After just recently becoming the newest Neilaworld member, SEBii is continuing to make huge waves inside the underground in numerous ways. Most known for his high pitched vocals and his popular “Ginseng” beat tag mimic, the prominent artist talks to us in his first ever interview about his upbringing in China, his groundbreaking performance at the IOA x UVC Atlanta show, and so much more.

How old are you, and where are you from? 

I’m 20, and I was born and grew up my whole life in Shanghai, China. I moved to the [United] States 3 years ago for college. I’m in Rhode Island right now. 

How is the culture different for you between China and the United States? 

The thing is, I actually had lived in the States for a couple years before when I was younger. I was born in China and moved here for kindergarten for like 3 years, but I was really young so i honestly don’t remember much of it. As I got older I would go to summer camp in the States so I was exposed to the culture. When I came to college it wasn’t really a culture shock. It is really different from China though. Here, I think people are a lot more open and friendly and ask about your day in stores; that doesn’t really happen in China. Culturally, in China, it’s so family oriented. Here it’s about individuality, back there it’s just more collectiveness. There’s a lot of differences but it’s cool how I experience both. But yeah, it wasn’t a shock for me when I came here, because I was kind of exposed to it through the internet. 

What are you studying in college? 

Illustration. Art like drawing and painting has always been my thing. I take it really seriously. As a kid, I did a lot of sketching and oil paintings and would compete in art competitions. Naturally for college I just knew that I wanted to pursue art and go to art school. Art was my main thing; music just kind of happened. It was a hobby that turned into something bigger than I thought it would ever be. 

How did you start making music? 

When I grew up in China, I wasn’t aware of American pop culture. I listened to super basic songs and I feel like China is two years behind. I wasn’t into music when I was younger. I remember I came to summer camp in the United States one summer and I vividly remember people were talking about Beyonce and Justin Timberlake and just making pop references that I had no idea about. I didn’t know what they were talking about at all. They were playing all this music like Kanye West and in general American pop music. It just sounded so crazy to me, so that summer when I was around 15, I went home and studied all of this pop music because it was so mind blowing to me. So I kind of went along and got into hip-hop. I turned into a huge fan and I was like, “What if I started making music?”  I first started off making beats but just for myself. I didn’t really post them. Then I started rapping and singing and it just kind of became what it is now. 

How did you get exposed to SoundCloud community? 

I was just making music on SoundCloud at first, but I think I was first aware of the scene by Tommy Ice. I would listen to a lot of 6 dogs and found Tommy Ice through him. [Tommy] was one of my favorite artists, and still is. I heard his music and was looking through his page and looking who he’s worked with and I just found this whole scene. That was like a year ago when I was first aware of the SoundCloud underground scene. 

What or who inspired you to sing high pitched?  

When I first started, I was a really bad singer. But I could always come up with cool melodies; I would hear songs as a kid and at the end of the song when it’s just the instrumental break, I could hum them. But I was never good or confident at singing. When I first started making music I would actually record my vocals with heavy auto tune and pitch it up. I think this has to do with my sound now. One of my favorite neo soul artists is Erykah Badu, and she definitely influenced my high pitch singing voice. I really like her, and I remember I would try to sing her songs because she has a crazy range. I’ll try to hit those notes, so I would practice and do that a lot for fun. It has slowly became a thing as I was recording and I think I just got better as I kept practicing. It just kind of organically became what it is now.  

What’s your opinion on people saying you sound like Belis? 

People do say I sound like Belis. It’s kind of annoying at first because people were dismissing my music because of it. I would get tweets like “This sound too much like Belis so I can’t fuck with it” so it was kind of annoying, but honestly it is a compliment because I really look up to her, so it’s not even bad. But for a while some people were kind of dismissive of my sound I guess. But regardless, I love her. I’m a huge fan of her music. 

Do you face any criticism for your voice?

I have actually. It’s funny because I do think it is kind of weird. I think it’s just very different, because recently I had a music video dropped on Astari. The main audience of Astari are general people. It’s a different audience than my SoundCloud fans. There were comments saying that they didn’t like how high pitch the voice was, and saying I sound like a girl. People do ask I’m a girl when they hear my songs, and somebody once said on my song “the voice is too androgynous” or something. I think it’s cool because it’s definitely a new sound, so I feel like people are just not used to it. If anything, it makes me feel good because I know I’m doing something different and unique. 

