Kev Choice
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Kev Choice

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | SELF

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | SELF
Band Hip Hop Soul


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"Breaking Down Sound Barriers"

Not many classically trained, jazz-educated pianists can say they've seen Snoop Dogg in Serbia with Lauryn Hill, or played at the Playboy mansion alongside Too $hort. Indeed, Oakland-born musician Kev Choice might be the only person from the Bay Area (or otherwise) who can claim those distinctions.

Though he's enjoyed a busy career as an in-demand sideman, Choice is itching to unleash on the world his own compositions, a cutting-edge mix of jazz arrangements, classical melodies and hip-hop rhymes. Over an Italian soda at Oakland's Urban View cafe, Choice casually explains that he's probably recorded 10 albums' worth of material in preparation for his official debut as a solo artist. There's just one problem: Every time he tries to venture off on his own, he keeps getting asked to collaborate with other musicians or go on tour again.
About the only thing holding Kev Choice back at this point might be Choice himself. Talent and drive are clearly not an issue for the 32-year-old, freckle-faced artist, who calls his music "Kevolutionary." He's used his monthly residency at West Oakland speakeasy/art gallery/performance venue Black New World to premiere his works in progress. In January, he presented his magnum opus, "Hip Hop Sonata" - which adds a lively, vibrant feel and Choice's own rapped lyrics to melodies written by Schubert, Chopin, Ravel and Beethoven. The following month, he donned a porkpie hat and a blazer and led his 12-piece jazz group, the Kev Choice Ensemble, through a tribute to African American purveyors of "America's classical music" - jazz - in honor of Black History Month. For Friday's gig, he'll switch styles yet again, with a program featuring guitarist B'nai Rebelfront titled "The Future of Funk."
"I was never a prototypical classical musician. I never saw that as my goal," he says. Studying jazz in its birthplace, "I got a good grasp of the discipline of having to really know your instrument," he says.

After earning a master's degree in music at Southern Illinois University, Choice could have become a professor. Instead, he hooked up with Michael Franti and Spearhead and spent a year and a half on the road. Subsequent session work and gigging with the cream of the local urban music crop eventually brought him to the attention of the enigmatic Hill, who hired him as her musical director and instructed him to put together a 17-piece ensemble from the local talent pool. Within a month, he found himself on a tour that would take him to 12 countries - a far cry from the conservatory or the academy.
Musically, Choice presides over an eclectic range of influences. Sped-up, Kanye West-like samples blend freely with Debussy-esque piano flurries on "I Can't Look Back." The jazz/funk/R&B fusion of '70s acts like the Blackbyrds and Roy Ayers gets updated with a contemporary hip-hop twist on "Hustles, Tricks and Games." Sexy female vocals (from Genevieve) smooth out the midtempo drum beats and Bernie Worrellian keyboard squiggles of "Down on Ya."
"I try to make my hip-hop songs feel like a (classical) movement," Choice says, adding, "even if we're playing a more complex piece, I'm hip-hop, because of the environment I grew up in."

Rapping since 11, Choice has always considered himself an emcee, even when working in other genres. It wasn't until four or five years ago, however, that he started to combine his musical training with his lyrical leanings. "I always kept the worlds separate," he says.

Hip-hop, Choice says, is "a feeling and an attitude." However, it's generally considered to be the least musical of all genres, and has been criticized by older musicians for its reliance on sampling over original music. Yet as both a musician and a rapper, Choice has a unique perspective on things.
According to Choice, hip-hop brings something to the table that's not present in other genres. For example, "in classical you can't clap," he says. And while he feels classical music shows can sometimes be boring to watch, fusing the normally staid music with hip-hop attitude results in "more energy at a performance level." What hip-hop can add to classical, he says, "is more the feel, the vibe." Furthermore, incorporating classical conventions can enhance hip-hop's musical quotient, such as "stretching the form of a loop, adding an intro or a coda." Meanwhile, jazz acts as "the improvisational core of all of that."

Music doesn't exist in a vacuum, after all, and Choice sees little reason why jazz, hip-hop and classical should be separated. In his mind, "it all forms together."

- SFGate & San Francisco Chronicle

"Kev Choice’s song a day series gives Bay Area concerns a beat"

Bay Area rappers spent 2009 responding to current events and social memes with memorable singles. Two prime examples: Mistah F.A.B.'s nod to trendy chatter, "Hit Me on Twitter," or Paris' late-November track, "Side Effect," which entered the health care debate with a sharp narrative blast about emergency room bureaucracy. Oakland's Kev Choice is also busy riffing on topics of public concern. The talented multi-instrumentalist and MC is offering a new song every 24 hours from Halloween until New Year's Eve on his Daily Dosage blog.
Choice has so far used the schedule to cover issues surrounding Veterans Day, President Obama's tenure, and the Bay Bridge breakdown. Lest you think the 10-piece bandleader for the Kev Choice Ensemble has turned into a serious news correspondent, he's also using this series to give jazz standards and Prince tunes a personal twist.

