“I don’t want just to name drop, but there are some cool sounds being created with some truly talented people.” —Calev
Singer and producer Calev has a lot going for him; I got into his music quite recently. It was after hearing a track he produced, “Queen$” — by Aaron Cohen. From there I dove into his catalogue that includes tracks for Emilio Rojas and Dizzy Wright. What I found most impressive, though, were his singles. To date, he’s dropped four which seem to be resonating with all the right people.
I reached out to Calev on Twitter, and he took some time out chat about his beats, his rhymes, and his life. Check out the interview below.
How did you get into music?
My adopted father was a musician.
He played guitar and sang, and was pretty successful actually. He was able to travel all over the world performing and growing up around that; I found a love for music at a young age.
Who are your influences?
My dad, Pharell, Prince, Bob Dylan, Outkast (I’m probably the biggest Andre 3000 fan in the world) Lupe, Jay, etc.
There’s a lot of non-hip hop influences, and hardly any newer hip-hop artists impress or inspire me at all. It sounds like an old man thing to say, but I’m 24, and I just have the expectation that music should make you feel something. I guess it’s something that not a lot of rappers these days are capable of doing.
Don’t get me wrong, there are rappers who do that, but when empty viral content is being pushed by the media for profit’s sake, those artists are somewhat ignored.
Would you consider yourself a producer first, or an artist?
Honestly, I just love making music; I don’t categorize myself as either. I think that there are some things that I can’t express in a song, or rap, that I can through music, but it goes both ways. I just create whatever it is that I’m feeling at the moment. If it comes out as a beat that’s great if it’s a song, even better.
That seems like a bit of a cliche answer, but I just make music to express, people just happen to feel it, I guess.
What came first? What sparked the transition?
I started producing initially. I think I was like 13 or 14 at the time. I was in a foster home, and we had gone to Barnes & Noble or something, and they had a Computer Music magazine that came with a demo of Ableton Live (a super early version), and I started trying to make beats on there.
I played guitar, drums, piano, and violin as a kid, and so having that knowledge of music, and experience helped me a lot when it came to producing. In the last year or so, I was blessed to get quite a few placement with artists that I like, as people and as artists.
I guess that just making those connections, seeing their passion for what they’re doing, and the fact that they liked the ideas I had come up with made me want to start working on my music as well. I think a huge moment was when Just Blaze tweeted a song that I helped produce, to me that validated what I had been working on, and motivated me to keep going with it.
What can you tell me about the three singles you’ve dropped so far–is there an album coming?
The first two singles were meant to showcase my mainstream appeal. To just show that I can make those types of records, or make songs that your average rap fan in 2017 would want to hear.
With that being said, that is not the type of rap that I want to be known for at all. I think it’s empty; it doesn’t serve a purpose other than to be entertaining. I have a story that I want to tell, as well as shed light on all the places that I have seen us as a people, and as a society, have gone wrong — or places where we have lost our way.
That brings us to “Feel Good,” which touches on some of those topics, even if at a just below the surface level. I plan to delve deeper into those subject as the releases continue. If I dropped them all at once, I think it might be a little too heavy to for the average listener. As far as an album, I think I just want to put out singles and videos for a while before announcing anything like that. I was periscoping the other day and played about 50 songs for the people on there. I have enough material for a few albums, but I would rather continue the momentum by dropping weekly singles.
You’ve produced for the likes of Aaron Cohen, Dizzy Wright, Emilio Rojas, JayIDK and more. Who else have you produced for? Any crazy placements coming up?
My first placement was a Fred The Godson record. I think it was a feature actually like he had done a feature for someone on my beat. That was probably in 2015. I think the next one was “Eat Your Heart Out” by OnCue, that was the record that Just Blaze was feeling a lot. Then I connected with Emilio and sent some records back and forth; his work ethic is crazy. I would send a folder of beats, and he’d hit me back later that night or the next day with tons of song ideas. He and I have been working a lot lately. He did a 30 for 30 challenge, dropping a freestyle video every day for 30 days and about half of the beat were made by me. We also have a couple of full-length songs that we are working on as well.
As far as future placements, it’s hard to tell, because sometimes an artist will say that they need a certain beat, and then not use it for a year, or 6 months or whatever.
Makonnen has a few, Roy Woods I think, Mark Battles, Cartier Dave (Two-9). There’s a lot honestly. I don’t want just to name drop, but there are some cool sounds being created with some truly talented people.
You seem to be leveraging your clients, featuring them on your singles. Can we look forward to a feature for Aaron Cohen or Dizzy Wright?
I mean we just have a mutual respect for each other’s talents and our art, and so we can collaborate in different forms. I do have a record with both of those guys though, and some of the other artists I’m producing for as well.
Who do you think has next in the game?
J.I.D, Bas, Sylvan Lacue, Kyle, my brother Lance Valley, is the most talented human being I have ever met, and he has a lot of amazing music coming out soon, that I’m helping produce. There’s a lot of people that I think will see new success this year, but those are just a few of the people that I’ve been listening to lately. There are way too many people to list, though.