Expectations of 16-year-old Kaleb Mitchell are sky high after debut
As 16-year-old Kaleb Mitchell dropped his first solo project, Soliloquy, on July 10, there was little doubt in his colleagues’ mind that he has a bright future.
“He’s one of those artists that is going to be taken to a bunch of different places. I feel like what John Givez is right now, he’s that. He is exactly that,” said Kings Dream Entertainment-producer Anthony Cruz, who produced the songs “Going for Broke” and “Land of the Free” on Soliloquy. “Not even so much in a Christian circle. I believe he is going to expand, and his music is going to be put out there, and it’s going to impact the world.”
“If this is something that he wants to pursue, which it obviously is, I think he can do whatever he wants. He makes amazing music,” said rapper B. Cooper, who is featured on “Lost My Way.” “I am 31 years old, and I relate to his music. I am genuinely a fan and look forward to see where everything takes him.”
However, close followers of the Wharton, New Jersey native probably never anticipated that he would be going about this by himself.
For the majority of his time as an artist, Kaleb was a part of a group dubbed The KENJEX. The group consisted of himself and his brother, Ben Beatz, and was featured in Rapzilla.com’s “Five Teen Rappers to Watch” earlier this year.
However, due to Ben Beatz’s decision to focus on football and his academics, The KENJEX is currently on a hiatus. This change has allotted Kaleb the opportunity the focus on his solo career, but he is sure that The KENJEX will work again in the future.
“Right now we are just taking a break from the group,” Kaleb said. “We didn’t want to do some big break-up thing where [The KENJEX] was no more, but we will eventually get back together.”
Kaleb feels that his time so far with The KENJEX has been highly influential to his career and has ultimately shaped the way he makes music today.
“When you have two minds, you bounce stuff off each other. You grow and you learn their kind of style of how they make music, and it grows you,” Kaleb said. “Being with my brother, making music, he would have ideas I didn’t have, which basically shaped all of my new sounds.”
Who is Kaleb Mitchell?
Although The KENJEX was Kaleb’s first real attempt at pursuing a career in music, he grew up in a family where music was ever prevalent. At an early age, Kaleb was introduced to hip hop, a majority of which came from his father.
“I kind of just grew up all around music,” Kaleb said. “My dad was a first-generation rapper. He had a group in the late eighties, early nineties… He built this studio in our house, and that’s basically where my love for music got started.”
While spending time in his dad’s home studio, Kaleb would often play with the different keyboards he had. Through this, Kaleb was able to teach himself piano by ear, which gave him the foundation he needed for beat making.
Furthermore, his father first presented Christian hip hop to his sons with his old Cross Movement CD’s. But Kaleb first felt impacted by music from the subgenre when he watched the music video for “Joyful Noise” by Flame featuring Lecrae.
“I was just shocked,” Kaleb said. “The beat was bumpin’. It was just like the same stuff you would hear on the radio, but what they were talking about was what we believed in.”
Kaleb first became interested in rapping himself around the age of 11 after watching a documentary about Eminem. He was completely dumbfounded by all the lyricism and wordplay that went into rapping, which motivated him to become an emcee.
“I was like, ‘I want to be able to do that,’” Kaleb said. “My mom bought me these notebook — these empty notebooks — and I just started writing.”
Similar to his introduction to music, Kaleb was also introduced to Christianity at a young age. This is something he attributes to having a loving and Christ-centered family.
“My father is a minister, entrepreneur, author. And my mom, she works at my church. So, basically, we grew up in a very loving home. We’re a close-knit family,” Kaleb said. “I was about six-years-old, and I just kept asking a bunch of questions about God and all the rest of that. One day, I basically just told my parents that I wanted to be baptized at my church because I was ready to accept God as my Lord and savior.”
Kaleb has continued to grow in Christ and expanded his skill set as an artist over the years. These two things are evident upon listening to his newest album, Soliloquy.
To Kaleb, the project represents a shift in focus when it comes to making music — trying to create a project that stands the test of time rather than just making a radio hit.
“I didn’t really use any other outside inspiration. It was just my story,” Kaleb said. “It was time that I just branched out artistically, and I just wanted to make something that you could live with and not get tired of.”