How was the filming process like for the Butterfly Bankai music video? 

It was awesome. I was in Province with friends. One was sharking9k (lil crunch) and yung niij, they’re both SoundCloud artists too. I told them the idea and they helped me plan it. It was really fun. We shot it at midnight, and there was no one on the streets so it was just us. We had these huge lights because it was really dark so it was really fun. I think we shot it in like 2 nights. It took sharking9k a long time to edit; we shot it in the middle of the summer and I think he gave me the final cut the beginning of the school year which was like 2 months ago. Once I made the video, I knew I wanted it on Astari, because I know Astari fucks with my music and he’s been asking me to send him a video. I sent it to and he liked it. There was a long wait because he was busy on his part but yeah it finally dropped so it’s pretty awesome.  

Tell us more about Visored Vitality.

“Butterfly Bankai” is the single from that EP. Bankai is like a sword transformation from the anime Bleach. It’ kind of like their final form. So the whole EP was kind of inspired by it. The name “visored” is this race of people who are half-shinigami & half-hollow. They’re kind of half good and half bad. That’s putting it really simply. They essentially have two sides; they’re kind of good and kind of bad. The whole idea of visored vitality is the duality of good and bad, so the cover kind of shows that too with the split thing. It  was influenced by that. I wanted the songs to be darker in tone, so I think the whole mood is inspired just be the anime [Bleach]. I try to have this darker and the beats are pretty stripped back so it’s a contrast between the bare, dark beats and high pitched vocals. 

Explain to me the Ginseng tag mimic. What’s that about? 

The first time I said it, I had said it in the Butterfly Bankai thing at the end. One time on Instagram, I said something jokingly like “I did the Ginseng tag” just for fun, and people thought I was being serious. They were direct messaging me and everything but now I totally see it. I was truly just joking. It was just really funny to me. I was like “what if I made a video of me saying the tag?” So I posted that on Twitter and that blew up. And then I guess that kind of became a thing. Even Ginseng retweeted it. Even though that joke was just for fun, it definitely put me out there even more because everyone was sharing it because it was pretty funny.

What compels you to drop a song?

I’m really busy with school, because they are really demanding. I really care about school and my art work too. So during school I don’t really have the time to make a lot of music. What I do during the summer (like last) is that I’ll make a bunch of songs and I’ll kind of just store them so during the school year I can release in a consistent way without being stressed about making music. That’s kind of one of the reasons I have lots of music, but I’ve gotten a lot better at recording. Before it would take me a long time to record, but now it takes me an hour to make a song. The whole process is way faster. I think just now I’m in a better position, like good relationships with producers, so access to good beats makes the music making process really quick. I have a lot of music on my computer, and when it comes to releasing is if I just feel like it, or if the time is right. That’s just really important, even though a lot of the time it’s pretty spontaneous. I usually like to think about it a week in advance so I’ll be like “this is the week I drop this song” or whatever. I have that mindset and make the cover art for it and prepare for the release. 

I notice a trend in your cover arts. Could you describe your aesthetic? 

My color scheme is yellow and pink. That kind of just became a thing. When I first started making music, I knew I wanted to have an image because being an artist, having a visual identity is really important, so I wanted a strong visual identity. From the start I had picked yellow and pink to be my colors, so that if you saw those colors, you’ll automatically think of me and knew it was me. Also for the EP, I made that guy with the wings and the antenna my mascot. So I guess that’s the same thing where I want a strong visual identity, where you see it and think of me so it stems from that. But most of the covers it’s just whatever looks cool and they usually relate to the song. Like for Lies, Lies, the cover is a pack of Hello Kitty stickers mixed with these pills because it’s symbolic of the good and bad. The contrast of the cute Hello Kitty stickers is pretty strong. It just goes with the song since it’s like a heartbreak song. The covers usually relate to the song. Sometimes it’s more symbolic and deep, other times it’s just kind of fun, but it always has some kind of connection to it. 

Do your parents and friends know you make music? 

They know. They’re pretty supportive, but they don’t know a lot about it. My friends know too but none of my friends really listen to my music. I don’t think anyone around me is really into my music but everyone is definitely like really supportive though, which is awesome. 

