Bronx-born, Virginia based artist Levi Carter is one of Roc Nation’s newest and finest, but he’s modest like he didn’t just slaughter Budweiser’s Made In America Tidal stage one month ago. What’s more is the fact that this weekend he’ll be sharing the same stage as some of the biggest musicians in the world at the TIDAL X: 1015 benefit concert. I’m talking some of the most famous names there are: Beyonce, Common, Robin Thicke, Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, and the list goes on and on.
Earlier this week, I got the opportunity to chat with the “You Not Gang” rapper and talk about what it feels like to be on that roster and cosigned by Jay Z, how moving to V.A inspired his standout debut album ANTISOCIAL, what it’s like to be the new kid on the block, and how he’s preparing for this weekend’s star-studded concert. 22-year-old Carter has been working hard since he first started doing music in ’08 and what I learned is eight years later, he’s here, he’s humble, but he’s playing for keeps.
Get in on some of our chat, plus some must-see Made In America footage below.
GG: On why the move to V.A. made him so ANTISOCIAL:
Levi: “It’s really just the way Virginia is. There’s nothing to do there. Living in Virginia, your path gets picked for you – it’s either you sell drugs, you play basketball, you play football, you go to the military, or you go to the shipyard. Those are the only things you can do and I’ve literally witnessed people growing up only wanting to be in those types of situations because that’s what the state offers. That, in itself, and randomly always having to get myself out of a lot of situations made me not want to mess with people on a certain level and instead, just stay to myself – and stay with the people that I generally hung around with or grew up with, that I knew were loyal too.”
On whether or not he fears becoming the focus of public attention:
“No. Not at all, honestly. That was never my goal, anyway, to be famous. That’s not even my focus – I just want to make music, that’s all that I’m here for. I know that it comes with [fame], so it is what it is… I’m mentally prepared for it.”
On Jay Z being one of his greatest inspirations and his favorite songs/albums from him:
“‘Feelin’ it’ and ‘Can I live’ – but with Hov, it’s more about albums for me because I love Hov. The whole Reasonable Doubt, Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, The Blueprint – each album of his really put you in a different mind frame. That’s why Hov is one of the biggest inspirations to me.”
On what it’s like to now be a Roc Nation artist, performing on the same stages as a lot of the artists he’s always admired:
“It’s crazy, it’s insane honestly! I rarely get to sit down and really think ‘Man I’m signed to Jay Z,’ you know what I’m saying? It’s very rare. I might be in a conversation with somebody and as they’re talking to me, I’m like ‘Man, I am signed to Jay Z. It’s crazy that I’m saying this right now, but it’s true.'”
Carter makes a quick comparison, “Back in the day, there used to be a lot of people – especially coming out of Virginia – people would always say ‘Man, you know I’m Michael Vick’s my cousin.’ Michael Vick is not your cousin (laughs). It’s kind of like one of those situations. Growing up as a kid, imagine me saying ‘Man I’m signed to Jay Z!’ ‘Man you not signed to him,'” he says people would have responded. “But I really am signed to Jay!”
On what he’s working to prove:
“I want to be able to beat myself in every aspect. At first, I wanted to be bigger than what everybody thought about me. But now, I’m just going against myself. I love music so I’m working, I’m putting out music, but as long as I love it – that’s how I feel. I want my fans to gravitate to it, of course, but first you got to love your own music and your music has to be life changing to you. Then you just got to hope that other people are going to gravitate towards it. I feel like if I like my own music then you should like it too!”
A little later in our conversation he adds, “I do feel like I’m different, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. I just want to keep going! I want to keep going and prove to myself that I can do this. I proved to a lot of people that I can get here – now I just got to prove to myself that I can stay here.”
On the Tidal X: 1015 concert and what he’s stressing out about most (What to wear? What to perform? The other acts?)
“Growing up I’ve seen flyers with Beyonce’s name on them and never thought I’d be on one,” Carter says in a moment of sheer disbelief. “It’s really amazing, for real. I do think a lot about what I’ll wear though, I’m gonna come clean!” he reveals laughing. “I’m excited!”
He hasn’t made any final decisions about his ‘fit yet, though: “Nah, I really don’t know. I’ll probably wear some vintage tee. I look to my brother for a lot of my inspiration. We style ourselves, we don’t have a stylist. We been rocking a lot of stuff – and I look to my homies for inspiration, ’cause we been dressing. I don’t really look to the outside world for [inspiration].” His mind trails back to the show’s roster. “But, I’m really excited to perform alongside the biggest names in the world. It’s super crazy to even be a part of something like this – that’s my mindset right now. I don’t even think I’ve thought about it yet. It’s probably not gonna sink in until Saturday morning when I’m on the way there and I’m like ‘This is really real.”
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