Written by Glo(w) | Playlist Embedded
Even down to the singularity
A single cell
Divides to two
And two becomes four.
Each part makes the whole.
Every creation is layered, multi-faceted like a light-filled prism. From the smallest form of life to the largest, each design unfurls and opens like a blossoming flower. Even the design of a single living cell shows the order and structure each living creation displays. The stability of the whole rests on the singularity. Each book that is read is written by one, edited by another, marketed and promoted by a third then fourth. The same layering of talents exists when music is created. Lyrics emerge from wordsmiths’ minds and are birthed by vocalists. The entire experience is encapsulated by the ambiance created by production. Creation is a shared process and a sign of connectivity.
There’s a different level of magic that music brings when an instrumentalist produces tracks. It’s like witnessing a one-man band juggling the responsibility of tempo, tone, and melody. The same way Prince expanded the Minneapolis sound, when an instrumentalist produces, something infinitely fresh is birthed. St. Louis based producer Mad Keys layers intricate instrumentation with synth-filled sounds. Through this process of layering, past and present live within his creations.
His productions sound like the multifaceted interface of gems. He embodies a razor sharp ability to tap into the essence of now. Made for live performances, Mad Keys’s productions soar beyond the tinkering electric sound made popular by modern producers. When he partners with kindred spirit Orlando Vaughn, he releases dual energies. The divine male and female principle are present within the mix of synths and snaps. His music is a memoir to the technological advances woven into 80s sounds. Tracks are sonically intensified by strings. The whimsy of jazz is the thread that holds these pieces together. Mad Keys produces scores for daily life. These creations are a reminder to make things that are classic, lasting as long as diamonds while remaining as malleable as gold.
For the record, what mediums of art do you partake in?
I create music with influences ranging from jazz and hip-hop to electronic and soul. The music that I create consists of melodies that may be floating around in my mind, and something that may actually be on my heart to share--hence LoveWaves. I love using various sounds beyond piano to express that, including synthesizers, sound effects, and even my violin. I'm truly thankful to be blessed to create those melodies. It's definitely nothing that I take for granted at all.
How long have you been creating?
I started making beats back in middle school but the real musical journey all started with the violin in 4th grade. I've been playing violin for about 15 years now, and it's just something that stuck with me since then. I got into piano when I was in 10th grade and learned on YouTube!
My big brother brought home this music making program back in middle school that had me up until 3 AM making music knowing good and well I needed to be sleep. But it was something that I truly loved without even thinking twice. I started making beats throughout high school and moved to a more advanced program called FL Studio which I stuck with through the rest of high school and college.
I've been serious about my music ever since I realized there were a few that really liked my work, but it wasn't until this year, that I truly began to pursue my craft wholeheartedly and have that true confidence in my work to make it to what it is today.
What's the most important thing you've learned about yourself through your creative process? What inspires you?
Creative process: I learned that it's easy, easy, EASY to get inspired by someone/something and want to do something similar to what you were inspired by. However, I've learned that it's even more imperative to define your own means of success and effectiveness in doing so. The more we're connected to other entities, the greater a chance to replicate rather than originate. It's not to say that I go out of the way not to get inspired by things, rather I turn that inspiration into motivation to pursue my own works, and to excel and be the best I can in my craft
What inspires me: So, just like in my previous response, I'm inspired by a lot of people who are embracing the crafts and are loving every minute of it. It's inspiring to see people follow their dreams and be fulfilled. When it comes to music, I've lately been really inspired by musicians such as Braxton Cook and Taylor McFerrin. Also, the sounds of Hiatus Kaiyote and Anderson Paak really have an impact on my production. Stephane Grappelli also inspires me. He's an early jazz violinist.
A lot of artists pull inspiration from past creations. Do you do this at all? If so, what are some of your favorite eras to pull from?
That's a cool question because I've never been asked this, or have really thought about it. There are 3 eras that I can confidently say that I pull inspiration from (for now). The first era is the early jazz era (1950s - 80s & early 90s). The second era that I love is that 90s - early 2000s boom bap sounds and all those with that groovy head-nodding, slightly off beat drum and snare. The last era is the era we're in now. I truly love where music is right now. We're using newer technology to create amazing sounds. From collectives and brands like Soulection, The Fader, and Vibe Music Collective, to artists like Naji, Monte Booker, and Toro Y Moi, I'm inspired (and motivated) by it all.
What do you think about music's classification of genres?
Yesterday (years ago), you could say that music had a "genre" or that a specific artist could fall in a certain category. But now, a lot of music today has a bunch of influences. I don't even know how to define my music honestly (no narcissism intended). But I truly believe that the more music develops, the more artists draw influences from, we're going to continue to get these "hybrid-like" sounds. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, because I love a lot of music that has been been getting put out today. However, it is harder to classify a certain sound today. Back in the day, music wasn't as accessible as it is today. Back then, you know what was rock, you know that George Clinton was funk, you know that John Coltrane was jazz, you know that Richard Smallwood was gospel. I feel like now, there’s so much out there, there are so many genre-bending artists because it’s so easy to become an artist and make music with all of these different influences.
