If you haven’t heard of YFL Kelvin, “Nasdaq” is a great place to start. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, the rapper is a walking testimony for anyone with dreams of making it out the trenches, proving you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Now at 21 years old, music continues to be his savior, serving as an outlet versus just a job. Read more…
The acronym standing for “Young, Flashy, Lifestyle” is paired with his late father’s name, symbolizing the struggle, the success, and everything in between. Currently deemed Def Jam’s newest prodigy, the Outta Here rapper spends the majority of his time locked in the lab perfecting his craft and bettering his artistry, preparing for his debut effort to come.
Young California pulled up to Paramount Studios in West Hollywood to chat with YFL Kelvin, at the tail end of one of his many 12-hour sessions that week.
You’re from Cleveland, how does that play into your life and career?
If you can make it out from Cleveland, you can make it out from anywhere. Because it’s rough in Cleveland. I come from a rough area. The real trenches, witnessing death and all types of stuff. Anything that deals with poverty, I’ve been raised around it. If I can overcome that, I can last anywhere.
One of my favorite songs is “Cleveland Is The Reason” by Kid Cudi.
I fuck with Kid Cudi.
Where do you fit in the realm of hip-hop and R&B?
I’m in between because I’m mixing melodies with rapping.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
If you want to see something different, then it’s important. Especially if you’re somebody like me who was raised in the inner city, you want to catch different vibes. Record around different people and network.
What’s your favorite part about the city?
The weed and the trees.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
Once I started putting my music on social media and I started seeing good feedback. I started seeing people react to it, then I was like “oh yeah, I can do something with it.” I started really taking it serious once I started making some money off of it. I started getting booked for shows and getting paid for features.
You released Outta Here at the end of last year. Album or EP?
It’s an EP, my first project with Def Jam.
How has the fan reception been?
The fans are reacting to it cool. They’re actually loving the “Top Notch,” so that’s what I’m finna start pushing. I’m getting good feedback from them. It’s mainly been the songs that I expected to, so that’s a good thing. Now I know what to expect for my next project and what type of music I need to put out.
Talk about the recording process & how long it took you.
I recorded most of it before I signed my deal with Def Jam. I was just recording, turning up, grinding. I came up here on the run for a week with these producers one by the name of JaylonTheProducer and another one named Tatum Martin. We booked an Airbnb for a week and was just recording. That’s where most of the EP was recorded at, when I was out here. That’s another reason I named the project Outta Here, because I was out of my comfort zone. Then I had a whole lot of labels situation going on. I finally made my decision and signed my deal, so I was Outta Here.
Why did you sign to Def Jam?
I signed to Def Jam because they had the best deal. Money and terms. I just felt comfortable. Because when I met the people at the office, they were way cooler than other people I had met previously.
Okay, how did they find you?
Youtube. My A&R found me, his name is Alex. He’s 16yrold’s manager, the producer who produced “Mo Bamba.” He actually manages Ski Mask the Slump God too. He found me on Youtube and reached out to me on Instagram.
How long have you been making music?
On some serious shit, I’ve been making music for a couple years — but I been know how to rap.
How did you get on?
I been rapping, putting out a little music. Because I was in a rap group in Cleveland, but I branched out and started doing my own thing. I had put out my first song at the end of 2017, it was a diss song. I was in the streets heavy and had some shit going on, so I made that song and put that out. Once I saw the feedback from that, I started putting out some other shit. Then “Nasdaq” was the song that blew me up.
That remix with Moneybagg Yo is hard.
Moneybagg got on the song after I signed my deal with Def Jam. The song was inspired by Moneybagg Yo. Because when he had that song “Trending,” he had the Trending Challenge. I had wrote to the beat or whatever, and everybody was doing it. I guess the winner was supposed to get a free verse with him, but he already ended of picking the winner. I just still recorded my song and it blew up. Then I just put him on the remix.
Bring us back to when you made “Nasdaq.”
It was just like any other song being recorded. We was just going off the vibes for real, smoking hella weed.
What sets you apart from the other street rappers?
I’m not afraid to be myself. I feel like I’m uncomparable. I don’t feel like I can be compared to a lot of these other niggas as far as music, style, thoughts, everything. I don’t even think the same as people.
In what sense?
In all senses. I’m just totally different.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
I just want everybody from the trenches to know that success is possible when you coming from nothing.
Who’s in your Top 5 right now?
Meek Mill, Future, me, Lil Baby, and Gunna.
You fuck with the A at all?
I go the A a little bit, every once in a while. I’m thinking about moving down there, for real. I fuck with Atlanta.
You have a line that says “codeine isn’t healthy.” Can you talk about that.
