Los Angeles. The City of Angels. Where people come to pursue their dreams and start a new life. There are few places in the world that are as culturally diverse as this city. Ask random people what Los Angeles means to them and you’ll probably get a ton of different answers.
As someone who is not from LA, I have come to love this city. Before coming to Southern California, my image of LA was filled with palm trees, Hollywood, beaches, beautiful people, expensive shopping, and celebrities left and right. Obviously, I was in for quite a surprise. While LA does have those things, the city is so much more than what I imagined it to be. One aspect that I find makes LA unique is how many people come from all over the world to start a new life and end up calling Los Angeles home forever. If you meet someone new in LA, there’s a good chance they came from another city, another state, even another country.
I had the pleasure of interviewing LA native and music producer ColEco, real name Kahlil Nelson. I heard about ColEco through the paradoxically effective yet difficult to utilize “word of mouth”. A mutual friend of ours posted a track on my Facebook knowing I would enjoy it. His style of music is unique and refreshing, something that I had seldom heard before. After the interview, it was clear to me that his hometown and upbringing were major players in his musical influence, and it showed me just how important Los Angeles is culturally. Please take a listen to some of his music below and if you like what you hear, be sure to check out his social media and music pages!
Let’s start with some basics. Can you please tell me a little bit about yourself? Where you grew up, early life, any significant life events that have shaped you as a person today.
I grew up in Culver City, CA in Fox Hills. My mom raised me hustling; she wanted me to be an actor, so I pursued film and TV as a kid, but family and education were important too. We have a big family and I grew up in the Nation of Islam (my aunt is Tynetta Muhammed), but I also went to Sunday school every week so there was a lot going on.
My mom wanted me to know my African American history, so every chance we got, she would take me to Leimert Park, black film festivals, lectures, etc. I remember looking forward to drum circles and bugging out on how dope the rhythms were. We didn’t have much, but I learned so much from my mother: how to be strong, persistent – or sometimes stubborn – and to stay positive but never ignorantly so.
I went to SAE Institute of Los Angeles to learn more about creating music after going to school at SMC for a couple semesters. But beyond formal education, the most significant thing for me is just being a kid in the ‘90s: the vibe, the pop culture, wild colors, clothing, that freedom of creation.
What sort of things define you outside of music?
I currently work in television, as an Editor for different reality shows. I honestly try to incorporate as much as I can into music. I do video and sound editing for independent projects.
When did you start having an interest in music? What are some of your favorite artists?
I have a video from a road trip cross country with my mom and brother when I was five, with us singing Grandmaster flash, “don’t push me cuz I’m close to the edge.” They introduced me to old school hip hop, funk, and jazz. I didn’t even know of newer artists at that time. Friends were listening to Dr. Dre and Notorious BIG, and I only knew of Sugar Hill Gang, Big Diddy Kane. I first learned about rock when I was in school and had to do a science project about plants listening to music, both hip-hop and KROQ-type rock. It was my first taste of listening to anything like that. Once I got a taste, I started listening to as many genres as I could, even though my mom couldn’t stand it.
As I got older, I started listening to more traditional world music, learning different powers and arrangements.
Prince, MJ, Beck, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Sergio Mendes, Quincy Jones, Outkast, Timbaland, Neptunes, Tribe Called Qwest, JDilla. I could go on and on.
Favorite era would have to be late 80’s – early 90’s. That new jack swing era! I love the energy that music brought out in people, the dances, the sayings, the styles, it’s making its way back now even.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to it before?
When I work on a song, I think “That would be cool if…” and then I run with it, so it’s not as easy to place. I love to make music that’ll make you move, no matter the genre.
What aspect of music or production is the most meaningful to you, or your favorite to do?
The performances, hands down. I love to see people dance and vibe to the music. When I DJ, I could never recreate the energy of doing a live set for a club in a studio. It’s impossible. Sure I might have a set list sometimes, but going off the vibe of a crowd when working on the fly keeps things from feeling robotic. You came to see a show, not an iPod.
It looks like you are a true LA native. Can you please tell me a little bit about what the city of LA means to you, how it has shaped you as a person (if at all), and what you think of the music scene?
LA is my backbone. There are so many different types of backgrounds and cultures, and to grow up around that is an amazing experience that I never take for granted. To me, there’s a huge difference of living here for so long and being born and raised here. The scene here reflects that as well. Sure there are plenty of places to get your top 40 fix, but talk to a local and there are so many niche places for any vibe you want out here. Not just music, there’s something going on every weekend in so many respects.
Are there any other forms of art that you participate in? Have any of them influenced your music, or has your music inspired you to try something new?
I’m no dancer, but I love the energy being around the dance community gives me and I love creating around that feel. I also currently practice Capoeira. I try to find inspiration in my everyday.
Music wise, is there anything that you have been wanting to try out or experiment with?
Too much! To me, music is a lifestyle, a language. I want to learn as many styles as I can, travel the world and move as many crowds as my music and taste will allow me. I would love to collaborate with people who have completely different backgrounds. That excites me going in, having no idea what you’re going to make, but you know it’s going to be unique. I want to get weird with my music; I used to bug out going to shows seeing people circuit bend Fisher Price toys to make really dope synths. Using odd acoustics and techniques to record music. I want to do it all.
For more information on ColEco, please visit his pages below. Thank you for a great interview!