RESPECT. Interview: Calvin Valentine Writes a Love Letter to his Hometown + Drops New Track


Calvin Valentine is a unique artist with many talents and most importantly, more ears listening. The multifaceted singer-songwriter-producer, has worked with legendary artists that range from Nas, De La Soul, Bun B, and Juicy J. He released his 10-track album, Eugene as an ode to his birthplace of Eugene, Oregon, last October. He also dropped a limited edition vinyl of the album in January along with a short documentary.

Eugene captures the intensity of those feelings. Released on the EYRST label, it’s love story to the artist’s Oregon hometown, replete with swooning strings, angelic melodies, extraterrestrial talkboxes, and evocative nostalgia. Check out what Calvin Valentine had to say about Eugene and more.

RESPECT.: Coming from Eugene, Oregon how was it growing up there? Considering you’re so far up on the map who’d you listen to?

Growing up in Eugene opened my mind to different styles of music at a very young age. For my first 6 years my family grew up right outside of Eugene in the country. Down the creek was our neighbor who my brother and I would hang with and listen to music. That’s where I first discovered hip-hop when I was 3 years old listening to Kriss Kross, Snoop Dogg and Coolio tapes. My parents listened to everything from Motown to Grateful Dead, to reggae so it kept me interested in all sorts of sounds from a young age.

RESPECT.: How was it that you got into contact with Nas and De La Soul to record “God It?”  How much pressure did you put on yourself to make sure that you’d produce something they both would vibe on?

“God It” came about very randomly. I hit up Pos on twitter one day just saying “yoo I got some beats for you” thinking nothing would come of it. He Dm’d me back with his email and I ended up sending him around 20 beats for the first batch. The beat for “God It” was the one he gravitate to most. (I’ ended up sending him probably 100 beats since lol). He sent me a reference track with his vocals on it and maybe 6 months later sent me a email simply stating.. “We got Nas on that record you did”.  I was floored and still find it hard to believe.. when I’m in random cars and hear that song playing on the trips me out.

RESPECT.: When was it clear to you that you had such a talent for music? How long have you been making music for?

If you ask my parents it was clear from the minute I was born lol. They always tell the story that I was singing when I was a new born. I started playing drums when I was 6 years old but always knew I was put on this earth to create music. I can’t do anything else.

RESPECT.: What is the significance behind the name of your album? How do you plan on putting Oregon on the map?

I ended up calling my album “Eugene” because I felt if you weren’t from Oregon you can see the album title as a persons name not just my city. So it has a little double meaning. The album tells a story of all the ups and downs of a relationship but it the same breath it also tells the story of a man leaving his home town in search for a better life. I feel Oregon is already “On the map” so my goal wasn’t really to draw more attention to the Oregon scene I just wanted this album to tell the story of my journey and Eugene is a big part of that.

RESPECT.: Where’d your nickname of “Bong Mayer” come from?

It came from my love of Bong Hits and my man crush on John Mayer.

RESPECT.: Do you have any pre-studio rituals that help you get into the zone when making an instrumental? As a producer what’s you’re favorite part of making a beat?

My pre studio rituals consists of eating a good meal I can’t make music when I’m hungry. After that I usually put on whatever my favorite record is at the time,pull the bong out the freezer get stoned and get to work. The best part of making a beat is when it’s all done and you can sit back and take in what you just created.

RESPECT.: What should we be expecting from you in 2017? Have you been in the studio making more music?

I just released “The Red Tape”  with rapper Illmac, I made all the beats using Otis Redding samples and adding my own instrumentation on top of it. It’s the follow up to our project “The Green Tape” that dropped in 2011 which used all Al Green samples. You can pick that up at
I also produced Sam Trump’s “Love Notes” EP which came out 2/14/17. He’s a R&B singer and trumpet player residing in Chicago, he played horns on my song “Supernova”. The project is one of my favorites that I’ve worked on.
I also produced Illa J’s next full length album which should be dropping in the spring time of this year on Jakarta Records, that’s going to have the full roll out with vinyl/videos all that!
I’m working with a bunch of dope artists, and am about 12 songs into my next solo album so plenty of new sounds coming soon.

RESPECT.: Where’d you come up with the trippy visuals for your song “Your Drugs” & “Go Lo?”

“Your Drugs” was an idea I had been throwing around with Tim Slew (who did all the visuals for “Eugene). I wanted to poke fun at the idea of being a rapper, I feel like everyone in rap takes themselves too serious. We just wanted to have fun with it and go wild. So we rented a green screen studio, got some costumes and some friends and had a blast.
“Go Lo” came about randomly it was Tim’s last day in L.A. and we needed to shoot a video we just went down to Little Tokyo and started filming. All praise due to Tim on that one he took that video to the next level with the editing.

RESPECT.: Considering you also write all your songs, have you written for anyone in the industry? When it comes to the track what do you get out of the way first, the hook or the verse?

I haven’t tried to place any of the songs I’ve written with major label artists, I don’t write all the time so when I get the vibe I end up keeping most of the stuff for my solo music. When I’m working with artist in the studio I’ll throw around ideas and lyrics if it’s needed. I wrote a few songs with Illa J on the record we got coming out We’re talking about doing more writing together and shopping some things around. My process for writing starts with just recording my freestyles over the beat, trying to find the right flow and melody. After I get that down I fill in the blanks with the lyrics. Sometimes the hook is first sometimes it’s the verse just depends on the day.

RESPECT.: Was there anyone who showed you the ropes when it comes to song structure?

I really learned alot about song structure when I was in the band “Medium Troy”. The lead singer writes really amazing songs and watching his process opened my mind up to different ways of approaching writing. Up to that point (ages 10-18) I had just written rap songs. Also talking with Moka Only helped alot he broke down the idea that there are no rules to music, if you want to write a 12 bar verse instead of a 16 DO IT, if you want to make a song with just a hook DO IT, shout out to Moka he’s the best.

RESPECT: If you can name an artist that is hot right now, who would you say is you’re favorite?

The Last Artful, Dodgr is on the top of my list for artists who are “hot”, check her out she’s amazing, we have some great songs together so be on the look out for that.

Other wise I’m listening to, R.Kelly, John Mayer, Roc Marciano, The Smashing Pumpkins and a bunch of old reggae, gospel and soul music.

While you’re at it check out Calvin’s newest track, “This Feeling” Daddy Kev Remix featuring Fat Tony. You can purchase the new track on iTunes.