The Daily Dosage came about on Choice's birthday, Oct. 29. He decided to spend the remainder of 2009 proving he could create quality music on a brutal daily deadline. By Nov. 25, he had posted 25 new songs, many of which flew under the radar, but one in particular — "The Bridge" — resonated in cyberspace due to its clever conceit. I became a fan of the Daily Dosage with that one, and I've been following Choice's musical prescription ever since.

"The Bridge" starts out cheekily with a sped-up sample of "Bridge over Troubled Water" before Choice jumps in with a respectful shout-out: "After being down for nearly a week, the bridge finally opened back up yesterday. ... We couldn't party in the city over the weekend, but we had a good time in the town." From there he ticks off other bridges around the world, including the one in Sydney he rolled under in a yacht. A looped piano jam backs his homage as he relays personal stories related to the iconic Bay Bridge structure, building to the catchy chorus: "There may be other ways, but ain't no better way/to keep us moving through the Bay."

It's a fun song, in large part because it's a piece of the local landscape you don't hear tribute paid to very often. Choice explained to me later that he has a special affinity for the landmark (including one particular memory that he jokes he can't admit to in print). "The Golden Gate Bridge is like this rich pretty girl who you only deal with when you wanna show off," he adds, "while the Bay Bridge is like that everyday, around-the-way girl who makes your life easier and better, and you don't realize it until they're gone."

This level of colorful metaphor enriches Choice's songwriting when he puts it to work, but he doesn't always push the lyrical creativity. "Kill That" is a driving electro-disco jam sped up to a hard-clapping beat. He uses the tune to boast about taking over for Lauryn Hill and bringing "real" back. It's an example of a song that's fresh musically, but relies on stale ego-tripping language. He's better at mapping out his plan for songwriting domination on the ebullient "Gettin' It Good." That single, Daily Dosage No. 8, features Viveca Hawkins and moves like a locomotive fueled with positivity. Choice talks up his talent, but he also documents his hard work. Hawkins' refrain, "Finally I see a break in the clouds," helps emphasize the songwriter's role as an energetic underdog making his own breaks.

When you're writing every day, not every song will be one for the record collection, and there are a couple of fumbles in the Daily Dosage series. But overall Choice does all right — instrumentally, his songwriting and producing skills are impressive — especially since his goal is more of an artistic challenge than a commercial one. "If something impacts me or the people today, why wait for months to put out a song about it?" he asks. "Why wait for a label to sign me when I have an outlet to expose my music myself right here and right now?"

For the next four weeks, Choice's Daily Dosage series remains the Bay's dedicated resource for musical coverage of timely events and attitudes, with plenty of addictive remedies to dole out.

- SF Weekly

"The Power Of Choice-Album Review"

skip to main | skip to sidebar it's time for nonsense!!!!!
the thoughts and ramblings of a way to stylish man......

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Dear Miss 'Religious'

I'm tired of you, i really am. It seems to be, that you come out of the woodwork every now and then to either, scorn those that are not exactly like you, enough like you, completely different than you or you just want to start a little bit of row, i'll admidt, 5 years ago, you were interesting and new and fun.

You were that hot chick with no brain, you had all the right features, you were for pleasure and to be looked upon as a trophy, but now that you are in you're older in age and your body is sagging and you just happen to be dumb as all get out. I'll amidt Miss 'Religious' i had a good time with you, but now, i am done.

I remember like it was just yesterday, we met, you were new and exciting, you were fiesty and full of pazazz! you had a spark to you that this Lutheran boy wasn't used to, you lead me near to the edge of insanity, you lead me back the edge of Islam, you lead me to the edge to berate people because they aren't as awesome as you. but, you know what Miss 'Religious'? I cannot stand you...

Through all my years of travels and 29 years of life, the one thing i have found that you haven't, is we are all the same. I know you were teaching me that we are different and we don't need to respect those idiological differences, but the more i have learned is we are so much more alike than we shall ever be different, but that would be too easy for you wouldn't it Miss 'Religious'?

You'd like to show up some time and say "why do you have ashes on your head, don't you know that's the mark of the beast" and i will say "Bitch are you high? i do this out of respect and deference of self sacrifice, not all things are to be taken literal, especially when the Bible has been translated a minnium of 5 times before english, now go take your shit starting, hoe ass, else where."

