Slidin’ Thru: HappyBirthdayCalvin

August 19, 2019

Read the full interview on YoungCalifornia.com!

HappyBirthdayCalvin arrives with a smile on his face, reminding you to be happy and treat EVERY day like it’s your birthday. The 17-year-old rapper and producer hails from the West Side of Chicago and has experienced what the average kid from the hood went through growing up. At the end of the day, Calvin aims to be real, authentic, and grandiose. Read more…

The “No Friends” rapper began writing at 10 years old, eventually making beats for himself at 13. It was his mother who actually bought him his first laptop, even Pirate Bay-ing Fruity Loops for him. Fast forward to 2019, he signed a deal with L.A. Reid’s new Hitco imprint. Riding off the momentum of his buzzing single “No Friends,” the future is incredibly bright for the kid.

For those who don’t know, who is Calvin?
HappyBirthdayCalvin is a rapper and producer from the West Side of Chicago, I’m 17 years old, I just got a deal. I just did a record for Netflix on the Beats film. I got “No Friends” out which is pretty big on Soundcloud, it’s at 10 million views. Look me up!

Why should people fuck w/ you?
Because I’m genuine, I’m real, I don’t lie. I keep it honest. I keep everything authentic. I am who I am, I don’t try to be nobody else. I promote that in my music too. There are people out there like that, but not many rappers are like that.

How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist? 
Extremely important because everybody is fucking out here. Just to see LA, it changes your output. It changes how you create music. Me being from the city in Chicago, I ain’t never seen shit like this before. Palm trees in the hood, palm trees over here, it’s crazy. It’s warm as fuck. It’s a good vibe, you gotta catch that vibe when you’re out here.

What was the inspiration behind your name?
Pretty much the thought that every day is a new day. Every day you have a new chance at life. Everyday you’re reborn so every day’s your birthday. It being your birthday, you can’t let nobody ruin your day. You gotta wear your best fit. You gotta be your best self because that’s how you are on your birthday, so why wouldn’t you do that every day? HappyBirthdayCalvin.

“No Friends” is at over 1.2M views after being released in March. Did you forsee it blowing up like this?
Ah man, it was really just time and patience. Understanding that everything isn’t like this. [snaps fingers] We went through hella versions of “No Friends,” hella demos. Actually the way I got found and how I got my deal, through my homie Khalil. When we did the Beats film, he was working with Peezy who’s my big homie. That’s my manager. Peezy had to teach him how to make beats for the film, the overall film’s about a producer whose sister got shot in Chicago.

Mind you, me and Khalil (main actor in the movie) are high school friends. He actually sent Peezy “No Friends” before, so that’s how “No Friends” even became “No Friends.” It’s really all by chance, all about networking and being real. Staying real with who you are. It would’ve never blew up if I was never being myself and being friends with this n*gga. We were at a performing arts school, so he went to school for singing. He became an actor when he left school, so he was being himself. That’s the mantra: be yourself. All the good shit you want will come to you if you just stay true.

Did any friends feel some typa way?
I mean, I ain’t got too many friends. I got Khalil and my other friend, shit they was there when I made the song. It’s like “y’all know y’all my friends, it’s about the rest of you.” [laughs]

What is it you want fans to get from your story?
Being yourself goes a long way. You don’t have to be anybody you’re not. When you stay true to yourself, you get opportunities you wouldn’t get if you were being fake and phony. When I came up, there were hella fake, phony niggas who didn’t get the opportunities I got. They were being weird. Now look where they at, look where I’m at. Just stay true, stay real.

Being only 17, what is your take on the music industry?
Music is just art. There’s not really nothing to take from it, I don’t really feel no way about it. There’s two types of people: people who care about music, you make music because you like making music, and this just happened to feed your family — then there’s people who do this music shit like a job and that’s how they feed their family. Either way, it goes. As long as you got your people and y’all straight, y’all making y’all money, that’s cool.

