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Oakland’s Laney Keyz Wants You to Be Yourself

By Anthony Malone on

For 23-year-old Laney Keyz, growing up in the suburbs of Oakland, California, can be seen as a gift and a curse. Laney’s music comes from a place of support, combining infectious hooks and a delivery that reels listeners in like a prize catch. “A lot of the music I make is explaining myself to the world, and I don’t mean explaining myself being wrong or anything but explaining myself as a person,” he says.

After debuting the singles “Russia” and “Knockout” in August, Laneys’ career began to gain serious traction with the release of “Colorful Shit,” featuring Lil Yachty, in September. The song finds Laney singing about relationship woes with a contagious voice and a powerhouse hook potent enough to stick to your ribs—and get stuck in your head—for days.

“I made the song a while ago, maybe eight to nine months ago in a studio in LA,” Laney Keyz explains of “Colorful Shit.” “I started pursuing music a little more, and I sent it to one of my managers. He’s more connected with Yachty’s team than I am, so he sent the verse over, and I guess he liked it a lot. [Yachty] put a verse on it, and sent it back to me. I appreciate him for it, though. He did really good.”

So did Laney Keyz. The numbers, and the fans, prove it.

You grew up in Oakland, adopted along with five other siblings, and you didn’t meet your parents until the age of 12. How have those experiences shaped you as an adult?

Honestly, I’ve been on a few different walks of life. I’ve gotten incarcerated a few times while I was young, and I ended up in different areas of California. Some of them were suburbs; some were like chance. So I don’t like to let the fact I’m from Oakland shape the type of music I make.

You’re right, I grew up with five siblings, and they’re all adopted. I’m half-Black and half-white; I don’t look Black, so there was always some problem because I didn’t look like anybody in my house. Until everybody got used to that, I was kinda the target in the house. It made me smarter—like street smarter—[and] made me more aware of things in life going on around me. I like to incorporate that into my music for times people don’t understand what I’m saying or don’t know what I mean. So, it creates a lingo for me.

What got you into making music?

I felt invisible, honestly. I was like the middle child. I had siblings older and younger than me. So there was always somebody that needed something more than I needed it. I guess it was my way of trying to be heard, having a voice without people getting tired of it, or annoyed by me talking. I used to feel like I was annoying by asking for stuff, so I felt like if I made my voice heard in a way that people would like to hear, then maybe I could get what I want.

Now I’m way more introverted, and I don’t talk much. But if you listen to my music, you’d understand exactly who I am, and that’s my way of explaining myself in situations.

What artists did you listen to growing up? Which ones inspired you? I know Meek Mill is a big one for you.

[He’s my] biggest inspiration. I learned about Meek’s story from an early age, and it reminded me a lot of myself. He was on the street doing shit on his own, and then people realized he had a talent, and they wanted him out of that shit. They were on the streets willing to do all that shit for him, so he didn’t have to do it himself to stay out of trouble. That’s what it's been like for me when I first got out of jail at 18. The story was exactly the same: went to jail, got out at a certain age, and then [people] stopped him from doing shit he was doing so he could pursue music.

I understand the struggle he went through to avoid confrontation when people are constantly trying you, knowing what you have going on. To have the discipline he had to stay focused on music and not do any of the shit he would’ve [done] during those situations. That shit just reminds me of myself.

There’s not a lot of people, rappers, where I can understand their actual struggle. I’m not gonna sit here and act like I was selling drugs and robbing and killing people my whole life because I wasn’t. But I could’ve been, and there were people who stopped me from doing that because there were things they’d rather see me do.

Do you think the music industry should pay closer attention to the mental health of young, emerging artists? The industry can be very overwhelming by design.

I think that was my favorite question. ‘Cause it looks easy. From the outside, this shit looks easy as fuck. It’s like you’re having fun all the time at the studio, doing something you love. There are some things you have to take more seriously than you would’ve thought. For me, it’s social media. I’m not for the internet and stuff like that, and it’s literally going to make or break me. The fact I’m not a person that cares too much about cameras, and that it’s literally one of the main factors [of fame], it stresses me out every day.

And then there are deadlines, and music, things you have to do. Music is something I’ve always wanted to do when I wanted to do it, and now there are times where I have to do it. You know? I don’t want it to start feeling like a job, but it could get stressful.

It’s a big thing for people to focus on mental health, especially on younger artists who just started. When you’re fully established, and you don’t have to worry about whether or not your career is gonna fail, that’s when some of the stress comes off. But when you’re pretty much in that audition phase, where you’re trying to build a fan base, and you’re deciding whether this is going to be your life, that’s when it’s the most stressful, and that’s where I’m at right now.

What do you want to let the world know today?

Stop acting like you’re something you’re not. It could get you hurt. I know a lot of people in the music industry try to [project] something they aren’t so they could get to where they want to be, but you may come across somebody that is like that, and that’s going to get you fucked up. Just be yourself. That’s my biggest thing I can say to anybody trying to do this. Be yourself, because that’s what you’re the best at.

Photos by Trent Barboza.

InterviewLaney KeyzHip HopR&BOakland

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