he Chicago artist talks about honing his stealthy style and why you won’t see him on Instagram Live anytime soon.
Valee speaks softly and carries a tiny dog. Furrari, a Yorkie clocking in at maybe five pounds, jogs excitedly around a sunny studio in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood as his owner poses for photos; when the little guy books it down the hallway, Valee’s voice rises into Dad Mode: “Rari! Come back here!” Aside from puppy discipline, though, you won’t catch Valee talking—or rapping, for that matter—in much above a murmur. It makes spending time with him a pretty zen experience: Forced to listen closely, you focus on Valee’s quiet insights on life, language, and the music industry, as everything else blurs into the background. When we take our conversation to Archie’s—a wood-paneled dive bar that allows dogs to roam freely—1990s diva house blasts over the speakers, but I leave feeling as though I’d just finished an hour-long meditation session.
In 2018’s hyper-saturated rap landscape, it often feels like the loudest voices win, dominating the conversation through sheer bluster. Valee’s strategy is different. “In somebody’s presence, my job is to not irritate them,” he tells me over a tequila shot, Rari nested inside his jacket. He’s applied that same philosophy to his run of understated, oddly sophisticated mixtapes, beginning with 2015’s 12:12. Most of his songs purposely end around the two-minute mark, not wanting to overstay their welcome. And the 28-year old never records just to record.