The Break Presents: Elhae
Elhae’s musical prowess is undeniable. The 25-year-old ATLien is a polished rapper, singer and producer with a tireless work ethic and a wide range of influences. His new project, All Have Fallen, is a cohesive, smooth body of work containing 11 tracks of hits.
"The musicality is a lot bigger," he tells XXL. "We use live strings, we use live saxophones, grand pianos. We really tried to up the ante as far as the musicality is concerned. Overall, it’s a very well-rounded album. From start to finish it flows, and it never gets boring. I thought it was important to do this 'cause I feel like a lot of projects do that nowadays, where it’s just a really consistent sound and flow from start to finish."
While crafting this album, the North Dakota-born artist took cues from rappers before him to get a final product that showcases his skills and story. "I’ve studied projects like [Childish] Gambino’s Because the Internet back in 2013, and of course [Kanye West's] 808s & Heartbreak," he admits. "I really tried to merge those two and do what I do -- and put my own flare on it. The lyrics are well-written and the music is on point, as well. And it’s a story -- it’s a conceptual project."
The budding youngster used to have dreams of becoming an architect, but now he’s the architect of his own music career. His stage name, which is an acronym for "Every Life Has an Ending," is a reminder to live every day to the fullest—an attitude that could take this up-and-comer far. Read more in The Break.—Eli Schwadron
Hometown: Macon, Ga. I moved to Atlanta about five or six years ago to try to get this music shit poppin’.
I grew up listening to: I’m influenced by a lot. In my earlier years, I wasn’t really even on a South wave. I was on a lot of the New York and the upstate-type music, like the Talib Kwelis, the Mos Defs and the Jay Zs. Pharrell was a huge influence for me just growing up watching him –- being that role model and that musical figure to look up to. I just thought he was super dope because he raps when he wants to, sings when he wants to and produces when he wants to. And some of the other R&B artists like Usher and Sisqo – he was the shit back in the day. And of course my parents were playing the oldies like the Isley Brothers, The Police, The Stylistics, Marvin Gaye, of course.
Most people don’t know: I produce. I was producing before I was even known or had any type of fanbase. Sometimes I hop on an instrument and play around with the keys or play around with the lead synth or something and people are just like, ‘What the? When did you start doing this?’ Like I said earlier, I’m very inspired by Pharrell and I wanted to do pretty much everything he was doing back in the day, so I taught myself pretty much everything from the ground up. I also like to draw a lot -– oddly enough, I wanted to be an architect before I really got into music. And I go to movies alone, so that’s another one. I’m a huge movie buff. I like to go see anything that’s out.
My style has been compared to: I think since the beginning, I’ve been compared to Drake. I think it’s more or less the tone of our voices. I never go in with intent to be like "Yo, I want to sound like this or sound like that." This is my voice, and I’ve been rapping and singing since I started doing music. There are records you could pull up from 2009 that sound exactly like what’s going on today. It’s one of those situations where that’s just always what I’ve done, and I never wanted to switch up just because somebody got on before I did – Drake blew the fuck up. But it’s just like I was never going to change, and finally it’s starting to pay off a little bit.
Standout moment to date: The record “Drive Me Crazy.” That was the first one I believe fans really took a hold of and ran with. That was the first one that really hit the 100,000 mark, and I’m like ‘What the hell? When did this happen?’ And of course “Halfway Love” and “Love A N***a.” Those three have gotten over million listens (each on SoundCloud) at this point. When those started getting traction, those were my defining moments.
My goal in hip-hop is to: I love hip-hop to death -- those are my roots. That’s all I was listening to as a kid. But I mix it up a lot. I like to experiment a lot. My tastes are just kind of everywhere. So I think as time progresses, my sound will progress. I have no idea what I’ll be doing a year from now or two years from now. So I think that’s exciting for my music as well -- I don’t ever want to do the same shit over and over again. My taste switches up like every three or four years, so who knows. I want to be great at what I do and what I’m good for. So it’s not really about being the best in hip-hop or being the best at R&B or whatever the case is. I want to be considered great for being a great artist.
I’m going to be the next: Pharrell. But nobody can be Pharrell -- I don’t want people to read this and be like, "This guy can never be Pharrell!"
Standout: All Have Fallen
"Love a N***a"
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