Erv Mitchell Discusses Life, New Joint Album ‘Double Dragon’, and The Road to Discovery
It’s not often that you find an artist who dives into hip house, just as well as they can spit bars between braggadocio raps and soul-baring bridges, but for Atlanta’s up-and-comer Ervin Mitchell, a genre-defying rapper and songwriter, crossing lines is all part of the process.
During his rise from a deep depression and discontent, Mitchell progressively found himself in music, along with the “power of the mind to shape and share our own reality”.
Now, with mass traction across the globe, having over 15 dubstep remixes of his single “Soul Cry”, to the well-received release of his 2018 Let There Be Light EP, Audible Hustle interviews Ervin Mitchell on the road to discovery, his upcoming tour and of course, throwing up that “Peace Sign Emoji”.
Congratulations on your
new single “Die For Me”, we’re eager to know what inspired this track?
Mitchell: That track was actually the last one on the project haha. It was nearly done with the album at the time but I just had the vibe that something was missing. I couldn’t exactly tell what it was but I was just certain that there was a piece missing. I love beats with weird sounds and melodies ya know? “Die For Me” just spoke to me and I really wanted to rap on that track. Like RAP rap but I wanted it to be melodic as well. When crafting the hook, I was thinking about how we sabotage ourselves a lot of times in life and I used that as a metaphor for death. The first line of the hook says “I don’t wanna cry. Does somebody wanna cry for me?” It’s just speaking on the myth that men aren’t supposed to cry even if they have great burdens on their shoulders but it’s speaking on the pain we still feel. It’s sort of like a cry for help in a way but at the same time the verse is straight braggadocio which further carries that tough guy contrast but really deep down we just want to be loved.
There’s a rare few rappers that can tap in
and out of genres with such finesse. What inspired you to do so?
Mitchell: I grew up in a very unique environment. I was blessed
to be raised around some great, great people. As a kid, I used to ride to
school with my grandad every morning and he would play a lot of old school
stuff. Ya know like real old school. Like James Brown type stuff.
It’s funny because when I play music for him now he can’t even understand the
words a lot of times haha. But anyway that was the beginning. It’s crazy
because I remember when I had my 8th birthday party I told my mom that I didn’t
want any music played at the party for some weird reason. I remember this
vividly. My dad is a interesting person. He grew up in Greenwood, MS which is a
small country town. Not much going on there but it’s a lot of game to be
learned there. My dad had to create opportunities to get my family out so, he
did that. He went to school and became an Air Traffic Controller and is very
successful but back in the day he had that street sense + book sense and it
sort of transferred over to me. My pops would play a lot of different music for
me too. Like Too Short, NWA, Pimp C type stuff, then he would switch it up and
throw in some Anita Baker or New Edition or something like that you know? My
upbringing was just all over the place. I saw so much and soaked in so much.
I grew up in the suburbs
of Memphis but I always had this sort of third eye kind of thing where I looked
at life beyond the surface. Beyond the box that I was told to view it through. We
all want love. We all feel pain. We all want to be happy. Our circumstances
just dictate what that means to us or how we go about receiving it.
I started playing trumpet in
6th Grade which is funny because being in the suburbs I was in a
core style marching band which is moreso based on precision and is more
technical in some senses but then I went to Morehouse and the whole thing was
totally different. The musicality is still there but there is also more
showmanship. While at Morehouse, my homies put me onto a lot of alternative
music. You know like indie rock stuff and some old school rock stuff. We jammed
out to EDM stuff too. This was around the time Cudi and Drake and Big Sean and
Cole were coming out which in my eyes was a miniature golden era. It was short
lived but it was epic. The blog era is what they call it. I’m just a melting
pot man. I could talk about this forever. Just being around so many sounds, I
just take that and mix it in with the visuals I see in my mind and try to paint
a picture with my words for the listener.
We noticed this isn’t the first time you’ve
collaborated with Reggie Ran$om? You two make a killer duo…
Mitchell: Lol thanks! That’s lil bro right there! I’ve known Ran$om since I was in like the 8th or 9th Grade I believe. He is a year younger than me but we always just clicked man. I remember we started this group called “The Diamond Boyz” with his two cousins, A.T. and J.B. You couldn’t tell us we weren’t the hottest shit out lol. We started with the little trash ass mini mic that used to come with the desktop computers then we built our way up to a USB condenser mic which actually had a pretty decent sound and we just worked and studied the craft man. He pushed me so much lyrically. I wouldn’t be the rapper I am today without him and if you listen to our styles they are very similar but different. We mesh well hence the title of the project we’re releasing “Double Dragon” Two uniquely different worlds but they join together perfectly. Like yin and yang or Ryu and Ken or some shit.
