Every year in December, former President Barack Obama releases a list of his favorite songs, movies and books from the previous year. On Dec. 30, 2019, Obama tweeted a list of his top songs from 2019, including familiar names to some NC State students.
Les Robbin-Coker Jr., a second-year studying engineering who goes by the name Lesthegenius, NC State alum Sonny Miles and Raleigh local Jaxson Free were shocked to find their song, “Raleighwood Hills” on Obama’s Favorite Music of 2019 list.
“I thought it was a joke,” Miles said. “We were up there with what you would consider professionals. [It] was crazy.”
Robbin-Coker, Miles and Free wanted to create a song that reminded them of Raleigh, and it was born out of a beat created by Free.
“Les said he was dropping a project called ‘Raleighwood Hills,’ and he was wanting a single or something,” Free said. “He just wanted something that captured the vibe of Raleigh. I tried to come up with something that captured the vibe of being a star and how I felt about Raleighwood.”
Free said the entire song is supposed to be a love song between the collaborators and music. According to Free, the song has a double meaning and compares running the world with a partner to being big in the music scene.
The song was originally meant to be a solo song for Miles, but he decided to share it with Robbin-Coker.
“Jaxson made the beat,” Robbin-Coker said. “He also had the first verse. He came with the beat ready, and I think he was going to originally sell it to Sonny, but Sonny was like, ‘Y’all can hop on it.’”
Though the song was originally for Miles, the trio wanted to make sure they sounded cohesive as a group.
“While we were writing, me and Jaxson were trying to stay on the same path, because I hate when songs are just everywhere,” Robbin-Coker said. “I like when everybody’s verse takes different routes, but all toward the same goal. We wanted to stick to seeing the beauty in the city, seeing the beauty in love, seeing the beauty in music and all of the negative aspects in it, while also shining a light on the positive aspects of it.”
Robbin-Coker said he made sure to thank everyone who worked on the track, including the people who mastered the song as well as the creators of the album art.
“I just wanted to make sure everyone got their just dues,” Robbin-Coker said. “We wanted them to know how important it was, not just for us, but we wanted everyone to know how much we care about them. I called my parents. They were going crazy. They didn’t know what to do. It was just a really big moment.”
Robbin-Coker thought the song was important for local music, college musicians and Raleigh as a whole.
“It showed a lot of people that you can do s--t while still being in college,” Robbin-Coker said. “The whole time we’ve been at State, we’ve been working. We’ve been in this environment and this atmosphere where we’ve been networking and meeting people. You don’t have to go through the gatekeepers. There’s no higher-ups that can lock you out of anything. Just because other people don’t see it — you still can go far.