Concerning music, Oakland, California is probably most famous for hip hop great, Tupac Shakur, not only that, but MC Hammer, Too $hort and E40 all hail from the Bay Area as well. Fast forward to 2015, and you’ve got a new generation of artists, clambering to make it to that number 1 spot, and be added to the list of phenomenal acts coming out of Oakland. Among them is a promising musician who proudly calls Oakland home, rapper Steve Lan. Here, we learn more about Steve Lan growing up in the Bay Area influenced by Southern California urban music, his new EP #JusKeepWrkn and why we should be listening to him.
Words: Katrina Woody
IMC: What was life like growing up for you and your family in Oakland?
SL: I had a single mom and an only child. So, for me, I just had to make it through school and go to college. It was always about sports and going to school. I wasn’t really around anybody to experience all the street stuff. I was surrounded by it, but I never did partake in it.
IMC: Where did you go to school, and how far did you get?
SL: Actually, I went to three colleges. I played football in college. I came out of high school and got a scholarship to St. Mary’s College in California. They happened to drop the football program after my first year there so I had to transfer. I transferred and went to New Mexico State. I got a scholarship, I played [foot]ball up there for two years, and the coach who gave me my scholarship left so and I left with him. I followed him to the other school he went to which was Southeast Missouri State.
IMC: Was playing football your number 1 career ambition? Or did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
SL: I always knew. It was like, I guess you could say we all have a voice that we have inside, and I remember being, like, twelve or thirteen and that voice inside was like, “you’re going to be a rapper.” And, I always blocked it out because I was an athlete and my mom preached about going to college. That’s always what I did; so, I was always around it, I was always recording—I think I was recording my first song when I was thirteen. So I was recording and I was around it, but I never took it seriously until I got done with college at around 24.
IMC: How would you describe your sound?
SL: I call it “Middle Finger Music” because it’s really me. I don’t go into the studio to try to sound like anybody else or imitate what anybody else is doing; so, when I say middle finger music, it’s just like, I don’t care what anybody else thinks. I’m not necessarily going to let society conform me. Recently, I was in Atlanta at the International Music Conference, and I met, one of London’s influential hip hop journalist, Ill Will. He said I have a sound like a mixture of Mac Dre and Lil’ Boosie — kind of a rough side and a smooth sound together, that’s a pretty good comparison.
IMC: The music business, is crowded with up and coming artists wanting to make it. What do you feel like you bring to the industry that makes you stand out from the rest?
SL: I bring a unique sound and definitely a unique perspective. Just coming from Oakland and having a well-rounded sound makes me able to be heard on a global level. I bring uniqueness to it and everything I do is authentic. I truly eat, sleep, and breathe music; so, I wake up and it is just what it is. I do this all day every day, every single day. A lot of people can’t say that. A lot of people are doing music because it looks good and it sounds good. But it’s actually what I do. This is my lifestyle. So, I guess just being unique and being myself and being truly authentic is what will make me stand out, I believe in myself and my personal struggles. My life story is real.
IMC: What are you working on now?
SL: I’m dropping an EP soon, #JusKeepWrkn. It will be both the signature Bay-Area sound and my own unique sound. My music caters more toward women since I grew up with just my mom—a big female presence. It talks about relationship problems, and that sort of thing. So I’m going to open up with that side of me more. We have R&B artists [on the EP] like Rotudda and we’re going to have the rougher Bay-Area sound. We’ve been working on this EP with Fresh Killers [a producer known for his work with E 40, Too $hort and Clyde Carson], so I’m excited to get it finished. It should be finished soon. It’s kind of fused together.
IMC: As an up and comer, what advice do you share for other artists wanting to make it?
SL: Just keep working and believe in you. The hardest thing for an artist to do is to prove to someone else that they’re good enough. So, when you focus on proving yourself, and you know, then everybody else is just irrelevant. Just believe in your craft and believe in you. And don’t listen to what anybody else says.