“Embrace the identity crisis inherent to life.”
Sitting down with Coleman Hughes (CC ’20), the Juilliard-student-turned-Columbia-philosophy-major, is like we’re with him on one of his meditation retreats: soothing, deliberate, asking us to stop and think. And to listen, because listening, for Coleman–to one’s own feelings, to music–is how we, in his words, “become curious about our own minds.” Read on to learn what Coleman means by that, along with his love for John Coltrane, mixing & mastering at CU Records, and his new album, “My Dick Works Fine!”
Coleman’s musical background is akin to baking a batch of perfectly-gooey cookies by eyeballing all the ingredients: beginning at age three on violin, classical piano lessons at age five, and rock drum lessons at age eight that brought him all the way to playing at Giants and Knicks games. There is nothing about his trajectory that seems forced or unstable; it’s as if the natural order simply fell into place with each key “banged,” or each beat drummed. Coleman’s intuition is so seamless that his every step represents how he “notices those feelings that crop up with boredom,” propelling him to pick up trombone, for example, when he was “jealous of people who played instruments with melodies” in orchestra. Or leaving the Juilliard School’s jazz program for Columbia when the “artistic conservatism” there frowned upon “anything beyond…what people played in the early 1960’s.”
Coleman’s modus operandi has always remained “fuck stuff up, and then figure it out,” aligning with his discomfort over Juilliard’s constraint: he prefers “teaching myself and being on my own.” That independence manifests itself in a unique brand of creativity. He mixes and masters tracks at CU Records–his most recent project was for his friend Chukwu, mixing the EP wholly by himself. He plays hip-hop with a sprinkling of jazz in venues throughout New York with his band, COLDMAN. He creates music videos on his YouTube channel (totaling 100,000+ views), some psychedelically-colorful, others heavy with weight. He’s releasing his newest album, “My Dick Works Fine!,” eleven tracks of spunky rap, mixed with alt rock and jazz, two years in the making.
In a sense, all of Coleman’s projects further his passion for music in all its forms as “a pleasure that has almost no downside.” He reminds us that music, at the end of the day, is just music, and we do music because we love it, “it’s not more complicated than that.” For Coleman, as it should be for us, music “lights my brain on fire, and I don’t really question why, and it hasn’t hurt me in any way.” Letting go of that obsession we have to make music into some difficult, monstrous thing rejects what Coleman calls “embracing the identity crisis inherent to life.” As musicians, different genres don’t have to be “self-contained worlds that don’t interact,” just as life does not have to be a boxed, labeled package.
Aside from listening to lots of John Coltrane–“a soft-spoken man who played saxophone with so much intensity”–Flying Lotus, Frankie Cosmos, and Kendrick Lamar, Coleman also loves nonfiction and popular science books, citing Robert Sapolsky’s Monkeyluv as a recent favorite. His favorite ethnic food is Japanese (hell yeah). A pet peeve? “When people talk past each other…when you respond to something the other person’s saying, but it’s not at all what they were saying.” We know we’ll be signing him on as our life coach as we loop “My Dick Works Fine!” this weekend.
want more Coleman? check out the playlist he specially curated for beets&noodz here!
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contributors: Jordan Lee, Cindy Liu, and Adrian Traviezo
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