27-year-old Newark, New Jersey native Neako Bailey took some time out recently to answer a few questions for RapDose.com. The LVLYSL founder has worked alongside artists such as Bun B, Yelawolf, Smoke Dza, Currensy, Juicy J and Wiz Khalifa and has been gaining popularity since the release of his The Number 23 mixtape. He also recently dropped an exclusive EP through RapDose titled Libertas Novo.
Continue reading to see what Neako has to say about the artists signed to LVLYSL, working with Currensy, his friendship with Wiz Khalifa and much more.
RD: For those who aren’t familiar with “LVLYSL” what does the acronym stand for and what does it mean to you?
Neako: “Learning Various Levels & Young Sex Life.” They mean to me what they mean to the fans. It’s a lifestyle and language that connects through music and has many different meanings. “Ladies Visiting Lofts” or “Youngins Sipping Lean” or “La Vida Loca” or “Youth Spreading Love” it could go on for days. I wanted my brand to be as liquid as possible so it could flow trough every crack in the streets and downtown and go mainstream eventually.
RD: You craft a lot of your own beats but have worked with other producers in the past. What are the biggest pros and cons of each approach?
Neako: I usually stick to my own beats 80% of the time but I work with other talented producers too. When that happens sometimes I even produce on their track if I feel it’s good but needs a little more. More of the mixtape stuff is like that I guess you can say. I have a few young guys I think will be great. They already show traces of it.
RD: A lot of people recognize you from your previous affiliation with Wiz Khalifa and Taylor Gang. Why did you decide to leave his camp and promote your own brand?
Neako: I didn’t leave I think it was more just a misunderstanding that didn’t get spoke on really. I never left I promoted TG on LVLzebra when they were quiet towards me and my movement. I’ve always had my own movement, if you go watch any of the old vlogs with me and Wiz you’ll see it says my movement “World Team Olympics” and “Taylor Gang.” It wasn’t like I was his artist, that was my friend and still is in my heart. I repped TG due to him being my brother not for hype or to be on. Cause I knew Cam since 2008 and was just the homie you know? Smoking weed and chilling and rappin sometimes together. I also always say to people don’t talk bad about him around me or think I have malice cause that’s still my homie. I mean c’mon my first bong hit was with him and his mom. So fuwk the music really I’m more about the person and the bond. Wiz is a genius you can’t say he isn’t.
RD: LVLYSL has begun building a pretty extensive roster, introduce the world to the rest of your crew and tell us what they bring to the table?
Neako: Well Fresh Moss I met through the streets. He was making some moves and trying to find me in our city but people kept lying to him and scaring him away from me. Back home they always do that with me they say I won’t help them or some sh*t I don’t know. I was in Mexico and he hit me about working so when I got back we smoked an ounce and did a record. He kept coming around and I saw how hungry he was and how he had so much potential. That’s real rap, Bonnie Blunts was the same way except that was my home girl first and she was making some moves also. I was in LA on Fairfax and she sent me a song and it was crazy. I automatically started thinking she was ready. She does it all, like Fresh, they’re not afraid to be different. Or when I push them they go to that LVL I need them at. They were the most ready out of my crew, Nasa is so young he’s 20 and Young Sex Life is 17 so they are still running around having fun. Fresh and Bonnie understand and see what needs to be done.
RD: You’ve been on songs with lots of big names. Who was your favorite artist to work with and who do you most wish to work with in the future?
Neako: I’d say Wiz cause it was real. Like we were just having fun making some next LVL sh*t. Everyone else it was just work the business you know? And working with Spitta was the illest cause that was the first time I realized I had to step my raps up and flows up. He really destroyed “Flya Than Delta,” I just wanted to hear him on one of my beats. Juicy J was fun down in LA, we were trippy as fuwk working on music. I like when it’s real I try not to fuwk with these new guys really though. I think TDE is a squad I would love to work with. I like Drake also, he’s one of the new greats to me. And Tyler, The Creator is low key someone I’d love to work with. And of course Kanye and Jay.
RD: You have put out tons of dope merchandise in the past but your web store is currently bare. When’s the new line coming? What can we expect from it?
