The “for real, for real” in Kalan.FrFr’s musical moniker is no lie.
The Southern California native learned early on that nothing is easy and opportunities are far and few between. Growing up, Kalan split time between living with his father in Compton and his mother in Carson, and admittedly, the adversity he faced was difficult but taught him some very valuable lessons he would use on his come up.
Music also wasn’t the 27-year-old’s only passion during his earlier days. He played football in high school and excelled so heavily that he was able to play collegiality at San Diego State University, a Division I program. And while the professional level wasn’t in the cards for Kalan, what he learned from football and being a student prepared him for where he is currently.
During an exclusive interview with BET.com for our Amplified Artists series, Kalan.FrFr broke down how being an athlete taught him about expectations, leadership and managing disappointment. “It made me grow up at a young age,” he notes. “Dealing with different people and learning that you’re not in control of your destiny. It’s definitely scary, so just being able to adapt and still keep up a level mind in the positioning that I was in, that’s what I felt that football did for me.”
Pivoting to music, Kalan has been able to elevate his career in a relatively short amount of time. He released two projects in 2018 with Hurt and TwoFr, which amassed over 100 million streams, and a debut album, TwoFr 2, last year under Roc Nation. Along the way, he’s been able to collaborate with artists like Lil Durk, Mozzy, and Stunna4Vegas, among others and just released his newest LP, 222, earlier this month.
On the album, Kalan.FrFr is brutally honest and relays his struggles, moments of doubt, vulnerability and triumphs throughout the tracklist. On “No Stoppin”, featuring Blxst, he gets personal, describing being unsure and even admits to his love that they “can find a better love in another one.” On the opening track, “Wish Upon A Star,” Kalan narrates how he’s evolved and now seeing the fruits of his labor coming to fruition.
It’s as real as it gets.
BET: How have you been doing or what have you been doing outside of music recently?
Kalan.FrFr: Ah man, I’ve been good. Can’t complain. Just getting ready for TwoFr Day – an event we throw every year, it’s a big block party we throw, feeding everybody in the community. We give out clothes and have a concert with games and stuff, fun for the kids. It’s just a community event we like to throw so me and my homies have been getting ready for that and we’re figuring out how it can be bigger than last year.
BET: You’ve previously said that with your first project TwoFr the “music took off and changed your life” and you’ve released numerous projects prior to this year, but 222 really feels like a proper debut for you. It’s cohesive, introspective, and very honest for sure. Do you feel like it’s the album that represents you at this moment?
Kalan: Absolutely. More than ever I believe this is the album that represents me because I’m giving all the emotions and showing every emotion on the album. You’re getting to see me in all different types of lights. All the music really makes up who I am, so the fact that I was able to put some music out I feel like I put a lot more substance in rather than just give a few songs with substance I gave you a full tape of how I feel. I feel like I’m beginning to get my point across, so it feels dope.
BET: Blxst was the only feature for 222 and it makes sense because you’re a newer artist still trying to tell your story so cramming it with features may not be ideal. Was that the intention behind that decision?
Kalan: I mean it wasn’t very intentional, that’s just how it played out. We went through all the songs and I grabbed the songs that I felt most represent me at the moment. But me and “No Stoppin” with Blxst was undeniable. We couldn’t not put that out. It was dope, couldn’t leave that off the tape.
BET: How have you grown musically and mentally from Hurt and TwoFr to 222?
Kalan: I’ve grown through the music. The music is changing me every day, man. Music has created so many more opportunities and experiences. My life is changing. I’ve seen more, done more. I’ve worked with different people. A lot of those beats prior to my first two Fr [projects] were like YouTube beats. Being in the studio and getting to record with big producers, people with experience and knowledge, I’m enjoying all the fruits that are coming from the music.
BET: You mention YouTube beats. Sometimes it’s necessary to start with getting production from online sources. There are some dope beats out there on the Internet, but now that you’ve gotten bigger and have a label budget behind you, what’s it been like to go from seeking out online beats to currently working with more established producers and having actual recording sessions with them?
Kalan: It feels good because going to work with somebody that wants to work with you and is making stuff specifically for you, you have so much more fun with the music and records, and the vibes are different. Being in the studio and getting to work off of different people’s energies and just meeting people. I vibe off energies, I make music off of real-life experiences and I’m making lifelong friends.
Nothing better than two people in a day – maybe a producer has a big record that dropped the day I work with them, so it’s exciting. I might have something great going on that day, I might have shot a video or just did a show and am excited so all those highs just make more highs. It’s just pluses man – the music, the artistry, instrumentation, working in the studio with different equipment.
It’s so much more important to see the sounds come across and just the vibes and atmosphere of being in the same places that the greats recorded – Michael Jackson, everybody, Jay-Z, Kanye [West] – going back to watch documentaries like man, I’m recording in here right now. It’s crazy man, crazy. It’s unexplainable.
BET: Are there any roadblocks you’ve encountered since you began recording music and have they taught you any lessons, if so?
