Reflections with Kev Choice

One of the most dynamic musicians today is pianist/emcee/bandleader Kev Choice who combines the dexterity of his masterful piano skills with Hip Hop aesthetic to create a signature sound that moves the body and mind. Recently I had the pleasure to speak with Kev about his views on various aspects of the music, artist responsibility, politics and the music business. The following is an excerpt of that conversation…

G1: Your music takes on 2 different personalities, when it’s acoustic, and then when it’s with the entire ensemble… Do you write from the acoustic piano first?

Kev: Well, being that I’m a pianist I think I always have a pianist mentality, but at the same time growing up making beats as a Hip Hop producer I also come at it from a Hip Hop standpoint. I might find a sample of something that might inspire me, or I might just come with something creative and just put some drums to it. There’s different aspects, I mean it’s definitely different going from the live band to a smaller sound and there’s two different worlds with each and I think there’s jewels in both of those worlds.

G1: An amazing thing about your music is the lyric content; you touch on some of the commonalities that we all deal with in everyday life, but you also are brave enough to talk about some of the political things that we also deal with in everyday life, more specifically a new song that you have that deals with an incident that happened here in Oakland new year’s morning, with the execution of Oscar Grant III…

Kev: After that whole event I was around and I saw a lot of things going on. I was involved in the marches, I was involved in the protests… I saw what was going on in the community and the mindset of a lot of people, and as an artist I feel that I need to represent that… I feel like there’s a certain aspect of Oakland and the streets that people speak about, but there’s also a lot of people, even young kids, who were out there marching and wearing Oscar Grant shirts, who felt that it (Oscar’s execution) was wrong, and who deserve to have rights and be treated in a certain way. I felt like I needed to speak on that aspect.
I feel that we as artists, it’s our duty to represent the community that we come from and speak on things that inspire people, and speak on things that other people may not have a voice to say. If I have these mediums, these shows and albums, I have to speak on what the people of Oakland are thinking too.

G1: Kind of like a voice for those who don’t have one?

Kev: Yeah… Choice is the voice… I grew up on conscious Hip Hop. I grew up listening to Public Enemy, Brand Nubian, Poor Righteous Teachers and even The Coup… Michael Franti and Spearhead, I’ve been around these types of artists so I see that it’s not just about getting on stage performing, looking good, making money. There’s power in the words that we have so we can make people cry, we can inspire people to do better in their daily lives, so I always try to come with that aspect.

G1: You’re an outstanding pianist and I wish people could hear that aspect of you more. What are some of the other directions you’re looking at musically?

Kev: Like I say, I come from a straight Hip Hop background, but also Jazz and classical… I’ve been listening to more electronic music, drum and bass… lots of other things, different tempos, different movements… music from Latin America, music from Ethiopia… I’ve been exposed to a lot of different things over the past couple of years so I want to try to bring those all together. I also want to expand on bringing the other elements of what I do, like classical, into the Hip Hop form. I actually did this song that’s like a classically composed piece and I’m rapping through it the whole way. Hip Hop is usually an 8 bar loop, or a 4 bar loop or even 2, but this is a thoroughly composed song with no similar pattern, it just changes throughout the whole thing like a classical movement does.

G1: How do you feel the new social media (twitter, facebook, myspace, youtube) having an effect, in any kind of way, on what you’re doing?

Kev: I think it has a big effect. A lot of times people may not make it to my shows, but they’re able to see a clip on Youtube, or they know I did a show because I posted on Face book or posted on Twitter, so they keep it in their mind that I’m staying out there doing things so the next time they’ll try to come along and come to the show. It’s like a direct interaction with the people who support you.

G1: Another thing that’s been a good source of visibility for you and other emerging artists is the series you’ve been involved in called EMERGENCE…

Kev: Emergence is a series of shows that I put on where Kev Choice Ensemble headlines and we have an opening act who I feel is like minded and out there doing their thing, doing some different music… We had J Myers last time, we’ve done it with Martin Luther, we’ve done it with Ise Lyfe… It’s a show that I’m doing as a musician and as a promoter with Zsa Zsa inc. behind it also. We present the music the way we want to present it.

G1: A lot of times musicians have a hard time finding places to play, but it seems that you’re taking control too and making places to play…

Kev: That comes from years of playing places I didn’t want to play… wondering why I couldn’t get in “this” venue or wondering why only certain artists are there. I felt like I wanted to step out and start getting into some of these other places. There’s a lot of places in the City (San Francisco) that a lot of musicians out here (Oakland) don’t play at that much and get that exposure. You’ve got to have a fan base; they don’t care how good you are, if you can’t bring people in they’re not going to let you in. If you don’t have the right package, or it’s not presented in the right way, if your web site’s not up to date… there’s a lot of factors that go into it… I had to really get the business aspect of it together. That’s another way I try to motivate my musician community

more of Kev’s thoughts and music can be found at;;;

One Response to “Reflections with Kev Choice”
  1. Treewizdom says:

    What a fascinatingly talented and innovative young man! I’ve heard him a few times. He really rocks the music and has a keen sense of rhythm. Loved the interview!

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