Tales of an undergrad rapper: Balancing homework and tunes
When people think of rappers, a certain image comes to mind.
But at first glance, freshman Calvin Howell, nicknamed “Cal Hal,” doesn’t fit that typical image.
Besides being an active student, Howell spends his free time making mix tapes and writing his next rap song.
Howell has lived in Bend, Ore., Eugene, Ore., and San Antonio, Texas. He moved from Oregon because the economy was better in the South.
During his junior year, he and his friend Adrian Yancelson decided that they wanted to try to make a few rap songs. The two had known each other since elementary school.
While in visiting Eugene, Howell met Major Oni, who is from Togo, Africa. Oni now makes beats for Howell’s albums.
“Things just came together one summer, and we have been friends ever since,” Howell said.
In church, Howell and Yancelson met Gregory Griffin, a music producer who listened to their mix tape and gave them advice on how to make it better.
“We ended up not telling anyone about it,” Howell said.
Griffin offered them free studio time if they kept good grades in school and worked toward going to college.
In the spring of 2010, they released their first single, “Ready to Party.”
One day, when they were riding back from the studio, they decided to refer to themselves as the Young Risers.
“It gave me and my buddy an identity at school,” Howell said.
During the winter of his senior year, Howell and Yancelson released their first mix tape entitled “Mission Success.”
Mario Gaddini, a friend of Howell’s from Eugene, produced the beats.
After the release, they had the opportunity to perform at a school pep assembly and have their own personal show.
Outside of school, Howell was able to perform in a lineup at venues around town.
Howell’s rap style can be described as smooth and relatable. His tracks do not contain profanity and tend to be about girls, religion, and having a good time.
Some of the tracks on Howell’s mix tapes show his passion for religion.
On “Oregonized Volume One,” the song “Team Jesus” serves to illustrate his faith.
“I am really big on Christianity,” Howell said. “It’s making a simile that Christianity is like being on a team and God is the coach.”
Some of Howell’s influences include Paul Wall and Trip Lee.
Now that he is on campus, he has been gaining support from other students.
Senior Alex Van Slyke helped shoot music videos and assist with media.
Senior Barrett Zetterberg airbrushed the cover for Howell’s new mix tape “Oregonized Volume Two.”
Howell has had the opportunity to perform in two Cat Cabs and wants to perform some more for the campus.
Howell has two older brothers and a twin sister. He says that his family has an encouraging attitude toward his work.
“I didn’t think I was good when I went into it,” Howell said. “I guess God presented me an opportunity and I took it.”
Ivanna Tucker/Features editor
Ivanna Tucker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.