Ask Spencer Stevens how he became so musically inclined and he’ll probably give you a modest response. Something like: “I don’t know, I’m just blessed,” or “A lot of time and effort.” Whatever humble answer the 22-year-old Berkeley High graduate chooses, he’s downplaying the truth. That truth is that Spencer Stevens is just flat-out talented, and he seems to possess a clear understanding of most aspects of music. The work he’s done as a producer, engineer, manager and DJ has put him in the position of being one of the hottest rising stars in the Bay Area’s underground music scene.
With the success he’s had managing up and coming Oakland artist Legendvry, and playing the role of lead man for his DJ collective, Wavbros, Stevens has made himself a familiar face around the Bay. It seems there isn’t a musical event you can go to in the Bay Area where Stevens isn’t in attendance, and you can bet that each time he’s doing something different.
While most people are using these events as a chance to go out and have a good time, Stevens uses them as an opportunity to work. Over the past few months he’s hosted a number of shows, DJed a plethora of sets, and even produced a sleeper hit for Legendvry titled “Easy.” His work has been featured on popular publications such as Thizzler and Rehab. With a work ethic like Stevens’, it’s hard to see anything but success on the horizon for the young man.
If he can continue to work hard he seems poised to join the ranks of successful Bay Area hit makers like Nic Nac, P-lo, and Berkeley High graduate Niles “Cyranizzy” Hollowell-Dhar of The Cataracs.
It’s not common to see someone as young as Stevens leaving his mark on so many facets of the industry. Usually an artist his age likes to put all their efforts into one area, for fear of spreading themselves thin. But Stevens has chosen to do the complete opposite. He has his hands in every outlet, and has experienced success in all his endeavors. He is showing no signs of slowing down. Well into 2016, Stevens has already DJed at a number of shows, and is currently in the production stages of a mix tape featuring that will be released this summer.
The way Spencer works not just as a producer, but everything else he’s involved in, is reminiscent of the late Asap Yams. In 2011 Asap Yams and Asap Mob took the music industry by storm, and it was Yams’ leadership and work ethic that got the creative collective to such a hot start. Like Stevens, Yams was a jack-of-all-trades, and often played whatever role was needed to ensure his team and himself success. This mindset and approach to his work comes from Stevens’ desire to not only be successful, but his need to leave his mark on music. “I’m trying to be the best,” he says. “I want people to think of me when they bring up Bay Area music.”
Guys like P. Diddy, Dr.Dre and Russell Simmons come to mind as similarly determined — early in their careers — to have an impact of the culture of music as a whole. These men have played a huge role in the progression of the music industry. These were musical moguls with an eye for talent, leading to them starting their own labels and producing some of the hottest records over the past two decades. Stevens would like nothing more than to follow in their footsteps by leaving his own unique impact on the industry: “I’m just trying to be the best in everything,” he says. “I want people to think of me when they bring up Bay Area music.
How did you get started? What was your first experience with music?
My father and his father were really into jazz. Growing up they were constantly playing the music and trying expose me to the genre. When I was around eight-years-old my grandfather got me my first instrument. He got me a guitar, and from there I moved to piano, taking lessons, learning how to play. Then finally I found my niche with drums. I ended up sticking with the drums and when I got to Berkeley High I decided to join the jazz band. Playing in the jazz band at Berkeley High really helped me gain an understanding of music. Learning different tempos and sounds, it was a great experience and it’s helped me in many ways still this day.
Playing in the Berkeley High jazz band and learning how to play all those instruments at a young age has helped mold you into a better producer, am I right?
Oh most definitely. Playing so many instruments helped expand my horizon. Like with the piano, for example. When I would go to my lessons we weren’t doing hip hop. I would work on more contemporary sounds. So playing a number of instruments helped me appreciate other genres. Playing the drums helped me connect to tempos. The drums are really an essential part of beats. So mastering that craft has attributed to my ability to make good beats.
You’ve always been one to try different things, and it shows in your career. You’re not just a producer, but an engineer and DJ. What lead you to wanting to branch out into all these areas of music?
I would have to give credit to my parents. I was taught to never be one dimensional. As a child they constantly stressed to me the importance of trying new things. I feel like even if I wasn’t trying to be in the music industry I would be doing a number of different things. I always felt like I could be whatever I want and that’s how I address music. I want to give myself as many avenues to be successful as possible. So with music often you find people who are one thing. People don’t see the many ways you can get into this game.
How do you see people limiting themselves with music?
When it comes to music, often times you see people who are one-track minded. They feel they can only rap, or they can only make beats, or they can only manage artists. They don’t even try to access all those avenues at one time. Maybe they feel it’s not doable, but every now and again you get those people who have the courage to take it all on. People like Dr.Dre. He experienced every side of music, and that’s something I want for myself.
If you had to choose one what would you do?
I would say producing. To be honest it’s the only one I would do for free, and that’s because it’s fun for me. If you look at my background playing those instruments and playing in the jazz band at Berkeley High. I’ve always had a connection to beats. It’s the feeling I get from sound, I could make beats all day. You know DJing and managing, those can be stressful. Not saying making beats isn’t hard at times, but since it’s a passion the stress is worth it.
You manage Oakland artist Legendary, who’s been experiencing some success with his recent single “Easy”. How’d you get into managing?
I got into managing because I had to. It came from the necessity of me wanting to be self reliant. I would just do whatever I needed for myself. I got tired of waiting for the help of others. I reached out to people, got myself gigs, and just really started to learn the industry. Legendary and myself were already working together so I decided to fill that role for him. It was me extending my resources and talents to a friend. It’s been working for us and I’m excited about all the work he’s doing.
What do you think of the current underground Bay Area music scene?
I love it right now. I can’t speak for the generations that came before me, but I don’t remember it ever being like this. When I was in high school I didn’t see a ton of music events, but now … there are shows every weekend. It’s like a renaissance. It’s so much going on, everybody is playing a role in creating an industry out here. It’s dope.
When did you decide that a career in music was something you wanted?
I would have to say after I graduated from Berkeley High. I was making music for fun with one of my classmates and close friends, Yared Kiflai. Yared was really into rapping and I would get beats off YouTube for him and just engineer the studio sessions. He told me how he couldn’t really do anything with music he was making because he was using beats made originally by other artists. So I started producing beats for him, just as like a hobby. I started getting good feedback from people, I was having a ton of fun, and I just began to think “I could do this long term.”
What are you most proud of when it comes to what you’re doing in music?
I’m really proud of all the progress that’s been made. Seeing “Easy” get a lot of love. People showing support at shows, sharing my music it feels great. People are beginning to acknowledge me for the work I do musically.
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