He goes by the name of 4am Styles. Kelvin Smoler speaks the truth from how he got into the rap business and the key to success. He discusses what it's like being on the production side and also making a name for himself as a rapper. We could all learn something from his dedication and ambition.
Q: At what age did you start getting interested in music/rapping? Is this something you have always wanted to pursue?
A: Music was always something I wanted to pursue. It wasn’t necessarily rapping at the beginning; I was a grunge & metal fan growing up. It started with Nirvana. In 2003 I was going into grade 9 and I was really into hip-hop at that point and it was a friend that got me into freestyling. Eventually he got me into writing and recording. It wasn’t until 2004 that I started performing and decided to take it seriously.
Q: Were you raised with parents who also had a background in music/ do they support what you do?
A: My family is very musical. There are definitely a lot of musicians outside the immediate circle. My parents have always supported me but it was a little left field to them that I wanted to pursue music. It was the technical aspect, not an instrument per se, that I was interested in. I got my way into the industry by taking on the producer role. I went to school for sound engineering and was able to work in a studio setting. This was the financial benefit of being in the music industry, which isn’t necessarily at this point; but my thought was that I’d make more money by bringing in musicians and recording them, than doing my own music upfront. I felt I could take on both titles; I still enjoy it and do it, but the dollars come from both realms.
Q: Have you always had a strong interest in rap/ who did you grow up listening to and who are your musical inspirations?
A: I went from being a heavy metal fan, then high school hit and I started listening to hip-hop. It was Munro, who is part of my group called KIDS, who got me into hip-hop. I would make trips down to Vancouver and he’d always have something different playing. He was into the underground scene listening to like Swollen Members, Jedi Mind Tricks, Living Legends, and Hieroglyphics.
My inspirations always change but there are specific people who take on the MC / Producer role and those people always inspire me. Moka Only, J Dilla (RIP), Eligh, and J Cole. Producers I’ve been into lately are Shlohmo, WondaGurl, Flying Lotus and Kaytranada. I’m fascinated by the TDE camp: Kendrick Lamar and Isaiah Rashad have the Midas touch. And Toronto is obviously killing it right now with names like Drake, Jazz Cartier and Tory Lanez.
Q: You are a rapper and producer. Tell us more about getting into this industry and being where you are right now/ would you change anything?
A: I would change the fact that I was so headstrong on doing everything myself. When I came into the Vancouver scene I was big into lyricism, and beat making came secondary. I would say the role has flipped at this point, however I love being able to work in both mediums. I’ve got to the point where I have met people I really respect and getting chances to work with them right now which is myfavourite method of collaboration. I think it’s important being in the same room and working together. It was a challenge for KIDS because we are all outsiders to the city. Munro is the only one who’s from Vancouver so he was mobbing with some graffiti artists but as far as the music scene goes, he was a bit detached until he joined KIDS. It felt like we were the black sheep of the scene initially but I think we excel with our showmanship and that goes a long way with live performances and touring. The respect has been reciprocated toward many people in the industry; A lot of people are doing great things to build this scene up.
Q: What is the meaning behind “4am styles” what would you say are your favourite items of clothing you couldn’t live without
A: When I was at recording school, we had a class on how to release music. Basically, it had to be released under a label. As most of my classmates were musicians interested in DIY engineering, many had the grand scheme to create their own label to release music for themselves and their friends. Mine was 4am Styles. A lot of my work is done in the middle of the night; there are less distractions at that time. So to me, 4am Styles represented the artist who stays up late to work on their craft. It has always been about bringing dreams to life. I continue to use the moniker when releasing my own music, as well as on IG / Twitter.
My favourite articles of clothing are my 9 O’Clock Gun hat because it fits the best out of all hats. I have a pair of all white high top Converse that I took to a local graffiti artist and he created a sick design on em. Also my black Arc’teryx jacket. It’s got a clean look to it, it has length, and its waterproof. It’s easily the most Vancouverite article I have.
Q: How would you define the word “success”
A: This is a word that is so subjective. In the studio KIDS has created a dream chart. We each took on a question and wrote down the answers upon brainstorming. It’s a daily reminder, and the beauty of having it on paper is it’s constantly something u can change or add to and manipulate. Success to me is self-sustainability and happiness within the field or profession you choose to be in.
Q: Have you faced any challenges to get where you are today? Has there been any set backsthroughout your time as a rapper/producer?
A: I mean I’ve relocated cities to pursue this career, worked and let go of jobs that I needed to be flexible to accommodate my creative workflow, and dropped university to go on my first nation-wide tour. I’ve let go of friendships because of my stance on particular situations, and I’ve lost family when I was away from home, focused on music. Finding the right manager for the crew has been a challenge. I was stubborn and thought we could do everything ourselves, yet we needed help. I’ve had computers crash; I’ve had a computer stolen. It’s one of the most gutting experiences to go thru: losing data that wasn’t backed up. You not only feel bad for losing your stuff; you feel like an idiot for not backing it up on an external hard drive.
Q: Talk to us about the group you are part of “KIDS”/ how did you guys all form together/ what do you see in the future for KIDS?
A: We all met at different shows. Jakub Evolved was the first guy I met through mutual friends. He introduced me to Mizzy at another show and then the three of us went on a tour together, we each put a solo verse on a beat to make songs. We slapped a set together and toured with it. This was the first time touring for me. Our group KIDS stands for Kinetic Intelligence Developing Soul. I believe I introduced Munro to the others when we opened up for Zion I the first time at Fortune Sound Club. By the time we had our next tour we brought Munro. He helped with djing and selling merchandise. He is an essential part of the group as the 4th MC, and he works on the graphic design for our group. We have an upcoming album that the boys are patiently waiting on me to finish mixing. I can’t wait to show this to y'all. I love where we took it conceptually.
Q: How has your music evolved since the early phases of putting together rhymes and beats?
A: I’ve always felt really strongly towards my old music but recently I went thru some old cuts and think “wow…you’ve come a long way”. The concepts and topics I write about are more mature, my delivery has become a lot stronger and I’ve become more confident in knowing who I am. I’m always challenging myself to do something new with music. After doing it for 10+ years there’s some growth in it and some advancement musically. I went from trying to keep up with it to trying to make it different.
Q: What do you envision yourself doing for your rap career in the next say 5 years?
A: This next year I am going to hide out in my studio and mix. A lot of the music has been made; it just has to sound right. I want to get my music in more visual formats, through performance or in TV and film; I’m really excited about that. I’d be interested to take on an artist placement somewhere and get lost a different city. But I’ve always loved crossing genres. So to work with artists in other platforms is where I find my niche.
Q: What is the message you want to conceal through your songs/ and or KIDS?
I want to find a personal connection through my music. I feel like I can take on different vibes of music. I’ve always valued my abilities to work in different genres. I want to make quality music that people can appreciate. A lot of my music is emotional- I want to make good vibe stuff as well and create a connection for people.
Q: Is there a specific method/process you go through when making a song?
I almost always start with a sample. I’m a big record collector so I will gather records and take snippets. If not I'll start with a synth and build off of that. I’ll start off with a melody, throw the drums down, bass line, and I will work on the lyrics. Rarely do the lyrics come before the beat.
Q: Do you have anything else you want to add that you want your viewers to know?
A: I really hate olives.