The End.
Posted by ICY MIKE at 4:41 PM 0 comments
Thursday, March 3, 2011
The Power Of Choice...Album Review

It’s been a while that i have done an album review, and to be honest, it has been a while to where i have felt the need to even write one. Every now and then, an album comes along and i feel compelled to share my excitement for the project.

Kev Choice is my artist of the Year. I met Kev almost 2 years ago when he was performing at the same venue as my good friend Finale (shout out to Detroit) at Morseland Lounge, in Rogers Park. One thing instantly realized was how different Kev was as performer, he was rapping, playing piano & i wondered, why hadn’t someone done this before, it perfect!

Kev Choice is from Oakland and studied at Southern Illinois University (i read his bio lol) that he is classically trained pianist. The first album i got from Kev at Morseland was ‘The Bailout’. The Bailout was okay, it was moment in mixtape time, but i could sense where he was heading as an artist, and have been eagerly waiting for his next full album.

Now, I say all of that to say this. ‘The Power Of Choice’ is single handedly one of the better albums i have picked up in the past 15 years. This is a wonderful album where it puts hip hop in a package to where, it is just good music & not pigeonholed into ‘insert rap genre’.

It transcends the issues that most ‘up & coming’ rappers have, insecurity, and mad that no one has signed them or gives them props. Instead, where there was sincere frustration, came some serious catharsis with songs that deal with issues we all go through…i.e. The Stuggle, Let It All Go, These Words, Dearly Departed & Arietta…

Arietta is my personal favorite track on the album, and it’s one of the only ending tracks on an album, to where at the end of the Arietta, i am happy with silence, its great to reflect on what you have just listened to. Such a wonderful break up song, even if you took his Rapping off of the track, the piano weeps a wonderful tear filled heartbreak, its beautiful. Minor Cords get me every time.

He has tracks for just about every mood you are facing during the day, week, month or in life. i bought the album a week and a half, and you know, this album will be pleasurable 10 years from now, its got a great neo-soul vibe on a few of the tracks, and just a really solid release from someone who produced most of his album.

This is one of the few hip-hop albums i can play for my nephews and niece and not feel embarrassed, because of all the swearing on it. In fact, there is only one track where there is swearing and that is on The Struggle, and it is completely justified, poignant and well needed, sometimes you need to swear to express certain types of anger…i.e. the murder of Oscar Grant and the inappropriate actions that surrounded that whole murder.

I will say this very simply, I looked at all the Albums that are tentatively to be released this year, and honestly, either on an independent or major label or no label, this is the album to beat, solid arrangement, subject matter, production, being poignant and reflective without being alienating or preachy. It’s a job well done and much worth waiting for.

Thank you so much Kev for your hard work. Glad to hear how much you have matured, can’t wait to hear what you are making when you are 40. Also, if you hear that Kev Choice is in your town, go see this man, he is a great musician & a hell of an entertainer. «« go hear to preview and then BUY the Album. - IcyMike

"Kev Choice Ensemble fuses hip-hop, classical, funk, more at Yoshi's (Review)"

Oakland native son Kev Choice returned home Tuesday night to a well-attended show at Yoshi’s to play a concert with his band, the Kev Choice Ensemble.

At this point, it’s not a stretch to say the KCE may well be the most musical hip-hop act ever.

No, really.

Bandleader Choice is a classically-trained, jazz-educated pianist who also happens to be a highly-technical rapper, while his ensemble includes some of the Bay’s best young jazz lions — trumpeter Geechie Taylor and saxophonist Howard Wiley among them, as well as all-world funk-jazz bassist Uriah Duffy (who also has this little side gig with hair metal band Whitesnake).

Backstage after the show, Choice reflected on his musical journey and where he’s at, at this point in his artistic and creative process. Currently shuttling between Oakland and Atlanta, he said, “My whole thing now is just, putting out the music. I created 60 songs in 60 days so it’s not a problem creating the music. It’s letting people hear it and letting it speak for itself. So hopefully just putting out more music, getting on the road, things like that.”

His new album, "The Power of Choice," is “still in the baby stages,” yet early advance copies were available for the Yoshi’s audience. (Online copies should be available soon, Choice said.) The bandleader estimated that 60 percent of Tuesday’s set was new material, never before performed live — a lot to digest for both audience and his fellow musicians alike.

