The Dean’s List is comprised of three really good friends from Boston and New Jersey. Sonny Shotz is the group’s rapper and songwriter. Mik and Mendoza handle the beats. It is simple, but it works. The group was formed only 3 years ago and has quickly gained a loyal following on the Internet, thanks to the consistently displayed on their first two mixtapes Undeclared and The Drive In. Just a few weeks ago, the group’s commercial debut Generation X was released on iTunes, and I got to talk to the guys about their new album, their main influences, and the movie Drive.
Arjun: First of all, I got to ask you about “Dear Professor.” That is one of the most played songs on my iPod. What was the inspiration behind that?
The Dean’s List (Mendoza): Yeah, well, “Dear Professor” took awhile. I know Mik found the sample on YouTube, and we kind of really worked with it, and it took awhile. That was probably one of the first records we came across and then probably the last one we finished. It took awhile; it was a really great learning experience moving forward for when we were working on Generation X.
Arjun: Okay, now. About Generation X. Can you tell me a little about the recording process of the album?
The Dean’s List (Sonny Shotz): Well, yeah, basically the recording process will just be Mik and Mendoza working on a beat and then it slowly comes together–either Mik starts it off or Mendoza starts it off. Then, I just give them my input–what I think about the direction it’s going–and then I write the lyrics. It all just comes together like that.
Arjun: What were some influences behind the new album?
The Dean’s List (Sonny Shotz): We listen to just about everything–every genre really. Personally, I listen to a lot of Bob Dylan. He’s my favorite artist. I know Mendoza listens to a lot of John Mayer. Mik just listens to everything on the radio. He’s all about the pop hits. He’s a big Justin Bieber fan.
Arjun: What do you think about “Boyfriend?”
The Dean’s List (Mik): It’s cool. I like the direction his team is taking him.
Arjun: Why the name “Generation X?”
The Dean’s List (Sonny Shotz): Well, we decided to name the album Generation X because we believe that we are the generation that comes before us, and we were influenced by the music that came before our generation and our time. Basically, that’s really what we strived to do on this project–create music that influences the generation we are in.
Arjun: I think a lot of your material, including Generation X‘s lead single “Youth,” is about being young and rebellious. Why is that so important to The Dean’s List?
The Dean’s List: I think it’s just an overall theme of being able to do what you want without putting yourself in a box, and since we’re young I guess we can associate feeling young and rebellious versus old–but when we’re old, I’m sure we’ll feel old and rebellious (laughs). I think we just really want to be able to say that we’re not in a genre, and we make music for everyone, you know?
Arjun: Yeah, that makes sense. Have you seen the movie Drive?
The Dean’s List: Yeah, awesome. There’s definitely a track on Generation X where I watched Drive and then made a beat. I’m sure you’ll be able to hear it.
Arjun: Really? That is so cool. So my question is which character did you identify most with in Drive?
The Dean’s List (Mendoza): Ryan Gosling (laughs). Because he’s like the finest dude ever. [Ed. Note: Mendoza later asked me not to quote him on that, but I did anyway.]
Arjun: I know there was a lot of tension between the East Coast and West Coast rap scenes in the ’80s. Does that tension live on today with The Dean’s List?
The Dean’s List (Sonny Shotz): Yeah, we have a lot of beef with the West Coast right now (laughs). No, I’m kidding. There’s no tension. I think everyone’s just coming together to make music really. I don’t think it matters what coast you’re from, especially now. We have a lot of West Coast fans. We’re actually planning on moving out there.
Arjun: What’s your guys’ take on this movement of “blog rappers?” You know, how anyone can be a rapper now?
The Dean’s List (Sonny Shotz): I mean, blogs are a good source for people to get their music out–you know, it’s free music online and people can just access it a lot easier than they could before. I don’t necessarily like a lot of the music that I hear on blogs, but hey, to each his own. (Mendoza) I think now blogs are starting to narrow down what they post. I think a lot of times these blogs would post almost too much music and were not quite selective enough, and now with all this growth–with all of these rappers coming up and how anyone can put a song together in the studio and send it to a blog–I think the blogs are maybe a little bit more careful overall in what they post every now and then. That’s what I find.
Arjun: Yeah, I agree with that. I know from a lot of our music submissions…it’s insulting to call some of them “music” even.
The Dean’s List: (laughs) I can imagine.
Arjun: But I think it’s a good thing overall. I mean, it’s the reason we know a lot of the rappers we know today.
The Dean’s List: Right, right. I mean, it’s also I find that a lot people do music now, not to do music, but for other things. They get that little blog post, whatever, but this definitely needs to eventually stop. But it’s a good thing there’s a lot of music out there.
Arjun: Okay, so I don’t know if you have one, but who is your favorite stand-up comedian right now?
The Dean’s List (Mendoza): Right now, I’d say Kevin Hart probably. I mean, I think he’s just really different in the way he performs compared to a lot of these other stand-up comedians that have been around for a long time. (Sonny Shotz) I feel like if the dad from Modern Family did stand-up, it’d be hilarious. [Ed. Note: This is the factest thing ever.]
We continued to talk a little about how much we both love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, became best friends, and ended the interview on a great note. Generation X is on iTunes now. Buy it–it’s worth the money. You can check out the two lead singles from it below. Thanks for reading.