Neako: Yea when I did that with a friend of mine in 2011 it was just some ideas I had, I didn’t even think it would work. I took a step back from fashion to see where I really wanted to go with it. I have a lot of new releases dropping from LVL Merchants in a week or so. I’m into fashion more lately and I definitely feel that my audience is ready for it. Last time I made a ton of money with it and the supporters were happy but I was too busy to keep it going. I have the right format now to run that side of the brand.
RD: What do you think are the most important personality traits for a person to have if they want to be successful in the rap industry?
Neako: Be a good person but be able to think like a vulture. That’s all there is in this game is vultures and prey. No friends really. Have thick skin at all costs. People will count you out, you will get discouraged, there will be tough times. But if you keep your skin thick you can overcome it all. It’s so many traits you need I feel though and you don’t learn them until you need them so your gonna have to fall to get the LVL to go forward. It’s really a science I noticed with this sh*t.
RD: What’s the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make as an artist?
Neako: I never had that problem. Most of the moves I make or decisions are pretty much what I wanna do.
RD: Most people think rappers are self-absorbed but everyone has role models. Who did you look up to as a kid and who do you look up to now?
Neako: Nas and Jay-Z were the kings in my eyes I know that’s cliche but they earned it. Today it’s just Kanye West, Jay-Z and Nas on the top tier of things. The only new guys I admire that I know, if I was kid I’d feel like they were Nas or Jay-Z. In my eyes and era ? Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Rick Ross, they push the envelope when it comes music. But overall it’s Kanye for him being the Michael Jackson of rap.
RD: What is your favorite project or accomplishment as a rapper?
Neako: I don’t have one really. Don’t even listen to myself. It’s like hearing some other person and his life and I don’t really like to remember too much stuff. My chords and patterns have stories and memories in them so I have favorite songs like “LVLYSL” or “Beam Up” or “Ice” with Juicy J. Or “We Gone” or “1-333-777-3000” and “1-300-423-1986,” it’s so many more though.
RD: Tell me how you got started out with rap music. What inspired you to chase your dreams?
Neako: I was in 7th grade and I saw a group of kids rappin and I thought they where just rappin other people’s stuff but my homie said his name in some cool way and I knew it was original. I fell in love with the art of it right there, but “Nas Is Like” is the song that made we wanna really go forward. I’d have to say my mom and dad were the ones, once they saw me doing this so young they were behind me and started reaching out to people and buying equipment n sh*t. I was right across from the projects where I was born so my parents were feeling the fact I’d be stuck in the house I guess.
RD: What was the last job you worked?
Neako: I was 19 years old, and it was for three weeks. One week at my moms law firm she worked at doing security, like walking around n sh*t.I asked to be relocated so they sent me to the airport and I was there for two weeks and quit. Those were the only times I had a job in my life. None before or after. I was like no way I can’t do this sh*t and went back to making music and doing trappin, weed or lean like light sh*t to get my music paid for and have money. Since then I made music and the streets work for me.
RD: What do you think is the best single from this year so far?
Neako: I don’t know honestly. I think Drake‘s “Started From The Bottom” is a gritty record that’s mainstream and he did that from his heart. It doesn’t come off commercial at all to me it’s like some hard Lox / Ruff Ryder‘s circa ’99 sh*t and it’s working really well so I think that is one of them.
RD: Any summer tour dates lined up?
Neako: Promoters been reaching out so we will route some dates. We are for sure focused on that area of the brand. As I said we do this all alone so it’s a learning various levels situation for us. LVLYSL Inc. will be and IS the new political party.
RD: I know you have lots of projects on the horizon. What should we expect and when should we expect it?
Neako: The LVLYSL collaboration project SECT drops on the 4th of July. After that my solo joint LVLGHOST, Fresh’s Skinny Fresco mixtape and Bonnie’s debut 9 Lives are all coming but no release dates are set yet.
RD: That’s great! I’m looking forward to all of those projects and will definitely post them here on RapDose. Thanks for taking the time out to answer those questions for us.
I also included Neako‘s new vlog he shot in the studio with Fresh Moss recently. He reveals the new LVLYSLFilms Youtube page, discusses past projects and more. Check it out below.