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The everyman’s rapper: Local Inland Empire artist seeks to inspire hometown with music

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(Diego Lomeli | Viewpoints)
By Diego Lomeli

Growing up, Elijah Perkins’ childhood home was always filled with the sound of music. His father’s passion and craft, coupled with a childhood friend’s influence, introduced him to streetwear culture and art, and they became harbingers for his musical career.

In 2007, a young middle school Perkins, now better known as Elijvh, became involved with the underground culture scene. All the while, his father’s eclectic music taste began to embed itself into Perkins’ head, which later stemmed into an obsession.

Perkins found himself listening to tunes by The Isley Brothers, Tower Power, Santana and Jimi Hendrix, as well as R&B-esque artists like Tony! Toni! Toné!

Hip-hop, however, was far out of the question.

“I actually wasn’t even allowed to listen to hip-hop,” Perkins said. He spoke not with resentment of the fact but with a deeper sense of understanding.

“My dad, he’s one of the old school cats who didn’t really like when hip-hop became a thing — it was the gangster rap stuff.”

Regardless, Perkin’s father was not behind hand on hip-hop artists and their musical prowess. He owned a copy of Kanye West’s “Late Registration” and introduced the album to his son. Perkins would continue to listen to West later into high school, during which West released “Graduation.”

“At that time, he put out ‘Graduation,’ when I really started to pay attention to him,” Perkins said. “That’s when I really started to get obsessed with the music and hypebeast culture.”

Naturally, Perkins surrounded himself with others who shared his music tastes.

Elijah Perkins, better known as Elijvh, in his home recording studio which he has named “Sanctuary.” Several art pieces by Andy Warhol and Patrick Nagel hang on the makeshift studio’s wall. (Diego Lomeli | Viewpoints)

“I started going out to Hollywood and meeting all these people, and that led to me meeting a guy named Luke.” Perkins said. “He was a cool kid, the celebrities used to buy clothes off of him. He was the one rocking all the Supreme, he had all of the Japanese collaborations — he was kind of like a rich kid. He really educated me on the culture as well, so at the time I was making beats, but Luke really gassed me up. I would freestyle with him in high school, and he started pushing me to make mix tapes.”

Although he was rarely in need of inspiration, Perkins still lacked the confidence to release the music he was creating. It wasn’t until 2013 that he decided to pursue music seriously.

“I was in college, and every time I would be around these rap circles I was getting reactions out of people,” he said.

Perkins calls 2013 through 2015 the “dark period,” when he was constantly making music but lacked any sort of guidance. At the time, Kanye West’s influence on him morphed into a substitute for personal style. Perkins also adopted the technique of sampling from other genres of music.

“On some of my oldest songs, you can hear the Kanye influence,” Perkins said. “I tried to become like him. I would look for obscure samples, rap over them and then never put it out.”

As Perkins was still in the midst of narrowing down his personal style, his DJ at the time recommended he listen to Donald Glover’s “Because the Internet.” Perkins was hesitant, as he didn’t enjoy Glover’s first album, “Camp,” released two years prior. 

“I didn’t really like the punchline raps, didn’t really like the instrumentals,” Perkins said. “(Because the Internet) was it. It was indie, it had a funky feel to it — the synthesizers were really weird — his singing fit it perfectly. It was so strange, it was like a whole universe that he made. I was so influenced by it.”

From the day “Because the Internet” was released, Perkins listened to the album practically nonstop and studied Glover’s music intently. This led to him eventually emulating the concept that Glover had implemented into his album. At the same time, he attended local concerts on his own and studied the performer’s mannerisms, the crowd’s reactions and how much the performer could remain in control of the atmosphere. This led to him eventually emulating the concept that Glover had implemented into his album.

(Diego Lomeli | Viewpoints)

“I started to realize that more emotional music fit me well,” Perkins said. “I was going to shows —  Donald Glover’s album comes out and I was really influenced by it. I started to build my whole style off of that. Near the end of 2014, I started to think: I have an idea of what my brand is, and I just need to come up with some sort of … mission, I guess. What are people going to feel like they’re connected to and why?”

Perkins focused on two aspects: the Inland Empire and his ethnicity — his roots. 

“The IE is comprised of a lot of small cities,” Perkins said. “Do we have a Jay-Z? Do we have a Drake? Do we have somebody who is the face of it all? We’ve had amazing, talented artists that came out of here, but I never really saw that kind of artist come out of here. So I decided I wanted to be the hometown hero for these people. I want to make it my mission to uplift our community. As for the second thing, I want to embrace my roots. My dad is African American and my mom is from the Philippines. I want to invest money to go out there and start making them aware of who I am and make them feel proud too.”

Perkins’ journey so far has been a long one. His influence and inspiration revolve around a plethora of different music genres, concepts and convictions. Listeners who don’t tune in frequently are often confused as to why he veers off from his signature sound from time to time. In his words, he believes he has “struck gold” when it comes to his music, not just in reference to the sound, but more importantly, his experiences to which he believes listeners can relate.

(Diego Lomeli | Viewpoints)

“I’ve created a sound and really tapped into things in my life even deeper that I feel people can relate to, the struggle. That’s kind of what I want to be: the everyman’s rapper. The guy who talks about life in my own perspective. Just a guy in the suburbs trying to make sense of his life and trying to reflect on family ties, relationships and friends. It’s all evolved into where I’m at now.”

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