story / Emma Kathan
photos by Vanessa Irena
Gavin Mays a.k.a. Cities Aviv is a rapper and producer from Memphis, Tennessee. His musical style blends genres such as hip-hop, electronica and indie rock. His first album “Digital Lows” released in 2011, was touted as one of the best underground rap releases of the year by Spin and Pitchfork. His second album, “Black Pleasure” was released in 2012 and his new album, “Come to Life” will be available around the new year 2014.
Who inspired you musically when you were growing up?
Early to mid 2000’s era rap via Non Phixion, Jedi Mind Tricks, MF DOOM, and the Justus League movement out of NC had a big influence.
When you were growing up and listening to your favorite artists, did you imagine that you would one day create your own music?
Not at all. I’ve always seen myself as a listener and curator but not the creator. That being said, after having explored a few bum projects by myself and with friends I feel a window opened for me to let out seemingly unattainable ideas. I used to rap for friends but I never took myself serious until I had to.
Was your family encouraging of music or of your becoming a musician?
My family was your average black family with interests in forward movement(survival). Music was always in our sphere but it wasn’t a priority pushed as a means of existence. Poetry writings from my Mom would lay untouched until I found them hidden under a few c.d.s I was trying to steal back for having the parental advisory sticker. They support my creative endeavors just not the “fucks” and “shits”. I think the older I’ve gotten they simply support my existence in total and whatever that entails.
What is your personal favorite part of making music? Writing, Recording, Playing Live?
All inclusive energy to be honest. Creating the realm for all ideas to manifest regardless of how irresponsible they are. Live performance has always been key in anything I’ve done because nothing else mirrors the exact moment when you trance away at your own creation. All of the writings and recordings crash into that moment.
What pushes you to write music when you are feeling lazy or uninspired?
That in itself.
What have you been working on currently?
I recently finished an album called COME TO LIFE. This has been a pretty important piece to me and I can’t wait to share. Several other projects are currently in the works as well that I’d rather not mention but in due time they’ll see you.
What do you love about music?
Music is all. By creating sound you are manipulating vibratory forces of energy. This energy wielded with the proper intent can be very powerful. In 2013 and since forever ago musicians have helped shift the tides of consciousness and I feel that is now more important than ever.
What inspires you on a daily basis?
Have you been reading anything interesting lately which has been inspiring you?
I’ve been circling through several books at once but one of interest has been Jiddu Krishnamurti “Talks and Dialogues”. A lot of relevant speech about fragmentary thought processes. I am a very boring person in real life.
Is there a certain time period in your past that resonates with you when you’re writing lyrics?
The latter of my teen years resonates the most. The feeling of simply being alive and not giving a fuck. I’ve left that person long since but I feel way more attuned than ever with myself. Modern society hasn’t shown me a good enough mirror or formulaic personality to subscribe too so I’d rather just take the time loving and learning about whats inside. This has definitely sculpted my music to match my personality.
What would you like to see happen in the future, for yourself and for the rest of the world?
For myself I’d like to see a lush hideaway where I can throw away all of my cares and simply be. For the world I’d like to see some sort of peace that exists outside of money and mirrors divinity. Until then more heavy music will be made.