Atlanta representer, Ervin Mitchell, drops off his brand new 4-track project titled, Let there be light.
Below you can read about the process and inspiration behind the project, and also get a few more gems from Ervin as he opens up about his come up and future goals.
Check out this interview as Ervin Mitchell sits down with content creator, Ras Asan Olugbenga, as he talks personal life, career, and his newest project, Let There Be Light.
Ras: So jumping straight into it – Your “village” plays a role in who you are and your perspective on the world. I know you’re from Memphis and an ATL transplant, and I know we got some Louisiana in there too. So what’s that about?
Ervin: Let’s go there! (laughs) I was born in Mississippi. My family is super southern. I don’t know if i ever told you this, but my grandma went to high school with Nas’ daddy. Crazy, right? They moved to Louisiana because she was a teacher. My granddaddy was a teacher as well. That’s already my foundation, a family of teachers. When I got home my grandma had us listening to hooked on phonics and my mom always encouraged creativity. I don’t know if my mom did it intentionally, but I grew up watching a lot of tv and it showed me what the outside world was like. And that was more real to me than anything. I wouldn’t say my environment was super violent or anything, but doing well was just having a job and going to work everyday.
Ras: You know, TV being more real to you than your environment makes me think about the album artwork and why you chose to use a disney influenced graphic. The artist who grows up is the child that didn’t die in adulthood. As an artist you were able to go into a creative profession and hold onto your imagination. That’s tight.
Ervin:I feel like that’s what molded me. People may feel how they feel about Walt Disney as a person or whatever but I don’t really judge people because it’s about the era they came up in. If you grow up in a certain era, you feel certain things are right or wrong. Like now, people will look back on this time and think “what was wrong with them? It’s so archaic.” You know? But whatever that man created, God sent it for the world. Disney was such a big company and it seems they really brought in people who cared about the stories that were being told. From the visual aspect, to the musical aspect, to the storylines or whatever – it was real to me. I felt like watching those movies showed life at a fundamental level. It was clean ’cause it was for children, but the things they were touching on was real stuff people are kind of afraid to touch on. As a kid, I was always deep. People always said I was too deep. But as a kid I always felt like the average person wasn’t thinking about anything at all. Imagination is everything. I was reading something and it said imagination is God. And if you really think about it, imagination is everything. Everything that exists came from somebody’s imagination.
Ras: Yeah, yeah! And it’s funny you say “imagination is everything” and that’s the stuff anyone can relate to. A lot of people don’t know, of course, you’re college educated, graduated from Morehouse with a degree in Philosophy. Is that something you went into college knowing you wanted to study? Coming from the southern tradition of teachers and those who are naturally inclined and paid to give out wisdom, I definitely see and hear that in your music. So where did studying philosophy come in at?
Ervin: That’s interesting. I never made that correlation of studying philosophy and my upbringing because it wasn’t intentional. But that’s interesting because it’s kind of like – I feel like once you set yourself on a certain path and commit to it you won’t stray from it. Something keeps you on a certain line. I started as political science major and my dad said why don’t you go to law school. I wanted to do music but hadn’t fully committed to it. I wasn’t really feeling political science. I like history but i never liked the number part. Why do I need to remember this date when I remember the event? Come to find out lawyers use philosophy and anybody can use it…
Ras: Right, because it’s the base of all sciences, you know what I’m saying? Or anything that you’re studying, on some “How do we know what we know?” Type shit. You know what I mean?
Ervin: Yeah people don’t like to figure things out and with a Philosophy degree it’s not particular path or route to go down so it’s kind of shunned. So I was going to go to law school but I just decided to stick with the music man.
Ras: Word. So the title of the tape is…?
Ervin: Et Facta Est Lux. “Let there be light”, in latin.
Ras: Word so on one hand thats the motto for Morehouse College. And when they use it they’re talking to a specific audience but this mixtape man, who are you talking to? Let there be light for whom? And what is “light”?
Ervin: I’m glad you asked that because I was very specific with that title because being that I went to Morehouse I love what it has historically stood for. I felt like the true innovators in this generation, or not even innovators, but there’s so many people that are misrepresented or not represented at all in this society, you know? I feel like somewhere like Morehouse is supposed to be about innovation, and revolution, and progressing. I don’t feel like I saw enough of that. I saw really more conformity than anything. But the ideals and the experience still meant so much to me because I knew it was a god sent place.
For the audience, or if you listen to the music, um, it may be different from what a person might expect, but it’s exactly what it needs to be. You know? And I was speaking to those people, that may have felt like, “Okay, I know I’m supposed to be here, but I don’t have a community”. Or a “tribe”, like you say. And if you truly innovating its a lonely road. And in this society, especially as black people trying to make our mark in the world, we actually have that opportunity because technology and different things have evened the playing field for everyone, you know, I’m sure you’re aware of that. But it’s still like people are so attached to old ideas. But people like me want to push forward because you see what we’re capable of, but they don’t see it at all and it’s more of them than you. So the idea was basically for people to have this new mentality, where they may be considered ahead of their time or whatever, but really people say these things and they create these false ideals like “he’s ahead of his time” or this or that. But really I don’t believe that.
Ras: I dig that. It’s about being in the present moment because everything happens when it’s supposed to.
Ervin: Yea, exactly.
Ras: So, like most of us, you came up with christian roots. And a lot of those songs talk about being in the “presence of God”. When I was listening to “Where I Wanna Be”, it reminded me of… as a marketing guy it reminded me of “mind share”. Many companies talk about market share but its really mind share. “How can I get you to think about my product or service often and talk about it?” So on one side, you’re talking to your fans, but on the flip side from a more spiritual, divine perspective, it kinda struck me as like a, I don’t want to say a “negro spiritual”, but it definitely struck me as a church song, you know what I’m saying? Like on some, comforting, this is where I want to be type shit, you know what I mean? Who were you talking to? What’s that song about?
