The city of Mount Vernon is a very interesting place. On the borderline of the uptown area of the Bronx, this particular city is only 4 square miles big and happens to be the stomping grounds for some of music and entertainments biggest stars – the late great Heavy D, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Denzel Washington and much more were all born and raised there and throughout the years has helped put the city on the map. Although “Money Earnin’ Mount Vernon” has gained a bad reputation due to violence, that hasn’t stopped it from nurturing some of the towns most amazing musical and creative talent. Aceaveli, a young man who prides himself on being a great rapper, singer, and songwriter, uses this as a sense of inspiration for his music which ultimately helped him develop a unique sound over time.
Since a young man roaming the hallways of Mount Vernon High School, Aceaveli always knew he wanted to be a musician. Soon after leaving school, he took his skills and teamed up with a few local friends to form the rap group, Sidney Side Music. Consisting of him and two other members, the group released multiple songs and projects together but their reign at the top of local talent was short lived due to life changing circumstances. Aceaveli then ventured off to chase his solo career and now, we have his debut EP, Draft Day.
“Draft Day doesn’t just symbolize a mixtape for me, it was more of an experience that I will cherish for eternity,” Aceaveli said. The EP displays a great demonstration of confidence as well as relentlessness. Using J. Cole as the muse for the project, the young MC showcases both his rap and singing talents on this particular offering. More importantly, he uses his story telling ability to speak on topics that most rising MCs tend to stray away from. Merging a unique and melodic sound with scathing rap bars and witty wordplay, Aceaveli crafted a piece of work that not only pays homage to J. Cole but would make him extremely proud as an MC and storyteller.
We had the opportunity to speak with Aceaveli about his music, his inspirations, his new EP and his plans for the rest of 2017. Read the entire interview below. Also, stream his debut solo project, Draft Day.
What got you into making music?
Aceaveli: Music has always been a major part of my life. For me, there really isn’t any singular factor that got me into creating my own music. I have many. But If I had to pinpoint a few I would say it first started in my household. Some of my earliest memories growing up were being woken out my sleep in the mornings. Reason being is because my mom was has a huge lover of music herself and whenever she was cleaning the house or cooking best believe her favorite artist Whitney Houston was being blasted through her radio system. That became my personal alarm clock. My family is very religious. I was raised in the church and was a part of the youth choir. My father also worked at a music shop before he passed away. So for me, it was almost impossible to not grow a passion for something that played such an important role in my everyday life. Fast forwarding to my freshman year in high school, it started as a joke when I and a group of my friends used to walk around the hallways rapping and singing to the girls. Believe it or not, that’s when I gained a lot of my musical confidence. I began to receive good compliments from a lot of people that would overhear me rapping and singing. Those moments definitely influenced me to start experimenting with my own music and the rest is history.
You seem to be a dual threat because you can sing and rap. Which one do you enjoy doing more and why?
Aceaveli: Although I never consider myself as a full-time singer because I spend less time singing and more time rapping, it’s 50/50 with me when it comes to both styles. As far as singing goes, being a student of the music culture I know that hooks make songs. People gravitate to melodies and harmonies a little faster than a rap verse in my opinion. Understanding that I knew in order for me to reach my full potential as an artist singing would have to be a focal point in what I do. Rapping brings out my inner beast, a side that many people don’t get to see but will hear throughout my music. In the beginning figuring out which style I would use more was tough, because the ladies wanted to hear me sing & the fellas wanted to hear me rap. Once I found that even balance between both styles, it became clearer to me that I loved doing both just the same.
What influences do you use when making music?
Aceaveli: All of my life experiences influenced me the most. I grew up without a father figure, my father’s life was cut short way before I could remember faces. Finding out the story on how it happened shook me up forever. Just the simple fact of knowing his friends set him up was unreal to me. The knowledge I took from that loss helped influence the kind of music I make today.
Do you look at the city of Mount Vernon as an influence to your music?
