes I am actually! I am working on this amazing project with this beautiful songstress by the name of Marian Mereba. She is pretty dope and she has bars, right now we are like five songs in! I also formed a group with producer from Baltimore names Hi$to. His production is next-level. Hi$to and I recently worked on TT The Artist’s new project Art Royalty. We put out this Rae Sremmurd and Makonnen remix (listen below) and they did pretty well so it made sense for us to start a group. We will be putting out a project very soon.
Can’t wait. You just did a sample mix from Drake’s new mix-tape, “If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late.” What did you hear in that mix-tape that made you want to sample from it? Mike Blud and I always put out samples for albums. We want to give people more than one way to digest their music. Nowadays sampling isn’t what it used to be. Because of budgets not too many artist moonlight with sampling so it’s hard to find albums to pull samples from.
People like Drake and Kanye have that budget and are very fond of sampling, so I knew we would have content and we just dropped it randomly like he did. We dropped it at like 11 p.m. on a Saturday night! Fast forward a few days,and Complex picked it up. That’s just how the internet works.
What’s your favorite Drake meme? Drake hitting the ball out of the park. Ken Griffey Jr…….
Do you have a least favorite musical artist? 50 Tyson, but he is still legendary. Respect the God.
Let’s talk favorite foods. If you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be? Shrimp Pad See Ew!!!!!!!!!!! Thai food is legendary.
What do you eat before shows to make sure you kill it on stage? Something that I just can’t mention on this publication … she would kill me.
Oh my god … What’s one thing you refuse to eat and why? Cheese! I hate the smell of it and the taste. Since I was a kid.
Who are you listening to lately to …
a.) Inspire you: The entire Fade to Mind inspires me.
b.) Calm you down: Guilty pleasure … Amerie’s first album “All I Have.” She had bangers.
c.) Drive it like you stole it: Novelist x Mumdance. The entire Grime scene is next-level.
What’s up with the whole New Jersey vs. Philly thing in EDM recently? Philly club and Jersey club have “slightly” similar palettes. Jersey club is like the prettier sister but can’t fight. Philly Club will knock you out in any situation. You want Philly club around when it’s about to go down. They both serve their purpose. Being from Philly I have to ride for Philly club always. I love it. Swizzymack is killing it right now.
The beef started with that Diplo and Friends mix with Sliink vs. Big O and Swizzy vs. Get Em. I hope the beef continues and forces all of us to make even better club music. I have to say that Jersey did win that round, but it’s not over. I am not going to let Philly go out like that. With my music being Philly club inspired I will push the genre in my own way.
You’re a person that seems to blend music and fashion seamlessly … what do you think the fundamental relationship between the two is? Aesthetic is the fundamental. The best music and fashion are the ones that have their own identifiable aesthetic. When you hear Trippy Turtle you know what to expect. When you see Alexander Wang you know what to expect. My job is to make sure I make my art identifiable through a clear and original aesthetic.
When you hear Gianni Lee you should know what to expect until I switch up on you. When you hear Babylon Cartel you should know what to expect until we switch it up on you.
There’s a quote by you in a recent interview with Interview where you say, “Being poor will teach you a thing or two about fashion.” Give us your best style tips for those times when McDonald’s seems like beefy Nobu. It’s all about the thrift stores, and a quick sewing lesson. You can literally look good in anything, you just have to know how to rock it. You also have to layer, and get creative. It’s no right or wrong way to dress, you just have to own it and make people believe in your presentation. You have to have confidence.
What do you want to accomplish with your music and brand? If I can inspire that next kid to come out the hood like I did, then damn; I did my job. Let”s all get written about in books and be remembered for doing something great. I just want to be great, no other way to put it. I want to challenge myself and put quality work into the universe.
We hear you’re pretty into comics, and even sketched your own series. Can we see it? Please say yes please say yes. I drew this series in high school that centered around two guys that lived in the city and fought crime in these mecha armor type of suits. It was a cross between Ronin Warriors and Iron Man. One guy was a spoiled rich brat the other guy was from the hood. They met randomly at a concert and remained friends. Somehow in the midst of their friendship they had the idea to use the brat’s money to fund a superhero project. They trained for months and started going around the city stopping petty crimes until a warlord saw them as a threat as he was trying to make their home town (Delta City) his base for a planned world takeover.
Unfortunately these issues are somewhere in my mother’s basement in Philly. The name of the series sucked. I called it, “The Awesome Twosome” I hate that name.
Hahaha, god damn that sounds awesome. Well, next time you see your mom, take a photo for us! We love comix. Last question: What songs of yours should we listen to properly hype ourselves up for your show on Friday? These!
Friday, Feb 20, 2015 9:00 PM PST (9:00 PM Doors)
– Saturday, Feb 21, 2015 2:00 AM PST
The Lash Pop-Up, Los Angeles, CA