Photos courtesy of Té Kav
Interview by Caitlin McCartney
Devonté Kavanaugh, also known by his stage name Té Kav, is a junior here at Brown. He’s enthusiastic, down to earth, and a talented lyricist and rapper. His music is a great listen, both lyrically and soundwise, and he is seriously one to watch—stay tuned for the release of his project Kold Summer. I sat down with him one night to discuss his music and upcoming projects.
How was Gigs on the Grass?
Gigs on the Grass was so fun. I’ve really only performed once before during this summer. It was in Providence, but the audience was smaller, so having all of those people was really lit. That was the first time my friends at school got to see me perform, so it was super exciting. I was a little nervous at first, but once I got out there, I was like, this is awesome.
Are you planning on performing more?
Yeah, I’m trying to do as many shows as I can.I’m trying to perform at the Met and the Strand soon, hopefully, and have people come off of campus. I want to do as many as I can because it’s really fun and really good for your image, and when people start hearing about you through word of mouth—that’s really important if you want people to hear you as an artist.
What’s your goal with music?
It started off as just me, going to parties and freestyling. I ended up getting good, I guess, because people would be like, “Yo, do you make songs?” and “Where can I see your music?” and I was like, “I just rap at parties, I don’t have songs.” Then I started making songs and some of them were pretty good, so I guess my goal is to have a platform where a lot of people can hear my music.
Is that where Soundcloud comes into play?
Soundcloud, that’s where you start to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. Then once you figure that out through trial and error, I kinda started throwing stuff out on Apple Music, Spotify, and the major platforms. I have my best songs on there and in the future I will continue to do that. If I put out an album or mixtape I’ll put that out on Apple Music and all that stuff.
How did you learn how to do that? Did you seek help from other people?
Yeah, it’s really crazy actually. My barber on Waterman has a cousin who’s this dude who’s really deep in the music scene, since the 80s. He’s an old school hip hop dude and he knows all the ins and outs of everything. So I was talking to my barber about rap and he was like, “I’ll connect you with my cousin.” He ended up showing me everything I need to do in terms of how to go about putting my songs on and when and how to do it, so that was a really good plug I had there. That’s weird that it started with my barber, it’s crazy! I guess it’s one of those things that’s meant to be.
When did you start writing?
I started freestyling in early high school, like 9th–10th grade. Then I started writing songs toward the end of high school in senior year, and then started recording them once I thought they were good enough while I was here during my freshman year. I put out my first song spring of freshman year at Brown. I recorded that one with one of the kids who sings who‘s on the soccer team here. He has really good vocals, my boy Danny Schiller, shout out to him! We put out a song called Paradox. All my friends and people loved that one, and so I thought, “Maybe I should keep doing this.”
What or who are your inspirations?
I grew up listening to a lot of hip hop, so Kanye, Nas, Chance the Rapper are huge for me, I listen to him all the time. Kid Cudi, Mac Miller, and the list goes on and on. Artists like them, I will legit study them and how they maneuver and how they go about making songs and how they put a project together and how they write.
One of the things that I really like about your music is the lyricism and wordplay. Could you talk me through your process of writing a song?
I feel like a lot of rappers these days just say whatever sounds cool, and that’s fine if you want something bump and lit. That’s cool, but I feel like I want to be the kind of rapper and artist who says things that people can relate to, things that I actually do and that I have actually experienced and lived through. I start there and think about what I want to talk about, and from there I think of the coolest way to say it. I don’t want to say something cliché; I want to use a sick metaphor and use English literary techniques like alliteration because I know how that’s pleasing to the ear. I’ll just try to make it as cool as possible. It kind of just happens, like, “What's the coolest way to say x, y, z?” and I follow that.
Do you sit down and write about a particular topic or is it more random and fragmented?
Sometimes it’s spontaneous. I’ll be walking and I’ll think of something dope, and I’ll write that down. Other times I’ll sit down and put on beats and then more formally write a song. Sometimes I see something, and it’ll just hit me, and I’m like, “Ooo, I gotta write that.”
In terms of content, are there specific topics that you’re passionate about and tend to write about?
I’d say now, considering that I’m growing as an artist, my content is more intentional. Before, I was just making songs out of fun. Now, I’m trying to design myself and my image. Is there a message I’m trying to get across? What am I saying to people? How do I want to say it? I’m trying to find out what that is still, but I know I want to be the type of artist where I do have certain content, messages, and themes to the things I’m putting out.
Do you have a goal in mind for this year or for the future?
Every artist’s goal is to reach as many people as possible, so that’s really my goal. The hardest part right now isn’t making music—it is having my music heard, because so many people make music. There are so many people these days who are like, “Oh, I’m a rapper,” so it’s really hard to separate yourself and prove that you are legitimate.
What has worked for you to get your music heard?
Live performances really help because people start saying things through word of mouth. Using things like Spotify work really well, because they’ll suggest your music to other random people if they’re playing a songs with similar vibes to mine. Visuals are really big too as an artist, like having consistent pictures, communicating with fans, and keeping your content flowing. You can’t just disappear for a month—if you’re not writing songs for a month, you still have to have pictures coming out and maintain the image.
Do you have a favorite song or lyric that you’ve written?
The most meaningful song and the one I like the most is “Natural Disaster.” It’s about how life is crazy and how random things happen to people for no reason, like you could be gone tomorrow. The song is pretty much about that and about appreciating being here. I think that’s important because you see a lot of people passing away. My friend’s dad just passed away last week, and Mac Miller and people in the hip-hop community, and so I feel like the song is really relevant and people can connect to it. It is meaningful, not just a party song. It has substance.
Are you currently working on anything right now? You have an EP project, right?
Yeah! I’m trying to figure that out. I want it to be called Kold Summer about the summer I had because it was a really crappy summer. It’s one of those things that happens and that you need to go through, trials and tribulations. I did not do a 9 to 5 job or internship because I wanted to figure out what I want to do, and I found out that I want to keep doing music. That was a tough process of being back home, while my friends were out doing other things. So this album is going to be about that. I also went to L.A., and I was like, “Wow, this world is a crazy place.” I’ll write about that. It’ll either be an EP or a mixtape, but I haven’t decided.
What can people expect from you this year?
They can expect a huge transitional phase from the early sprouts of a young artist to the blossoming of a beautiful flower, if you will, I don’t know (laughs). But, I definitely want to take this and run with it. Before it was pick and choose and try, and now it’s execute, execute, and take things to the next level. Put out really good content, my first project, and some dope videos. Legitness from here on out. So people can expect new music, Kold Summer, and visuals on the way.
What are you listening and what do you recommend people to listen to?
For sure 6lack’s new album. It is fire.
Anything else you want people to know?
I want people to know that I feel them and I hope they feel that through my music. My goal here is to just talk to people—hopefully they can feel me and that I am someone they can relate to, because I know everyone is going through something at some point. That’s about it. I’m just here for some good vibes and some good times and some good music.