Kalan: Honestly, just staying true, man. I don’t feel like I’ve encountered many roadblocks because we’ve been taking everything one day at a time. I haven’t tried to take advantage of success before it comes. We’re just getting up every day and doing it, man. There’s not an agenda or secret to it. We not doing nothing special or different from anybody, I just feel like we’re doing us. That’s what makes it special and makes me keep going.
BET: You mention Michael Jackson, Kanye and in the past, you’ve referenced Lyfe Jennings as someone who is very influential to you. What about their artistry makes your own better?
Kalan: I just feel like those people inspire me to want to push limits. Lyfe Jennings, the vulnerability, making it okay to be vulnerable. I love that music because it’s vulnerable. I had to learn that. At first, I just liked the music because I liked the music as a younger kid, but growing up and becoming an adult and just understanding myself better. Like a lot of making music is understanding yourself better I feel like. So understanding myself better I was understanding what I was taking from the music.
From Kanye’s production and making sure that everything is right and seeing him in those eras and those images, as well as the content he was talking about like you, can be fly, you don’t have to be a gangster. You can be whoever you want to be. I feel like I’m a great representation of you don’t gotta adapt, you can be you and still strive. That’s what makes it great. Michael Jackson is the greatest of all time, who doesn’t want to be the greatest?
BET: MJ and Kanye are also incredible when it comes to performing their music. Have you taken any nuggets from them in regards to your own stage presence?
Kalan: Yeah, I look at everybody. I feel like Burna Boy performs great. I look at a lot of different art. I’m really into music, if I didn’t make music I would probably be doing something in music. I just like to see how people perform and it’s just like you should go out there and give it your all and as long as I’m out there giving my all every time I’m going to do good.
I feel like I get a good response from my fans like they love me and there are always things I could do better. I’m big on critiquing, like I’ll go back and look over my show or ask questions about how my show was or ask my team whether I could’ve done something different, etc. I’ll do anything to make it better but right now we’re doing okay. I can’t complain.
BET: Music has always been a major interest of yours, but so was football. At one point for you, it even took a major focus after you earned a scholarship to play defensive back at San Diego State. Take me back to that time and what made you pivot between music and sports?
Kalan: Just growing up where I grew up we really didn’t have many opportunities bro, so it’s more you gotta do what you gotta do to survive. I found football like an outlet that would change my life if I put in what I was supposed to put in. It’s not like it’s for sure because out of all the people I grew up playing football with only so many of them did something with that, actually turned it into the next level. It breaks a lot of hearts, football is a dirty game, it ruins people, but me playing football prepared me for music.
Dealing with that adversity, made me grow up at a young age. Dealing with different people and learning that you’re not in control of your destiny. It’s definitely scary, so just being able to adapt and still keep up a level mind in the positioning that I was in, that’s what I felt that football did for me. Transitioning into music, when I was done playing I turned to music and it was just time that I said I was going to give it my all and a chance to give music my undivided attention, and I did. I’m not going to say I blew up overnight but that’s where it starts.
BET: While things may not have worked out on the football tip, you did earn your degree in social sciences with a focus on helping special needs children. How has that furthered your mission in that area and has music assisted with that as well?
Kalan: Absolutely. After getting my degree in social sciences I got to work with people with disabilities and one day I want to open up a developmental center as a place to work on developing skills, and motor skills and just dealing with all people with any type of special needs – physical or mental. Anything to help or be an aid and give back to make the process easier. That’s really big and something I definitely want to do and music is putting me in front of the right people, getting to shake the right hands with people who are interested in the same thing I am. I feel like it’s just going to give it time to grow bigger at the time that we’re going to start doing it.
BET: You’re slated to perform at Made In America fest next month. How amazing is that and what are you expecting?
Kalan: Man, Made In America is going to be a vibe. Being able to perform at Made In America is going to be dope because it’s my first time performing there. Being with Roc Nation and it being a Roc Nation festival is even more dope. Performing time after time at Rolling Loud and stuff like that, going to the D’usse Lounge and getting all the mad love and it’s actually going to be our stuff. I can’t wait, I’m so excited. I can’t explain it I just need to get out there and make it happen.
BET: Would you say it’s the biggest performance of your career so far?
Kalan: Every performance is the biggest of my career. I’m just going to go out there and act like it’s my last one. Who knows when it could be over, you gotta do as much as you can while you’ve got the chance.
BET: You mentioned your ForReal Fest earlier. Just talk about what you’re expecting from that.
Kalan: I just want it to grow. Every year we get more kids out, more people, more families out. Every year we get more sponsors, more people donate and get good feedback and everybody says they enjoyed themselves and had a good time and can’t wait for us to do it again. So as long as we keep getting love from the people we’ll spread love with the people, man.
BET: What’s next for you coming up?
Kalan: More music, more shows, more getting back on the road to perform, shooting videos and dropping some music again. Sometime soon hopefully. I’m just excited to be here.