Kevin Michael Interview
|Label:||Working Boy, Inc.|
|Next Project:||Kevin Michael (In Stores Now)|
|Twitter:||Kevin Michael on Twitter|
|Website:||Kevin Michael's Website|
When Hip-Hop and R&B music both were born, each was helmed by the greatest of talent. At the time of their individual conception, the absolute majority of those who practiced both were of African American persuasion. As times have changed, skin color has meant less and talent has meant more.
Need proof? Just ask Atlantic Records recording artist, Kevin Michael. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Michael is the result of a mixed marriage. Growing up a light-skinned black, Kevin struggled as a youth with identity. At age 16 though, after he had battled through his adolescence, Michael put the questions of his race to the side.
Now, just six years later, his debut album is in stores and he is setting the perfect example.
During an interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z,” Michael discusses why he bends genres to fit his broad musical style, which female singer has inspired him vocally and who he wouldn’t date if he were the current king of Pop.
Listen to the Interview
Kevin Michael Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a singing prodigy whose brand new self-titled album is capturing the mind, body, and soul of millions-
Kevin Michael: Wow!
DJ Booth: Kevin Michael, how you doin’?
Kevin Michael: [laughter] Those are some big shoes to fill, man!
DJ Booth: Step into ‘em!
Kevin Michael: I’m steppin’ brotha!
DJ Booth: Congratulations on the album drop.
Kevin Michael: Thank you so much, Z.
DJ Booth: I know a lot of hard work must have gone into that, and it’s been a long time coming. Your deal with Downtown Records and Atlantic was before Gnarls Barkley inked their deal and released their album in 2006. During that whole year-long run of success that they had, did you ever think to yourself, “That should be me!”?
Kevin Michael: No, I never felt that way. Actually, I felt like, “Keep on selling them records, keep on being number one!” because it’s gonna make my job so much easier. Gnarls was kinda their test baby, and it was a great test baby ‘cause it was so successful, but I think now they know what works and what doesn’t work, so that just helped my project out. So, shout-out to Gnarls.
DJ Booth: On the day your album dropped, you made an entry on your Myspace blog, stating how incredible it is that you finally have an album out in stores. Does the idea of fame and fortune frighten you, though?
Kevin Michael: Oh absolutely – it’s the scariest thing in the world. ‘Cause I didn’t get into this game for fame or fortune; I got into it ‘cause I love music, and it’s my heart. So, those are things that come with it. If I had my choice, would I give the fame part away? Oh, absolutely. I don’t care about being famous at all – it’s just something that happens. And it’s just very weird to me that people are so interested in your life just because they see you on TV, or in a magazine. But, you know, it comes with the territory.
DJ Booth: When was the first time that you were out, Kevin, where someone recognized you and you realized, “I can’t go about living my life the same way I used to?”
Kevin Michael: Believe me, I’m in no shape, fashion, or form a star or anything like that right now. I can walk down the street and it’s fine. I never have my ‘fro out on an off-day, though. Definitely keep the hoodie on, or the do-rag or whatever. I was in Philly, walking down the street, and somebody saw me, and was like, “I know you from somewhere! You sing!” And I was like, “Yeeeah…”
DJ Booth: Kevin, the first track on the album is, “We All Want the Same Thing.” What is something that you’ve always wanted, that up to this point, you have not been able to obtain?
Kevin Michael: True love. That perfect person come true, that ying to your yang. That good old-fashioned love. Right now I’m workin’ so hard that I’m married to my music, so I can’t really get too deep when it comes to that, and I would never string a female along, ‘cause I don’t think that’s right. I think that’s one thing that everybody wants in life.
DJ Booth: Certainly. And we all know that when it comes to women, they need the time from their men. So if you can’t dedicate a certain amount-
Kevin Michael: That’s exactly what I’m sayin’, I’m not gonna leave nobody lonely.
DJ Booth: They want 120 percent, and when you have a career that comes first, there’s no way to give that.
Kevin Michael: But we have time, I’m young.
DJ Booth: Definitely. 22? No worries about it.
Kevin Michael: No worries.
DJ Booth: Let’s talk about the single, “It Don’t Make Any Difference to Me.” You sing, “People treat you different/when you’re in between.” I want you to be more specific with me – how were you treated differently that affected you to write that line?
Kevin Michael: I’ve been in situations where I was ‘black boy white,’ or ‘white boy black.’ People didn’t know, “Is he the whitest black person in the world or is he the blackest white person in the world?” And I grew up in the hood, but I went to school outside of the city in a Catholic school. I went to Catholic school my entire life. Elementary school was probably my worst time – those are the years when you’re figurin’ out who you are, and then you’ve got the added pressure of being on the light-skinned side of things. I’ve been around – excuse me saying – predominantly white people in Catholic school, who sit around and just talk about black people because they thought they were in the presence of themselves, and they used to talk cool. I felt firsthand the racial prejudice that is still alive today. I don’t complain about it – everything that’s negative in my life I turn positive, and now I have the best of both worlds. I don’t have to pick or choose.
DJ Booth: You’ve said you don’t consider yourself black or white, but just Kevin Michael. Do you feel that stance, saying it doesn’t make a difference the color of your skin, can help children who are growing up with similar identity issues?
