Picture a rapper. It’s probably someone who’s flashy, raps about money, who only fellow rappers can comprehend, and sounds essentially the same in every song. Now throw that picture away and meet Youngstown’s up-and-coming rap artist, KeilyN.
Keilyn Davis, a 22-year-old Youngstown State University student majoring in Telecommunication Studies goes by KeilyN outside of the classroom. Though he officially hit the rap scene over two years ago, it’s not something new to him. Music has always been a part of his life.
“I used to in grade school, like, ‘fake rap,’” he said. It continued to evolve through his teen years. “I tried to rap in high school and I actually recorded it but it wasn’t anything serious,” he said. Two and a half years ago, he started recording his own songs.
His first album, “My Pursuit of HAPPYness,” was released in March 2011. It was all original music, featuring the main hit “Your Song,” which the crowd always makes sure KeilyN performs. KeilyN said it was based off of his last relationship, so it’s something people can really relate to. In fact, relating to the audience is one of KeilyN’s main driving forces when writing music. He’s inspired by everyday life.
“The people that I want to take from my music are regular, everyday people,” he explains. He doesn’t want it to be like the songs on the radio that are all about the money. “It’s all people want to talk about and it’s not something people can relate to,” he said.
“Timing,” KeilyN’s second album, was just released on March 7. So far, the response is positive. “Timing” features an entirely different style from the first project.
“I don’t wanna keep making the same type of music all the time,” he said.
He explains that as he grows as a person, he grows as an artist.
“Like every normal person, you go through stuff every year. So I decided to put a little bit of that into my music.”
The difference is not only in the sound but also in his approach to writing lyrics, however the most notable is a personal improvement.
“The biggest difference, of course: I improved as an artist. Music-wise I think the beats selection and the instrumentation of it is totally different,” he said.
What can you expect from “Timing”? KeilyN describes it as a lot of smooth, personal songs, but also upbeat songs with catchy lyrics and lighter content. KeilyN says not to expect “one big sad story” in “Timing.”
“I want people to have fun and to feel all types of ways as they listen to the full body of work. I want them to sit there and hear the words I’m saying...to have fun but also relax,” he said.
Though KeilyN admits artists don’t like to compare themselves to others, he is most inspired by Kanye West, Jay Z, and Lupe Fiasco, to name a few. KeilyN’s diverse personal music selection influences his flexibility as an artist.
“I want what I listen to be broad, not strictly hip-hop. I try to be knowledgeable of all avenues,” he said.
These include but are not limited to: R&B, hip-hop, and alternative. Hip-hop is his favorite but he sees it as redundant.
“I don’t want to do the same thing over and over... I’m not going to get better that way, so I challenge myself and try new things,” he said.
At the moment, KeilyN is focusing on promoting “Timing.” His past performances include venues in Kent, Cleveland, Youngstown, Columbus, and other surrounding areas. Right now, he’s trying to get as many shows as possible.
“I’m trying to get the music out to the people, it doesn’t matter if I’m first, second or last. That’s all I really care about,” he said. He has also been shooting videos, the most recent of which is “Dope Boy”.
KeilyN’s definition of “dope” is completely different from the normal definition and is actually something he lives by. A few years ago, before KeilyN started to put music out, he was referring to what he did as “dope,” but an older friend told him to change it because of the negative connotation. He was up all night thinking of different mottos when it hit him.
“I turned it around to make it opposite and thought of an acronym — Doing Opposite. Pursuing Excellence,” he said. Ever since, that’s been KeillyN’s mission statement for music as well as life. “I’m big on people just doing whatever they want to do, not following the crowd or trends or anything. The whole mission statement is to keep on embracing who they are and not changing,” he said.
The D.O.P.E. logo is repeated all over KeilyN’s Twitter page. He keeps fans updated with Twitter, linking to his music sharing sites where they can download his work for free. He takes audience feedback very seriously.
“I want them to listen and I want their feedback. I keep count actually,” KeilyN said. He keeps this in the back of his mind and asks himself: What songs are the biggest crowd hits? Should I do another version? What songs should I shoot videos for?
His followers actually get a say in what he does with his music.
Friends and family are also a huge support system for KeilyN. When he first started, only one of his friends was hearing his work. By the time his first song was about to debut, KeilyN was really nervous.
“He said it’s cool, man, it’s good. I put it out, and he was right. He was one of the people that said go ahead, go out and do it,” he said.
While KeilyN grows both personally and musically, we can expect his work to continue to evolve. Follow him on Twitter @DOPE_KeilyN for updates.