Another well done is in
order for your astounding Let There Be Light EP. What inspired
you to make this?
Mitchell: Wow hearing someone refer to my music as astounding is
dope! I mean it’s just trippy. Like I was weird coming up. I was the kid who
always had to have the cover art for the project and I always looked up artists’
reviews and you know just really paid attention to critical acclaim so hearing
someone say my project is astounding really is cool as shit to me. I was in a
place creatively where I hadn’t released any music in a while even though I had
created a lot and I felt it was time to release something but not without a plan.
I just set the intention and let God bring it to me. The project pretty much
came together back to back in a pretty short span of time. I just wanted to
show a little bit of my mentality and give people a self-esteem boost. I wanted
to promote self-love. That’s really what all my music comes back to confidence
Can you walk us through your production
Mitchell: My process is pretty simple at least to me. It starts with me watching a movie or something. It doesn’t really matter what it is. It can be like Talladega Nights or some shit. Basically, something that gets my brain going. Then I just pull up some beats and I play them for a while and just start mumbling and thinking of melodies. Sometimes I may go through and just mumble all the way through track and take the pieces I like and keep them and delete the rest and then do it over again so it’s organic yet structured. Other times I really just sit down and try to piece words together in new creative ways and find different pockets for new rhyme schemes. I like to count syllables and see how many words I can find with that many syllable and see how they sound together then think about how they may be similar in meaning or dissimilar and just see how I can connect them and that’s where the creativity kicks in. I’m only 29 but I have a old soul lol. I like to write on paper. It’s just something about writing things down that makes them more real for me. I’m a visual guy so seeing the words on the page makes it like a puzzle to me and sends my mind in overdrive. I write in my phone sometimes as well depending on the style of the record. Less dense records I usually write in my phone when I’m just flowing and don’t want to over-complicate it but when I’m really going in I like to write on paper. There’s nothing like it and I just come up with the ideas as they come. It’s like some weird mystical type shit like once you get the melody the words just appear almost like magic. Then I just take one of those ideas and direct my mind to think more in that area and it just kind of builds like that. Then I go back and structure it once I’m done. I might delete something or repeat something or you know whatever I’m feeling at the time. I try my best to let the music write the song and not force it but direct the current of energy if that makes sense. It’s art but there’s a dose of science and the fun is in finding that balance.
Scraton’s dubstep and
hip hop mashups of your single “Soul Cry” received quite the audience,
attaining thousands of fans for you from all around Europe. What was going through
your mind when this boom happened?
Mitchell: It was crazy because this was back during my days at
Morehouse. I believe it was my senior year and I was really starting to feel
the pressure of leaving school. I’m really smart (whatever that actually even
means) and people had really high expectations for me, which was stressful. My
dad wanted me to go to Law School and all of that and I actually got accepted
into Howard Law but I knew it wasn’t for me. At this point I hadn’t released
but one solo song even though I had been recording since high school. The first
song I released was this track called “I’m On” and Scraton heard it
on Youtube and reached out to me and asked if I had any vocals to send him. We
video chatted which I thought was super dope! Chatting with a guy in the Czech
Republic and sending him vocals. I don’t know I guess that’s not that exciting
to most people but the shit was epic to me and I just emailed him an acapella
and it just did what it did on YouTube. It had like 16,000 views in a matter of
days. That’s a fucking lot. Especially at the time because you know this was
way before everybody had ridiculous numbers on YouTube and all these people
were dedicated Scraton fans. Like every single one. My Twitter was getting like
30 or 40 new followers a day for almost a couple months after that. It really
set a foundation for me and gave me a major platform and I’ll love him forever
for that. You know, here it’s like
people have to know who you are before they appreciate the music but over there
it’s all about the music. They don’t care so much about the fame so, in their
eyes I’m just as big as anyone else. I’ve literally had people message me and
tell me that I’m the best rapper alive! Wayne is my favorite rapper so that’s
like the best shit you could ever say to me. It just really opened my eyes and
showed me that music is a universal language. Like people say stuff like that a
lot but when you experience it first-hand it’s different. I’ve been really
blessed man. Life’s amazing!
