60 East Talks Touring With Legends, Building a Festival and Balancing Many Hats

California and the West Coast houses some of the staples of hip hop music. From Dre, NWA, Snoop and Tu Pac to Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, E-40, and Nipsey Hussle, arguably some of the best hip hop comes from the West Coast. These artists didn’t start as superstars; as is the case with most artists, the come up is in the grassroots. We were able to catch up with a name that will soon be synonymous with these grassroots legends. Taking notes from Paid Dues and Soundset and 2×2, learning from legends like Elzhi, Murs, and Evidence, 60 East continues to grow not only as a musician but a festival creator.

UHH: Off the bat, can you tell our fans who you are and what you represent?

60 East: My name is 60 East. I am an Independent Artist from Ontario, California. I am a representative of the Hip Hop culture most notably for being an Artist but most recently for being the Founder of The Happiness of Pursuit Festival, which is a one day Music Festival I started throwing in my home town. I guess I also represent “real or traditional” Hip Hop, whatever that is, but I definitely am somebody that walks the line when it come to the music.

UHH: Having a life surrounded by tons of music from your work in media to your work as an artist, what artist influenced you most in a way you didn’t expect? (i.e. during an interview or through fashion)

60 East: Dope question, different people for different reasons, seeing what MURS did with Paid Dues and Atmosphere/Rhymesayers have done with Soundset was a huge inspiration behind starting THOPFest, seeing ASAP ROCKY on billboards all over Europe while I was on tour out there just as a fashion model was eye-opening, hearing Tech N9ne in a interview talk about how every time they (Strange Music) found themselves outsourcing for something they would end up creating their own business and hiring themselves, everything Nipsey did in his neighborhood was also eye-opening and made me realize how much I want to continue to build within my own community.

While lyricism is important in hip hop, there is a whole culture behind the music. From community activism to fashion to art there is a lot of lanes that those in the culture take and hearing 60 East talk about his influences outside of music was interesting. It is even more interesting considering those he models himself after. Strange Music has given a format on how to truly create an independent empire. Nipsey Hussle will go down as one of the most influential people to his neighborhood, something many didn’t know about until his passing. A$AP Rocky is a talented artist, but his heart lies in fashion and he has carved out a new whole career because of it. As I said, lyricism is important and because of that, I wanted to get into Joey’s actual music.

UHH: You are a musician first, and because of that, I want to dive into your latest work. What Am I Doing Here? Ft Ariano music video was recently released from your Circles EP. Ariano isn’t just featured in this song, but the entire EP, how was this style tackled versus have a project with multiple features?

60 East: It was different, one of the reasons I wanted to work with Ariano was because I knew he would take me out of my comfort zone and that’s what I had been wanting so I had knew I wanted to do a whole EP with him. He told me he wanted to showcase my lyricism and poetry in a different way, the project took me almost 2 years to write because I had to teach myself how to flow a lot slower than I was used too and I wrote about 20 songs but we ended up picking the ones we felt were the strongest. We were never in the studio together either which made it kinda difficult, both of our schedules are so crazy we never got the time to have an actual session so over the course of 2 years the project we made via email. I was never too big on having a lot of features and I always liked working on a project with 1 producer the whole way through, to me it makes it more cohesive. After getting amazing reviews from our listeners and tons of publications we had decided if we do another project we would need to block off a week or so and sit in the studio together instead of the whole email thing.

UHH: While music is your first love, the last few years came with the creation of THOP. Where was this festival envisioned and where do you see yourself growing to?

60 East: I had always liked event planning, my brother and I have been throwing house parties since High School and that eventually evolved into throwing small concerts at venues and bars so initially the next step as a promoter would be getting a bigger venue. I had been so busy as a touring artist that I just never had the time (or want) to be a “promoter” I actually hate the word lol, but after being on the road heavy for the last few years and having the urge to “search for something more”,  I was asking myself what could I do and then the opportunity presented itself. A family member had recently bought a Bar/Venue in our Hometown and I started throwing shows there. After a few good turn outs, we decided to take the next step and throwing a show in the parking lot. The first year was small but the local buzz started to build. Year 2 came around and we filled the lot and had a great turn out and began to get national attention. Now just after throwing our 3rd event and started to roll out our 4th (and first time doing 2 shows in one year) we have kinda became a staple locally and nationally because not too many people are still booking this kind of Hip Hop. Now I feel we have the potential to grow into something great and my vision for the future is very similar to what Soundset has going on. I definitely want to keep the show in my hometown and basically just grow it to as big as it can get and just try to maintain that every year and try not going crazy or broke in the process.

Soundset has gained the eye of national media with Sway in the Morning, Hip Hop DX, and Complex showing up, but it wasn’t always 40,000+ at the State Fair, it started as a weekly event in a club that maxed out at 250. Something that I admire about Joey, is that, instead of wondering when he will play Soundset, or why certain artists haven’t played, or how much money will Rhymesayers make, he used this festival to inspire himself. And since his inaugural show three years ago, he has continued to grow his brand. I wanted to get into the large cast of talent he has and will be bringing to his festival.

