On the weekend after his first performance as a solo artist, fourth-year College student Noah Tinsley, better known by his stage name mr. after, sat down with The Cavalier Daily to discuss his long-standing talent for writing rap songs.
Tinsley has come far since his early days of composing raps about his math teacher with fourth-year College student Elie Bashkow, who himself is a member of jam band souwa cweam and forms part of the jazz fusion backing for mr. after’s live performances. Together the pair dropped a single on Spotify called ‘Globes’ in 2021, an impressive testament to their long-standing friendship and their chemistry as a musical duo.
“It was COVID — me and Elie were quarantined together, and we made the song ‘Globes,’” Tinsley explains. “That was my first time writing a rap verse that I was trying to make good and trying to make meaningful.”
Tinsley’s main tool for writing his verses is the notes app on his phone. Indeed, he often finds himself writing a standalone bar or two at random points during the day, and is later able to flesh them out into full verses, and eventually songs. Much of Tinsley’s work is inspired by his own life — he enjoys the subtle vulnerability his wordplay affords him.
“I feel like it's a way for me to sort of express certain vulnerabilities in a coded way,” said Tinsley. “I try to just not lie, like I try to use rap as a way to get comfortable with who I am.”
Tinsley considers himself to be taught by the people he listens to. He draws inspiration from newer hip-hop artists like Danny Brown and Earl Sweatshirt, citing the latter’s album “Some Rap Songs” as a big reason he started rapping seriously, as well as a wide variety of jazz and rock musicians.
Tinsley can also see the beauty in many musical genres — nowhere is this more clear than in his performances, which feature a jazz fusion backing made up of Bashkow on the guitar, fourth-year College student Ellis Nolan on the bass, and Zachary Bowen on the drums.
“I think it adds a lot of excitement,” Tinsley explains. “You can have people go off and take solos and stuff and it's a little bit less… I don't know, egocentric maybe. It's a little bit less just focused directly on me.”
Recently, Tinsley released his new single “mr who knows.” On the track — produced by Bashkow — Tinsley expands the lore of his stage character ‘mr. after,’ which he hopes to continue to do for the rest of his music career.
“[mr. after] is all these different people that are all me,” Tinsley said. “It’s mister whatever, whatever I'm feeling at that moment. So it's like this anonymous but specific sort of person.”
Through this persona, Tinsley is able to explore multiple different sides of himself.
As a Charlottesville native, Tinsley finds that his familiarity with the city and its inhabitants, particularly those that are musically inclined, has enabled him to be exposed to a wide variety of different genres. He also centers some of his songs around the city he grew up in, even rapping about the tragic disappearance of the ‘Pie Guy Coffee’ from the Corner at his gig March 22.
At this gig, which was organized by the University’s Student Hip-Hop Organization and took place at the Southern, he performed his single ‘mr who knows,’ as well as an array of his unreleased songs interspersed with some remarkable freestyling.
Because the structure of his unreleased songs has not yet been fully fleshed out, Tinsley is able to experiment with his creative choices on the spot.
“It was cool because it was a much more free flowing type of rap than a set beat with a set verse,” said Tinsley. “ I like to go off and freestyle for a second or just play with it as it's happening.”
As he looks forward to his impending graduation, Tinsley finds himself thinking a lot about his future, and how rap will fit into it. As of now, he hopes to find a stable job in the field of anthropology using his Master’s degree, while also being able to build on his love of wordplay and alternative hip-hop.
“When I'm rapping I feel like it's the truest version of myself — but I feel like that's such a terrifying and unstable, crazy career path,” said Tinsley. “But I want to keep rapping.”
Ever the wordsmith, Tinsley’s favorite bar includes a double-entendre between skateboarding and needing a coping mechanism, “I’m choking need / Albuterol / 5050 / On the coping mechanism / Suitable / For short term.” No doubt, Tinsley will answer with a different bar in a year’s time, a testament to his consistent growth as an artist and his commitment to the poetry of rap.
Tinsley will take the stage again as the talented mr. after at the Sound-On Semi-Formal on March 31 — and this columnist certainly vows to be there to see it.