Actually, I said “I notice codeine is not healthy.” At that time, I was sipping lean a little bit, so that’s why I said that. But I don’t do codeine anymore. I’m just straight weed. No percs, no molly, no adderall, no xannies, no nothing.
What was so special about “Top Notch”?
I actually recorded that song right after I had my first meeting with Def Jam. I hadn’t even signed my deal yet. They booked me a studio session in New York and I was just in my bag.
Talk about bringing that record to life in y9ur visual.
It was just another regular video being recorded, for real. I was supposed to get a treatment done from the label, but I was being thirsty. Because I always be thirsty to put shit out. I didn’t want to wait for the approval so I paid for the video myself. Got it shot and just dropped it on WorldStar and Youtube. Make sure ya’ll go check that out.
Was that in Cleveland?
Yup. Actually, I shot a scene out here too. Matter of fact, a couple feet away at Paramount Studios, in the back parking lot.
Talk about Paramount studio, this is such a vibe.
I fuck with Paramount though, this motherfucker’s hard.
What are studios in Cleveland like?
Shitty. It’s a couple raw ones, but they’re shitty for real. It’s either you gon’ go to a raw ass studio and have an okay or shitty engineer, or you gon’ go to a shitty ass studio and have the rawest engineer. My favorite studio in Cleveland to go to is P The Artist’s studio. He’s one of my producers, he got his own studio. I fuck with his sound, just on anything I record out here.
Talk about your people, you still rocking with the day 1’s.
Fasho. I’m still rocking with the same people from the same blocks. The same niggas I was starving with.
What do parents think?
My mom she loving it. She loving that I made it. She scared. She feels like a lot of people just be out to get a nigga.
I know you’re dad was killed when he was 5. Do you talk about that in your music?
A little bit, not for real though. I’m ain’t gon’ say I don’t know how to talk about it… I’ma talk about it soon. I just don’t know how to put it, because I don’t have that many memories of it.
Does your little bro know all that’s happening for you?
Tight tight. That’s my motherfuckin’ twin. We a couple years apart, he just turned 19.
How long does he have?
He got 7 years. He was doing a whole lot of dumb shit.
What was the biggest lesson you learned from being in jail?
Shit, not being able to see my son. He’s 2 years old. That’s where on the hook of the “Nasdaq” song, I said “I have to do this for Kelvin.”
I definitely thought you were talking about yourself.
Yeah, a lot of people did. He’s in the video, he’s just not in there that much because a lot of the video was shot in Cali. He’s back in Cleveland. I was literally just with my son before I hopped on the plane to come here. He don’t live with me, but I’m in my son’s life for sure.
What is your take on the music industry?
It’s a lot of fake shit, but you gotta know how to cope with a lot of shit. That’s really how you get where you need to go.
What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
I’m trying to go Platinum. I wanna headline my first tour, my own tour. I want to make that big sale.
What did you do with your first advance?
I bought my mom a car and bought me a Rolex. I bought a lot of shit: chains, guns, studio. A whole lot of shit.
What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
Wake up, smoke, try to get some food. Try to get something to eat ‘cause I have a bad habit of not eating.
You don’t get munchies?
I do but that’s the thing, I rarely eat. I smoke a lot and forget to eat, and then I’m always doing something. If I’m back at home in Cleveland, I really ain’t trying to do nothing. Because there really ain’t shit to get into no more, that I’m interested in. But if I’m out of town: wake up, smoke, eat, either record or shop.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
Probably in the streets, trapping it out. Trying to do something to get some money. I mean, I was trapping before I was rapping, but I was never good at stacking a whole of money so I can’t tell you that. I have a bad habit of spending while I’m stacking.
Do you have any other passions?
3 things you need in the studio?
Weed, weed, and weed. No for real though, I need weed, something to drink, and some food.
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
I ran into a fan and she started crying. That’s when I knew this shit was for real. I was at the lake, Edgewater, and I was just chillin’. Because it be going. It’s a lot of people on certain days, certain occasions. It was the summertime. I knew it wasn’t fake because as soon as I looked at her, her eyes were all big and she showed me her screensaver. I was on her screensaver and then she start crying.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
His name NoCap, he’s from Alabama. Either NoCap or Rylo Rodriguez.
I really don’t have a dream collab but probably Meek Mill.
Favorite song on Championships?
“Cold Hearted II,” and I like “Trauma.”
What can we expect from you next?
I’m finna go on tour next month with YK Osiris. We actually about to drop a video to one of our songs. We going on tour next month, and then I’m finna drop my album in March.
Anything else you want to let us know?
Follow me on Instagram and all social media at @yflkelvin.