Words like "humble" or "considerate of women" probably aren't the first things that come to mind when you think of a song like "My Dick." But after speaking with the creators of that song, Mickey Avalon and Simon Rex (also known by his stage name, "Dirt Nasty"), humble is the best way I can think to describe them.
Although both can hustle as well as any Silicon Valley tech founder, especially Avalon who briefly worked the streets as a male prostitute to fuel his drug addiction before going to rehab and becoming sober, they have zero egos.
They are extremely nonchalant and down to earth about their moments of fame. Rex explains that he is incredibly uncomfortable with fame and that it has made him more introverted and closed-off. "On the very small scale that I've had fame, [I can say] it's the last thing a human should want: fake attention and weird vibes," he states.
Avalon is similarly against "putting anyone on a pedestal." Instead, the two create unique music and other content with the main mottos to "not take themselves too seriously," and always aim to "make one of them laugh."
Here are five things I learned from Avalon and Rex that everyone should consider, whether they're aspiring entertainers or entrepreneurs:
1. Don't take yourself too seriously (but hustle hard)
Rex and Avalon sincerely believe their music would never have become popular if they had been "trying too hard."
"We weren't trying to make it...We were just trying to make each other laugh. We weren't trying to be like, 'We're going to break into the music industry and tour the world.' We were like, 'Let's make each other laugh and listen to it in our car.'" said Rex.
While they both assert that they never planned to try to get famous from their music, they still did all the right things at the right time.
"I had a CD player before social media and before ipods. So I bought a CD burner and I would just burn CDs and wrap them up in the LA weekly, which is a local porn magazine...I would give it to [people like] Leonardo Dicaprio,...DJ AM, all the celebrities that I sort of knew, I would just hand it to them and be like, 'Hey check out me and my boys screwing around.' And then that led to Mickey getting signed to Interscope and everything else happening." recalls Rex.
Avalon said he didn't even know that Rex was handing out the CDs, as he couldn't go to the clubs with him, since he was residing in a sober living house that had a midnight curfew. When Avalon got a call from his future manager about his music, he actually thought it was Rex pranking him.
2. Create with your audience in mind
Early on, the group made a conscious decision to write for women instead of men, unlike most other rappers in the space.
Rex explains the motivation behind that choice:
"I remember when we were writing our first album or music together, and Mickey [said], 'You know what we need to do? We need to write to women and girls. Not to dudes with backpacks to stand there and judge us like hip hop heads.' And I remember thinking, 'Wow, that's such a smart idea.' So within the writing, I always said, 'The best way to get a girl is to make her laugh.' ...Like, 'What would a girl want to hear, you know?' And I don't think any rappers ever do that, since except LL Cool J's 'I Need Love.' There's not too many rappers do that...maybe Drake."
3. Going against the grain can pay off
Rex and Avalon's music style and appearance have always been distinct, especially in the rap game. Unsurprisingly, comedy and humor seemed to be a repeating theme in the group's friendship and style.
"We all had kind of the same weird sense of humor...we were having fun trying to do us and bring something different," says Rex.
Avalon went on to explain some of the reasoning behind the themes they chose to rap about:
"There's all these uptight things in hip hop. They're known for being homophobic, or like talking about how much money you have...We didn't want to shy away from those things; we wanted to be the opposite. ...Some of what we thought was funny would be like well, since they're homophobic let's talk about transgender. Instead of talking about how much money we have, let's talk about how much we don't have. ...Or they'd talk about selling drugs, so we would talk about buying drugs."
Rex said that this is what inspired him to create his biggest song, "1980," because he wanted to contrast all the other rap songs about selling drugs to create one where he was "the customer."
4. Don't be a perfectionist; just ship
Avalon and Rex are wary of how social media is shaping human relationships and aspirations, but they attribute their music's success (and existence) to technology.
"In the olden days, if you were going to record something, you have to save up a bunch of money and go to a fancy studio, and make a demo. None of those things would have ever happened in our situation," says Avalon.
But rather than becoming obsessed with perfection, they used technology to rapidly produce and distribute music; first in the form of CDs and then on MySpace.
"We could literally do a song real fast at Simon's, and then after it would already be on at the club. Maybe if we slept on it we would change our minds and be like, 'You know what, that song's not going to work,'" explains Avalon.
5. You never know for sure what people will like, so test a lot of different things
Rex and Avalon explained that they, along with Andre Legacy, each have very different distinct styles and personas. They said Rex was the "comedian," Mickey the "sexy glam rapper," and Legacy was the "traditional rapper." But they believe these differences give them more opportunities for an audience to like them.
They shared stories of Amy Winehouse being one of their earliest fans. "Amy Winehouse would always come to our soundcheck and hang with us before she blew up. Amy was like our biggest fan. And I remember she goes, 'I don't know why Mickey Avalon is getting all the attention. Andre Legacy is the dopest rapper,'" recounts Rex.
Speaking of things they didn't think would work, Avalon and Rex were extremely skeptical of creating the song, "My Dick," which eventually went Platinum.
"That was Andre Legacy's idea. Me and Simon were like, 'That's the stupidest idea ever.' It kind of went against everything we believe in. Like, 'oh, let's tell everyone how big our dicks are.' If anything, we would do a a song about how little our dicks are...So we're just like, 'No, we're not going to do that. That's stupid.' But then Legacy was like,'No, no, I'm telling you, it's going to be a great idea.' So Simon, just to humor him, makes this beat in like thirty seconds," says Avalon.
Rex then added with a sense of disbelief, "It's funny because that one song that I did just to get it over with...was the one that went Platinum. And then we get into the studio with the biggest producers, the biggest artists; ...we're working with our heroes. And those songs didn't obviously get even near [My Dick].."
And yet the song they didn't want to produce became the most popular, getting attention and praise from the likes of even songwriting legend Diane Warren, who wrote hit songs for artists such as Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Elton John, and many more.
Rex recounts meeting Warren at a music industry dinner and having her approach them to compliment them on the lyrics of "My Dick." According to him, she said to them, "I'm just here to meet the guys who wrote 'My Dick.' I just want to say thank you for bringing it down to the lowest common denominator. That's brilliant songwriting. I'm going to leave now."
Rex and Avalon were both recently in upcoming movies, Rex in Eminem's film Bodied, and Avalon in Puppy Love. Other than that, they're touring for the next several months. Avalon continues to be a Renaissance Man, also working on his paintings, which are featured as album covers in his recent work. The prints of his most recent painting, "Dolly," have already sold out.