West Jordan’s own Kanye
May 07, 2020 12:31PM
By Alison Brimley
West Jordan musician Alfonso Belloso takes inspiration from all kinds of genres to make what he describes as “hip-hop for hipsters.” (Photo courtesy Alfonso Belloso)
By Alison Brimley | [email protected]
Alfonso Belloso of West Jordan guesses he was one of the first to hear about Kanye West’s surprise visit to Utah last year.
West’s “Sunday Service,” held Oct. 5 at the Gateway, was reportedly unknown by the public, police force and the Gateway Mall officials until the last minute. Belloso heard about it from a friend the day before it happened and was upset when he realized he was scheduled to work the day of West’s visit.
So, naturally, he quit his job.
Belloso wanted to welcome West with a banner he made himself. He hung his banner, which bore the single word “Kanye” on the Bangerter Highway overpass above 7000 South covering the words “City of.” The words on the overpass now read “Kanye West Jordan.”
Was it worth it to quit his job? “It was a rush,” the 26-year-old Belloso says with a smile. “I had an awakening that the world can be my playground. It’s just waiting for me to play with it and do weird stuff. I didn’t hurt anyone, and it was up for a few hours, and then the wind blew it over.”
This is the attitude that guides his own career as a musician. Belloso is more than a megafan who would quit his job for the chance to see West; he’s a prolific music producer himself. His most recent release, streaming on Spotify, Google Play and Bandcamp, takes its title from his freeway sign. A photo taken of his sign serves as the cover to his album.
Belloso describes his music as “hip-hop for hipsters.” He lived for some time in Los Angeles but mostly grew up in West Jordan. He credits his suburban hometown with influencing the more laid-back sound of his records. “It’s not as gritty, because I grew up in West Jordan,” he said. He added that it lacks the urban “narrative” found in similar music.
Of being a hip-hop artist in West Jordan, he says, “It just made me feel like anything I did had a little bit of flavor on it, as opposed to what was already happening around here. I’m sort of like an outsider. I’ve always felt like a big fish in a little pond.”
Belloso grew up with a DJ for a father, who instilled in him a passion for music. He credits his early interest in emo bands like My Chemical Romance and Hawthorne Heights for helping him nurture that passion. Some of his early musical projects echoed the emo sound, though you’d be hard-pressed to hear their influence in the sound of his newer albums.
His beat-making is part of what gives him an affinity for West.
“I always felt like I was the only one making beats in West Jordan,” Belloso said. He calls himself “the Kanye to my friends. Whatever [Kanye] does, I’m that version, for Utah.”
The vocals on the first track on “Kanye West Jordan” begin with a bold claim: “I am the best living recording artist.” It comes from a rant Kanye posted on YouTube in 2018, which Belloso set to music. He’s surprised that some listeners think that’s his voice on the track.
While playing guitar in his rented practice space downtown recently, Belloso had an experience that changed the way he thought about music. He noticed somebody he didn’t know was imitating what he was doing in the next room. He started to get irritated and expressed his irritation to his friend. “And my friend was like, ‘No, he was just inspired by what you were doing,’” Belloso recounted. “It just gave me the sense that I have no ownership over any music. It’s give and take.”
As for the legality of this give and take? Belloso’s music is largely sample based, meaning he takes clips and sounds created by others and mashes them into an original creation. He describes the process as scrapbooking or collaging, “but with sounds.” Legally, Belloso said, “I can do it as long as I’m not making any real money off of it. Once people start to notice, then I have a problem.”
Until then, his plan is to release as much music as possible. “They can sue me or give me fines all they want, but the music is already out there,” he said.
Because his music is streaming on various platforms, he does make a little bit of money. But the total so far, he said, is just enough “to get me dinner for, like, a month.”
Though he’s young, everything about his approach is very old-school.
“I just try to get as much equipment as I can from thrift stores, hand-me downs—whatever I can get my hands on,” he said.
He opts for hardware, like cassette tapes, instead of computers. And he’s never wanted to promote his music on social media. Instead, he hopes he will be a “word-of-mouth” artist.
In his daily life, Belloso opts for a flip phone rather than a smartphone. “I highly recommend it,” he said. “I’m really unplugged. This has helped me focus more. That’s how much I want to achieve something.”
He sees more musical experimentation in his future. Though he hasn’t sung much on his tracks in the past, he said people seem to like it when he does, and he likes performing vocally. He hopes to “move away from the just-production stuff and write more pop songs.”
Though he has lofty goals for his music, he doesn’t let it get in the way of things he sees as more important.
“I’m all about people and being a kind person,” he said. “I feel like for a minute there in my career I was really dead-set on being famous, but it felt so superficial for me after a while. Relationships that I had built were becoming easily pushed away.”
But overall, he said, “I’m a person that just wants to connect with people. I think my main goal in life is just to be kind to myself and hope I make some good music by doing that.”