At only 22, Keyan’7e is a triple threat. He writes, produces and mixes everything he makes, which is just as well given his non-stop work rate. Born in Chicago, but raised in Minneapolis, Keyan’7e (pronounced, key-on-tay) is proud of the music heritage of both cities, and takes inspiration from each. Relying on his own emotions and experiences to guide his sound, he believes we all relate to the same things; if he went through it, other people have too. His new track ‘Trust In You’ calls out those who have disrespected him, and uses it as a confrontational method. We caught up about his creative process, his ideal musical threesome, and whether he prefers Drizzy or Drake.
1am: You’re based in Minneapolis, but you were born in Chicago. Do you consider yourself from both of those places, or one more than the other?
Keyan’7e: I have tons of family in Chicago, I grew up there. But a lot of my really close knit friends are from Minnesota, I met them in high school and in college up here. They know more about the music struggle that I’ve been through, they’ve been there since day one pretty much. I would call Minnesota my home, but I have so many ties to Chicago, so I feel like both, you know?
Chicago has always had a very strong music scene. Right now of course you have hip-hop artists, but there’s also a lot of soulful and future R&B artists like Ravyn Lenae. I didn’t know there was so much hip-hop from Minnesota, but going to Soundset made me realize that there really is! Who should we know if we don’t know them already?
There’s an artist called Hollywood Swervo. He’s heavy into the trap and stuff like that. I’m guessing you guys already know of Lexii Alijai?
Yes! She’s amazing.
An artist who’s very poetic and spiritual is Juice Lord. We have a huge music scene, but it’s just not national I guess.
What would you consider your sound to be?
I like having high energy music, motivational stuff that can talk you through relationships, stuff that I feel everybody’s been through because I’ve been through it. I make music for me to listen to. I start making the beat first. I feel what the beat is telling me, you know? Then I pretty much go from there with the lyrics, making sure everything makes sense and adds up.
Who are you thinking about when you make music, or is just thinking about what you want to hear the best kind of measure?
I try make it something that I would love to listen to, put it on repeat and won’t get tired of. But I feel as though I make music for people who haven’t got the opportunity to actually live out their dreams and do what they want to do. I also make music heavily relationship involved, about things that I’ve been through, or that I’ve done, that I think are messed up. It’s all a perspective of how either things are bad but still can be better, or getting to a better place in a bad situation.
A very optimistic outlook.
Digging more into the creative process, you clearly write everything, but you also produce the beats and you mix it all, so you do everything?!
That’s mad. Did you go to school for that? Mixing is incredibly hard, right?
I’ve never been to school for mixing. I literally learned everything off YouTube.
Wow. There’s so much competition now with making music, and this way you can be totally independent.
Literally, it all started because in middle school I had this little group of people that liked rapping like I did. I was the kid pounding on tables, rapping in front of everybody at lunch and I was like, “Man, I want to do this.” One of my friends sent me an MF Doom beat and I recorded it on my computer mic, trying to mix and master it. I showed it to them at school and everybody was laughing. From that point there, I made it a mission that nobody would ever laugh at my production again.
That’s amazing, so focused. You must’ve been working every day after school?
Yeah I still do. Literally, every day after work. I’m always in the studio. Either that or the basketball gym.
I know you do everything yourself, but who would be your musical threesome i.e. you would still be writing and rapping, but who would you want to produce and feature on it?
Oh, that’s a good question. I would probably have No I.D. make a really soulful, sample, but yet still hype. Like, “The rap boys in the building tonight…” And let’s see, who would I want on there? Can I do the old Kanye, like College Dropout Kanye?
Yeah, anything is possible!
I’ll do College Dropout Kanye, and if he’s not available, I’m going to hit up Chance.
Let’s talk about your new track, ‘Trust In You’. I feel like it’s a bit more emotionally heavy than some of your other tracks. It seems really personal, which makes sense considering what you just said about how you write from experience. What does this track mean to you?
