Daily Discovery is a feature that highlights a new or recently discovered artist who we’re excited about. See the rest of our Daily Discoveries here.
Florida is truly having a moment. From Denzel Curry and Kodak Black to upcoming artists like Kaiydo from Orlando and XXXtentacion from Broward County, there's a wide range of sounds and styles shining bright throughout the Sunshine State.
Twelve'Len brings something totally different to the table. With what he calls "rock & soul," the Carol City native and his two producers have developed a sound that bends genres and brings love and raw emotion to the forefront of the music. To prepare for the release of his upcoming project FRI(END)S, the singer released "Star Dust" via FADER earlier this week and it's the ultimate feel-good song to close out the summer.
We talked to Twelve'Len about the origin of his name, the value of sound design, why he loves Lil Yachty, and why "Star Dust" is actually a really sad song. Check it out below.
Describe the process of making “Star Dust.”
“Star Dust” was created around last month. I made the record really fast, around the time when the media was trying to create all of this controversy between blacks and whites. I was just upset and I wanted to create a song for it. The song is basically a reality in which I wanna feel. In the second verse I say, “They wanna lock us out, they wanna lock us in, but we ain’t moving shit. So you can let the pigs on it, cause I guarantee that we gon' win, so put your hands up.”
The song is basically about brutality and us all being divided. We are all star dust, push your hands up and move your body. Enjoy yourself. It’s also a demonstration of how our suppressors make us perform. “Put your hands up,” they wanna see us act like a monkey, they wanna see you be closed-minded. They wanna keep you mentally trapped in a box.
It’s crazy now that I think about it, all of my songs are love songs, but they’re all very sad songs. All sad love songs that feel very good. All of my records are about my fucked up moments in relationships.
What’s your story?
Twelve’Len is actually my grandfather’s name and he was the one who got me into music, all of the sounds I create and live instrumentation comes from him. My grandmother had me in church heavy when I was younger, me and all my cousins. I used to hate it, but I as I got older I got into rap music and started wanting to rap. Me and Denzel Curry, as well as Nell, Simmie, all of us from Carol City. Around 2012-13, rapping became a trend. Rap was oversaturated for artists if you didn’t have someone to push your shit to the next level.
It hit a point where I was like, “If I wanna stand out with this shit, I gotta do something different.” I went back to my roots, I started playing around with melodies in my records and it began to evolve. As far as the sound that I create now, I didn’t do it on my own. I was always influenced by rock, that’s why I like to call my music rock & soul more than anything else. The sound came about with my two producers.
I was working security at their school, at SAE. I wasn’t even thinking of the opportunity actually happening but one day Zach the guitarist ran up on me and was like, “Man do you make music?” and I was like, “Nah.” That was me just being modest, but he went home and came back like, “Man you lying! I saw a video of you, Denzel Curry, Spaceghostpurrp blah blah I love your fucking music. It’s fucking melodic, come to my house I wanna produce some stuff for you!”
With music, I don’t really let people put their hands on my situation, I’m very conservative about letting people help me. I’ve done everything on my own for so long that it’s just weird, so when he invited me to his place I was gonna treat him like anyone else because I always feel like no one takes the music as serious as I do. With him though, something was telling me, “Man, you should fuck with this kid.”
We made a whole track in like 40 minutes and I was like, “Damn, I gotta keep them!” They do everything the way I work: fast and live. We dropped three EPs that year and they’re only on my website. That’s what got Florida behind us, as well as the Denzel feature, and I did 60 shows the following year.
So are you a band?
Twelve’Len was never a band, but when people see me live it’s always been me and my two producers. I never denied it, only because the hip-hop scene here is the larger demographic so when I play shows I’d be with other rap artists and it’s hard to get a good show because the sound is always crazy. I ran with the perception of being a band so that I can get the shows I feel my music deserves as far as good sound and things set up properly.
By hip-hop shows, I mean underground events. Event coordinators had to step up their shit with the sound quality when they book Twelve’Len.
You ever think that you can help artists better understand sound system design and setups at shows?
It’s like a pet peeve of mine, I always want to help. I can’t help but help. I’ll walk out in the crowd and listen to the sound and text someone like, “Yo, tell them to turn the mids up.” I feel like artists just wanna get on stage and perform man, they don’t care.
Before we had the internet, you had to give an amazing performance because word of mouth was the strongest thing. Everything had to be perfect. Now, you can just take a dope ass photo and put it online. Before we had the media and a TV in everyone’s house, how did you find out about The Beatles, feel me? How’d you find out about Bob Marley? How’d you find out about Erykah Badu? It was word of mouth, them going city to city and touching people, leaving them with an experience to take home. That’s what I’m big on and that’s why sound is very important.
So, if Twelve’Len came from your grandfather’s name, where did the flower concept come from?
So the flower comes from Oshun, the goddess of love. She appears to you as a mermaid or a sunflower, she loves the color yellow, she loves jewelry and gold. Sweet things. The sunflower is something that me and one of the close homies came up with. His name is Josh and he created the design. There’s 12 petals in a sunflower, 12 is the number of perfection. 12 is the number of law. There’s 12 months in a year, 12 disciples, it shows up in the Bible more than any other number. The Len part is short for “lens,” looking into the all-seeing eye. I’m a strong believer of “one eye in the present, the other in the future” so you can predict waves. You can prepare for, catch, or even create the waves.
My grandfather’s name is Len, and everyone used to call him Twelve, so I took them and I put it together. He’s my biggest inspiration when it comes to live instrumentation.
How much of an influence is Carol City on your music?
It’s a part of everything I do, Carol City is the biggest influence. I really experienced firsthand a lot of shit. That’s why when people see things happen for me, it moves them, because they know exactly what I’ve been through. I’ve stood next to them in really fucked up situations. That’s why “Star Dust” is shot the way it is. I shot it in the heart of Overtown with my childhood friends.
Who were your influences growing up?
Al Green, Marvin Gaye. Al Green is probably my biggest influence, he was just an actor on stage. He made you believe every word he said was true. Marvin’s a cappellas inspired me to learn how to build records without the beat and still be able to get the emotions and the feelings across. Outkast is always gonna be an inspiration for our generation. I fuck with Blood Orange really tough, but other than that it was gangsta rap was really all I listened to. 50 Cent is one of my favorite rappers, Field Mob, Goodie Mob, JT Money. Right now, I really like Lil Yachty—his message is positive and fun, it feels good. But yeah, 50 inspired me when I was younger, I was a whole other Twelve’Len.
What’s next for Twelve’Len?
Probably going to Atlanta to finish up FRI(END)S, it’s pretty much done. I got another solid project I’m gonna release after that’s done as well. I just wanna put it out on the best platform possible. Good music has to be fed at this day and time, because it’s so much shit out there. FRI(END)S is just an introduction. For features, I got Gorilla Zoe on it.
Wait, Gorilla Zoe?!?
Yeah, man I got Gorilla Zoe on this shit. The record is crazy, growing up I fucked with Gorilla Zoe so tough, my favorite record from him was “Lost.”
The track with Lil Wayne?
Wayne was on the remix?
Yeah, crazy song! Insane.
I was going through some shit when that record came out man and that song got me through it. I also have this girl Savannah on the project, she’s so awesome. She’s big on poetry on Twitter but now she’s starting to take the music a little more serious. I have JK The Reaper on the project, and I also have a surprise on the record. Someone from out of the country.
I’m gonna do some pre-order shit where you get the project a week early, like early September, and you’ll get merch as well. Just something to do for my real supporters who are willing to invest in me. This project is just to let the world know I ain’t fucking playing and that good music is coming.