“30 by my side, it might leave where you stand
I ain’t got no friends, I’m too focused on the bands”
HappyBirthdayCalvin, the 17-year-old rapper out of the West Side of Chicago, has hit the hip-hop scene hard. Really really hard. His streaming numbers are shooting up, a song of his was just featured on a Netflix original, and he has a new project on the way soon. Safe to say that the man is moving quickly. If you haven’t heard of him yet, it’s time to familiarize yourself with his music. Recently, he took some time from his busy schedule to sit down with Colossus and discuss his outlook on life, why he chose his unique name, and what is next for him.
HappyBirthdayCalvin: Thank you! Thank you!
CM: What’s that been like for you?
HBC: Man my life is really just like changing. I feel like I am really evolving as an artist and shit. Like to hear all the support makes me feel extremely blessed, you know.
CM: For those that don’t know you already, who is HappyBirthdayCalvin?
HBC: So HappyBirthdayCalvin is just a kid from the West Side. The mantra of HappyBirthdayCalvin is that every day is new, every day you are reborn, every day you have a new chance at life. That’s just my positive outlook on life. I’m just a 17-year-old artist from the West Side of Chicago that produces his own music. I rap and I produce you know what I am saying. Recently, the song “No Friends” has just been doing great things for me but also the song I did for the Netflix Original “Beats” has been great too. It’s just a testament to working hard! That’s HappyBirthdayCalvin.
CM: But why did you choose the name? You said it’s based on your mantra of being reborn but it’s a pretty unique name so why that?
HBC: That’s why I chose it! The overall mantra is how I want to live my life. When I came up with it, I feel like that’s when people starting looking at me. That’s really when I started to change my outlook on things.
CM: How long have you been making music for?
HBC: I started making music when I was 10. I started producing when I was 13.
CM: And where did it go from there? Were you just writing stuff or were you performing? I mean you are only 17 so you have only really been making music for four years. What made you decide to switch and say let’s make this a career?
HBC: I always wanted to do it since I started. My mom really invested a lot into my career early on. I was also getting introduced and working with well-known Chicago producers. My mom actually got me my first computer and put Fruit Loops Studio on it. I really have been taking it seriously since I first started. As you get older you get more connections and you network more. That also has helped put me in a better situation.
CM: Clearly your mom is a very important person in your life and a big influence on you. Is there anyone else in your life who has served as a major influence?
HBC: Being from Chicago, Kanye West has been a big inspiration to me, a huge part of my story really. Aside from that though, other artists like Kid Cudi, A$AP Rocky, and Tyler the Creator are all big musical inspirations to me. On a more personal side, I have my close friends. One of my homies who got my song on the Netflix Original, his name is Khalil Everage. We went to the same high school together. That’s the reason why my song ended up in that movie. He actually is the reason I got a record deal as well.
When he was making the movie, the CEO of the studio that I am signed to had to teach him how to make beats for the film. After the movie was over, Khalil sent him one of my songs and that’s how I ended up getting my deal. Later on, he was able to help get one of my songs on the soundtrack. That’s one of my closest friends, just a really influential person. There are other people too but those are the big ones.
CM: So you produce, rap, clearly get a lot of streams and attention. Is there anything you can’t do?
HBC: I mean, anybody can do anything. I really believe that there isn’t anything I can’t do. There is a lot in the works and we try to do everything we can. I can’t lose!
CM: How are you getting a lot of those streams? What has been your path to success with No Friends EP?
HBC: Just getting it out there really. Of course, you have the ads and that stuff but that is part of being signed to a record label. Personally, what I have done is go into different schools and different areas and promoted it the best I can. I have done a lot of groundwork, or as much as I can. Then, of course, networking and gaining new industry friends. Everybody is moving in a different direction. We also are all people of service, we all should be helping someone or some cause.
CM: Speaking of helping others, let’s talk about the music scene in Chicago. Obviously, your city is one of the best when it comes to hip-hop and rap. Has there been a really strong support group behind you of other rappers or producers? Any mentors in the music game? Or has it all been an independent grind for yourself?