UHH: Having plenty of power play in the past from Blueprint to A-F-R-O to Sa Roc and Reverie, can you give our readers a hint or clue as to who will be blessing the stage this year?

60 East: To be honest it gets harder every year, and sometimes comes down to the very last minute. What most people don’t realize is Artist have busy schedules, and the more high profile the Artist the busier the schedule. Booking the show is really like a game of Tetris trying to fit pieces, especially since we are completely independent/have limited resources and don’t have a huge budget. As far as hints go, I would say we are definitely a little more traditional/old school this go round, there are definitely certain labels I like more than others, and oh yea if you notice every year I book certain acts I have a connection with whether it’s touring with them in the past or having a recent encounter with, I try booking cats I “FW” lol.

UHH: Just recently we linked up at Soundset, a hip hop festival that pulls in tens of thousands from around the world. I know you have come many years to this hip hop mecca, but what have you taken away from this festival in terms of improving your own?

60 East: Every year I go to Soundset for that reason, to try and take notes on what I can improve. Over the years some things I have taken away is Pre/After parties, several weekend activities for out of owners to enjoy, shuttle service for Artist, the Artist backstage, live media, really everything, their attention to detail is on point and for having such a small team its really impressive and make me feel like I can also do it.

One thing I love about music festivals is the ability to see artists from around the US, sometimes the world. One thing I learned from J Bird is how much he wants to incorporate Minnesota and the Twin Cities culture into Soundset. Because of this, I have wanted to travel to more festivals and spend time taking in the life of the city, something I had hoped Joey was able to experience while in town.

UHH: Soundset takes place in St Paul, MN, the city I call my home, but also a city that boasts some legends of hip hop in Eyedea and Carnage the Executioner along with some talented up and coming artists like St Paul Slim, deM atlaS, and Lexii Alajai. Have you had a chance to take in a lot of the local scene in Minnesota and how does it compare to the scene in LA?

60 East: Yea of course, as a touring act I had performed quite a bit in the twins and have built relationships with some of the people making waves in the city. I’ve always felt like the Twins have something special, especially in my lane of music, because of everything Rhymesayers have done and are doing for the city. That’s not really a common thing. With Fifth Element as kinda like a home base giving artist a chance to perform and sell their music in a legit Record Store, opportunities to perform for Sway or get on Soundset, that’s stuff people like me and other Artist are flying in from around the country for. In LA the artist that are signed don’t really mingle with the unsigned artist, where as in the Twins I see Dem Atlas at random local events chilling. I also think being a smaller market is less cut throat and more people support each other, and its a place where there are still more fans than creatives where as in LA there is so many people that are creators, a lot of times at shows there is no fans, just other creators and that shit is wack.

One thing that has become abundantly clear in my years of covering music and musicians is that they are just people like the rest of us. It’s hard to separate the art from the artists sometimes especially when we fall in love with the things they create. However, for Joey, it was something else he created that would steal his love, and be a true reminder of just how human we all are.

UHH: We have covered your music and dove into your festival but you also have something else in this world you love, your little girl, Juliette. How have you managed to build your brand, your festival and maintain your life as a father?

60 East: Haha It hasn’t been easy bro. I’ve learned too set time aside for everything whether it’s writing, festival or family time. I also haven’t been taking as many shows, my days of performing in dive bars every week locally are out of here, I am definitely a lot more selective about everything I attach my name too because of these priorities. I see my daughter every day, the only times I don’t see her are when I am on tour and I have even learned to calm down with that too, I try doing shorter tours and have become really good at FaceTiming.

UHH: Thank you so much for choppin it up with Upcoming Hip Hop today, we always give the last little bit here to the artist to talk about what is coming up in their life. What do you have to let the fans know about?

Thanks for having me bro. I have a lot of new music coming out, I fell back after my last Festival in April to 1. Write and Record as much music as possible and 2. Decide what I want to do next. In that time I decided I wanted to start dropping a series of EP’s with some of my favorite Producers and have been knocking out a ton of stuff. In the next few months you can expect a couple Music Videos, a couple EP’s, the lineup to the next THOPFest and a few Singles. I already dropped 3 Singles this year, which are all up online. Some of the producers I have been working with include Curtiss King, Eric G and Khrysis of 9th Wonders Soul Council/Jamla Records, J57 and the legendary Evidence. Looking forward to dropping this stuff. You can find me at SixtyEast.net , @60east on IG and @60east909 on Twitter!

Over the years I have gotten to know some of the best people through this job, and it’s always great to meet a new friend, but it’s even better to see an old friend continually growing. Through his own support of my career to his continued work with legends of the business, 60 East is someone that I continually watch, not just for his new music but for his growing THOP festival. More than that I wish continued success to a man who hasn’t lost sight of the things that are important to him, all the while creating a life for himself.