“When you’re 15 years old and you want to do a mixtape, that’s a great thing. But normally, you’d put it out and 50 people listen to it, not 500,000.”
In 2011, rapper-producer Pablo Dylan uploaded his debut mixtape 10 Minutes to SoundCloud. The 500,000 number, as you might expect from an aspiring teenage musician, isn’t bragging, though. Dylan, now 19, is keenly aware of his pedigree as the nephew of Wallflowers frontman Jakob Dylan and grandson of Bob and the interest it created.
But Dylan seemed to disappear as quickly as he appeared, perhaps destined to be another casualty of the pressure of sharing a name with a famous relative.
“Truthfully, I just locked myself in my fuckin’ lair, bro,” Dylan tells Rolling Stone, laughing. “10 Minutes wasn’t up to that level of quality that I wanted it to be. It was really important to me to take my time and say, ‘Nothing else matters’ and if this is what I want to do with my life, I’m going to set out to be the best who’s ever done it. I’ve made music for 16 hours a day for the last three years. It’s literally my life.”
Three years after 10 Minutes, Dylan says he has written “hundreds of songs” and returns with “Midnight,” his first offering from his album scheduled for release in 2015. Over a narcotic, skittering beat reminiscent of Boi-1da’s production on Drake’s “Forever,” Dylan rhymes about his life as a teenager. “I really tried to get every detail on that song correctly,” says Dylan. “It’s not really what my album is going to sound like, but it’s very representative of me being 19 years old, making music and being young and enjoying that experience.”
Given his pedigree, it’s not surprising that the musician grew up around music, obsessing over the Clash as a child (“They meant everything to me”) and learning piano and drums, both of which Dylan plays on the new album. In kindergarten, Dylan’s mom played him Eminem’s The Eminem Show and the rapper began to “venture deep into rap music.”
When he first released 10 Minutes, his dad, the film director Jesse Dylan, warned him about the instant criticism he would receive given his family name and career choice. “I just have to be as confident as I can be,” says Dylan. “I’m probably not going to read any of the reviews this time. Actually, I take that back. I’m going to be curious as fuck.”
Our conversation naturally drifts to his grandfather, as it most likely will with many future interviews he will give. “He’s given me a lot of advice,” says Dylan. “There’s not an individual I love more, but we do two completely different things and that’s great. I love to have him in my corner because he cares about me and I care about him. He’s the first person to say, ‘Oh Pablo, you’re doing well.’ ‘Thanks, grandpa. It means the world.'”
Asked what lessons from Bob’s career he has taken for his own, Pablo says, “He strived to do it at the highest level. Lyrically, it’s all meaningful and representative of him. That’s exactly what I want to do. I can’t say that I’m ever going to reach that level, but I’m going to give it my everything to try and make music that’s that impactful when it comes to soundtracking people’s lives the way that his does.”
While Pablo says no collaboration is in the works (“That’s a conversation that’s never happened and probably never will happen”), he’s acutely aware that his last name may be both a gift and a curse. “The first time it crossed my mind is when 10 Minutes came out,” he says. “At the same time, when you really love something and have a vision of that being your life, nothing is going to come in between that. This is always what I wanted to do and it will continue being the only thing I want to do.
“I mean this in the least arrogant way possible: What Rick Rubin did with Def Jam, that’s my vision,” adds Dylan. “I want to create a real cultural movement.”