Kevin Michael: Oh absolutely, and that’s why I wrote the song – I hope to encourage some people out there, especially all the mixed, curly-headed babies of the world, stand up, we are here! But just people in general, it really doesn’t matter. Judge a man on his actions, his words, not the color of his skin or the race, or where he grew up.
DJ Booth: Your music, it encompasses so many different genres: soul, Latin, reggae, pop. If someone introduced Kevin Michael to the stage right now – so you’re about to come on – and they said, “Please welcome a young R&B singer,” do you think that that title is appropriate for what you’re able to do?
Kevin Michael: I wouldn’t be mad be mad at it, because somebody’s introducing me on stage. [laughter] That means I have a gig, so I’m not mad. But do I think that’s where it stops for me? Absolutely not. Am I one part R&B? Sure, but I’m also part soulful, and I’m old school funk, I’m pop, I’m rock, I’m hip hop, I’m all of those things. I don’t wanna be categorized or labeled as just one thing. Don’t put me in the box because I’ll break out of the box.
DJ Booth: There are songs on this album that pay homage to the obvious influences that artists such as Prince and Michael Jackson had on you musically. Please reveal an artist whose style inadvertently helped to craft your current musical sound; but didn’t show up anywhere that’s evident on Kevin Michael?
Kevin Michael: You know what? Brandy is one of my favorite singers of all time. And when I’m laying vocals sometimes, especially when I was recording the Clutch records, they did “Hood Buzzin” and “Ghost,” and “Weekend Jump-Off,” I definitely think of Brandy. Because she is a background freak and so am I, so when I’m layering, and thinking of harmonies, sometimes I’ll try to channel some of that lushness she puts in her vocals, or some of that airiness, sometimes the breathiness – she has a lot of rasp, a lot of control. I definitely look to her a little bit. But I can’t give my secrets away, why you asking me the secret stuff?
DJ Booth: This is the kind of interview you’re gonna get from me, so you gotta be able to reveal some good stuff – come on, Kev!
Kevin Michael: Damn.
DJ Booth: The title for the last song on the album, “Vicky’s Secret,” no pun intended based on what we just spoke about, reminded me of all the uncomfortable and dirty looks that I get from female patrons whenever I shop for gifts at that store of the same name. Kev, will there ever be a day when a man can buy lingerie garments for his girl without being given that evil death stare?
Kevin Michael: No. As soon as you walk in – ‘cause I know exactly what you’re talking about– and you’re by yourself, it’s like you get the, “What is he doing here? He’s in our territory now.” But, tryin’ to think about it, I think a lot of those girls are just jealous that their boyfriends aren’t in there buying them lingerie, you know what I’m saying? So they’re the ones with the problem, not us. Maybe one day, I don’t know. We’re gonna stop that, though. As soon as the song becomes the ‘Vicky’s Secret anthem,’ and I’m at the Victoria’s Secret runway show and all of that, then I think the tide will change.
DJ Booth: Well if that happens, Kev, I’m gonna need a phone call and an invite, okay?
Kevin Michael: Okay, no problem. Me, you, and Tyra, baby!
DJ Booth: According to one major music publication, your sound will give Justin Timberlake a run for his money. So, we’re gonna play a game called, “Kevin Timberlake.”
Kevin Michael: [laughter]
DJ Booth: Work with me here, okay? I’m going to state a series of facts about Justin, and you tell me if you could live with each being an attribute of your own life.
Kevin Michael: Okay.
DJ Booth: Justin cut off his curls for a buss cut. Would Kevin consider the buzz cut? (‘Cause I know how important that hair is to you.)
Kevin Michael: [sigh] No time in the near future.
DJ Booth: Okay. Justin dated Britney Spears. Would Kevin have dated Britney Spears?
Kevin Michael: Hmmm… I could never say never, but I could probably say no pretty confidently.
DJ Booth: This is before she buzzed her own head.
Kevin Michael: Before, okay, so – that’s why I’m saying never say never. I don’t know; I might’ve.
DJ Booth: Justin was given the title of “Sexiest Man Alive” in Teen People magazine. Could Kevin handle that prestigious title?
Kevin Michael: Oh come on baby, I handle that every day of my life. And in the words of Justin, “Pimpin’ ain’t easy but it sure is fun.”
DJ Booth: It sure is, and you know what? It sounds like you’re your own Kevin Michael – you don’t need to be Justin Timberlake, you’ve got your own identity.
Kevin Michael: Thank you so much, man.
DJ Booth: You’re very welcome. Kevin, go ahead and give everybody a website, or a Myspace page so they can find out more about this brand new album out in stores right now.
Kevin Michael: Yo! If you wanna know more about Kevin Michael, please log on to kevinmichael.com, and if you wanna get even more personal all up in my business, go to myspace.com/kevinmichaelmusic. I am there, I check comments, I’m reading the blogs, I see what you’re saying, I love to love. Thank you so much.
DJ Booth: Thank you Kevin for your time. I wish you nothing but the best of luck with this brand new album, and I know you’re goin’ on tour with Maroon 5, correct?
Kevin Michael: I start on Monday, Z. Thank you, man.
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