Somebody asked: Squirtle, Charmander, or Bulbasaur?

They’re all good for different reasons, but I think if I had to pick one, probably Squirtle. Pokemon is something I talk about a lot. My favorite is probably Darkrai. 

Favorite artists of the past 5 years?

That’s really hard. I’ll name a couple. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. The past 5 years, I’ll definitely say Lil Uzi Vert is a huge influence on me. Honestly if Uzi wasn’t around. I don’t think I would be around because his style and his charisma has definitely influenced a lot of my music, still to this day. If I had to pick one person, I would probably pick him. Older Taylor Swift is what I grew up with, so that’s close to my heart. I was revisiting it and her old albums are really good, but her stuff now is okay. I really like 2000s pop music as well, like Lady Gaga’s old albums are super influential and just really good and overlooked in general. If you look back, she was really doing different stuff. Outside of pop, Erykah Badu too. She’s the one where I got my voice because she’s such a good singer. I would just sing her songs all the time. I guess modern hip hop people like Lil Uzi or Young Thug, Thugger is also one of my biggest influences too. Those people especially.

Do you draw influence from Carti? 

He’s also a big influence on me. My top 3 are Uzi, Carti, and Young Thug. 

How was your time in Atlanta?

It was insane and definitely the best weekend of my life. It was so crazy to meet everyone. It was my first time meeting so many SoundCloud people. I’ve met a couple people in Providence, but it was one at a time. I only really met like 3 people in total then. But Atlanta was just on a totally different level. There was so many people and they were people I respect and look up to so to see and meet them and know they like my music is so insane because their music is so influential to me, like David Shawty and Mixed Matches. Those are 2 people I really look up to.

Your performance at the IOA x UVC ATL show was definitely a memorable one. How was it? Was that your first performance ever?

It wasn’t my first time performing. I performed in Shanghai like once or twice, but Atlanta was the first time performing to people who knew my music. The performance was so awesome. It’s so crazy because I don’t remember much of it because I was so into the performance and in the moment. I put 100% into it and was just feeling so it much. There’s this one point where the announcer guy [NateNumbaEight] told me to do that thing on stage and I had no idea what he was talking about. He was like “Do that dance you did, do it again” and I don’t know what I did because I was just moving to the music. I don’t really remember my set but yeah, afterwards everyone was telling me it was insane so that’s awesome. 

Who’s somebody you really like in the scene besides Tommy Ice? 

Definitely David Shawty. Summrs is insane. Skress, Mixed Matches, and Kevin Kazi too.

How was it like working with all those people in Atlanta?

It was really awesome and really productive because when I think when you’re working with other people, there’s so much energy so making songs happens super quick. You never feel stuck. Watching other people in IOA working on a melody or producing is influential, or when somebody else comes in and adds a flute or drums or something. The productivity is so high because of all the talent in one room. 

Any future plans or drops you have coming? 

I have a lot of music coming, just right now I’m trying to finish an EP that I have with FBK, so that’s my next big project. There’s probably gonna be like 6 songs on it, and there’s gonna be some pretty cool features. I’m also doing an EP with Ericdoa, but that will probably come out a little later. We’re hopefully going to try to link in Thanksgiving because he only lives like an hour away from me. So I guess those, and I have a lot of music with IOA, so that’s more.

Who’s somebody you really want to work with — in the scene or not? 

Definitely Tommy Ice. It’ll be awesome to work with 6 dogs. Summrs is crazy or Autumn, they’re both insane. Izaya tiji too, he’s in SlayWorld and he’s super, super crazy. Honestly with me, I don’t really reach out to artists just to work. It’s like if I make a song and I’m like “this person would be perfect on this song”. I don’t want to work just for the sake of working. If I know we can make something work then I would work with them. And I think that’s one of the reasons why I don’t work with people. I should work with them more, but I just don’t really reach out to people like that. 

Any shoutouts? 

There are so many people that have helped me get to the place I’m at now so I just want to thank everyone, my friends and fans because without them and their support I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today so I am forever grateful for everyone’s support!

You can watch SEBii’s new music video for “Butterfly Bankai” off his EP Visored Vitality over on Astari’s channel, link below: