Chicago-based R&B artist Stan Sono grew up inspired by the likes of hip hop greats Eminem and Kanye West. As Sono started writing his own rhymes during detention while in high school, he grew displeased with the selection of beats available for him to sample.
He tells Billboard everybody had "Kanye-like" samples, with high-pitched vocals. "That was cool, but it wasn't for me," he says. "But in a way, it helped me because I decided I'm going to figure this thing out on my own."
He proceeded to explore what it means to be sonically self-sufficient. He started making his own beats, and more recently evolved into a songwriter, too. The process of honing his skills over the past few years, with the help of fellow Chicago artist Preme (of Goodbye Tomorrow, an act that Sono produces), has now culminated in his first solo project, Infatuated.
Earlier this month, Sono dropped his debut song "Rewind," a densely produced track with an array of beats that offer a sturdy surface for Sono's steady R&B croons to sail over. He says "Rewind" wasn't the initial single that he and his team selected, though: "It wasn't even done." After being pushed to create something with widespread impact, he says "Rewind" ultimately "felt right" -- because, he explains, it expresses things he has wanted to say that couldn't otherwise be said in conversation.
"It was a tough record to finish writing because I wanted to get every word right and really make sense of the song as a whole," he relates. "Once I let others hear it in my camp, the reaction was overwhelmingly like, 'Man, this is it. This is the one to go with.'"
As for the song's visual component -- directed by Rick Wayne -- Sono says it is more of a "super-super-short film than a music video," and that it helps to conceptualize the story he had in mind. The goal, he describes, was always to create a cinematic video that offers insight into a deeper storyline than what listeners may have imagined.
With stunning sunlit footage -- shot at a California winery, El Matador Beach, and in Culver City -- the video "adds an entire new dimension to the song," Sono says. "It creates new meaning because, for me, visuals are a big part of the picture."
Looking ahead to 2017, following the release of Infatuated, Sono plans to "keep soaking up the game," and also has hopes of locking in some live shows. "I feel like that's a huge part, especially here in Chicago," he says. "There are people that know me here, but they don't know me as a performer. I feel like I'm scratching the surface, but I can't wait to make my mark."
Watch the video for "Rewind" below. Infatuated, which is out Feb.3, is available for pre-order here.