“Started chasing money to change my situation” — LBS Kee’vin, “The Golden Child”
Every recording artist remembers their first life-changing song. It’s a rite of passage for all creators. I call it the “Frankenstein Epiphany.”
What is often remarkable about music is how natural making a song can be, but every creator knows the feeling of striking gold. When the writing, melodies, and production all culminate in a good idea that could be timeless, the song is more than a song at that moment—it’s alive—a monster of their making.
LBS Kee’vin, born Kee’vin Lewis, has been making music for a year now, possibly a little longer. The 24-year-old rapper can’t recall. What he does remember is the reaction to 2019’s “Boston George,” his first real song. “I had a real good feeling about it,” Kee’vin tells me over the phone. “Once I recorded it, I didn’t waste any time. I shot and put out the music video—it went crazy.”
There’s a natural and infectious bounce to “Boston George.” It’s Southern and warm as a Louisiana kitchen after a grandparent cooks a pot of Jambalaya. The same can be said of Kee’vin’s voice; it’s light and melodic. He levitates with a fluid and harmonious flow in a pocket allowing his every word to land perfectly as if fused within the beat.
Following the response online to “Boston George,” the Pensacola, Florida rapper entered and won WorldStarHipHop’s HeatSeekers artist search, a monthly competition that promised the winner a $15,000 promotional package. Within months, several major labels were at his doorstep, offering record deals. A bidding war would follow, which was eventually won by Visionary Records, a Sony-backed talent discovery imprint started by Chris Zarou, the CEO of Visionary Music Group.
“I was going back and forth to New York, but Visionary was the best fit,” Kee’vin says of the label meetings with a hint of pride in his voice. Since announcing the deal in January, Kee’vin and Visionary have released several singles and music videos leading up to his debut album, Belair Baby, out Friday, April 24.
When asked how he would describe his music to a new listener, Kee’vin quickly responds: “Versatile.” There was a brief pause, a sincere moment of silence before he asks, “You know how rappers have a type beat? I don’t think I have a type [sound] because I’ve done so many different styles. I got pop songs; I got love songs, trap songs, all kinds.”
Kee’vin’s answer is true to Belair Baby, a collection of wide-ranging rap songs reminiscent of the melody-laced, street-edged songwriting that made A Boogie wit da Hoodie, YNW Melly, Roddy Ricch, and NBA YoungBoy young rap stars. His sound has a distinct familiarity, but there’s always a surprise in every Kee’vin song. A flow will take a sudden turn, or a melody will burst with unexpected life.
Take “Thug Cry,” for example. The record is a tragic story of gang violence, ending with a foreseeable death, but there’s a sincerity to Kee’vin’s vocals, which make each lyric touching. “If it’s money on my head, then why the fuck I ain’t dead, nigga?” Kee’vin raps from the perspective of a man living a fast life.
“Beefin’ with the same nigga since he was 13 / Bodies drop, another homicide on the murder scene / Even the kids gangbangin’, they don’t know what it mean / Fuck a 9-to-5, either rob a nigga or serve the fiends / He committed a robbery yesterday, but he don’t remember ‘cause he popped a bean”—LBS Kee’vin, “Thug Cry”
How Kee’vin manages to fit an entire story on a song that’s only two minutes long is impressive. He only gives the listeners what’s essential. That’s why his flow is so lean; there’s no excess of words or overexplaining. Kee’vin wants to catch your ear, not your brain, a melodic trick that makes every song infectious enough to hit radio airwaves and industry playlists.
“Whatever beat I hear, I just let the beat bring it out of me,” he explains. “I don’t have an inspiration behind how I make the music.” Kee’vin’s perspective matches his sound. His songwriting is effortless, allowing intuition to direct the next move. Although Kee’vin’s singing rap style doesn’t drastically change from one track to the next, a poppier song like “Mariah From Cali” doesn’t sound like the anthemic “Upper Hand,” nor is the thunderous “CD” identical to the jubilant “V12.” The 11 songs on Belair Baby sound like songwriting exercises trying to perfect the infectious trick that made “Boston Geroge” a life-changing record.
“I used to always be on YouTube just watching, studying music,” Kee’vin says of his life before rapping seriously. “I would study any hot rapper. Not necessarily to copy them, but to figure out why they got hot. I studied it so much; I knew what to sound like. I just had to find my wave, my own creativity.” This is how Kee’vin turned his Frankenstein Epiphany into budding rap stardom and success.
“Success means everything to me,” the determined rapper says before the end of our call. “I can’t see myself being a regular person. I had to do something to be rich. Filthy rich.”
If Kee’vin perfects his melodic trick, I trust he will be nothing short of amazing.