Gimme Noise sat down with the Rotation to ask about their group process and what it means to be an up-and-coming rapper in this particular scene.
How did the four of you meet?
Devon Reason: I met this dude in high school. We lived like four blocks from each other. He's like, oh you rap? I make these beats...
Travis Gorman: I met him and I hadn't even started engineering. I went to audio production at Hennepin Tech, so I started doing that after I had known him for like three years already. We were already pretty good friends. A year after that I kinda started making beats, and I did a lot of crappy beats for a good year and a half.
Devon Reason: And then after that year and a half one day it was just like "Bam." I swear. When I met Novyon, it was through my buddy Tony South. He does this clothing line Mermaids and Accolades, he's like, "I like your music a lot." So I went there, we had a little dinner meeting or whatever, and we went back to the studio after we had a meeting and we made a song that same night.
Finding Novyon: First night we met we made a song together. It was "Pac Sun." We made a song in like 20 minutes. It's still on the Soundcloud. It was like destiny. It happened so smoothly. You know when you have friends and they're like, Hey man, I got this rapper guy that wants to work with you.
Travis Gorman: That's like the worst thing you wanna hear.
Devon Reason: [laughs] Yeah, now I have to act like I care... "Did you listen to that?" Aww, man, I've been... I don't know why that's so hard.
Finding Novyon: You rarely meet people that inspire you and push you to go harder.
You've each been doing music as solo artists, but have frequently collaborated on each other's songs. What made you come together under the group name the Rotation?
Travis Gorman: That was an accident. We made a song and we had a show, and I was like, I'm sick of like, you go to all these hip-hop shows and it's the same thing. You wait an hour and a half for a DJ that no one's dancing to, you listen to somebody that's all right, you wait another 20 minutes, go get another drink, the boring same repetition... You all came for a reason, why don't we put it all in one show? So we just did, we started with a song we all did, and then Devon did three songs, and then Devon and Dwynell did a song, and then Dwynell did three songs, then Dwynell and Novyon did a song...
Devon Reason: It was like a rotation. So then we're like.. well...
Dwynell Roland: [It was] a good process of trying to make the chemistry better for all us, just going along with what's flowing. It was kinda planned out, even though it was the first time; we all fed off each other. It was natural.
Is the group dynamic something you're trying to pursue for future shows?
Devon Reason: I'm going to go ahead and say that's a solid "yes." We ain't trying to stray away from the solo thing. Everybody's got a common goal, and I feel like that's what the group is, a common goal. We're all focusing on the solo shit, we aren't really focusing on the group thing. So then when we do come together as a group for the shows...
Finding Novyon: [It's] much more powerful.
Dwynell Roland: It's natural as well. It's just one of those things where, none of us is selfish.
Finding Novyon: At all. It's chaotic, but it's almost how the universe was made, if you think about it. A bunch of chaos, and then something that simmers out to be something bigger than what we even thought it was.
How would you say you influence each other versus try to distinguish yourself from each other?
Devon Reason: [Dwynell] live is not a joke. It was I think it was [Novyon's] headliner at Honey, and Dwynell went right before Travis and I went. Is this happening right now? He was killing it. The fans were loving it, he was hitting every line and shit, it was weird. That influences me to go hard as fuck when I'm live. And [Novyon], his music, more than two handfuls of songs that I've heard from him that just, I dunno, I trance out. I zone on it. It fucks me up for like three days and it's on repeat. It's really weird, this shit, I don't know how to say it... It's motivating, you know what I mean? Once I hear that he's making music like that, it's like well fuck, I can't come with anything weak then.
Dwynell Roland: I feel like everyone's success, because everything is so solo, [Devon] has his own stuff, I have my own stuff, Novyon has his own stuff, Travis has his own stuff... We see each other's success. It makes you push yourself. Let me do some hit to get right there with them. That's the best thing.
Devon Reason: Your project Where's Novyon... man, I'm telling you. That project was really motivating for me. It was super wild how that project impacted me. And I'm fucking chilling with him on an everyday basis. Like, that's my guy, he made this fucking CD? Bro.
So when you have solo records that feature one of the others, do you just know who you want to feature?
Finding Novyon: I'm gonna keep it all the way one hundred with you... We want to work with everybody, but egos, man. We're all the kind of people that we've got insane work ethics. I don't understand why we are the most curved people. If we could, we would work with everybody in Minnesota, be featured up and we'd have the most extravagant projects on the planet.
Travis Gorman: I don't think we're curved that much. I think artists are just weird as hell, man. We need to just accept that people like their art in certain ways. Sometimes it's hard as hell to meet at the same point.
Finding Novyon: I feel like we all we got.
Devon Reason: There's certain styles that I know he's amazing at, and certain styles I know he is amazing at, so if I'm trying to accomplish a certain thing, I already know. I can hear it already on the beat, and it's their voices.
What are the positives and negatives of coming up in the Minneapolis scene?
Devon Reason: The negative is, a lot of people around here tend to blend together into one fucking substance of the same kind of music. I flip that into what has been a positive for me, not trying to sound like anybody out here.
Travis Gorman: It's tight here though, because if you really want to do it, you can do it.
Finding Novyon: Look at Allan [Kingdom]. He's been doing him for so fucking long. He embedded himself in difference, so now everybody's going to look to that. That's opening up so many avenues. Like us, it gives us a chance. It gives everybody that is young like us, the right people who are hungry enough and willing to put the dedication in. We might not look like your typical rappers from here, but we're here to stay.
Dwynell Roland: I feel like low key -- not even low key anymore -- I feel like Minnesota's about to blow.
Finding Novyon: Oh, Minnesota is.
Dwynell Roland: I think it's the closest that it's ever been. I remember the closest it was to this was Sandman. That's when Sandman was talking to Def Jam and all that shit. I just think it's very close. You see what Allan [Kingdom], Spooky Black, Bobby Raps, TIIIIIIIIIIP and Psymun [are doing]... Look at Sean Anonymous! My man is doing tours off tours off tours.
Travis Gorman: Dude, Mod Sun.
Finding Novyon: That shit just makes me wonder what everybody's gonna say when everybody gets a whiff... I've gotten the most Soundcloud plays I've ever gotten in the last couple months. Our responsibility as artists is to just rise to the occasion and be there.
Dwynell Roland, Finding Novyon, Devon Reason, and Travis Gorman join forces as the Rotation on Tuesday, December 23, at 7th St. Entry. Devon Reason plays a release party for Reasonable on January 8 at Honey.
GIMME NOISE'S GREATEST HITS
The 10 Most Underrated Guitarists in the History of Rock
The Best New Minnesota Musicians of 2014
53 things you might not know about Prince
73 things you might not know about Bob Dylan