Bethel Adekogbe ’20 went to the same high school as rapper Lil Yachty, but their similarities don’t end there.
In Brandeis’ music scene, Adekogbe is Bethlehem the Producer. On March 17th, his newest mixtape, titled “The Sabbath,” will be available on music streaming services.
Although he created beats on music apps and was the Vice President of his high school’s Poetry Club in Atlanta, Adekogbe only began rapping when he started at Brandeis last year. Since then, he has gotten involved with Basement Records, recorded EP’s and performed at events on and off campus.
“You’re expressing yourself through words and you’re trying to convey something without always saying exactly what you want to convey,” Adekogbe said of the similarities between poetry and rap. “You’re trying to give messages without explicitly saying what they are. The difference between rap and poetry is that there’s a lot more leniency with rap, because with poetry it’s your words and your words alone. With rap music there’s a lot more emotion included and a lot more freedom to do more than just your words.”
While finding his voice as an artist, Adekogbe drew inspiration from the feedback and encouragement of his friends, as well as from artists like Mick Jenkins, Chance The Rapper and Michael Jackson.
“[Michael Jackson] was known a lot for the noises he would make and his ad libs, and people loved that. That’s the energy I try to tap into,” Adekogbe said. “There are not always specific words, but you can still enjoy the music.”
Still, in exploring what works for his music, Adekogbe said it has mostly been a trial and error process. After realizing that his voice was too high to use the same tones as Mick Jenkins, Adekogbe found his rap was best spoken in his natural register. In his recent tracks he has started to experiment with adding singing into his songs, though he said, “I am definitely not a singer.” As he experiments with different sounds, Adekogbe aims to keep a certain freedom in his process.
“I try to mainly write about things that I experienced and things that genuinely happened to me,” Adekogbe said. “There’s a lot of music rapping about money you might not actually have or girls you might not actually have, so I try to rap about things I’ve known and experienced myself. Sometimes I’ll branch out and talk about other friends’ experiences, but it’s never something that I wasn’t there for or felt.”
Adekogbe hopes to pursue music beyond Brandeis, though he is also considering a career in medicine. Besides his involvement in Basement Records and WBRS—clubs he credits with providing a space for the music community on campus—Adekogbe explained that production courses offered at Brandeis are limited. While he said it is mainly because of his parents’ wishes that he is studying HSSP, he sees some connections between the careers of doctors and musicians.
“I like to think of them as hand in hand. A doctor can only reach so many people, but music definitely reaches a lot farther,” Adekogbe said. “I’m not super keen on doing doctor things, but I am really big on people. I’ve been able to appreciate doctor-patient relationships, and I think that it’s really important to have doctors and medical care professionals who care about people. That’s something that I’m really interested in, being there for people and being someone they can confide in and someone they can speak to.”
“The Sabbath,” Adkogbe’s newest mixtape as Bethlehem the Producer, features seven songs, each with two parts. The first part of each song delves into a topic on a surface level, while the second half explains the emotion and depth of the topic. The mixtape will heavily focus on an understanding and exploration of sin within Christianity.
“The thing I’ve been doing is trying to make the music where it can be enjoyed without thinking so deep into it, but also where if you want to sit down and think and talk about the depth of the words you can,” Adekogbe said.
With Bethlehem the Producer’s visibility on campus rising through performances, Adekogbe aims to bring what he describes as “Brandeis’ underground music scene” to light.
“When people come to this campus they think, besides orchestras and band, there’s not a lot of music stuff going on here, so they stop looking for it. There are so many talented artists on this campus who really deserve a lot more listeners and credit than they’re getting right now. I want to be seen and make it shown, so people can say he’s doing it so I can do it too and then we can build that community. It’s underground right now, but we can make it something visible.”
WBRS is hosting a Mixtape Release Party for “The Sabbath” at 10 p.m. on Saturday, March 17.