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Kaelin Ellis - Happy Accidents & the Power of the Internet

“Never stop working on your craft, don’t ever think

there is a ceiling to how good you can possibly be

at what you’re doing.”

Kaelin Ellis is the producer quickly gaining traction for his unique soundscapes, flaunting his intricate blend of hip-hop, R&B and funk... and really, whatever sort of sounds he can find. With a creative process consisting mostly of just sheer freestyle, throwing paint at the wall and seeing what sticks, it is unquestionable that Kaelin has a remarkable fast-bowl, and is dipping his brush into a vibrant palette. “There’s an idea that goes into each track that I create, but everything is freestyling an idea until something hits. Sometimes it takes a little longer to create, sometimes it’s right on the money and the songs and ideas flow easily.”

Growing up in Orlando, Florida – Kaelin played drums in church. This allowed him to connect with the community, offering a way to speak to people about what they are going through. While the musical style has evolved over the years, his love for creativity has remained the same, keeping his creative vision looking past the horizons, and his values at the forefront. “My grandmother used to have this saying… “We’re not going up on this platform for form and fashion” when I create music I’m utilising my gift to help people to get though whatever it is that they’re going through, or to inspire somebody to do what they’re doing at a higher level, and to be the best that they can be at it. It’s all about inspiring and touching people. If you see that what you are doing is helping people, then you’re doing something right.”

Amidst the months of a global lock-down, Kaelin was using his time and putting his creativity to work. Sprinting into an innovative spree, he began producing an abundance of new beats and uploading them to Twitter. Without even realising it, these were the corner pieces of a puzzle itching to be assembled. “I remember going back and watching all of the beat videos I had made, and maybe listening to about four or five tracks, and they all had this same style and sound, and they were all very consistent.” Beginning to piece together this collection of beats, it became clear there was a logical and coherent flow from track to track, with each song blending into the next. “That’s when it dawned on me that this could actually be something.” Suddenly having this realisation, he went straight to his friend’s studio in Orlando, and played the tracks from top to bottom. This further fit pieces of the puzzle together and ultimately created the concept of a new project; Moments. “Every record that was on moments, were made within a moment itself” which were most often in the morning, or in the late hours of the night. “One record on moments that stands out as number one to me is GRITS. I say that because it was the song that sort of started the concept for the project. I remember having a really good bowl of grits. I had made the beat the night prior, and had just finished recording the piano and I was like “what should I call this? What did I have this morning? Grits. That was the moment that I correlate with that track.”

Since its release, the 12 track project has been received well. Contrasting Kaelin’s usual style of lengthy tracks, Moments is a short collection of songs almost all under a minute, with the entire record lasting just shy of 14 minutes. “Some people are expecting another one!” Kaelin says with a grin. Within a month of the release of ‘Moments’ – Kaelin releases the HOUSE EP. A collaborative project with illustrious rapper Lupe Fiasco, as well as boasting some spoken word features from notable fashion icon Virgil Abloh. What feels like a story that could only exist in 2020 - “I don’t want to say it was a Cinderella story” he laughs. During both the Covid-19 lockdown, and the process of making his latest project ‘Moments’ – Kaelin routinely uploaded videos of him constructing and producing beats to Twitter and Instagram. One video in particular caught the attention of his followers, who began rapidly tagging in their favourite artists, and artists that would “sound tight on the beat.” One user tweeted “get this to Lupe Fiasco somehow”. Lupe hears Kaelin’s beat, with an array of lyrics, concepts and flows coming to him immediately. He takes a screen recording of the video, converts it to an audio file, and drops it into Garage Band where he begins to record over the beat. “When he uploaded it, all of my homies hit me up like “Lupe Fiasco is rapping over your beats” I was just like what!” The response was crazy. With Lupe not having released anything in over a year, fans were excited. Taking this opportunity in his stride, Kaelin swiftly tweets Lupe: “Yo Lupe let’s work.” Lupe follows Kaelin, and the back and forward begins. This is where the HOUSE EP is born. “I sent him a whole pack of beats. One week later he has a whole concept, which then turned into the HOUSE EP. He recorded it in about a week, which is the most incredible thing to me because I’ve never seen anyone finish a project that fast. It reminds me of the days where I would see people go viral on SoundCloud. To now see social media being a pretty big conduit for success was pretty eye opening for me.”

