Local rapper Linwood emphasizes the humanness of his music | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Local rapper Linwood emphasizes the humanness of his music

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Linwood - TODD COLES JR.
  • Todd Coles Jr.
  • Linwood

Linwood thinks his name sounds odd. The Pittsburgh-based rapper and producer, born Linwood Lee Randolph Jr., is one of the rare solo artists that uses his real first name as his moniker. 

“I don’t have the most marketable name, it sounds weird,” says Randolph. “It rolls off the tongue weird. It sounds like an old name.”

Yet, the artist chose not to change it when getting his start in the local music scene. Well, initially, Randolph went by his initials, LR, before settling on Linwood. 

“I couldn’t really think of anything else because it wasn’t really me,” he says. “I don’t think of myself as someone who needs an extra name. But I think that helped shape me in a way. Me saying, ‘I gotta go by my name’ kind of makes me stick more to myself. I’m trying to stay close to who I already am.”

And who is Randolph? His social media profiles sometimes have gaps of a few months between postings. A quick search of “Linwood” on Google results in realty listings and maps for Linwood Avenue. A “Linwood Randolph” search corrects to “Lynwood Cafe,” a bar in Randolph, Mass., which is, coincidentally, the state where Randolph was born. The bottom of that search page is where Randolph’s sparse Twitter account pops up, along with his YouTube channel and an In The Rough article about the artist from June 2018. 

But what Randolph lacks in online presence, he makes up for in human interactions and connections, which have resulted in performances with the likes of Migos, Father, and Shoreline Mafia. He was even brought in to try out producing tracks for a Gucci Mane album. The latter happened thanks to E. Dan, owner of ID Labs in Etna and an A&R representative for Rostrum Records. Although none of the music Randolph made was chosen for the record, he says he made even more connections through the process. 

Recently, the rapper set out on a West Coast tour with Wifisfuneral, which was backed by DJ Femi. The tour was an opportunity presented to Randolph through another ID Labs member, DJ Afterthought. They hit major cities such as Sacramento, San Francisco, Berkeley, Calif., and Denver, Colo.  

“Every show was a great learning experience in how to gain fans and really connect with the audience [during and] after the show,” says Randolph. “When I do my shows, I try to really connect with the audience. Whether that’s making them laugh or jumping up and down, doing high energy things to give them an experience that they’re definitely going to remember, because they don’t know me, and perception is everything.”

Whether that perception is positive or negative, however, doesn’t matter to Randolph, as long he has been as transparent as his ego allows, a mentality inspired by Kanye West. When people listen to Randolph’s music, he wants them to think, “OK, he’s human.”

“You can look at [West] and be like ‘Wow, he’s really a jerk’ or ‘He’s this’ or ‘He’s that,’ but the fact is that he opened up to give it to you in that straight way. It’s a message on its own.”

West, in addition to Travis Scott, also influenced the way Randolph produces his own music. He prefers to auto-tune his vocals, which can be heard in the artist’s most recent song, “Rocket Power.” Named after the popular Nickelodeon TV show, the new track is a melodic, guitar-driven composition with a strong West Coast sound. It dropped shortly after his return from the tour. 

“What I want people to get from my music is that it's OK to be yourself.,” says Randolph. “Finding different ways to express yourself is important. I want people to be able to express themselves in raw ways.”

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