What do you think about the art scene in St. Louis?
St. Louis has always been full of creatives, but I think in the last 5 years or so there has been an increase in the appreciation for artists. You're seeing a lot more showcases, events and festivals, incubators, art programs, networking opportunities and co-working spaces. Also we are now creating our own resources. Since we're a smaller city, we may not have that huge network, but we're seeing a lot more people create their own methods and laying the groundwork to pave the way for upcoming young artists. Of course, there’s always more work to be done. With that surge of creativity, we, as creatives, need to really need to get more serious with entrepreneurship in our crafts. That includes branding, networking, marketing, partnerships, and just reaching out for help in areas we lack. We’re on the right path, no doubt. But in order for scale to happen, we need to put those other pieces of entrepreneurship into perspective.
In your opinion, is there anyway artists can generate more resources and opportunities for their own city without traveling elsewhere?
I think it is definitely possible to to generate more resources and opportunities in your own city. You have to start out with like-minded people who have the same drive and motivation to make things happen in the city. Creating platforms, organizations and collectives that give local artists a place to advance, learn, grow and meet others is something that can start out small but grow tremendously. However, I also think that venturing out to a new city can be beneficial too. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to improve and that may mean traveling to new places to get a feel of different art scenes. A lot of times we can get trapped in that "local" mindset and it could be holding us back. I say don't be afraid to collaborate with people outside your city but also, make sure you are implementing different aspects into your local scene.
How do you think the creating process would be different if money wasn't a factor?
If money wasn't a factor I think we would have more genuine artists. A lot of people are becoming artists for their own personal gain whether that be money or popularity but I think the true passion comes when you have a true love for it. You have to ask yourself, "if I can't make money from this, would I still love it?" If the answer is no, you probably are in it for the wrong reasons. Don't get me wrong, it would be a dream to live off my passion full-time so it can sustain me, but if that day never comes (and I’m confident that it will), I'll still be creating and still have love for my craft. Because for me, it was never about money in the first place.
I’ve personally noticed that race and sex can pigeon-hole artists. Many times, large companies expect a certain look or sound depending on racial and/or gender identity. Do you have any thoughts on this? Have you ever witnessed anything like this?
It’s funny because I was actually having a conversation with someone recently who was white. I was telling them that I was a Music producer and they answered “Oh cool! What kind of music? Hip-hop, orrrr...” and it threw him off when I first described my sound as electronic, soul, jazz, and hip-hop. Is my music hip-hop influenced? Yes! But just because I’m a young black producer, shouldn’t default me to that. And I do believe that this is happening, not just on a small local scale, but for major artists and creatives that are up and coming. I get excited when I see black men and women building companies, creative works, and foundations where they were largely criticized because of their race and sex, as well as other minorities. What that says to Me is this: if you can accomplish something where others pigeonhole you, you’ve won. We have to work 10 times harder to ahchieve, and when we do, that’s praise worthy. Not only that, but you’re making a way for others in your circle and that are connected to your circle to want to win also.
What larger themes exist in your music? What is the most important idea you want people to get from your art?
Almost all of my work has a greater theme behind them, and I’m finding that I can only create something truly unique when I have something to say, or something on my heart.
The goal behind LoveWaves is essentially a celebration of the struggles I’ve experienced in 2016. I went through self-identity issues, financial struggles, did a LOT of experimenting with things other than music, and lost the confidence within myself. I thought building startups, getting into coding, and all these other things were the way to go, so in a way, i put music on the back burner. I had intentions on proposing to Chelsea [my now fiancé, then girlfriend], but I had no resources for money. We’re long distance so in order for me to even see her at, I picked up small freelance gigs, sold clothes, etc. But the major problem was that everything I tried to pursue, I failed. But it wasn’t until August last year when I fasted and prayed to God about my situation. He slowly began dealing with me through music again. I made 2 songs last year that were good, but other music I made before that was trash.
This year in February 2017, I made the decision to fully commit to music and nothing else. I still have my day job, but I dropped all the other projects i was working on and pursued music. After that recommitment, I’ve made the best music of my life which is LoveWaves.
I finally got enough money to propose to Chelsea in July 2017. It was because of God and her that i was able to overcome where I was, and reach this point. Which is why I’ve dedicated the project to her.
The theme of it is “With love, it’s possible.” OrlandoVaughn came up with that in the song, Goliath. I took that as this; God is Love. So with God, it’s possible.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Live within your means. Work hard, and do what have to do.” - De’Santis K. Cross.
De’Santis is a great friend if mine And a super distant, wayyy down on the other side of the family tree cousin (story for another day). But his conversations not only helped me through 2016, but helped developed a hard working and a smart-working mindset. Living within my means is something that’s super important to me. Say no to the stuff that has no value to you and your goals, and say yes to the things that do.
Anything else you want artists to know that they may not have gathered?
Stay the course. Do what works. Stay true to yourself. Encourage and support others. Access why you do what you do. Work hard. Be blessed. Through GOD, all things I’ve done have been made possible.