Over the last decade, the internet has really given artists the freedom to take full control of their art, from mixing and mastering, to production, and even collaboration. Platforms like SoundCloud, Twitter and Instagram have been enormous cogs in the gears of the music industry. However, in the days before SoundCloud, Kaelin was a part of a producer collective called LOAFLAB – alongside his buddy KAYTRANADA, the days of LOAFLAB were the origins of his producing career. “That was when underground music producers started to get their momentum... it was the introduction before SoundCloud became its thing. There was me, KAYTRANADA, TEK.LUN… all of us were really young high-school kids… I was only in middle-school. I was the youngest one of them all.” Speaking on this genuine connection and collaboration where it all began, Kaelin smiles… “Being around very, very healthy spirits and likeminded people is one thing that’s definitely allowed me to create music. That’s family right there”. As if a tide of nostalgia just washed in, Kaelin laughs thinking about his first moments on the internet. “The first time I had access to the internet was in 2000… my mum had a Windows 98 desktop computer, and I found out about Google. I used to just be on Google all the time, searching up stuff. The way that dial-up was structured was if you had internet, it would maybe be a good minute until you could access it… you’d have this dial-up tone, which is actually real nostalgic… honestly now I’m thinking of making a beat off of that sound alone, everyone knows that sound.”

Having gone from waiting for dial-up to connect, to being able to create a polished piece of work over the internet, living in the age of the internet is definitely something Kaelin is grateful for. “To be in the position where you can utilise the internet really does open up a myriad of avenues for emerging artists.” Kaelin adds, “…my purpose and intention whenever I post to social media is to either start a conversation, to inspire, or to create a bubble that can be a space for people to enjoy. So, I definitely think this opens up a new avenue for other artists and other people to do the same thing. There is a lot of talent in the world, a lot of talent that’s on social media. I’m glad that I’m one of the first of many thousands of other people that can bridge this gap, where you don’t have to be signed to a giant label to do things. You can connect with your favourite artists through social media - it can be something as simple as uploading a beat. Just making people think outside of the box.”

“If you see that what you’re

doing is helping people, then

you’re doing something right”

Kaelin reveals that his biggest influence is not always the music around him, in fact it can be nothing at all… the moments between the music, the silence. “I consume music on an everyday basis. Every day I’m always listening to music, and one thing that has always been a very big occurrence is that I listen to music, and I’ll go to the studio and make something that sounds exactly like what I’ve just heard. But some of the best ideas I’ve has have come from not hearing anything, and just being in silence being in tune with myself and where I’m at. Sometimes I’ll pray, or maybe drive my car somewhere not listening to music, and an idea for a melody or some chords will pop up. Being present and listening to where your mind is can spark some ideas. Even right now, I’m in a space that’s very quiet, not a lot is going on… all I’m hearing is birds, a couple of bugs flying past, a little bit of wind – it’s very peaceful and it allows my brain to go places.” Kaelin then calls back to a time where a bassline came to him in a dream. While working on his ‘It All Ends’ project, he heard the chords in his dream. Waking up around 3am to scribble down what the chords sounded like. “It very seldom happens. The next morning I played it and thought, “Okay… what if I play drums over this?” It very seldom happens, where an idea pops up and it could be something cool, then before you know it something that Lupe Fiasco is rapping over. It’s kind of crazy how it can work like that, getting inspiration and hearing ideas like that.”

Kaelin is constantly staying consistent. Affirming that being patient, not forcing anything, and letting things naturally occur is some of the best advice he ever received, and now lives by. It is clear that Kaelin has always kept his values in check, and has an utterly unclouded view on why he makes music – to inspire. Ever since the beginning, Kaelin has aimed to make music to help people get through anything that they are going through – and still keeps that as his top objective when creating. As our conversation nears its close, Kaelin contemplatively adds: “Never stop working on your craft, don’t ever think there is a ceiling to how good you can possibly be at what you’re doing. The moment you cap yourself, it hinders yourself and your growth.”

Check out Kaelin Ellis on Spotify below:

Words by Oli Spencer

Photography by Oli Spencer, shot over FaceTime.


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