In the hazy video for his new single “Dreams,” Pro Era’s Aaron Rose basks in the pleasures of rap stardom, acknowledging the ways his life now very much resembles a dream. Directed by David Janoff, the “Dreams” video finds the 25-year-old Brooklyn rapper embracing the surreality of his waking dream, donning a pair of sci-fi goggles and lounging in a smoke-filled film room with a female companion wearing a mask right out of Mad Max or The Purge.
It’s been this way for Rose since high school, when he first appeared on the scene along with the other members of Pro Era on the tail of member Joey Badass‘ debut mixtape, 1999. Back then, Rose was called A La Sole, a homage to the pioneering rap trio De La Soul, from whom he took early inspiration. In the years since, though, Pro Era’s members have matured and evolved, gradually shedding the trappings of their old school-influenced sounds to work with more modern influences, prompting Rose to go by his real name on his latest project, Rozart, named for classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, released just this past October.
On Rozart, Rose says he wanted to “incorporate everything that I like at that point in my career,” leading to a more eclectic array of sounds. However, the bars remain steeped in the purist tradition of complex rhyme schemes, witty punchlines, and deft delivery, tweaked to fit the cadences of the album’s more trap-influenced, synth-saturation beats. In a phone interview with Uproxx, Rose got deep on the inspirations behind Rozart, his old-school New York influences and the personal and musical evolution he’s experienced since getting his start, and the surreality of living his “Dreams” since he was 16 years old.
It’s been three years since you released your 2016 EP Elixir. The thing that stood out between Elixir and Rozart, is on Elixir you were very much still in that old school Pro Era mode. Rozart is a little more modernized, this a little more synthy, a little more melodic, some vocal tuning on it. What was the thought process behind that musical evolution?
Changes to the sonics came along with me just changing as an artist. I didn’t want to like box myself into a sound anymore. And then I genuinely just feel like my own ears changed for the things I like myself. I just wanted to incorporate everything that I like at that point in my career. I didn’t want to just be subject to one thing and only be looked at for that because I feel like I’m not just that type of rapper — I’m an overall artist. I like to do all types of genres, not even just rap. So, at least on the rap side, I wanted to show I can do all types of rap, any type of beat you going to give me, there’s going to be a murder scene.
If you could give a theme to Rozart, like a unifying thesis of it, what do you think that would be and how do you think you support that thesis across the 14 tracks?
Just trying to literally open the frame and let people in and just live in my truth, and get that across the whole 14 tracks. Just try to show people that we are walking pieces of art, we embody the things that we are passionate about when it comes to this artistry — at least I am. So I, wanted to show that across the world, sonically, this is me as an artist, take it or leave it. Not really on some asshole sh*t, but just standing my ground and showing people like, “Yo, this is Aaron Rose.”
I always dig a good title with good wordplay in it. Rozart is clearly a reference to Mozart. What drew you to Mozart as your musical inspiration for this album?
My knowledge of Mozart is very vague, so like just knowing he’s a classical artist and knowing he’s probably one of the most famous musicians of all time, I guess I was just playing it off where I wanted to see myself, more like a projection. I want to be on that level. I aim to be the Michael Jackson, the Mozart, that upper echelon. I don’t want to just back myself into that, and that’s kind of why I’m like coming out of frame on the cover as well. It’s just me breaking the mold, me trying to solidify myself within a different light, show what my goals are and they’re not just rap. I want to be a full-on musician, a full-on artist that can attack anything and then make good products.
One thing that I found very interesting was that you really did keep your focus on lyricism, even though you changed up your delivery. I’m really interested in what influenced you to write so intricately. Who are your influences? Who are you competing against in your head when you write like that?
Definitely, one of my main influence from things like that comes from just like modern rap. Like I said, my ears changed over the years. The younger me may have loved like Native Tongues, and when I got to like 18, 19 years old, I went to my little Jay-Z, Nas phase. And then honestly, it really just comes from that Jay-Z phase for me personally. Hearing him being so intricate in the beginning of his career, from Reasonable Doubt to Volume Two, one of my favorite songs from there ever is “Jigga What.” And you can tell the flow on that is insane. I tried to mimic that song so many times throughout my career just because I love the pattern, I love the cadence. It’s very playful, it’s very witty. But as far as the competition, I always feel like I’m at a competition with my closest peers because I’d only surround myself with the best.
To me it’s only best to have that competition around me. It’s like we are always making each other better, or making the sword sharper at all times. That’s why I’m always going to rock with Dessy Hinds. He’s definitely one of my favorite rappers to listen to, but he’s also one of my favorite rappers to rap with and against, because he always ups the bar and I always feel like I gotta up the bar after him. Just being in this collective with artists like Nick Caution, Joey, Kirk Knight, Chuck, CJ… they’re all lyricists in their own right. So, to be around that, it helps me paint my picture the way I want to paint it, but still keep a certain type of standard to it.
Powers Pleasant said something interesting on on Twitter. About not comparing yourself to others and how you can’t take anything for granted. And then you posted that you had your 1 million streams this year. How does it feel to really have increased sort of your profile, in terms of hip-hop, in terms of social media exposure, in terms of Spotify streams, and what’s your next goal?
It genuinely just feels amazing to see the progress. Coming from where I come from, personally, to see that for myself feels good. It definitely puts the fuel onto the fire for me to just want even more for myself. I just think that it’s just complete motivation, complete blessing. 2020, I have a lot of plans. I definitely want to drop more music for sure. Actually, I’ve planned to do a joint project with Dessy Hinds, and then hopefully I get to follow up Rozart soon.
I really enjoyed listening to the project. It took me a little bit back, but it also sounds very forward-facing and I liked the contrast. Can you see yourself doing like more boom-bap or do you have an idea on your next musical evolution? What’s going to happen next or are you just waiting for life to bring it to you?
I can’t front, I definitely miss it, so I definitely will be tapping into that vibe way more now. Just because, as an artist, you go through phases and that’s definitely something I want to tie back into. Maybe on like a whole another tip, but definitely something I definitely want to tie back into very soon.
Rozart is out now on Pro Era, LLC. Get it here.