You just unleashed the visual for “Kari’s Home (Long Way Home).” What inspired this record?
The film itself really inspired the record. My homie had to tell me the whole script behind everything, I had to put that into my perspective and how I felt being a producer living in Chicago. ‘Cause everybody’s got homies who got shot, everybody got family that got shot. It’s like “damn okay, that’s the overall feeling.” But not on some gangbanging shit like “oh I’ma go shoot you too,” because that’s not everybody in Chicago. Everybody in Chicago ain’t like that. Some people it’s like “damn now we gotta mourn.” I wish the city would be better, you know? There’s two sides to everything.

What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
I want as many Grammys as I possibly can have. I wish I could win every year if I could, that’s the goal.

What’s it gonna take to get there?
Time, effort, persistence, understanding what music is, what people like, what I like. Being my truest self because with music, you gotta find this balance between what everybody likes and what you like. If you be yourself, you gotta find the highest version of yourself to present to people. That’s all it is, finding that deep within myself and figuring out “okay who is HappyBirthdayCalvin?” Then presenting that. They gon’ fuck with it if it’s real. That’s how you win Grammys. Kanye did that shit 25 times, so I know I can do it.

How important is social media for your career?
Social media not only for my career but for any rapper’s career. It’s extremely important just because it’s a blessing. it’s either going to be a blessing for you or a curse for you. Either you’re going to let it deter you from what you trying to do, you gon’ let it fuck up your bag because you’re playing around too much — or you gon’ present yourself to the world. It’s the easiest way to let the world see who you are without traveling and shit.

Favorite person to follow on IG?
I love Twitter, it’s great. Instagram, I don’t even know shit. Let me look. [laugh] There’s a lot of pages, I know my mans Khalil Everage, he’s funny as fuck. That’s my actual friend, so I like following him. I don’t like following people I don’t know, because I don’t know you. I didn’t even see you, I still don’t know you. It’s like “damn what if I see this nigga? And I don’t know you.” He might walk up to me on some, “are you that n*gga from Instagram?!” “No I’m not!” [laugh] Damn.

What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
A normal day in the life of HappyBirthdayCalvin: wake up, take a piss, make some beats. Hit up shorty, “what you doing?” “Aite cool.” Make some more beats, get a car, go to the studio, make some songs. Stay there till goddamn 12am or 1am, go home, try again. [chuckles] That’s pretty much life.

3 things you need in the studio?
You need honest people, one. That’s the most important thing. You need qualified people, and you need an artist.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
If I wasn’t doing music right now, I’d probably be getting ready to go to college. If I couldn’t rap, I’d probably play football. That’s the only thing I really had an interest in before music at all, but music took that shit over. I haven’t played in a long ass time.

Best encounter you had with a fan?
I got a DM from one n*gga on Instagram, he’s like “yeah bro ‘No Friends’ helped me. I was finna kill myself, da da da.” It’s like “the fuck, that’s the song that helped you?” That’s real shit. That lets you know that any song, any piece of art you put out there can affect somebody’s whole life. If I never made that song, he could be dead right now. Damn, that’s crazy.

Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Honestly, I love Kanye so much, but it’s not Kanye. I play Valee a lot, I love Valee. I play him whenever I’m doing something that’s not music. I play his shit, and let it just sit in the ambience of the room. Him and Z Money, those two back to back.

Dream collab?
Kanye West.

Favorite Kanye song?
Ever? “Devil In a New Dress.” Nah wait, that’s his best song ever. My favorite song ever is “Power.” I could listen to it forever. If I had to listen one song till I die forever, it’d be this song.

Talk about the new album, what can we expect?
You can expect new sounds you haven’t heard from any artist in the past 5 years. You can expect real music, real concepts. A good body of work, something that you can listen to from start to finish and enjoy it. You won’t want to skip a song… celebration.

Is there anything else you want to let us know? 
Shit, Happy Birthday.


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