But that wasn’t the only boom for you, having
your remix of Rihanna’s “Stay” acquire more than 100,000 shazams and
millions of listeners across Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music. Was there
anything in particular, perhaps personal, that drove you to cover this song?
Mitchell: Yeah that was a life changing moment for me. I wrote
that song at a very weird time in my life. I had just graduated from college
and I was back home in Memphis just figuring out where I wanted to go in life.
I was staying with my pops at the time and he was stressing me out. I just knew
I had to make a move and I knew my dream would be worth whatever I had to go
through to get it. The song really came out in like 10 minutes. I wrote it
probably quicker than any other song I’ve ever made which made me question
whether or not to even release it. It made the final tracklist through the
grace of God and it has helped me touch so many people. I’ve literally had
people tell me that song has made them cry. Being able to share my emotion like
that and for it to be received so well. I can’t describe the feeling. That’s
what I do it for. It kinda gets me emotional talking about it.
Your background is quite intriguing. Can you
tell us a little bit about where you grew up?
Mitchell: I grew up in a small town in Louisiana up until I was 12 years old. I was really sheltered as a kid. I cried a lot. Very introverted. I always made straight A’s in school. My mom and my grandparents were teachers. They really built my foundation. I didn’t move to Memphis until later. I didn’t even meet my real father until I was 8 years old. I thought someone else was my dad but my mom just had a feeling that something was off. She got a DNA test and I found out who my real father was. Shit was trippy. All I could do was cry when they told me shit was trippy as fuck. My pops lived in The Burbs and had a really nice job. It was like I was the real-life Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. If was tough for me at first when I moved to Memphis but my dad really pushed me to be better and get out of my shell. He was old school as shit so we had our ups and downs but overall I’m glad how things went. After that I moved to Atlanta and life has been even more epic since then. Shits CRAZYYYYY. I’m from Memphis but I became a man in the A for sure. It will always be a home away from home for me.
Do you feel Atlanta’s the place to be for
Mitchell: Indeed. I’ve learned so much here. I’ve seen so much.
The ups and downs of life. I’ve seen it all here. You can become whatever you
want to be in Atlanta which is dope and challenging. I learned how to paint the
picture and draw people into my reality here. I also learned that true success
comes from honesty and integrity and if you avoid a lot of the smoke and
mirrors you truly shine.
On your road to self-discovery and healing,
what is it about music that helped you get there?
Mitchell: Music is my purpose. I’m still learning about what I’m
truly here to share but music is my purpose. I’ve developed my gift and I know
I have something special to do because the gift was freely given. I don’t take
responsibility for it. I’m just the vessel and I want to share all that I am
with the world. My music shows me who I am. It’s like a doorway to my
unconscious mind. Sometimes I write stuff and I don’t even know what it means.
It’s something about being that raw and honest with yourself that just builds
confidence and self-esteem. I just try my best to be as vulnerable and honest
as possible without judging. Just being present.
If you could narrow down your major musical
influences to three people, who would they be and why?
Mitchell: Weezy F. Baby, Eminem, and Danny Elfman
Are there any genres you’re yet to dip into?
Mitchell: Umm I don’t really think of it like that. I don’t
really believe in boundaries when it comes to my sound. Where ever I go
creatively is where I will go musically. I never know until the spark happens.
I do know that I want to continue expanding. That’s a definite.
You’re getting a lot of hype now, any plans
Mitchell: Yes, I’m currently taking offers from booking agencies
to find the best business partner for my first tour later this year.
What’s your advice to aspiring artists?
Mitchell: I would advise aspiring artists to just keep going and
learn what your sound is. Don’t try to sound like everyone else because the
things that make you different are what will captivate people. You have value. That’s
the best advice I could give anyone. Usually people don’t have value problems. They just have marketing problems. Find your market and
focus on what they want. Not what you want. Imagine you being full and just
sharing. Your cup runneth over. Hopefully that’s not too deep haha. People tell
me I think too much sometimes.
Is there a quote you live by?
Mitchell: I am enough.