In today's Facebook and Twitter filled universe, you can be more connected than ever before, but still not at all. Kelen Conley is a guy that I like and consider a good guy. I've never met him before. We've known each other online since 2011 and have had a good back-and-forth over the last few years. We met through our mutual friend, Candace. Yes, the food blog Candace. I know her. Had I thought more about it, I would have asked Kelen about social media and how it affects relationships. Click here to see what Louis CK thinks about it.
We had a nice chat about his rap career and, more importantly, about his life. I mean, yeah, it's cool that Kelen (under his "B Hyphen" persona) released his first full-length album. But, I think the more interesting story is how he balances his rap career with his recent marriage and the birth of his first child. I'm about to turn 28 and he's 31, so I was curious as to his thoughts on hitting the big Three-Oh.
All that and more is included in our 40-minute discussion. Partial transcript is below:
The "B Hyphen" name:
It actually came from a long time ago when I first decided I wanted to make music, period. My name was originally "B-Style," like "B Hyphen S-T-Y-L-E." And I realized there was another rapper named "C-Style" out there and I was kind of afraid that there would be another B-Style. So, I decided to, sometimes when I would write my lyrics I would write out "B Hyphen S-T-Y-L-E" ... So, I decided for sure there was nobody else out there who could be B Hyphen. Thankfully, it's worked out so far.
First time I ever rapped in front of a real crowd was in high school. I don't remember which came first, so I'll tell both. One time at a party, my friend Matt was there. It was just a party; we were hanging out. We were young, so we weren't even drinking or anything. Just being dumb. And one of our friends brought turn tables. Somebody added an instrumental and Matt and I just started freestyling. It was horrible. I know my part was, I don't remember what Matt did. That was the first time I did it in front of "people" people. At an assembly in high school, I got to rap in front of an audience for the first time. I knew the DJ; he was actually a substitute teacher. So, I had a relationship with him, he was deejaying the assembly and they let me up there to rap. And then everybody was like "Oh my god, you're so good."
Morgantown music scene:
The Morgantown hip hop scene is constantly in flux. Because it's a college town. Every four years, whether they come here and become a fan of it or become a part of it, eventually they get a "real job" or decide to pursue their career elsewhere. Right now, the scene in Morgantown is starting to rebuild itself. And I'd say that just within the past six months to a year, that people are making it known that they're actually doing things again. Aside from me, Sound Vision, who I'm with and Profit [Money], who hasn't done anything in a couple years because he has babies, you really don't hear anything new. Just recently all these new acts have come out of the woodwork. There's a lot of new talent.
One thing that I love about the scene in Morgantown is that we all really support each other. Like, I feel if I ran into another artist on the street, I would want to do everything I could to help him out, even if he was connected to somebody else. I support hip hop in Morgantown. I support local music. So, I always wanna see the scene thrive in some way.
My style is very built upon my personality. I don't limit it to traditional rap topics. I'm not gonna get on a microphone and start rapping about coke. That's not me. I'm not gonna talk about getting all the girls. Lord knows I never did that. Not gonna talk about having a lot of money, because Lord knows I'm still trying to figure that one out [laughs]. I really just try to rap what I know. I know what issue Venom first appeared in Spider-Man. I know what CM Punk's record was in 2012 after he dropped the Pipe Bomb and stuff. I know what happened on Monday night. I incorporate all of that stuff into my music. That's where I kind of developed the term "Nerd Fresh." I don't know how it came to me, but at the end of the day I know I'm a big nerd.
Quarter-Life Crisis and turning 30:
My quarter-life crisis was around 2010. I was 27. I kind of hit the crisis like "Oh god, I'm about to be 30. I'm still rapping. I ain't really done anything with it. My girlfriend wants to get married. She wants to move on with life." Not that she's not supportive: she's always supported my music. But, I had a crisis as far as not feeling like I was where I wanted to be in life at that age. I worked at the Shoe Dept. for example. Of course, I hated it. I knew I didn't want to make a career out if it, but I had been there already two years. And, I ended up being there another year and a half before I eventually quit. I figured I had to do something to kind of close that chapter of my life. I just needed to do something, like put a bookmark, a mile-marker on that part of my life. I want to, like when I'm 75, look back and say "I remember doing that at age so-and-so." So, my crisis was trying to get what I thought was going to be my final album, the final mix-tape, done. So, around 2010 was when I really started making the effort and started making mentions in music that I was gonna quit, because I had planned on quitting doing music. I wanted to focus on trying to establish a better life. At that time, I felt like I couldn't do that without quitting music.
Having a child:
It's given me a lot of stability, believe it or not. It's definitely made me more, not to say I wasn't humble before, but it's kind of prioritized - given me more priority... helped me prioritize my life is what I'm trying to say. When I was younger, I was selfish. I was thinking about myself all the time, even before my girlfriend, just average everyday stuff. Like, you have to pay your bills or it will mess up your credit score. And, here I am with a crappy credit score because when I was younger I was like, "I ain't gonna worry about that, I ain't gonna pay that bill." And, now here I am at 31 wishing that 25-year-old Kelen had taken care of his stuff. It's really helped me prioritize because now: baby, wife, then me. It streamlined everything and was something that, surprisingly, which I didn't realize I needed was structure. I had structure in the sense that I was with the same girl for 10 years before we got married, but then once that ring's on and everything's official, you're not just representing yourself. You're representing her because she has your last name. It was almost like, I don't know, that I unlocked some kind of Achievement, to go into video game speak. Things just make more sense for me now, than they even did at this time last year.
I Love Morgantown WV dot com:
That was actually Eric Jordan's idea. He has lived here since 1999; lived here when he was younger. He came to me one day, and he's developed this habit of buying domain names. Just because. And he says "I have an idea for a website." I'm like, "Okay what is it." He says "I love Morgantown, West Virginia dot com." I'm like "Okay. What do you wanna do? Like make a tourist site?" He says "I'm such a fan of the WVU site, of just the way it operates and the stories that come across it. There's a part of Morgantown that's being neglected, and that's any part of Morgantown that's not university related." ... Eric has just been going out and finding these stories. He writes up the write-ups and I proofread them. He shoots all the video and posts it on his YouTube channel. ... We're just out searching out stories that make up Morgantown outside WVU. That's where we're at right now and I'm excited about our progress.
What you should listen to:
Definitely check out "Better With Bacon." "The Hyphen," because it's essentially my version of entrance music if I was ever a wrestler. A song called "Fit Jammin" which actually samples a Doobie Brothers song called "Long Train Runnin'" and it's just so funky and awesome. You need to check that out. A song called "Play It Back." I did that on the mixtape that came out last year. It's actually me singing in autotune. But, it's a lot of fun. I love that song. Another song called "Dis Place" which was about how much I hated Shoe Dept. and wanted to get away from it. And then ironically it came true a few months later. Check out the mixtape, "Spideyville Unlimited." I am really proud of that mixtape.
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Find B Hyphen online:
I love Morgantown WV