Although many folks believe that it is impossible to legitimately combine the diverse musical universes of gospel, soul and rap, yet for talented performer Kevin L. it is just another day in the studio. “For me, there are no musical borders,” says Kevin L., whose debut disc Souled Out master-mixes various elements of Black music to create a sound that is completely his own.
“Music should be seen as a celebration of life, and that’s what I’m trying to project,” says the Ohio native. “With my songs, I’m celebrating the fact the despair has been defeated. Still, while other artists have tried to merge spirituality with the streets, I am doing something new.”
What sets Souled Out apart is the seamless way Kevin L. takes the listener on a journey through the realness of life, pain, love and despair through his music. “As an artist, I feel there is a need for honesty in Black music. Too much of our music has a sense of anger, while I’m trying to inject a little brotherly love.”
Opening with the hotness of “In the City,” the tract that lays the foundation for this musical journey, the listener becomes swept away by the bevy of strings, electro-instrentation and Kevin L’s own hypnotic voice. Delivering a message of hope to the urban jungle dwellers, one can hear the sincerity in his tone. “There is so much depression and anger in popular music; I really felt a need to bring a brighter message.”
Coming from a long line of musicians and singers, and having the legendary Ray Charles as a stepfather, Kevin L. seems most certainly predestined for the musical scene. Raised by a devoted church going mother, who was a spiritual guide, who made sure Kevin L was well versed in the Christian faith from his earliest years.
“My entire family was into music,” he remembers. “My great-grandmother was one of the first freed slaves. She got her freedom from singing and dancing, so I know that talent is in my blood honestly.”
Still, when he wasn’t in church, the homegrown sounds of the Ohio Players, and Stevie Wonder could be heard blaring from Kevin L’s radio. Yet, while music would eventually become his salvation, Kevin L. showed a prowess for football when he was a teenager. “I thought I was going to go into the NFL, but a knee injury sidelined those dreams.”
Kevin L’s sister, Sheila Raye Charles, brought him back into the music game, from Los Angeles. For the next two years, Kevin L. performed and toured the world with his sister, gaining invaluable stage experience in preparation for his true calling. After connecting with Prince’s Paisley Park Records, both siblings relocated to Minneapolis in 1997.
“We both recorded for the label, but nothing really came out of those sessions,” he remembers. “At the time, our lives were plagued by addictions. My sister was on drugs and I was drinking too much; it just felt as though the devil had his foot on our necks.”
Indeed, Souled Out’s, “U Got Somebody” was penned as a reflection of those dark, despairing days. “I originally recorded that song to help life my own family,” Kevin L says. “I wanted to write something that would remind folks that no matter what their burden is, they are not alone in this world.”