Kelvyn Colt. The name of a German superstar who possesses great musical intuition and wisdom far beyond his years – a lethal concoction to say the least.
As a fan (and at one point even a resident) of our country and culture, Kelvyn shares a common tale with many of us. The feeling of being “different” even in your homeland, which for some can be very disheartening or can even cause resentment; but for Kelvyn, a young man who has grown accustom to living under many lenses of disparity – from his race: as a biracial man, to friendships: growing up in a lower income household and having differing interests to what was typically deemed as cool – he quickly learned to embrace what he describes as “living between two extremes”. Then began channeling it into his music subsequently changing his life forever.
As a result of this, alongside a heavy influence from legends like Tupac, Kid Cudi and Mos Def. Colt’s contemporary, über-cool and super conscious approach to Hip-hop was born. Fast forwarding to present day, the rapper now harbours an impressive catalogue of hits under his belt, including “Blessed”, “Love & Hate”, “Savage”, “Weakend”, a noteworthy Colors Studio performance of “Bury Me Alive” (which now sits at whopping eight million views). Each of which have heavily contributed to anchoring his position as a global rap mainstay.
In addition to being hailed “The future of (German) hip-hop” by Vogue and not to forget his recent recognition on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list.
With a new project on route, we caught up with Colt via an email interview where he opened up about; being a biracial man in Germany, it’s thriving hip-hop scene, the importance of owning the rights to his music and of course the new bangers he has on the way.
Hey Kelvyn, could you introduce yourself?
I’m Kelvyn colt, an artist of German-Nigerian descent. I live between many cities, usually you can find me in Berlin, London, Paris or LA. I recently bought myself out of my record deal and bought back my entire catalog, currently my team and I are starting our own record label and we just had our first independent release, which did quite well, If I do say so myself.
Who was young Kelvyn listening to growing up?
Young Kelvyn was listening to Gangstarr, 2pac, Eminem, Kid Cudi, Sade, CL Smooth & Pete Rock and Mos Def!
What’s the hip hop scene like in Germany?
Hip-hop is the biggest music genre in Germany in terms of streaming. The scene is booming but I think like everywhere, there’s a lot of copy paste stuff that’s kinda soulless and mainstream but then there are also a few really incredible artists. UK Drill is really becoming big right now over here although I think that’s been spurred by the hype that the late Pop Smoke (R.I.P) generated.
Are there any artists you think we should check out?
For sure! You should check out: OG Keemo, Ahzumjot, Haftbefehl, Nura, Serious Klein, JuJu Rogers, Ufo361.
You must be exposed to all sorts of music at home, is there any genres that you enjoy that we wouldn’t expect?
Most of the time I listen to classic rock music or reggae and afrobeats. The last two are probably not as unexpected, but in regards to rock, you can usually catch me turning up to Danzig – “mother” or “hold the line”.
So you recently dropped 4am/Mein Block, what was the inspiration behind it? – Will it feature on your upcoming project?
Yes, the song 4am/mein block will be featured on my next EP, which is executive produced by Che Pope – which is a crazy honour to me since he was involved and behind creating a lot of the music that inspires me, from Kanye to Lauryn Hill.
In regards to 4am/mein block, in the hook I quote a famous German rap song “mein block” by “Sido”. The song was pretty much the first huge rap hit and brought hip-hop into the mainstream. The artist raps about his neighborhood in Berlin, which you refer to as “Kietz”. He describes what happens on each floor of the council estate he grew up in. Since I’m always on the road and travelling; I, like many kids in our generation who travel or are immigrants, consider multiple cities or even countries as my home. Thus, I mention different cities in the verses – when the best changes half way through the songs and I rap faster, that’s me speaking about London.
Will the track set the tone for the direction that you’re taking the album?
The next EP will have, like my both previous projects, different vibes. There’ll be heavy hitters and slow ballads. One sonic narrative that will definitely be on there has unexpected changes in both production and flows.
So I read that you recently obtained the rights to your music, what sparked that decision?
I met the grandson of James Brown in LA and he told me that his family wasn’t – or hardly is, since there’s some form of settlement now – in possession of the money from his grandfather’s work. Furthermore, my team and I kept on running into issues every time we released music and content not being available and accessible in certain territories, somebody not doing their job properly and refusing to take responsibility and accountability etc – and since we were doing majority of the heavy lifting anyway, we figured it’s best if we just operate on our own.
What does generational wealth mean to you, why is it in important?
Yes, generational wealth is key. If you look at any family dynasty, large corporations, many of them were founded decades, some even centuries ago and were maintained and grown. My parents have been through a lot and us as their kids have too, although their journey was even tougher and they did everything they could to enable a better life for us. Therefore, I now have the opportunity to set the foundation for their grandkids and any generation coming – why jeopardize that by wanting to by designer clothes and other perishable assets? Think old money. (Yet we have to enjoy the fruit of our labor a little bit). Plus, if you are the best at what you do, all the brands want to be associated with you anyway and will most likely pay you to wear and use their products.