Aceaveli: Yes, Mount Vernon is definitely a major influence when it comes to drawing different ideas musically for me. There’s always something going on in my city, whether it’s positive or negative I’m still inspired by it all. This is where it all started for me – Money Earnin’ Mount Vernon!
Aside from you doing your music solo, you’re also somewhat apart of a group called Sidney Side Music. Talk to me a little bit about that.
Aceaveli: Like a lot of artists I started off in a group we went by the name of Sidney Side Music. The group consisted of 3 members – Smoot, Lee Jr., and myself. The name was originated from the street I lived on in Mount Vernon which was Sidney Ave. We had a great run making music together. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything in this world! But as time progressed a lot changed in each of our individual lives that we didn’t see coming which ultimately carried us to a common agreement to pursue solo music careers. After the split, I took some time off to reinvent my sound & myself. Sidney Side is still the brand and we all stand by because it’s much bigger than music, this foundation was built off brotherhood and that’s how it will always remain.
Talk to me a bit about your debut EP, Draft Day. Explain how you came up with the title?
Aceaveli: Draft Day doesn’t just symbolize a mixtape for me, it was more of an experience that I will cherish for eternity. During the creative process of the project, I went through many phases of different emotions that helped me craft some of my best work.
As a kid growing up one of my dreams before music was to play basketball on a professional level. That didn’t work out as planned but I remained influenced by some of my favorite athletes such as Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and more. The NBA draft night was always an event I wish I could’ve been apart of, those honoring moments of hearing your name called and walking the stage was big time for me! That led to the selection of my mixtape titled Draft Day. I was satisfied with the decision because it came from a genuine place. Taking the NBA draft day theme and looking at it from a music perspective helped me make it my own. To me, this is my moment to shine and to re enter the rap game and make my loved ones proud, I look at this as my draft day.
Why did you decide to use J.Cole as the main rap figure on the artwork?
Aceaveli: Outside of him being my favorite rap artist today, I chose J.cole for the artwork for a few reasons and here’s why….
When you’re viewing my artwork you’ll probably just be satisfied with the “art” but there is a hidden message in the picture that I want to break down.
Keep these 3 words in mind – Success, Preparation, Opportunity
J Cole’s main role was to represent success. I stood for preparation and finally the microphone symbolized opportunity. So to ball everything up in one to me, success is where preparation and opportunity meet. In the art work, I’m face to face with success & prepared to take full advantage of my opportunity.
What was your creative process putting this body of work together?
Aceaveli: During the creative process of the project, I had to make a lot of sacrifices some in which damaged a lot of relationships I had with people I cared about. From the outside looking in a lot of people think making music is easy and they’re wrong. They have this perception that all rappers just go to the studio and within 3 hours they have an entire album done. They fail to understand that when you’re chasing legacy and not popularity every beat, every bar, every vocal run matters. Trying to stay true to who you are in a world full of followers is a challenge I faced during the roads leading up to Draft Day. In it all, I remained focused. There are a few things I do to keep my creative juices flowing during mixtape mode.. going to the gym, reading, and watching music interviews from some of the greats that came before me.
What do you hope for people to gain from this project? In other words, what message are you trying to get across to your listeners on this EP?
Aceaveli: The message I’m trying to push is to stay true to who you are. Never lose sight of what matters most and I say that to say this – Before I had a job I use to complain about not having enough money. Long story short I ended up with 2 jobs & was still unhappy. I later purchased my first car because that’s what I thought I needed to get back that joy I lost from obtaining 2 jobs but that didn’t work either. I got in the gym, got my weight right, got healthier and stronger by the months and still felt like I was missing something. It took me a while to realize the things I thought I needed for self-validation only took me further and further away from music and that’s what stripped me of my happiness. Moral of the story is to find your purpose in life, learn to love yourself, and trust the process. Everything else will follow.
What can we expect from Ace as the rest of 2017 plays out?
Aceaveli: I want to end 2017 strong! You can expect more music videos, more shows, some Sidney Side apparel and maybe even a group project in the near future, who knows! just stay tuned and thanks for the love. PEACE!