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Soon You’ll Understand B Hyphen

By Staff | Jun 25, 2014

Kelen Conley, aka B Hyphen

Graffiti: So, how long have you been creating music at the capacity you are right now? I know that you did the ‘Life Turned Into Music’ EP in 2002. as well as an appearance on a mixtape the same year.

B Hyphen: I’ve been creating at this capacity for at least six years now. Before, I didn’t have all the equipment or all the settings correct. But my music has been coming out like it is now for that long. I’d say it’s only been the past year or two where I’ve gotten it to a professional sounding level. I’ve been writing music as a whole since I was 11. I didn’t write my first rap until 14. Started actually recording myself in 1999. It was 2001 when I learned that you could record decently on a computer with a program called Acid Pro. From there I moved to Adobe Audition and never left. My first official release came out in 2004 though, with “The Mind’s Mixtape Volume 1.”

Graffiti: Have you always been a creative person? When did you know that you wanted to create music?

B Hyphen: I’ve been creative since I could remember. I was an only child, so I had to entertain myself mostly. If I wasn’t reading, I was in the middle of some battle with my toys. If I wasn’t drawing, I was writing something. If I wasn’t listening to music, I was using my tape deck to record my own radio shows. It was always something. Music came to me on New Year’s Eve in 1994. I was listening to Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “I’ll Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” and I decided I wanted to write songs. So I just did. Boyz II Men put out their album “II” shortly after that. So I formed an R&B group with two friends. We never actually performed, I just wrote a bunch of songs. In 1997, that transitioned to me trying out rap and forming a group with my best friend Matthew Spencer. And I just kept running with it from there.

Graffiti: Did you come from a background that was conducive to the kind of creativity that you express through your music? What made you want to pick up the mic and start doing your thing?

B Hyphen: My parents loved music. My dad loved all the R&B and funk from the 70s and early 80s. He once tried to get me to learn all the choreography from Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video. My mom just always had the radio on, so whatever was hot on the DC R&B stations, I was picking that up. And my stepmother introduced me to Garth Brooks. To this day, Garth is the only country artist I’ve completely gotten into. I picked up the mic once I met Matt. He kept urging me to rap, because he did at the time. My first song was a diss to the rapper Mase entitled, “Mase, Meet a Real Thug”. So I had a lot of growing to do. But what really made me fall in love with rap was the first time I watched 2 Pac’s “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” video. That song, the video, it made me want to really try to become a successful rapper.

Graffiti: I saw somewhere that you’re into material that emerged in the 1990s. In those days, rap and R&B was getting more radio play and getting a much wider audience, ‘gangsta’ rap was quickly becoming huge, Will Smith was talking about having fun, the west coast developed the “thug life,” there were more socially conscious things happening in the New York scene, Atlanta and the rest of the south was getting ready for a huge future in the next decade. Is there anything that you can compare your style to that we saw back then?

B Hyphen: In my heart of hearts, I feel like I’m a rapper from New York. I’m really a blend of a late 80s MC, because of how simple my rhymes can be, but my inflections and tone are born from NY circa 1993-1996.

Graffiti: What motivates you to press on? Obviously you’ve been active for more than a decade now, and the music industry has been changed forever, in terms of the way labels operate and work with artists. What inspires you to keep going?

B Hyphen: I love making music. There have been times that I would get frustrated that my audience wasn’t larger, but I do truly love it. Very few things make me happier than a completed song of my own creation. The day I find making music to be stressful or work-like, is the day I’m finished with it.

Graffiti: Lets talk about your new album, ‘Soon You’ll Understand’. How long did it take for you to arrange and record all of the material?

B Hyphen: “Soon You’ll Understand” has been in the works since 2010. I came up with the title in 2002 though. Two of the songs that made the album actually are from that summer I started. The rest I wrote/recorded from late 2011 to early 2013. I had planned on releasing the album last year but I got married and then my wife became pregnant, so it didn’t get released until March of this year.

Graffiti: How long do you typically develop your concepts? Do you ever experiment with different ideas, styles, outside suggestions, collaborations?

B Hyphen: I normally let my mood and the instrumental determine the concept. And a lot of times, I just start writing bars and I let the bars dictate the concept. The whole process is very organic for me. I’m not afraid of experimentation. If I hear something somewhere else and it sounds good to me, chances are I’ll take a shot at it. And I love to collaborate. It makes creating music even more fun for me, just because I have someone else’s input. And I’d like to think I take suggestions well now. I used to be really hardheaded but I try to apply other people’s input into my work nowadays.

Graffiti: Is there anything that you didn’t get to do on ‘Soon You’ll Understand’ that you would’ve liked to be able to include?

B Hyphen: The only regret I have about “Soon You’ll Understand” is not getting my good friend and fellow artist 6’6 240 on a track with me. I planned to, but it just never came to pass. That’s the only thing I’d do differently.

Graffiti: Do you have any plans to support the new album with a tour or festival appearances, or anything like that?

B Hyphen: I actually haven’t done any physical promotion for the album outside of word of mouth and the Internet. Like I said, I got married, had a daughter; all my energy has been going towards that. “Soon You’ll Understand” actually has a theme of it being my last recorded material because as I was recording it, it was supposed to be my last project. I’ve since recanted on that statement but I think it gives the album a nice little arc. But I love performing, so if the opportunity arose, it’d be very hard to turn it down.

Graffiti: What kind of scene is there in Morgantown? Is there a united music community or is every person left to their own devices?

B Hyphen: The scene in Morgantown is starting to come together again. With it being a college town, the fan base leaves about every four years. When the fan base leaves, so do some of the artists, and then you’re back down to it just being the artists that live here full-time. The scene has always been very united when it can be; I give a lot of that credit to Eric Jordan. He’s always helped so many artists in any way he could and made sure to put out an aura of positivity about Morgantown hip-hop.

Graffiti: Have you encountered any kind of obstacle or any other issues within the scene there?

B Hyphen: The biggest obstacle comes back to people relocating after a while. No one has really established a career without leaving this area or seeking help from someone else in another location. Any artist who really wants to become known has to make the choice to leave to pursue their dream, try to make it happen from here, or just give up. There’s a lot of people who used to be artists here because of that last one.

Graffiti: Is there anything that you would hope to do with your music? Do you want it to make people think, take you to places that you might never have gone otherwise, preserve a legacy of some kind?

B Hyphen: My answer used to be that I wanted to provide a better life for myself and my family. But in the past few years, I really want my music to mean something to someone in some way. Whether it’s a whole project, a song, or even a verse on a song that’s not my own, if I know my words brought some kind of joy to someone’s life…I couldn’t ask for more.

Graffiti: To wrap up, what would you like to say to the people who have yet to hear what you have to say through your music and words?

B Hyphen: The only thing I want to say is to do your best to live your passion. If you can do that, the rest comes easy. That’s a nice way to sum up what I do musically.