Ervin: Man I’m glad you brought that in! Cause definitely, when I wrote it I was thinking I was talking to – on one level you can say I was talking to a girl or a woman, and then another level I was talking to myself, and then on another level I was talking to God. But what’s funny is I wasn’t completely aware that that’s what I was doing. But it makes perfect sense because like when I write songs, I’m more so setting the intention or setting the direction of where I want it to go and allowing the song to write based off those checkpoints. That’s how I keep it structured, without making it too structured. I’m glad you’re wording these questions this way because it’s kind of like we’re taking these mythical or ethereal ideas that people would perceive as mythical and we’re breaking them down to a science. But I’m glad you saw that because it plays those idiosyncrasies that, you know, connect people on different levels. Like, so yeah man, that’s what I do in all my songs. So it’s always a spiritual aspect to it. Even when I’m talking about things that aren’t traditionally perceived as spiritual. And I think that’s part of the appeal. Artists, as visionaries, its something else that channels through us you know? So it’s always humbling when I hear stuff like that because it’s like “wow, what is the bigger plan that I’m a part of?” Like I have my ego based vision or whatever, and I try to say it’s a selfless vision or whatever, but as a person it’s the human part of us that’s bound to be selfish.
Ras: I like that. The word “mind” is in your music a lot. Is that something that you intentionally do? Because even listening to King Shit, your last project, I heard that and I see that you are much more of an Introspective guy. I found myself really enjoying the songs where you’re really rapping in a more conversational tone, similar to a Jay-Z. Is that something that you try to do or does it come out naturally?
Ervin: It’s kinda like shooting free throws; when you first start shooting the free throw, you might have to think about it like “I bend my elbow this way” or whatever, whatever, but after you do that, enough times it becomes ingrained in what you do. And then you can stack another level on top of that so you’re still doing it on purpose but you’re not actively thinking about it so much anymore. So it’s kind of like both at the same time like, and I’m glad you said Jay because I was listening to The Black Album and people have always told me I had a conversational style and I had never really thought about it, but I was listening to him and I’m like “damn!”
It’s like Jay is like having a conversation with you, with himself, with God, whoever. Even somebody that’s not from his environment or don’t have no clue what he’s talking about can grab something from the conversation. Like it’s a dialogue and you get to find something you can gravitate toward.
Ras: Word, since we’re talking about Jay-Z, that’s a segue into the “Lemonade” song on your EP. You said “Beyonce made an album about lemonade”. Is Beyonce one of your influences? What was that about? What was the thinking behind the production on that song?
Ervin: Well Beyonce is an influence in many ways. I wouldnt say I’m jamming out to her music all the time, but I really admire her as a person. And that’s what it was about. The whole grammy situation where it was like her album Lemonade was nominated for some grammy’s and the rollout for it was amazing, you know? She did the visual album and even though she didn’t win anything, like the grammy’s is another one of those institutions that’s traditionally a certain way. Like “if you’re not like this”, no matter how many people love you, no matter how big your impact is, we won’t to accept you. And for black artists especially, we’ve always been the backbone of American music, but it’s almost like we’re in this position where we’re always told we have to prove ourselves to the institution or the powers that be, you know? But with her and jay both taking the stance that I don’t have to go to the grammy’s. So on the the song “Beyonce made an album about lemonade. Grammy’s wasn’t given out awards today”
Ras: I noticed on the album you had mixed it up with some singing and rapping and of course, I’m definitely partial to the rapping aspects of it and I really liked when you really went into the flows on it and even on King Shit, I thought that there was a mix of the two on there. So how do you decide, you know, when you go rap versus singing? Was it, you know, just a feeling?
Ervin: For me it always starts with the, the actual music, like the sound, you know? When I approach a song, I approach it with trying to hit the best pocket for that particular song and keep it unique as well, and make it relatable. Because as artists and musicians and we can be selfish at times but it’s like this weird balance between being 100 percent you and a 100 percent servant of the people. You know what I mean? And that’s really ultimately what it comes back to, being a servant of the people. We like to take credit for the good music that we make. But really all I do is filling in. I don’t write the song. Something else is writing the song. So for me to fight that, and not share that gift with other people is selfish, but like my goal with that was to grab people and then bring them into my world. And now we can create our own worlds together. That’s kind of why I took the disney theme, I wanted it to be overarching and I wanted to be able to be accepted by a lot of people without me conforming, you know what I mean?
Ras: I do. So what’s your favorite disney movie? And why?
Ervin: My favorite disney movie? It’s some heavy hitters. I would probably say my favorite is “Hercules”. I think the most important one is probably like Lion King or something like that, for obvious reasons, but my favorite one is Hercules because I kinda felt like I just related to the character, you know. The disney version, you know, because the actual story is a lot different. But the disney version, I related to it where you’re growing up in this place with these people and your family, and people you know, but there’s a fundamental difference between you and them. And you know that it’s differences, and they always comes out. You want to be accepted, but you don’t want to have to change who you are to be accepted. That’s a deep topic because it’s like you either are viewed as you’re a conformist, or you don’t care what people think, but it’s like… how can you.. I feel like it’s both. It’s like you don’t change who you are even with resistance from others, but at the same time what is the point of existing if you don’t have anybody to commune with, you know? So I feel like he kind of was able to go on his hero’s journey and figure that out. I relate to that, heavy.