Some see zodiac signs as pseudo-spiritual hogwash clogging up their social media feeds; others live and die by their birth charts and daily horoscopes. New Jersey rapper Saturn, Alexander believes in their ability to help center oneself in a chaotic world.
“When I first got into astrology, I was in a place where I wanted to know more about myself,” she tells me over the phone. “I felt kinda lost, and I wanted something to help give me more control. Once you can control yourself, you can control things outside of you.”
The 25-year-old rapper, born Lexy Reid, knows a thing or two about lacking control. At age 18, she developed stress-based psoriasis, a condition that left her skin scarred. Reid’s condition was enough to erode some self-confidence, but not enough to dissuade her from pursuing a rap career. Thankfully.
In battling her immune-mediated disease, Reid found a want to connect with the world, packaging the characteristics of modern life with her interests. Her debut project, 2017’s Truth Is, I’m Always Annoyed, combines her love of cartoons and video games with an astute awareness of micro-aggressions, finding the pep in everyday frustration.
Signs, her latest project, released this past September, brings conceptual adventurousness to the next level. Reid refers to the material as “a Toonami-style bump-based compilation of songs about the signs and their placements.” Each of the project’s 11 tracks finds Reid focusing on one Zodiac sign, with a woman of each corresponding sign providing an introduction for context.
Signs is an attempt to bridge two seemingly disparate worlds. “The thing about Toonami and Adult Swim bumps is they’re not very long, but they’re memorable,” Reid explains to me. “I wanted to take the short, sweet, and to-the-point approach of the bumps and mix that with astrology and anime, which are things I love, but tend to put a bad taste in other people’s mouths.”
Reid, as Saturn, Alexander, has achieved her vision on her terms: she recorded, engineered, mixed, and mastered the entire project herself. Signs is more than just a bid for control in a chaotic world; it’s yet another project that pushes personal struggles through an accessible filter.
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: First thing’s first, what’s your sign?
Saturn, Alexander: I’m a Gemini. People swear that Geminis are crazy, but I be chilling.
I know you grew up with gospel music, but what was your first experience with rap?
My experience with rap music that wasn’t gospel rap was through my best friend at the time. He would always play music in his car, and the first song I can remember hearing and liking was Kendrick Lamar’s “Kush & Corinthians.” I lost my mind because it was a mix between what I was used to hearing in gospel rap and the humanistic elements found in other kinds of rap. I was like, “What is this??” Kendrick is also a Gemini, so we connected super quick.
You’ve advertised your latest project Signs as “a Toonami-style bump-based compilation of songs about the signs and their placements.” Where did the idea of combining Toonami-style bumps with the Zodiac come from?
The thing about Toonami and Adult Swim bumps is they’re not very long, but they’re memorable. I wanted to take the short, sweet, and to-the-point approach of the bumps and mix that with astrology and anime, which is something I love but tends to put a bad taste in other people’s mouths. The project is based around the Zodiac, but I would drop little anime and video game references in there too as earworms to get people’s attention. This opens the door to my world because now you trust me, and you already like what you’ve heard, so I can be selfish and introduce you to some other shit I like. All of my girlfriends like anime now because of my music.
Describe the experience of writing from the perspective of every Zodiac sign.
Initially, I was only gonna do the sun through Jupiter, which is only six or seven placements. But as I was making the project, I wanted everyone across the Zodiac to feel represented. The whole point of Signs is to see yourself outside of yourself because it’s me, who is not you, showing you your particular placement. A lot of people ask me if the EP is my birth chart, but the only two on here that are mine are Jupiter in Scorpio and Venus in Cancer. There’s so much vanity that comes with rap, but this project is more about a message than it is about me. I wanted everyone to come to this project wondering, “What’s she got to say about my sign? I know she’s gonna be wrong.”
You recorded, engineered, mixed, and mastered Signs yourself, on top of designing the album cover. As an independent artist, how important is it to be self-sustaining?
I learned how to master while making Signs. I had always known that mastering was a thing, but I never did it. I always felt like my songs were missing some depth, and I couldn’t figure out why. I was gonna outsource the engineering, mixing, and mastering before I realized this project is my baby, and I wanted to handle it all myself. I have to get it to where I want it. Even if it isn’t perfect, I’ll be happy because I went through the struggle of doing it myself. If you’re an indie artist and you get signed, but some shit happens, and you have a deadline, you need to know at least how to get a rough draft out. If you don’t know how to do certain things, you might be seen as a liability.
In the past, you’ve mentioned feeling “pressure” to post to social media. Do you see social media as more of a tool or a detriment to the world of music?
Damn, that’s a good question. If we’re being literal and taking my feelings out of it, it’s way more of a tool. But at the same time, tools can be used to your detriment. How else is everybody gonna hear your music unless you post it on social media? I get weekly emails from Apple Music, and people are Shazaming my music in Osaka, Japan. How else would people in Osaka be able to hear my music?
On the other hand, making music isn’t solely about music anymore. You have to be a person people like. The average person wasn’t able to get microphones off of Amazon and record whole albums in their crib before, but you also didn’t have to be everything to everyone.
A perfect example is Summer Walker. If I like her music, I like her music. So many people come at her for her performances and how she doesn’t want to be there. Having talent doesn’t mean you have a friendly personality that flourishes in certain situations. It sucks because there’s more pressure to play the game and validate yourself to people instead of just consuming the music.
It’s a revolving door of good and bad, but it’s hard as an artist when you feel like making art but don’t feel like engaging with the rest of the world. On top of finishing my art and being a human being with a 9-5 and the general existential crises that come with being an adult, I have to worry about posting on Instagram and Twitter a certain amount of times or risk not being seen. You have to suck it up and ride the wave, but that shit hard, b.
How does having a 9-5 job affect the way you make your art?
I try to consolidate as much of my work as possible. I used to work as a sales rep at Sprint. Long story short, God blessed a nigga, and I work in operations now, so I don’t have to deal with customers anymore. So after my work is done, I write down all my musical ideas in a list. I try to start on it there. I have so many notebooks, bro. If I didn’t make lists in my books or on my phone or listen to beats or write while I’m at work, I would never get anything done.
It’s about the brainpower it takes to go to work and deal with other people’s problems all day before you go home and try to find the excitement to continue to work on your art. Going to work and not wanting to be there is the greatest fuel to get some music done. I write my best shit when in traffic on my way to or from work. I don’t wanna do this shit for the rest of my life.
Words by Dylan ”CineMasai” Green, a proud Pisces.