With this shift in focus, Kaleb also urges his listeners to approach the project differently than anything he has made in the past.
“It’s just meant to be heard from front to back,” Kaleb said. “It started off me telling a story from a certain moment in my life, and it just progresses all the way up to this present day.”
This approach toward the album also helped shaped the title choice for Kaleb, which he feels represents the unfiltered, uncut message that is presented in his music.
“The definition of a soliloquy is a character in a play that’s standing off to the side somewhere, and they’re just saying what’s on their mind, and they are not really conscious of the people that are around them,” Kaleb said. “This story, Soliloquy, I would call it, ‘Me thinking out loud and not caring what people think.’”
This raw and transparent mode of communicating is seen on the track “Focused,” where Kaleb addresses the resentment he feels when he is discriminated against because of his age.
“You try to branch out, you try to connect with people and they don’t really take you seriously until they actually sit down and hear what you bring to the table,” Kaleb said. “It’s just frustrating for me sometimes.”
The track also focuses on the emphasis that Kaleb places on his work ethic, something to which one of his long-time collaborating producers, Wontel, can testify.
“Honestly, this dude’s work ethic and passion is on point. He’s hungrier than most dudes and that makes him stand out,” Wontel said. “You can’t beat work ethic. He has talent and work ethic. I’m just grateful he gave me an opportunity work with him.”
Kaleb also uses some tracks on the project to address the helplessness he feels with himself sometimes as he struggles with his own sinful nature. This can be heard most prominently on songs such as “Lost My Way” and “Human.”
“Human” was produced and put out earlier this year as one of the last tracks from The KENJEX, but as Kaleb was finishing up Soliloquy, he felt that the message and sound of the song fit perfectly with the project as a whole.
“There was just one gap, it was track five I believe, and I didn’t know what to put there,” Kaleb said. “I was listening to “Human” again, and the more I listened to it, the more it made sense within the storyline of the album. So everything just fell into place. It was just God. There is no other way I could explain it.”
Following “Human”, Kaleb shifts his focus to problems in the world as he tackles police brutality and racial discrimination on “Land of the Free.”
“The topic is heavy on my heart sometimes. It’s like, ‘I could of have been that person that was killed because we are basically the same people.’” Kaleb said. “I wanted it to be very, very aggressive in a sense and wake people up. Like, we are never, ever going to get past these racial problems if we never have the conversation about it.”
Another interesting choice made by Kaleb is the use of a sound bit he sampled from a YouTube video he found regarding the difference between being a bad person and being a good person, who has done bad things.
The first part of this sound bit appears at the end of “Lost My Way,” but then the sample is played in its entirety as a full interlude in “Guilt vs. Shame.” Kaleb feels that this use of the audio clip highlights the meaning and direction of the project as a whole.
“I put it [at the end of “Lost My Way”] because I felt like it summed what the entire “Lost My Way” song was about right up to that point,” Kaleb said. “At the beginning of “Moving On” it plays the entire thing. I wanted to bring the topic full circle, to where it’s like, ‘I know what I’ve done, but I’m not going to let my past mistakes hinder me from moving on.’”
Following the “Guilt vs. Shame” interlude, the subsequent tracks have a highly noticeable change in tone. While the previous portion of the album has a more dark and heavy atmosphere, the last few tracks feel much more lighthearted and celebratory.
“I wanted to make the later-half of the album just brighter,” Kaleb said. “It’s basically me just shaking out of this little dark place, and I’m moving on — no pun intended.”
As Kaleb looks in to his future as an artist, he is unsure as to where God might be taking him. However, if you ask his good friend and “Moving On” collaborator Adrian Stresow, his future is definitely promising.
“I see him doing big things as a solo artist,” Stresow said. “I could see him being signed in a few years if he wanted to be. I’m excited to hear what he does.”
Regardless, Kaleb is still fully placing his future in God’s hands, unaware of where it might take him. That is, except for one thing — one thing that he has been looking forward to for a while now.
“I just want people to realize that just because someone is younger, and someone may not be as mature, per say, as you, that does not mean that they don’t make quality music,” Kaleb said. “I think that [perception] most definitely will change once people take the time and hear what we bring to the table.”
Download Kaleb Mitchell’s solo debut Soliloquy for free on Rapzilla.com.