We had the good fortune of connecting with Heno. and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Heno., what role has risk played in your life or career?
I feel like the foundation of risk-taking starts from the mindset that you have going into it. You essentially have to believe in yourself and your ability to succeed more than any outside influence which usually takes a lot of focus, hard work, and determination; and to be frank, not everybody is built for it. Many have a negative perception of failure and what it looks like, but actually, it can be an essential tool for character development. Failure makes us stronger to the adversity we face and more resilient as a result. I feel like people who fail repeatedly develop thicker skin when faced with obstacles. Moving to California from Maryland to pursue music was one of the biggest risks I’ve ever had to do in my life and I remember when I almost didn’t pull the trigger. 2 weeks before my big move after purchasing a one-way ticket to SFO from BWI, I remember a friend of mine who I was going to get an apartment with had to move back in with his parents after a situation went left. It was at that moment I realized all I had was $700 saved up and this one-way ticket with no plans of a place to crash and had to put together a plan fast. I remember having a conversation with my cousin about it all and was contemplating staying back in MD because it wasn’t 100% figured out and things were still in the air. To this day I remember that phone call because my cousin told me that this was one of those big moments where I had to simply decide if I wanted to bet on myself or fold under the pressure. I decided to fly to SF and figure it out once I was out there and was blessed with an opportunity to stay with my friend’s family for the first year of my California living rent-free. I wouldn’t have even been offered that blessing if I didn’t even put myself in the position to receive it and years later this journey I’ve been on has been quite fruitful; from taking me all over the country, different parts of the world, building community, and genuinely doing what I love to do. My risk-taking ultimately saved me from the more destructive paths I could’ve been on. Taking a risk to accomplish a goal takes a lot of courage to face the doubts, the naysayers, and the fear of uncertainty. No matter the end result, either way, it helps you grow through the process and become more confident; thus building skills improving the chances of accomplishing more goals in the future. I’ve learned to find comfort within the uncomfortable to be able to adjust myself accordingly and achieve whatever my goal is and all of that came from taking risks – betting on my ability to work and persevere and it’s something I’ll continue to do until I can’t anymore.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Everything I do within my art is based on intention. Before I write lyrics, produce a record, or even sing/rap on a song, I have to ask myself “why am I doing this?” and more importantly “who am I speaking to?”. Those things are essential before I start my creative process which is what I think really sets me apart from others. I’m very proud of the progress I’ve made being self-taught. Growing up as a First-Generation Ethiopian, born in Maryland, there’s a certain pressure to be an engineer, a lawyer, or (in my case) a doctor. My parents really didn’t think music was to be taken as a serious thing and was more of a hobby which made the learning process very difficult. I spent a lot of time by myself learning every aspect of the process – starting from song structure/arrangement, music theory, songwriting/poetry which turned into singing/rapping, messing around on piano to making beats and producing my own sound, engineering, and more.
Overcoming adversity and challenges is a big part of my life as well as my artistry because I talk a lot about where I’m from and the obstacles people who look like me deal with. From violence, street politics, police brutality, systemic oppression, and more, it made it very hard to simply exist in Maryland – especially as a 6’4″ black man with dreadlocks. But from a creative standpoint, there was also overcoming the fear of disappointing my parents. I learned that sometimes it’s better to bet on yourself and prove people wrong rather than let other people project their fears onto you; especially if you’re passionate enough and willing to do the work. I’ve also learned to respect where you are in the process of things and to move on your own time. I remember at one point I used to care what people thought of my art or cared about doing things too perfect which messed me up a lot. But now, I’m at peace and more grateful for this journey I’ve been on which has allowed me also to recognize that I’m only in competition with myself; with plans of being better than I was the day before.
I want people to know that they are NOT defined by the adversity that they face but by how they RESPOND to it; either choosing to push through an obstacle or let an obstacle impede the path. A lot of these things are easier said than done but at the same time, it’s a very fundamental part of the process. I’m reminded every day of everything I overcame and it’s rewarding to know and see the progression in real-time.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My favorite spots to eat in Los Angeles start off in Little Ethiopia at Messob, Koreatown Pizza Company in Koreatown or this ramen shop off of Melrose called Shiyo Ramen. I don’t do too much hanging out, especially during covid, so the studio is where I’m posted at 70-80% of the time. Other than that, I’m into all things outdoors so activities like I enjoy hiking or walking through nature in various spots, usually in random spots in the San Fernando Valley. If I’m not traveling or doing stuff I’m generally just in the crib unwinding with vinyl records spinning while playing random movies in the background.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My parents, Selam & Sophia Belay, are to whom I dedicate my shoutout. I got the best traits from each of them and thank them for raising me with a sense of empathy for others, compassion, a solid work ethic, a good sense of humor, amongst many other things. I wouldn’t be half the man I am today without their love and guidance.
Other: Bandcamp – https://mynameisheno.bandcamp.com/ New NFTs can be found at https://www.hicetnunc.xyz/tz/tz1hTKmD8wnMftcSgxPrcCFGVYeLtGujGTR1