“Even my band members sometimes, they’re like, man, you hit us with so much new stuff, it’s hard to take it in,” he said. “But that’s kinda like how my mind creates.”
Anyone expecting by-the-numbers jazz or clichéd hip-hop was clearly at the wrong show. Apart from the radio hit “Definition of a Star,” during which Choice, D-Sharp and Tony Vic rapped about their stellar qualities, the music constantly shifted. Piano flurries transitioned into mid-tempo R&B, then surged into expansive jazz fusion or stanky funk, with hip-hop vocals on top. Any barriers between genres were methodically erased, as if they had no right to exist in the first place.

“I think [the complicated arrangements] are from my classical background. Classical, it’s not a four-bar loop," Choice explained. "Even when they restate the melody, they restate the melody with a different progression. Or there’s a coda, there’s a recapitulation.” Even with hip-hop music, he adds, “I try to make it flow like movements of a symphony. Symphonies, there’s no two bars, really, that’s the same. It’s all over. So that’s kinda my inspiration in that.”

Choice strives to create a balance between challenging listeners’ expectations and giving them easily-digestible material. His rhymes, similarly cover a wide range of topics.

“Even tonight, I got into some deep stuff, then I tried to do some fun stuff. Tried to do some political stuff, tried to do some stuff for the women.”

The emotional catharsis of the set came on the songs “The Struggle” — which muses on the Oscar Grant shooting and the Johannes Mehserle verdict — and “Dearly Departed” — an elegy for former band member Dewey Tucker, who was murdered almost a year to the day of Choice’s Yoshi’s gig. (On January 12, it was reported that 4 men had been arrested for the crime.)

During the former, Choice rapped one of the most poignant lines of the night: The same day that Oscar Grant got murdered/I said forget music, I should have been an attorney.

Yet “Dearly Departed” resonated with even more feeling. Tucker’s girlfriend and family were present in the audience, Choice said, and though the band had rehearsed the music, he withheld the song’s lyrics during practice because he “didn’t know how they were gonna react.”

He and Tucker’s relationship had its ups and downs, he noted, but he clearly missed the man he called his “younger brother,” adding that it took him “306 days” to pen the song.

“It really took me that long to address that in a musical form,” Choice said. “I didn’t want to just make a tribute song and throw it on the net like, ‘yo this is for Dewey Tucker.’ I didn’t want to do that. It was hard to even address it ... I think it came out cool.”

The same could be said for the entire show, as Choice and the Ensemble didn’t waste a minute of their nearly two-hour set. Audience members were treated to complex arrangements with ever-changing progressions, interpolations of classic Stevie Wonder, P-Funk and Isaac Hayes (via Public Enemy), classical piano interludes and deeply-intellectual rhymes touching on a variety of subjects.

“I really don’t ever want the show to stop,” Choice said. "If it stops, sometimes, that’s cool, but I want it to keep flowing. It’s like a movement, it’s like a journey. That’s always how I want the ensemble to be.”

- Erik Arnold for "Oakland Local"


The Bailout-2008
The InAuguration-2009
Daily Dosage-2010
The Power of Choice-2011



Hailing from Oakland, California, KEV CHOICE is a lyricist, pianist, composer, producer, and band director with a classical and jazz background. He has always mainted his pursuit for his first musical love, Hip-Hop. KEV CHOICE has played piano most of his life and even obtained a degree in music. KEV CHOICE began his career as a professional keyboardist supporting artist from the Bay Area such as Michael Franti and Spearhead, Goapele, LyricsBorn, Too Short, Martin Luther,and Zion I. Kev has also played with national artist such as Dwele and DJ Quik. In 2007, KEV elevated his status by becoming the musical director for Ms. Lauryn Hill on tours through Europe, Japan, and Brazil. After years of supporting other artists, KEV CHOICE decided focus on his rap career and what he had to say as an individual. Rocking with a 10-piece ensemble or just a DJ and his keyboard, KEV CHOICE's strength is his live performance. KEV CHOICE describes his show as "a collection of original material, blended with classic and obscure music influences in my life, arranged into one continuous movement." On the net, you can find countless quotes from journalists and fans alike praising KEV's live show and his blend of hip hop energy, uplifting lyrics, classical musicianship, jazz improvisation, and the passion expressed in soul music. He was been nominated for a SF Weekly Music Award 3 years and was also named "Most Multi-Talented Musician" by the EastBay Express in 2008 and "Best Musician" in 2009. KEV just recently released his project "The Power of Choice". The album reflects songs of inspiration, struggle, and motivation over an array of musical soundscapes. He has recently relocated to Atlanta to further his music career. A recent review of a show said that KEV CHOICE may be "the most musical Hip-Hop artist EVER". He can't wait to prove it and show it to the world.