Local Rapper Sareem Talks the SLO D.I.Y. Scene, Conscious Rap, and the End of the World

If you’re familiar with the animated series The Boondocks, Bible verses (I don’t know), or local rapper Sareem, you may have come across this phrase: “I am the stone that the builder refused.” It alludes to the cornerstone, the bit often discarded due to its inability to fit in with the rest of the structure. The quote sits in Sareem’s Spotify bio and defines him and his career as one of the few rappers in SLO.

I was lucky enough to sit down with Sareem over Zoom to talk being your own hype man, rap in the SLO DIY scene (or rather lack thereof), his upcoming album, and the end of the world.

Photo by Jo Anna Edmison

Alex Sareem, the 4th year Cal Poly student behind the moniker, started rapping as an act of boredom his senior year of high school. Now, sitting in his bedroom in San Diego, he tells me how he would pull up beats on YouTube and freestyle over them instead of doing his homework.

“I would record a few [and] people from school would tell me they liked it, even though it sucked at the time…You have to be your own hype man. Like, I told everybody it was good even though I knew damn well, it wasn’t.”

After a few rookie years hyping himself up and self-producing, he teamed up with Sean Mcnamara, one of his beat-making peers, and decided to take rap more seriously. He speaks to Sean’s versatility:

“[Sean] makes a variety of everything, and like he makes it good. For the most part, he’s centralized on making trap beats, but he also makes a lot of West Coast YG type beats, he can make mellow shit, and make really really hype shit. Yeah, he does it all. His inspiration is like whatever he’s doing that day or whatever drugs he’s on.”

Photo by Jack Shackleford

Despite being relatively new to the game, Sareem already has a major performance under his belt. In October, he opened up for Blueface at the Fremont, selling upwards of 50 tickets in order to secure the gig. Surprisingly, he insists he wasn’t all that nervous. 

“Like, my attitude going into it was look, these people are here to see me and then everybody else is just here for shits and giggles.”

However, the nerves came when he ran into Blueface’s manager backstage.

“He fucking managed for dudes like Nipsey Hussle, YG, just a bunch of other rappers…He kind of told me how to navigate the game, like just keeping a tight circle and making sure the people you’re coming up with now are with you later otherwise you’re just prone to getting screwed in the future. I guess I wasn’t nervous in the moment until I realized like, “oh shit he’s this dude!”

He tells me he likes performing live. He hosted a house show Fall quarter and was planning on having more as well as opening up for Lil Mosey before Rona hit. We talk about his time abroad in Australia, and I learn he was there during the devastating brush fires. 

The conversation takes a melancholy turn as we discuss other recent tragedies. The explosion in Lebanon. Fatal car accidents close to home. And that lets us segue into one of his most recent songs: “Evil Don’t Die.” It’s about the delusion of the American Dream, police brutality, and the double standard black folks face. I ask him if his new music will center around these issues.

“I haven’t really decided right now. I’m making an album where I would say like, half of it is conscious, like it’s lit but it’s still conscious, then the other three songs…like I’m still a fucking college kid. [Evil Don’t Die] just came from the heart. I was writing it on and off for like a year or so. I had some of those lines for a while and I think I wrote that the day that George Floyd died and I was so pissed off. So I just wanted to record something.”

Photo by Jo Anna Edmison

As for long and short term goals, he says he has a couple. His immediate goal is finishing his new album, but in the long run, he’s looking to gain respect for his unapologetic music and to expand into other genres.

“I’d be down to get into metal or some shit. I’ve been talking with Liam from Autopipe and I’ve been asking him if he’d ever be down to do covers…Autopipe is just wrong! Like they’re straight up– like whenever I hear them versus any other SLO band I just get like fucking pumped up. Oliver’s just like fucking– just a madman.”

After we agree that Oliver is an absolute madman, he tells me his last goal: to get the SLO rap scene more musically connected. 

“[In SLO] there’s so much more of an EDM/ DJ scene than there ever has been rap. I like to think of myself as the dude leading the rap scene, and we’re so much smaller compared to anything else in SLO. I want to fight to get us recognized even if it’s not by this year like, just in general. The problem with rappers is everybody’s kind of fighting with each other to get to the top, but it’s like little do we all know we’re still at the fucking bottom, so might as well work together. It’s a weird dynamic like I could go on about it, but I think there’s a lot to be said about rappers’ egos and why they don’t work with each other. And so my goal is to end that and the stigma in SLO.”

Post-grad, he plans to move to LA to go all in. I encourage him and say something along the lines of, “you gotta try your hand at it.”

“Exactly! The world’s going to shit anyways!”

Sareem can be found on Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Music, or wherever else you get your music under Sareem. Except it’s @alexsarem on Instagram and @sareemraps on Twitter. 

Look out for his album sometime in September, and you can listen to his new, conscious track “Runnin’ Out of Tears” below.

Delaney Faherty is .WAV’s Content Editor, she wrote the article. Renee Kao is .WAV’s Creative Director, she made the cover art.