So with everything that’s happening in the world at the moment, I’m quite intrigued to know what it’s like to be a biracial man in Germany?
Being biracial or black or basically any kind of POC in Germany is pretty much the same as always. There is systematic racism and discrimination but not as severe as in the US. But that’s also because the country is not as extreme as America. There is a great healthcare system intact, many social services etc – so the general level of absolute poverty and the lack of education and increase in frustration, crime and racial hatred tied to that are lower. But the country is also far from perfect and particularly the East and South of the country face a rise of right-wing political parties and right-wing extremism. Germany is actually the European leader when it comes to that – I wish it weren’t the case.
However, we don’t really have a lobby here as there are not as many black people and there’s also not an exact figure on how many we are, as Germany stopped creating statistics on it’s populations’ heritage after the Nazi era.
However, it was beautiful to see so many people, from all kinds of backgrounds gather to protest peacefully together against racism and for black lives matter. The pain inflicted through the execution of our brothers and sisters by the hand of those who are supposed to serve and protect us all, is a pain felt across the world and represents the most severe form of racism. Yet, this is not where racism starts, discrimination is part our everyday lives – and this is where the change needs to start. People need to make sure that racism becomes unacceptable and that it will always be addressed, called out and stopped irrespective of whether the perpetrator wears a uniform, suit and tie and sits in parliament or comes stumbling out of a pub. It’s the same BS everywhere but luckily the good people outweigh the bad ones by far – it’s just important that all of our allies feel brave enough to speak up and act accordingly to their believes.
You spoke about living being between two extremes (from race, to interests, to friends etc) in an recent interview with StockX – which I found to be really fascinating, would you share your thoughts on that with us?
I think the concept of living between extremes is one familiar to most people these days in any part of the globe, if they start to reflect on their environment. It can be based on ethnicity, religion, household income and more.
Where, especially in mega cities like London, are exposed to so much wealth and luxury; gentrification etc and our lives are just taking place amidst this juxtaposition of steadily nurtured desire and inaccessibility. Yet, at the end of the day the motivational driver for many of us when it comes to serving the upper tiers or our Maslow’s pyramid is wanting to belong through association: “if I have the perfect IG feed, enough followers, drive this car, get this cosmetic surgery, live in that post code, etc, I’ll be happier because all these people look perfect and happy and that’s also what I see in all the advertisements” – these are not conscious but subconscious thoughts installed into us on a daily basis. But nobody actually looks or lives like that. Many of my rich / celebrity acquaintances are very lonely, insecure souls with probably more vices and equal amount of character flaws. So talking about the extremes – once you start to see behind the curtain and think about the fact that everyone’s putting on a show and nobody really actually knows what they’re doing, you will find comfort and security / assurance in the fact that you’re not alone with your problems, some people are just 1. Better at hiding them or 2. So much out of touch with themselves, that they haven’t yet realized that they have serious issues. Long story cut short, I make real music for real people and address these topics in my work. You’ll notice when you come to a show of mine that you’ll have a lot of things in common with many people in the audience, whether they’re head editors of fashion magazines or a kid from a high school.
I saw that you made European 30 under 30 Forbes list, that must have been an amazing feeling. Do you feel as though you are on the right track to succeeding your goals as a musician?
I only release music I love and I get to work with many of the people that inspire me. Yes, there are unanswered DM’s from some people I’ve hit up but all in all I’m on the right track and I know they’ll come asking a few months down the line. Obviously, having plaques or top 10 hits would be nice things but that’s not what I do it for. When people message me and tell me how much I have inspired them and positively impacted their lives, whilst my team and family and I can make a living off of our work, that’s truly what I do it for. Surplus money, gifts and accolades are only a plus, not of essence.
What advice would you give to anyone who feels as though they don’t truly fit?
Look at what makes you different and amplify it, so if they were wondering whether you’re different, they’ll know for sure you’re different! It takes a lot of confidence and especially if you’re young and going to school it can be difficult as kids can be cruel but no trend, clique or hype in the world is worth losing yourself. The people who change the world and the people who are true leaders (not the popular kids in school, I’m talking actual leaders), they’re all people who are “different”. And they make sure everybody knows and sees that. They don’t follow societies dogma but strive to help create a more inclusive, loving, better sounding and aesthetically pleasing world. Virgil, Kanye, Pharrell, Drake, and all those who’re considered the first of their kind or leaders (in the modern creative industries) had a tough long road but they changed their respective fields forever. If they only did what everyone else is doing, we would still be rocking baggie pants, only rapping on Boombap beats.