In 2016, Kaleb Mitchell was another kid on a school bus; another body in a hallway; another wandering mind in a classroom. Just another young man walking through life uncertain of his future.
In addition to being a student, Mitchell was also a rapper. During his sophomore year at New Jersey’s Morris County School of Technology, a particular feeling possessed Mitchell. It was a sudden, insatiable urge to make something happen. This feeling took shape in the form of a hook for a song called “Get It.”
Little did Mitchell know then, that a single phrase could be life-changing.
“Get It” didn’t become a viral, overnight success story, but slowly, the record gained momentum. Miraculously, it grew from a few hundred plays on SoundCloud to the official theme song for the New York Jets 2019 NFL Season.
In an interview with DJBooth, lightly edited for content and clarity below, the recent Def Jam-signee details the past three years of his life, and how “Get It” graduated from a bedroom single to every rapper’s dream.
DJBooth: Tell me about your record “Get It.” What’s the backstory?
Kaleb Mitchell: I was a sophomore in high school. Other than school, I was dropping songs on the Internet. One day, my dude Juice Bangers sent me this beat, and I had no idea what I was going to do with it. I sat on the beat for like a week. One morning, I was going through the motions and I mumbled, “Got to go out and get it,” and then the light bulb went off. I recorded the demo that morning.
I would take my rough drafts and put them in the notes app on my phone, so I could listen to them. I was listening to the demo the entire day. By the time I got home, I knew where I wanted to go with the verses, and it took form.
The wildest thing is, the entire time I was trying to create this record, I just so happen to be listening to [Waka Flocka Flame’s] Flockaveli—a lot. Just the energy from that album, I wanted to make something like that, but I didn’t know-how. After recording the first verse, I sent it to a few people, and they all said, “You got something with this. Keep that tone.” So I tried to amplify the sound and add a different kind of aggression I never tried before. It just felt different. It felt like I just did something.
How long had you been rapping at that time?
I’ve been playing the piano since a child. I didn’t take rap seriously until I was like 12. That’s when I would spend every day walking around with a notebook. I knew this is what I wanted to do. Every waking moment, I was jotting down different lines.
How did Def Jam come into the picture?
How EKKSTACY Beat Writer’s Block to Make His Best Album
Pop anti-hero EKKSTACY finds his aggressive voice on his new album, 'misery.' He breaks down his journey through writer's block for Audiomack World.
For the longest time, [Def Jam A&R] Jason Peerless—well, he’s my guy now—he was DMing me. He tried to get in contact with me through other people who worked with me. I ignored it all. By this time, we had spoken to other labels and told them no based on their energy toward us. They made us feel they would treat people like they’re disposable. My manager and I aren’t with that; if you don’t come across enthusiastic, we don’t have to be talking to you.
I was over people saying they were from labels, so I just ignored [Jason]. We laugh about this all the time. I ignored him for so long, he went to my website and sent a submission form to my email. I finally forwarded it to my manager like, “This guy has hit up every single person I know, maybe we should talk to him.”
It turns out that he was from Def Jam. A month ago, he got a situation set up where Paul Rosenberg wanted to meet. That was wild for me. Growing up, I heard his voice on all the [Eminem] albums. He walked into the room and goes, “I’m Paul.” I’m like, bro, I know!
So you were meeting with labels before signing with Def Jam?
Before they could even offer anything, we walked away based on their energy. That’s not who I am. The games and politics aren’t what I care for. I figured it out up to this point, and not to toot our own horn, but things happened every time we dropped. What are you bringing to the table?
There was one [label meeting] we thought was going to be substantial... they kinda finessed us. They took me around the office, introduced me to everybody, and flew me down to their headquarters. I’m not going to say who it is, but they waited until I got home to send me the contract. When I opened it, the terms were for like ten years and just other wild stuff. It said they would have a piece of my music even after I was off the label.
So you sign a record deal with Def Jam. When did the New York Jets begin to show interest in “Get It”?
The crazy thing is how quickly that all happened. Def Jam and the Jets have a partnership where once a year, one song from the label is their season’s anthem. After we took the first meeting at Def Jam, I believe someone in the office sent “Get It” over to them. The Jets heard it and imminently wanted to contact me. I wasn’t even signed yet. That happened in the space of three days after the meeting.
When did you know “Get It” had the potential to take off?
I would say 2017 and even through 2018. One day I was in class and Andrew McCutchen, he was on the [Pittsburgh] Pirates at that time, tweeted me it was his off-season anthem. I was floored. I thought, “What is happening right now?”
You have a record deal. An NFL team is using one of your records. Where do you go from here to capitalize on these opportunities?
I’m here for the music. I want to make the best possible product every single time. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m going to make sure this isn’t just a flash-in-the-pan moment with this song. That’s not what I’m here for. I’m not a one-dimensional kind of artist, either. That’s not how I was raised and not the type of music I was exposed to as a kid. I have so many influences to tap into, and that’s something I want to start exploring more as I go.
By Yoh, aka Yohseph E. Lowery aka @Yoh31