An artist hoping to get attention in the crowded music industry must be willing to be unique. Don’t just repeat what is already popular because that fame will be fleeting. Build your own style and take your craft seriously. Our recent discovery Khaleel Mandel seems to get this.
We had the chance to sit down with the distinct artist to get a deeper look. Enjoy the interview here:
First off, what drives you to create unique music?
I love putting out stuff that no one else has yet. Distinctiveness of style is part of the criteria to be in the top class of artists. A class I hope to join and to be mentioned in. The reason why I titled my 2016 mixtape Dead Weight was to state my purpose in becoming an immovable piece to music history’s puzzle. Likening it to directors and their signature trademarks; Jordan Peele and Scorsese contribute distinguished ilks to the film landscape. Which makes it interesting. Those two gentlemen made names for themselves especially on account of their respective uniqueness. So I see that quality as one prerequisite to being included in an elite category.
When putting musical compositions together for my albums I start with an aim to write something nobody or I have ever heard before. That pattern in and of itself lends an element to telling me apart from other musicians. Even when I’m producing records for other artists there’s my own signature I’m putting forth. The reality of me not sampling and composing the material that could be sampled years from now is a routine that pushes me.
How would you describe the sound of Khaleel Mandel?
Breaking it down in parts, my albums sound like all four seasons throughout anywhere in Connecticut. Sonic experiences for many temperatures. I’m very particular about my assortment of drums. I’ve never used the same kind of drums on any song. So when listening to my records always expect to be surprised with drums selections. What I make is also going to sound like a big production. Whether it contains real instruments or not I like a lot of my music to resound how IMAX looks. As if you’re filming something on a 1980 Sony HVC – 3000P color camera is how some records of mine sound. There’s a visual component included in everything I create. I want to paint lurid scenes through sound for my listeners to use their imagination.
Chord patterns i.e. chromatic are among my favorites to incorporate somewhere on my albums. For keys an array of unused synthesizer patches, mixes on my grand piano that provide clinks and analogue warmth. I make sure every album I put out will sound nothing like the one prior to it. My trademarks are more subtle.
Which artists have had the biggest influence on you?
Q-Tip is the reason I make beats in the first place. I watched Jonah Hill’s movie Mid90s while I was making some of 2019. Outkast is one of my favorite groups in any genre, but in hip hop as well. Lupita Nyong’o most definitely. Basquiat, Alma Thomas, Ohbliv, Edvard Munch, Gerren Keith, Tennessee Williams, Emily King & D’Angelo. That Black Messiah album opened bigger doors for artists like myself.
You spent some time as a stage actor. How did that affect your confidence in front of a crowd?
Way back to when I would perform in Christmas shows at my elementary school I’d be eager to present whatever we rehearsed in front of everyone who hadn’t seen it yet. The certainty gained to be in front of a crowd starts in the rehearsal room. Once I had regimes down pat in training it was about setting a higher bar once I stepped on stage so the performance felt new each time.
When I was in Lion King as a child, reactions after my first number The Morning Report would always determine the tone for me. A thousand plus people hadn’t seen me sing that song, so I understood reeling in early. This process will ring true for confidence performing my own stuff although assurance is the first aspect of writing the actual music.
What is your songwriting process? How does a track come together for you?
It has to start with true stories in my life. When I’ve chosen what I feel like sharing about myself in my music is usually when the rest of the verses’ components are bonded. So notably because of that, it depends on the record I’m writing. Verses for the title track off of my album Original I laid out in a semi non linear style like a Tarantino film, but every line builds upon each other ultimately ending up at a proclamation about unorthodoxy. So when I’m working on lyrics I keep in mind what it’s serving to the entire album.
Moments with a woman I know who wears prescription glasses prompted me to write Her Eyeglasses. I had put that beat together and didn’t write lyrics for maybe about a month. Living with my beats before I write to them gives me more understanding of how I get from point a to point b lyrically and melodically. Maybe a couple of days before I wrote Her Eyeglasses I decided the song topic, and knew I had to stick with it.
Experimenting with song structure while still crafting an accessible song is a helpful challenge for me. 2019 North Metro came about from hearing instrumental interludes on baroque pop albums. I felt like adding a piccolo break where musical composition did a bulk of the talking. I don’t have a set system for writing new melodies. I would freestyle parts of its second verse over that 2019 North Metro piccolo break playing as almost a ping pong match with a section that doesn’t have many words. My own instilled required honesty in my records’ words, makes it a must for me to revolve my albums around degrees of facts from my life.
Tell us about your company DoubleCrown Inc.?
DoubleCrown comes from my homemade emblem which has grown into a grassroots content house. D.C. has been in existence since December 2016 with myself and one of my good friends Vaughn Davis as founders. Some of what we produce so far at DoubleCrown is music, music video production & collections of merchandise. An objective from the get-go was to design an insignia that sets a precedent interlaced with levels of majestic authenticity. The gold DoubleCrown logo of two crowns, represents the emergence of two singular identities, forming, coming together as whole. The first crown is of the Pschent, a double crown representing both Upper and Lower Egypt worn after the uniting of the two regions in Ancient Egypt. The second crown is the traditional solid gold crown typically seen in European rule. The theme of the double crowns symbolically represents the merging body with the mind. When both physical and metaphysical has aligned itself with one, then we are able to transcend into something way beyond the measures for which the mind can imagine.
When you come across our DoubleCrown logo we want you to somehow embrace the royal within you. Our symbol was born to speak to various kinds of people who healthily enhance themselves daily and never settle. Also to the people who are on their way or have just arrived at that notion. Part of its genesis came from what I didn’t see as a kid that I wish I did. There have been many instances where children gravitated to our double crown logo on sweatshirts with stares. To have created an insignia that kids could grow up with meets a pursuit. Vaughn and I also realized there was an opening for our emblem and for our unit three years ago. Even if we’d fall victim to a sort of imitation elsewhere, we lead with a badge that’s too efficient to be duplicated. Nowadays it is only a crown if it’s double.
Since music that comes from DoubleCrown is made for universal effect, our coat-of-arms so to speak we make effort to have ranked among significance. The D.C. artist roster renders broad range. From the young catalogue of myself, Vaughn, my older cousin Keion Jevon, and D.C. members’ future releases we have bases covered. To be clear, everything in our DoubleCrown unit exists around the basis, Hip Hop. Keep your foundation as an artist.
Give us some advice for other talented artists creating something different from the norm.
Maintain discipline. Devise a detailed reason as to why you’re taking musical risks to begin with. Then don’t overthink what you’re creating because I believe that could hurt the journey. Remember substance will never leave. Don’t believe you have to make something that goes against your aesthetic taste.
What does 2020 hold for Khaleel Mandel?
Live performances in different facets from me. I have portions of my three full projects and a tad bit more material to perform. I can’t wait. Behind the scenes production for other artists will be happening. We’ll see what else. I’ll be watching a lot of UCONN Huskies Basketball too.