So, in a lot of relationships and even friendships, I’ve always been upfront and honest with people that I care about and people I show support in. But I don’t feel like I always get the same in return. I’m a very non-aggressive person, I’m not going to call you out on your BS type of guy. Music is the way I respond to life’s lemons as you would say, it’s sour spots. That was just me just calling out all the people on their BS. You know when somebody’s lying to you, it’s very easy to tell. I feel as though a lot of my new songs have been super, super personal and a lot of people can relate to them because I’m just one human. But I know everything that I’m going through isn’t brand new.
This is maybe the least emotional line in the track, but I really like, “You can’t pay the tab with your booty.” So great. But my question is, what can pay the tab with, if you can’t do it with your booty?
Haha, let’s see. If you promise to cook me dinner, or if you come over and play Fortnite with me.
Good luck with that!
I really liked your Icon remix. Are there any beats, from any point in time, that you’re like, “I wish I could say I made that beat.”
Literally, every remix I do. ‘Icon’, Trippie Redd’s ‘Dark Knight’, ‘Breathe’ by Just Blaze, ‘Glory’ by Kanye West. And then I want to say ‘Lucifer’ by Jay-Z and Kanye, oh and Kanye West, ‘Devil in a New Dress’.
You are obviously always working and have been releasing a lot of singles. Are you building towards an EP or a mixtape?
I’m always working on projects, but I have over, I want to say like, 150 songs. If I’ve been through something at work or if I’d seen something that was funny, I’ll make a song about it. So my thing is now, just sitting down and focusing on what direction I want to go in. If I want to do an EP or a mixtape, or if I just want to put out a collective of music and just let people see it. Honestly, I feel like I put out a lot of music, but I have tons more music that people haven’t heard, or only friends have heard. I try to keep it really quality driven.
Who would a co-sign mean the most from?
Okay, this is a hard question because Kanye’s being a little different. But Kanye would be number one. But number one right now, at this moment, would probably be Travis Scott or The Weeknd.
Okay, they’re pretty different. Why them?
I feel as though Travis Scott created a lot of sounds people don’t know, unless you do research or you know people. He’s done a lot to progress the sound in the way that brought out tons of classics from Kanye to The Weeknd to 2 Chainz to Drake. He’s always super high energy, literally, that’s me. People gotta tell me to calm down, especially on weekends. When he first came up he was doing his own beats, doing his own mixing, writing his own raps, and I feel as though I have a melodic sound, somewhat similar to the way he raps.
So you see yourself a little bit in them? I get that.
What’s the difference you feel when you’re in the studio versus on stage, because you’re doing everything by yourself, it must feel quite solitary. But then you’re performing in front of a crowd of strangers?
When I did my first show, it was nerve racking. I was like, “I don’t know if people are going to hate it or just be standing there and not paying attention.” But literally every show that I’ve ever done, I keep it high energy. I don’t try and bore the audience doing the whole song. I try to keep it to maybe a verse, and a chorus that I really love, or however I’m feeling when I’m creating the mix for the show.
But overall, when everything’s done, my heart’s racing, I’m sweating. I love it because it feels good that somebody actually appreciates the work that I’ve done. I’ve probably put so many hours into music, it’s ridiculous.
Right, and then for it to be out in the world.
It feels like when I played sports in high school and college. When you go out there and the game’s on the line and you’ve got to hit a free throw or something, and you make it, and people are cheering and they appreciate you. It just feels amazing, like that feeling of being on stage and people actually vibing out, or jumping, or repeating your words.
We’re going to ask some quick, no hesitation questions. Just go with the first answer you think of. Ready?
Club or studio?
Beach or mountain?
Nike or Adidas?
Lil Wayne or Lil Yachty?
Oh, Lil Wayne.
Drizzy or Drake?
Dawn or dusk?
Leather or denim?
Batman or Spiderman?
And finally, how would you describe yourself in three words?
Energetic, loving, and appreciative.
“Trust In You”: https://soundcloud.com/keyan7e/trust-in-you
Find Keyan’7e and his music here: