L.A Rapper Michael Callender Talks Grandfather’s Legacy, “Unfinished Dream” EP, His Independent Label,Opening Up For Ty Dolla Sign, Juicy J & More
– Your grandfather is legendary musician Red Callender whose recorded with Nat King Cole, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, among countless others. Would you say your grandfather’s legacy contributed to your pursuit in music?
Yes my grandpa Red is a Legendary musician who has worked with a countless number of historical figures like Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday to name a few. Not to mention my Grandfather played a huge role in the civil rights movement being one of the first African American Musicians to record in the Hollywood studios. I would definitely say my Grandfather’s legacy contributed to my pursuit in music.
My Grandfather passed away when I was young so growing up I would always hear stories of his legacy and the history he left behind with his music. This was was very inspiring to me and made the music a central part of my life because the music is literally a part of my lineage. Being that the music is running through my blood it left me no other option but to pursue music for the rest of my life picking up where my Grandfather left off.
-What does your family think of your music career?
My family is centralized around the whole music realm. For my family it was only right that I pursue a career in music. My grandpa came around in the jazz era so my family is big on jazz.
When I started rapping after writing and poetry my grandma would always ask me to rap about more nice things. I always told her I would laughing it off but Rap and hip hop is more aggressive with the lyrics and deals with all kinds of issues. My family is always supportive of my music career they understand that my genre of music is a part of my era and with me growing up in a diverse music family it helps bring more diversity to my own music.
-How would you define hip-hop and how would you define your musical style?
I would define hip-hop in 2 ways. 1st the historical definition hip hop is MCing, DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti writing. I learned this when I was a kid coming from a music family I knew about every genre of music.
My definition of hip hop would be the expression of a culture through lyrics syncopated to music or to a beat. Basically expressing oneself by rapping to a beat. Now it has to make sense and sound good. It’s like telling your message through the music while making people feel good opening their minds without them even knowing it. You can change the world with music. My own music style I would say is very versatile. I’m a Recording Artist and wouldn’t want to put myself in the box of just being a rapper because I’m so much more than that. I actually know how to sight read music and come I from a musical family. My music is very versatile and shows that. I’m a rap artist with a strong connection to all music. I have music if you want to relax and then I have music if you want to go to the club. Versatility is a key part of the music.
-Take me back to the first time you recorded your first song. What was that experience like?
The first time I ever recorded a song was when I was 17. Even though I started rapping way before then, I didn’t actually start recording and investing into my career until I was 17. It took time to learn to get the quality of recording it takes to be a superstar haha but the experience was great!
Being my first recording ever it was very exciting. It was with a couple of friends of mine that I still record with today. The producer’s name is Tracy and we’ve been friends since high school. We recorded at his house in the closet on a recording program called FLP using a logitech microphone which was originally made for basic video chatting. We were so eager to record we grabbed the first mic we could find and got started. We figured we’d build up to everything else all we wanted to do was get started.
It was an experience I’ll never forget because I still feel the same way today. I still want to record just like it’s my first time. You’ve got to treat your first like it’s your last and your last like it’s your first. The song we still have and it was pretty good. It was the beginning of the pursuit to succeed with my music dream.
– You’re a rapper, producer, engineer, writer, and the CEO of your own record label YOU GOT IT ENTERTAINMENT, LLC. Tell me about the process of starting and owning your own record label. Are there any other artists under this label?
It was a very long process starting a record label but it is very worth it. There’s a bunch of legal paperwork involved and all sorts of filings with the state of California that has to be done to get everything started with forming a Record Label. I started the label because along with the fun part of music comes the business. I went to college for business and I know a lot about business. I want to not only be a central part of the music but also a central part of the music business. It doesn’t take much as long as you have the team and the resources. I handle a lot of business on my own as an artist and it’s good to have the label under my belt for legal purposes. Right now the label consist of 2 artist. Myself and also a female r&b artist.
– Tell me about your visit to Sweden.
I went to Umeå, Sweden the spring of 2013 from January to June. It was a life changing experience to travel outside of the country. During that time I was studying business and music at my university of Idaho State and decided to study music abroad and to expand my musical world. It was the greatest decision I made in my life. I traveled alone and was one of 3 students from my school that went to Sweden. I was the only American everywhere I went. This was a complete culture shock but a good one. Not only did I meet great people there I learned a lot more about music and how worldwide music can be, making the world so much more connected than it would be without music. I learned a lot about the music business and songwriting.
During my trip to Sweden I studied music at Umeå University and along with fellow classmates that were from Sweden we composed a song called Memories of Life that was a hit out there where we performed it live on radio and performed for a few paid gigs like Red Cross, etc. The first time I ever got paid for my music was in Sweden. Even though the money was foreign and I could barely read what it said I knew music was something I could make a living off of and I that I wanted to do that for rest of my life.
– Your EP Unfinished Dream should be out soon if I’m not mistaken?
Yes my ep Unfinished Dream is coming out soon. We’re looking to release Unfinished Dream sometime this summer or in the fall. I don’t want to give an exact date because it’s a surprise. But before the ep we will be releasing a few singles that will be included on the ep.
-Your EP is titled after a radio show you hosted at Idaho State University. Can you tell me a little about that and your experience hosting a radio show?
Yes on my return from Sweden I hosted a radio show at my university entitled Unfinished Dream in which I named after my grandfather’s biography “Unfinished Dream The Musical World of Red Callender”. It was an awesome experience. It was my first time ever working in a radio station and it was one of the best learning experiences I’ve had in my music career. I was able to spread my music to listeners and to help other artist get their music out there. My show was every Wednesday night at 10pm and I had a total of 13 shows. I produced the show along with hosting it and I put together my own playlist consisting of jazz, r&b, and hip hop.
People were amazed at how I could blend the genres but I found it very easy because I’d just play what I liked. Some nights I would focus on one genre more than another. I interviewed 3 different people and played local artist songs gave shout outs and played my own music. It was a great way to get my music out there and to also build a relationship with other artist, students of the university, and people of the community.
-Any surprise collaborations we can look forward to?
Yes! I have a collab with this local r&b artist Shira Monae who’s up and coming and has been making a lot of moves lately. Also I have a surprise collab with celebrity rap artist Skeme who was worked with top industry artist such as Chris Brown, Iggy, just to name a few. But I’m not trying to name drop haha there’s also a few other surprise collabs under the works too.
-You’re working with Disko Boogie on your upcoming project. How is that connection in the studio?
Disko Boogie is a great guy not to mention a Legend himself. We’ve been working on some heat! The connection in the studio is great. That’s my boy and it’s always good when you already click outside the studio so when it comes to the studio everything works more smooth. We vibe off each other and are able to put our minds together to create a track. We go thru beats after beats brainstorming coming up with ideas. Sometimes we’d been in the studio all night going thru beats then other nights Disko might just start making a beat from scratch and we can get a song done that hour. Disko knows how to work with me and can build around whatever I’m looking for musically. Songs are pieces of artwork. I love the studio. That’s where the magic happens.
-You’ve opened for some amazing artists. Ty Dolla Sign, Juicy J, Post Malone, just to name a few. Can we look forward to more performances? Possible a tour?
Yes those shows were great too! Some amazing artist right there and I’m honored to say I’ve opened up for them. I recently opened for Tyga at OHM NightClub and had a show at PlayHouse Hollywood. We’re planning out more shows and the next one coming up I’ll be opening up for Kevin Gates at OHM Nightclub June 23rd and Tory Lanez at OHM-the date is tba. We will have tour dates coming soon once the Ep release and single release.
-Anything else you would like to say/add?
Music is my life. This is all I know and all I have known my whole life. I feel a deep connection not only with the raps I write or the music I Create but also with music in general. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the music my grandfather created, the history and the legacy he left behind. Knowing this I take my music seriously. It means so much more to me than anything else. I want to make history with my music just like my Grandfather. Growing up seeing how people loved my grandfather for his music made me want that same kind of love. I know the impact music can have on the masses and on history.
The music I make is for the people. There’s no better feeling than the feeling you receive when your music is being loved and appreciated. All I want to do is to make good music for the rest of my life. I’m Bridging the gap between my grandfather’s Jazz music to my generation’s hip hop music. We all have a legacy. This is mine.
-How can fans get a hold of you?
Business inquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Interviewed by: Simone Grant