HBC: I mean it’s been a lot of individual stuff as well, but there’s been a lot of opportunities based on the things that I’m signed to. At The Studio Records and Hitco are hubs for cultivating new music and pushing the envelope of Chicago. Everyone that comes in I try to have conversations with. All types of people have had different experiences in the music industry. I mean I have had conversations with Q-Tip and Swizz plus a lot of other people.
CM: Q-Tip and Swizz are too pretty big names in the industry! I also saw you performed recently at a BET hosted event? How did that go?
HBC: That show was great! It was a lot of love. There was a lot of people who probably hadn’t heard of me. Just getting the chance to do it and seeing the response was amazing. Especially because it was my first BET event. Definitely will hold it dear in my heart.
CM: You are an up-and-coming artist yourself so I’m curious to know what your opinion is on this year’s XXL Freshman Class roster.
HBC: I like it. I feel like a lot of people work to get to that spot. As long as you do what you do and get those streams, I can never be mad at anybody. Art is really subjective, you know. Even though I may not listen to all of them, I’m really happy to see and will always support black people, especially in America, reaching new heights and getting new levels of success. On top of that, there were a lot of female rappers which is cool to see. Plus, my boy YBN was getting the love and attention he deserves. Real music shines through for real for real. So yeah I liked the list.
CM: The real question is are you going to have a spot in that Freshman class next year?
HBC: Ah man! I necessarily don’t know. I have been working towards it and I have been in touch with some of the people there and will keep working towards it.
CM: It’s all got to start from somewhere!
HBC: Exactly how it is.
CM: Completely unrelated but I saw somewhere that you are a huge “Pulp Fiction” fan. Why that movie in particular?
HBC: Man it’s really just a mindfuck of a movie. Honestly, it made me think differently. The chain reaction of things that can happen in life and how different people behave in certain situations based on their perspective is fascinating. On top of that, Samuel L. Jackson is one of my favorite actors.
CM: Are you a big Tarantino fan then?
HBC: I mean I also really like “Django Unchained” so yeah I guess I am.
CM: What are your top three favorites movies?
HBC: Okay so obviously gotta take “Pulp Fiction”, then “Natural Born Killers” and “Dazed and Confused”. I just really look at artistry besides the actual plot of the movie. They are all just aesthetically pleasing.
CM: Now time for the regular question here on the Sit Down Series. We always ask it because you get a different response every time. If you could have dinner, with any three artists, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
HBC: Michael Jackson, Beyonce, and Kanye. Beyonce because I really want to know what her mentality is. She works really hard and is one of my personal heroes. Plus she is a great performer and I really want to be one as well. And then of course, who doesn’t want to get dinner with her. Michael Jackson because he was so soft-spoken. I don’t usually look up to people who are dead and before my time because I never grew up in their era and I can’t really experience the same things they did.
It’s different watching Kanye West’s life because I am seeing that as it happens and listening to his music as it drops. I’m not having to go back and read about him. I would love to talk with Michael Jackson about his experience with racial issues during his time and things like that. And then Kanye West because he is one of my favorite artists of all time. On top of that, he has a lot of albums and they are all so great and different.
CM: Which one is your favorite?
HBC: My Dark Twisted Fantasy. They are all so different and so raw and surreal. I want to be able to achieve that same feeling and power and vibe.
CM: Now, if you could have dinner with those three, is there a place you would want to take them?
HBC: I mean it’s not really anything special but Red Lobster. I like it and honestly want to know what they would order there.
CM: Last question. You have a phenomenal video out now for “No Friends”, just put out a remix of it with G Herbo, the whole EP is available on SoundCloud as well as part of it on Spotify and Apple Music, all in all, just a ton of great things happening for you and your career right now. What is next for you? Where are you hoping to be at the end of next year?
HBC: At the end of the year, I want a huge fan base. A cult strong fan base. I really want more recognition for my art and placement on bigger stages. I want more music friends too because I feel like I need more of them in the industry. As far as my music goes, I will be dropping a new project soon, that’s on the way. I also have more visuals on the way. Just more content really and a TV show by the end of the year.
CM: A TV show?
HBC: Yeah it would be like a sketch comedy kind of thing.
CM: Wow so extremely multi-talented!
HBC: Thank you!