For YFL Kelvin, hip-hop is the soundtrack to his struggle. “My story is rags to riches,” the 21-year-old explains. The Cleveland native has found solace in music since his father was gunned down—in an accidental shooting—when he was just five. Kelvin began recording out of his home studio, but music was secondary to the lure of the streets, taking his rap name from his biological father and the aspirational acronym “Young, Flashy, Lifestyle.”
The street life landed him behind bars on three occasions, “My little brother is in jail. Like, everybody who I used to be with is in jail.” No matter the tribulation, it doubled as a sonic inspiration. In 2016, his beef with a former friend sparked his first major release, “Mayweather Freestyle”. “I knew I was destined then. Something good was going to play out from all the tragedy that I’ve been through.”
We had the chance to catch up YFL Kelvin and talk:
What was life like growing up in Ohio?
“Growing up in Ohio was cool cause not many people make it out of here but growing up in Cleveland was rough. I ain’t gone say I went without my whole life but sh*t was crazy growing up I seen a lot sh*t the average kid shouldn’t see. But I made it out of Ohio so I’m thinking bigger than that now.“
What made you decide to start making music?
“I wrote my first rap when my father got killed. I think I was like 5, but I always been a big fan of music before I ever thought about rapping. It’s like I had my mind up already of what I wanted to be when I got older.
What artists influenced you as your career began in the music industry?
“Growing up I was listening to a lot of Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Akon, Dipset, then once I got a lil older I start f*ucking wit Meek a lot.“
Def Jam is one of the biggest labels ever. What does it mean to you to call Def Jam home?
“I swear man this sh*t still be feeling unreal sometimes I be having to take a moment and thank God for allowing me to come this far. It’s a blessing man I’m just ready to go up”
What was the inspiration behind your latest project, Neva Lookin Back?
“The whole NevaLookinBack concept is basically me explaining the reasons why I feel like I graduated from the streets. I feel like once you reach a certain level of success it’s no point in looking back. Why look back?“
How has the feedback been since the project dropped?
“Mannn I been getting great feedback since I dropped the project. I be in the city and hear people riding past blasting my sh*t and It be feeling crazy but I be like that’s hard just to see how far I done came.”
You worked with people like Lil Baby, Roddy Ricch, MGK and more. Who are some artists or producers you hope to work with in the future?
“I’m tryna work wit Future, Meek, Wayne, Thug, Ashanti, Ella Mai, London On The Track, Metro Boomin, Chris Brown, Jay Z, Turbo, 808 Mafia, Willa Fool, all type of mf’s lol”
What’s next for YFL Kelvin?
“Sh*t I’m bouta be dropping hella more music and videos, I’m moving to Atlanta so I’m bout to turn up my first artist I signed. Turn up my clothing line, try to get into some movies and raise my sons into kings”
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