On the Record with Cousin Vinny

GRAE New York sits down with Ohio rapper Cousin Vinny.

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In his Conversations with Myself mixtape series, Ohio-based rapper Cousin Vinny gives listeners a bit of everything … personal songs about his family life, turn up songs for the squad, and love songs for the ladies. Recently we had the chance to go On the Record with him to find out more about his music, upbringing, and plans for the future.

Cousin Vinny

We all need a creative outlet. For Cousin Vinny, it’s writing. Under the influence of his mother, who Vinny describes as a “pretty dope poet,” Vinny also took pen to paper. Stories, poetry, and speeches were his forte. He even had a series on YouTube called Chillin with Cousin Vinny in which he played different characters who shared their insight on everything from growing up in the 1990s to girls.

Eventually he needed a new outlet to express himself better, and music found him. He teamed up with Mikey, a friend of a friend with a studio, and started playing around with music production. This led to the start of the Conversations with Myself mixtape in 2013. Released in 2015, CWM is an introduction to an artist who aims to create relatable music.

“I write all my songs from personal experience, and the main reason I put it out is to connect with people so I don’t feel alone.”

Cousin Vinny performing

Sampling Drake’s Pound CakeCWM intro track From You sheds light on Vinny’s upbringing.

From You is probably my most relatable song, so if I wanted someone to really get to know me, that’s where I would want them to start.”

Born in Cleveland and raised in Akron since kindergarten, Vinny was brought up by his single mother whom he credits with keeping him out of trouble. On being raised without his father, Vinny said, “That’s probably my first defining moment growing up. I thought he was cool because he sent gifts, and I blamed my mom for him never being around. Then I realized it was his own choice so it’s something I’ll always deal with.”

One way he’s dealing with it is through his songwriting. In the track 6/15 Vinny rapped, “No doctor needed. This is therapy in a pen.”

“I try to write at the end of every day, even if it’s just to journal. It’s how I process things, and then I come back, reflect and get inspired to make a song.”

His journal is where much of the content for the Conversations with Myself mixtapes materialized.

“It really all comes from my journal which I view [as] talking to yourself. At least that’s how it is for me. It’s how I figure out how I feel about things because I try not to react to things in the moment a lot.”

With Conversations with Myself under his belt, Vinny felt more comfortable creating 2016’s Conversations with Myself, Volume 2. The growth between the projects is apparent from first listen and something Vinny aimed for.

“I just want [the audience] to recognize the work that I put in and feel like after they listen, they know me a little better. I went into the second project just wanting to grow and get better all around. From writing, production, content, [and] recording, I just wanted to reach my next level.”

Helping him get to the next level is his team whom Vinny calls “Welcome To The Family.”

“My team has definitely changed since the beginning. Originally it was me, Mikey, Chad and Mike. Life pretty much happened and those guys will always be part of Welcome To The Family, but my main team these days [is] me, Justin, Stokes, and Beers. Me and Beers have been together since the final recording of Volume One. Justin came along halfway through CWM2, and Stokes has been my DJ from the jump.”

Vinny and his team have big plans for 2017. In addition to working on two projects, What Are We? and The Social Loner Exhibit, Vinny plans to focus on creating more video content and series. He would also like to collaborate with local Akron artists.

“Just in my city there is so much talent: LDG the souloistVello and the other people in Blak are all dope, [and] Swah and what he does for the city is cool just to name a few. Oh, and I can’t forget Luv Abstract. Him and his team are amazing.”

Vinny mentioned Kanye West, Drake, and Childish Gambino when asked which rappers’ careers he would like his career to emulate elements of. However, like another one of his inspirations, Chance the Rapper, getting signed to a label is not one of his main goals at the moment.

Cousin Vinny performance

“The goal is to really be able to live off doing what I love. If I can do it independent, great. If it takes getting signed, awesome. I just want to make songs for a living and connect to people. I just want to be known as an artist that could do anything he set his mind to and that was a real person that people could relate to.”

With Conversations with Myself, Volumes 1 and 2 in his repertoire, Cousin Vinny is well on his way. Give our playlist: Best Of: Cousin Vinny a listen below and get familiar.

Be sure to connect with Cousin Vinny on SoundCloud!

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