Rebirth – The Hype Magazine
Published on March 5th, 2021 | by MuzikScribe
Tell me your whole inception into music — When did you first become interested in it? And, how did it actually all begin for Ian Kelly?
I first fell in love with Hip Hop when I was 6 in my cousin’s room. He used to listen to so much music, and he knew how to burn MP3 CDs. But I was always a music listener. I took the leap of faith in regards to making music once I graduated high school.
Now you’re a native of Oakland, CA, correct? So growing up in “The Town,” who all did / do you consider to be your strongest musical influences?
In “The Town,” Too $hort was always King in Oakland (in) my eyes, and then from there other artists in the Bay Area; like Yukmouth, Keak Da Sneak, Dru Down, E-40 and B-Legit, were the artists I first heard other homies and cousins listen to. So they had an impact on me, too.
At what point in time, specifically, did you even opt to pursue music on a professional basis?
After my sophomore year of college, I began to reach outside of my comfort zone. I started feeling like “Aiight, I can put some things together, let me try it out!” But I didn’t drop my first tape till I was about 21, 22 graduating college.
How do you classify your overall sound and / or style?
Insightful, smooth and impactful. Even my more uptempo songs I feel still provide a smooth vibe for listeners.
In having said that, when you sit down to pen your lyrics where do you draw your inspiration(s) from?
I think that all depends on the moment. I’m never inspired by just one thing, so it all depends on the beat, how I’m feeling that day, what me and the homies discuss, etcetera.
So what particular sting of events led to your initial linking up with 9th Wonder and ultimately signing with his Jamla imprint?
I initially started with a collective called ODS [One Day Soon], which was founded by GQ on Jamla Records. Bruh then introduced me, as well as several other of us, to the label…and the rest is history.
Your latest single / video is entitled “Soul of a Man” — Tell me about this particular composition; how did it even come to fruition?
Eric G. had sent me the beat, and I instantly fell in love with the James Brown sample. When I heard the beat, I imagined me being back at this apartment I used to live on in Oakland and when I looked outside I saw a lot (of) good and bad, so that’s where my brain went.
“Soul of a Man” comes courtesy of your semi-recently unleashed debut solo LP, Kells Is D.E.A.D — Conceptually, what does that title represent both to and for you?
For me, the project is all about rebirth; growing into myself as a man, and just the person who I always saw myself becoming. I believe parts of you sometimes have to die, whether that be insecurities or anything detrimental to a person, in order to turn into who you’re really meant to be.
Switching gears here, what exactly do you want people to get from your music?
I want people to be able to feel as though they can relate and have someone speaking from a side of understanding. Music for me is therapy, and I feel like at times that is the best way we receive therapy is taking things in for ourselves and deciphering what it all means. That’s what I like to bring to my music.
If you could collaborate with any one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I’d do a song with Pac or Nipsey. When I first started diving in to fully being an artist, J almost made an EP with just nothing but Nip beats from The Marathon.
If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?
Honestly, I really have no major place that sets itself apart. I think it would be dope to sell out the arena back home; I just haven’t done the research to see if it’ll still be around now that the (Golden State) Warriors no longer play there. But to be real, I wanna see it all! And then from there, I’ll be able to let you know which one was my favorite place.
In terms of longevity, what do you feel it is that will continue to sustain you in this grueling industry?
I believe being myself will turn into longevity, cause as people we’re forever growing and evolving. As long as I remain to be myself and keep my own character strong, I feel like I have potential to go far in this industry.
Do you have any other outside / additional future aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?
Definitely! When it’s all said and done, I wanna give back to my community. I want to build something that sustains well past my time on this planet, but can provide something beneficial for the community. I have some ideas and plans in mind, but just taking it a day at a time.
On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip Hop music? And, even more specifically, West Coast rap?
Yeah, I have no issue with it. There’s a lane for everything. And you have to bend with the times. The greats learn how to bend with the times, as well as impact the times. So I’m not “rap gotta sound like this” like, “nah, all this is art.” Just make sure your art is polished is how I feel. West Coast rap will always have a spot in my heart seeing that that’s what helped birth me, feel me?
To date, what has been your biggest career moment(s), at least thus far anyway?
Man, that one is really a perspective based question cause part of me could say me and my homies having a song in the movie “Creed” could be the biggest highlight, but opening up for Rapsody on tour in front of a sold out crowd was pretty special, too. So hard to choose. lol!
Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
See myself being a staple in this music industry, becoming one of the best artists in the game and, honestly, just see myself being able to have stability with art and not have to stress about the unnecessary.
As for the immediate, what’s next for Ian Kelly?
Working on my next project right now, and just excited to get back to the drawing board with ideas and concepts. The creation part and putting things together is always the fun part.
Is there anything I left out, or just plain forgot to mention?
Nope! This interview was filled with a lot of solid questions.
Any “closing” thought(s) for our readers?
Thank you for supporting and even tapping in with me. As an up and coming artist, I can testify that every bit of love and support helps. I’m grateful to be alive doing what I love to do, and even more thankful that people connect with what I’m trying to do. So I appreciate you reaching out as well. You can find all my social media stuff @firstnameian; Twitter and IG.