In our ongoing series, we check in with some of the artists performing at the East Coast Music Awards’ Breakout Stage at the Seahorse Tavern on May 5. In this final edition, we learn more about hip-hop artist and music producer Keke Beatz.
…not only am I being inspired by what’s in front of me, I know what I’m doing inspires others, and that’s what inspires me the most. – Keke Beatz
This interview has been edited.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Born and raised here in Nova Scotia, I come from North Preston. I was raised in a musical household; my parents played in bands and were disc jockeys in their days, travelling and playing at house parties. My eldest brother also made music and was once signed to an independent music label, Homiez Productions.
At the end of 2006, at age 11, I began recording my music with a single MP3 player and, four years later, started recording professionally after building a home studio.
From 2010 to 2014, I also had hands in recording studio albums, features & production for artists in the region and nation, working with names like Kaleb Simmonds & Andru Winter, JRDN, Advocates of Truth, Psyc The Prince, Just Chase, Blowflyy, Owen ‘O Sound Lee, Cam Smith (MyBestFriendJacob), Velly, Duff Mardino, Reeny Smith, Keonte Beals, P.Cain & many others.
2015 would be the first year I would record for my first studio album, Honolulu, being fully produced, mixed & mastered by myself, with more to come in the following years.
How do you describe your music?
The way I describe my music is essentially how I live. I grew up watching folks older than me have nice cars. In the community where I’m from, car culture is big, and I like to refer to that culture in my music. I also bring my life experiences in the music, whether past/current relationships or trips around the globe and how that’s been for me. It’s not too loud, but not too slow; it’s kind of in that middle spot, you know? I would say if you need music to drive to, feel cool about yourself or, most times, I get from my listeners, workout with at the gym, it can be inspirational too, I couldn’t talk about things that I’m not really about, and I feel that’s why a lot of people can relate to what I’m bringing to the music industry, so that’s how I describe my music.
How did you get into making music?
The way I got into making music was kind of cool. I remember as far back as being eight years old in the early 2000s, my cousin from Toronto would visit with his mom and play music at our granddad’s house; this probably would be my first introduction to hip-hop. Next, I would say always listening to old school music while at home being ten years old, getting my hair braided Sunday evenings before the school week, and Mom would be playing anything from the MJ’s, Candi Staton’s Victim, Stevie Wonder, The OJ’s & more. I heard it in the kitchen and on family road trips during the summer, so it was drilled into my mind early. However, the music bug really got to me when my oldest brother started playing his music at home from the studio, showing me & my youngest brother BET music videos and all of that jazz, putting us on to these iconic stacks of CD albums he would have in his Cadillac deck, freestyling with his friends, that’s when I lowkey started recording for myself, on an MP3 player my little brother got one birthday. I can’t say where it is now, but if it wasn’t for that MP3 player in late 2005, I might not have been as advanced musically since I got the head start.
What was the best advice someone gave you when you started as a musician?
The best advice someone gave me when I started as a musician was to stay authentic. What I mean by this is if I were to portray to be a hard head in the streets in the music, I better keep the same energy in reality when in public. Instead, I had an awesome childhood, rode around on bicycles with friends in North Preston pretending they were Mustangs and Corvettes, wasn’t great at sports but ended up being the tech head in the family, making YouYube skits, shooting music videos, and being able to mangle with almost any crowd of people. So, me staying authentic and unique to those experiences again in life helped me have longevity in my industries.
The second piece of advice was from Rajab of the Advocates of Truth later in life. I once couldn’t do a show due to it being 45 minutes. At the time, I didn’t have enough music to cover it, so when they asked me if I did the event, I gave them my answer, and they told me this and I’ll try my best to give my best impression from him that day; “No no bro you should’ve done it that’s still a show, because what we learned is to always do a show because you will never know where it might land you. Trust me brudda.” Since then, I’ve always kept this advice close to remind me.
What or who inspires you as a musician?
Inspiration can come from a lot of things as a musician, but for me, the people who mentored me and watched me grow up to become not only a musician, but someone who changed the narrative, to be artistically diverse, staying true to myself, the neighbourhood, the stories, my life experiences, and hearing from other musicians and creatives letting me know that I am an inspiration to them. So not only am I being inspired by what’s in front of me, I know what I’m doing inspires others, and that’s what inspires me the most.
What are you working on musically right now?
Musically what I’m working on now is a sound that I can really look at and call my own. It’s safe to say that I’m making that “KekeBeatz Sound” happen now. I’ve also been dabbling into sync work, having music in film and series, and continuing to let others utilize my talents in the recording studio by engineering and producing for them.
Do you have an album in the works?
There’s always an album in the works over here; why stop? I’m working on an EP that may be released by the time my breakout stage at the ECMA’s happens or the following month. I already have a new beat tape in the works and an LP set to be released in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself in five years being everywhere. The name is already starting to, but physically, I would love to perform in different cities, do more podcasts/interviews, and workshops, and give back to being a mentor in any way I can for the next-gen of musicians who may want to start but don’t know how or afraid what the masses will think of their music. I could only speak to what I have experienced and done, so if I make music, it’s going to be displayed there; I can’t change that. Overall it’s a lot of work to be done, so I am working with other creatives in music and film production. I guess you can say bringing music and film into one will be a powerhouse combo for artists I work with, compared to right now in ’23, and beautiful in five years.
What advice do you have for other aspiring musicians?
My advice to aspiring musicians is to make your own sound, meaning your own composition (instrumentals/beats). This has helped me so much because it teaches you the theory and work that goes into it; it gives you 100% ownership of your music if you want to go independent. And also, again, stay authentic to yourself, don’t be doing something you know your mom or dad wouldn’t want you to be doing. It’s cool to sing about your car breaking down on you, that new job or football game your school just won, and go to music camps and workshops. You’ll never know what advice you might soak up in those spaces you might not get from social media. Just because your peers aren’t doing it doesn’t mean you don’t have to, either. Stand out, it’s marketable, it’s different, and you will flourish out here, believe that.
What can fans expect from your live show?
Fans may expect the unexpected for my live show. In the past, I’ve performed with just .MP3. There wasn’t a live band with me before, but going into the next live show, it will be live, and I’ll be bringing on my good friends, Dali Van Gogh, to perform with me, so I think it’s going to be a treat for everybody, especially for my supporters, the fans. If you love my music, you will love it even more after this.