Alexander Levi, also known by the alias LEVI, grew up in the Church. Raised by two ministers, Levi’s parents expressed disdain for the Jamaica, Queens-born artist’s pursuit of hip hop. Music has always played a pivotal role in Levi’s life even when alternative career paths took precedence. Upon abruptly catching flights and hustling his way into the modeling industry, Levi ceased every industry opportunity, ultimately landing him in front of Kanye West. LEVI is presently signed to Kanye West’s label G.O.O.D. Music and is planning to release his hyper pop-reggae album by the end of the year. LEVI shares, “It's like if Playboy Carti was a Jamaican Israelite. I've never done anything like what I'm about to do with this project and I think that's what's so exciting about it.”
Flaunt was able to chat with LEVI about his musical beginnings, artist trajectory, and upcoming releases. Check out the interview below!
How did you get into making music?
I was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York City and grew up in Buffalo, New York. My parents are ministers, so of course my father didn't want me making hip hop music. I grew up in a church. I played the drums, the piano, the trumpet, and things of that nature. I also used to dance a lot—I’d Crump, Jerk, and all that stuff. Then in high school, I was like the producer/engineer amongst my friends. Making beats was just in the veins. Eventually I started to rap and started doing rap battles at school. A friend and I took the craft seriously, we would do local shows and try to get on blogs and stuff. Eventually he introduced me to one of his friends who was a producer—he used this program, Propellerhead. I had never heard of it. I would just make beats with him. His parents had a little money so we would throw parties in the backyard and we would just try to get on the local scene and then get into local beefs with people and just a bunch of local stuff.
On signing to Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music label:
I moved to New York City to pursue a modeling career. I used to have my music on the flash drive and I would try to meet people and rap for them. I met Prodigy, rest in peace, and I spit a freestyle for him. I met Diddy at the Bad Boys Reunion tour and spoke with him briefly there trying to network myself. I wasn't making enough money, I was just working at the airport. Eventually my producer friend moved to the West Coast and I went out there and I started modeling closer to the professional level. Kevin Amato, he's an agent that put on Luka Sabbat and Ian Connor and a lot of these people—Kevin used to get me all these gigs at Joyrich.
One day Kevin called me, he's like, “They want you at Yeezy to model.” I took the next flight back to Los Angeles. Kanye was there and Steven Smith—the designer of the Yeezy sneaker—was there. I sort of weaseled my way into a conversation with them. Then I asked Kanye if I could play him my album. He was like, “Yeah, hook it up to the speakers.” After twenty-five minutes of trying to get my phone to connect to the speaker, the speaker wouldn't let me play anything on SoundCloud—that's where all my music was. All I had on my phone was the instrumentals to the project. I just started playing the instrumentals in the Yeezy showroom rapped to them out loud. He wasn't in the room at the time. He walked back in the room and was like, “Oh, that's you singing? That sounds great. Play another one.” So I played him another song and he loved it. I signed with Kanye, and that's part of the reason why my music process is slow, because you gotta have the label involved.
When it comes to songwriting, what's your process?
My process is ‘child rebel soldier.’ It's just the cadence, the rhyme, and then the story. So sometimes I'll start from the story first. I hear the beat and it's like, I wanna talk about X, Y, Z. Or I'll just mumble to the beat and get a flow. I really try to focus on the story of the record and the feeling of the lyrics when you say it, because people, we repeat songs back to ourselves.
Who are some of your biggest music inspirations that inspire your own work?
I would definitely say Lupe Fiasco. I really like Jahlil. I like Jay-Z. I like a lot of lyricism. For the project I'm about to drop, nothing sounds like it— this is the first of it. Nobody's ever made a reggae hyper pop. Hyper pop's only been popular since 2016 and nobody's done reggae over it. I will say you really can't compare this project to anything.
When can we expect your upcoming releases?
The first song off of [the new project] is called ‘Doggy’. My girl’s dog—I guess he's my dog too now— was paralyzed and we took him to the vet. They told us to put him down. And I was looking into acupuncture. We prayed for him and we took him to acupuncture and now he's back and alive. This project is more faith based. It's like if Playboy Carti was a Jamaican Israelite. I've never done anything like what I'm about to do with this project and I think that's what's so exciting about it. The ‘Doggy’ single is supposed to drop by Halloween the latest—I'm hoping to drop it sooner than that, but it'll be out for the month is over. The album, I hope people will have it by the end of the year.
Where do you hope to see yourself in three years?
I hope to see myself publicly in the conversation surrounding liberation for black people across the world, not just America. Definitely solar farms in second and third world countries, and a number one song on the radio.
What is a piece of advice that you would give to your younger self?
Time. Keep track of everything. Keep track of every day and don't care so much about what people think. I'm in a good place, but I feel like I cared a lot about what other people thought. Time is so elusive.
My new project is a faith-based album. It doesn’t doesn't sound like one, but if you listen, it is.