Kevin Michael: Grammy Bound

Armed with an undeniable sense of humor and big dreams, this Philly native with an afro is bound to catch your eye. But for the musician in Kevin Michael, the most important of the five senses to capture is your hearing. Equipped with this arsenal, there’s little doubt you won’t, at least, take notice of […]

Armed with an undeniable sense of humor and big dreams, this Philly native with an afro is bound to catch your eye. But for the musician in Kevin Michael, the most important of the five senses to capture is your hearing. Equipped with this arsenal, there’s little doubt you won’t, at least, take notice of the cheeky Downtown Records constituent. Kevin Michael debuts his self-titled album filled with messages of unity, contagious melody, and collaborations with veteran and new musicians that will have other new artists coveting exactly the Alternatives catches up with Kevin on a rainy Thursday afternoon, during his debut album release week. As far as the ideas in his head, there’s very little that Michael leaves to the imagination. The sincere 22-year-old will tell you, without fail, what’s really on his mind. Even during moments of earnest humility, Michael delivers with a punch, “I get sick of myself very easily, having to sit in a room and talk about me all day long.” Sitting in a conference room, dressed in his customary attire of a vintage-tee, a jacket, and jeans, he fesses up to his love for Beyonce (watch out HOV!), what makes him feel naked, and his definition of musical Alternatives: Do you style your hair differently than an afro?Kevin Michael: I had it braided yesterday, but today is an on-day – make the ‘fro flat-free. If it’s an off-day and I don’t have anything to do, I got a du-rag on or a hoody.AHHA: How does it feel to finally have an album out? I read somewhere you shopped around for labels when you were 12 years old.Kevin Michael: It feels like, “Wow, I can’t believe my CD is out!” I don’t know…I feel like there’s so much work to be done. So, I’m not really excited yet. I’ll be excited when I have a Grammy, and I’m not even close to having a Grammy yet.AHHA: Is that your definition of musical success? What is your definition of musical success?Kevin Michael: I never thought of anything else but being like…[claps hands] the biggest!AHHA: What’s the “biggest” to you?Kevin Michael: The biggest! A Grammy! Multi-platinum selling albums, great songs that are timeless, heavy respect as not just, “He’s got some cool songs.” A real respected artist like, “Oh, s**t Kevin Michael is dope!” Ten years from now people saying, “When I was growing up I was listening to Kevin Michael, and he inspired me to do this that or the other.”AHHA: What was the recording process like?Kevin Michael: It was long – April to December of last year. Then we used songs from 2004 [and] 2005. It was everything and nothing that I expected recording an album to be. I went into the process with my mind thinking it was going to be great, the whole time, and it wasn’t. I can remember four months into it I was like, “I hate these songs!”AHHA: Why? Because you had heard them so much?Kevin Michael: Yes! I’m a person that as soon as I get done with something, a week later I’m tired of listening to it. To listen to my album is like [listening to] nails on a chalkboard. Who was I with? Someone who [I was with] was playing my album. I was like, “No, you got to turn that off. You can’t listen to me, in front of me!” It’s very odd. It’s like getting naked in front of your 65-year-old male doctor – that weird feeling.AHHA: What song changed the whole album for you?Kevin Michael: “Hood Buzzin’” – to me [it’s] the most vocally challenging song because the lead is so amazing – if I do say so myself – and the backgrounds were very demanding. I had never recorded like that before with The Clutch. It was a learning process for me. I’m a perfectionist, but they’re like perfectionists.AHHA: Do you have any other passions besides music?Kevin Michael: I love to sleep, when I get a chance. I love to eat. I’m a 300 pound man in a 150 pound man’s body. Shop! All the damn time, I love to spend money. I love clothes, clothes are my friend. I like to drink red wine, on occasion, with pretty girls. That’s about it.AHHA: How much sleep do you get on a typical night?Kevin Michael: Tonight I’m going to have…I’ll go home, so I’ll have a decent seven hours – eight hours. On a usual night, anywhere between three and six [hours].AHHA: What music are you listening to now?Kevin Michael: I’m listening to Kanye, of course! I’m listening to Lupe’s new single, it’s amazing – “Superstar” is amazing. I’m listening to M.I.A. When I first heard her I just thought she made a whole lot of noise and a whole bunch of sounds. I was like, “What the f**k is this? I can’t listen to this!” It gave me a headache at first. But I played a show with her this summer after Lollapalooza [for an] after-party. To see her live, you have to see her live to understand what’s going on. Then I got into Kala. [Also,] “It’s Britney, b**ch!” I’m listening to Britney [Spears] because Danja is the s**t. I don’t care what nobody says.AHHA: Anything you listen to that would surprise people?Kevin Michael: I just downloaded a bunch of [David] Bowie. I need to get my Bowie up! Ya dig? I need to get my Ziggy Stardust up! I [also] listen to a lot of Bollywood music, because they have a different scale of music – they have half-notes and we don’t have half-notes. I’m not a trained vocalist, so I’m always looking to sing better.AHHA: Did you ever have a normal day-job?Kevin Michael: That’s so funny! I just talked about my day job.AHHA: What was it? If you were talking about it, you got to tell AHHA!Kevin Michael: You can’t laugh. You can’t rag if I tell you…I used to sell leather coats – without commission! That was my only job though. I quit the Gap in a day. I quit JC Penney in two days.AHHA: What’s your favorite place to go when you’re overseas? Kevin Michael: My favorite place is London, but I get treated the best in Germany.AHHA: What do you consider to be good treatment?Kevin Michael: Warner, in Germany, they just go hard out there! “What do you need? What do you want? Okay, we need to work, let’s go!” S**t is tight. Schedule is tight. I don’t like any loose ends. I got to call-out London right now. London was not popping the last time I was over there. They didn’t have their s**t together. If you’re going to have me in a specific territory for like two days, or three days, my schedule needs to be: A-B-C, boom-boom-boom, this happens right after the other. They’ll get it together.AHHA: Have you met your musical hero yet?Kevin Michael: I can’t pick one musical hero, right? The people that I love – I LOVE! If I’m into you, if I’m really invested in you, I really get into you. So there are a lot of people that I look up to and I can’t wait to meet. Okay, I’m not afraid to say it. When I meet Beyonce I’m going to s**t my pants. I’m so…it’s really scary…I’m so into Beyonce that I don’t want to meet her until I deserve to meet her. I don’t want to walk up to Beyonce, “I’m your biggest fan!” The day that I finally meet her I want it to be, “Oh, s**t you’re Kevin Michael!” “Oh s**t, you’re Beyonce!” I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy.AHHA: When an artist comes up against adversity and gets through it is when he becomes defined. As of this moment, what’s been something you’ve gotten through?Kevin Michael: My adversity right now is people embracing the single [“It Don’t Make Any Difference”]. I think that my music is a little different than what’s on radio right now. Radio doesn’t really know how to break it, people really don’t know – they like it, but can they really get into it? It’s cool. I’m up for the challenge. It’s going to take time. I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon…until Downtown tells me it’s time to take a hike!