“My message is simple. Life is what you make it and perspective is everything. Just as it’s expressed by the tattoo on my wrist, you can choose to see the positives or choose to focus on the negatives.”
Mikal, also known as Kells is a West Oakland MC who found a love for music in middle school, and has been using it to express himself ever since. Get to know the unique rapper, his inspirations, and all the things that make him tick.
How did you come up with your stage name?
I’m a huge fan of the awful movement and I’ve been told I’m like Father meets Raesremmurd…plus, growing up, while all the other dudes wanted to be called daddy, I was Papi.
Give me your story in 3 lines or less?
Growing up, I was the black sheep. Though middle school was when I found an interest in music as a means of expression, it wasn’t until I graduated that it became a passion that I took seriously as a career. I’ve been in different music groups since then, but now I’m working hard to pursue my own sound and I love it.
How long have you been doing music?
I’ve been making music since I was in the 8th grade, including production and writing. It wasn’t until recently though, last year actually, that I began mixing my own songs.
What made you fall in love with music?
Music and art were the only way I knew how to express myself and relate to my peers. It was an outlet that became a passion.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I get most of my inspiration from the events and people I experience personally. I’m really not into fantasy rap; my songs are a reflection of the things I see, think, & feel. As I grow as a person, I grow as an artist.
You have a very interesting flow, have you always flowed this way?
Not at all and I don’t plan on continuing to sound the way I do now. I’m all about growth and trying new rhyme schemes or cadence to keep the listeners listening.
“I sum up my sound as being consciously ignorant and reality fantasy rap. I’m always tryna party and turn up and my sound reflects that. “
Other then rapping, do you have other artistic talents?
Sex is considered an art right? Nah but like I said I produce and audio engineer.
If you weren’t doing music, what do you think you’d be doing?
I’d either pursue business school or personal training but to be honest, I can’t see myself with a passion stronger than the one I have for my art.
Which mainstream artists are currently influencing you?
I’m not really listening to a lot of mainstream artists, there’s no edge there. I’m mainly keeping my ears to the online underground artists like Nessly, Winntertimezi, Trill Sammy. Theres something about their energy that captivates me and inspires me.
Does music pay the bills? And if not, what’s your 9-5?
Right now I’m working as a sales rep at 24 Hour Fitness and recording other artists on the side.
What do you hope to accomplish in 2016?
Grow, Grow, Grow. Got a lot more music for yall from myself and the other artists I work with. Iff all goes well, I’ll be throwing a 21stbirthday bash for myself in September.
Who do you grind for?
Myself and my team! At the end of the day, this is not just my passion it’s my career, and it’s how I want to make a living.
What does success mean for you?
Small scale, I feel day to day success just by spreading the word about the music, gaining a supportive fan base, and building the brand. But large scale success, besides being able to fully support myself and my family with my art, would be the feeling that my music is not only unparalleled, but recognized at the level it deserves to be.
What does The Bay represent to you?
A melting pot of various races and cultures, and consequently, a place of unique art unlike anywhere else. Anybody lucky enough to be born here, or even just to travel here, knows that there is nowhere else like it. It’s sad that people are coming in, trying to push out the heart of the Bay and change it into something it isn’t, but the persistence of our culture will speak for itself.
What is the biggest mis-conception that people have about The Bay?
That it’s violent and hateful. I’ve lived here for 20 years and all I’ve ever seen is love on these streets.
What about Oakland keeps you here?
My family. I gotta take care of moms and see my younger brothers become men before I can leave.
Which Bay Area artists are you currently listening to?
Any shout outs?
Shouts out to my biggest muse…she knows who she is 😉