“I may be the coolest nerd in TT,” said Mevon Soodeen, before explaining how he traded in working with computers all day, as a network administration specialist, for using technology to create music.
“I am most passionate about music," he explained. "That is the reason why I left my job six months ago. When I made the change, many people said, ‘Finally!’”
Born and raised in Diego Martin, where he still lives, Soodeen is the man behind local hip hop and parang hits and is motivated by a mantra which he explained lies in trusting the process and knowing everything happens for a reason – it is all part of God’s plan. And so, he said, he does not rush into things, and finds consolation in knowing there is a greater reason behind things – even when they don’t go as he would have hoped.
He makes music that is non-mainstream in TT, but has confidence that his body of work will continue to expand while making an impact on the industry. He left corporate TT to work full-time in music production after balancing his passion with his profession as an IT specialist for 11 years.
“Because of music and being a DJ, I was considered cool by all my colleagues, who were mostly just into computers – more on the reserved, quiet, shy side.”
He said the variety of passions and activities, between his day job and music gigs at parties on the side, made him different.
“I did my first degree in computer and information systems from London Metropolitan University – which is IT in a nutshell. I graduated with first-class honours, which supports the argument that I am a nerd in music,” Sooden said, laughing. “I worked at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education from 2007-2018. That was about 11 years of my life spent being an IT professional.”
The 32-year-old producer, who works from his own home studio, said as a teenager, he wanted to become either a professional footballer or a graphic artist.
“I did, in fact, do art in high school at CXC level while at St James Secondary. I am still in love with art, whether fine art or any kind of art. I consider myself an artist – so I really wanted to pursue that.
"I still do love football, and I am still very much passionate about it too.”
Soodeen said while he was growing up his parents gave him the space to chart his own path.
“They always supported me in anything I wanted to do, once it was positive, of course. They didn’t suggest that I do anything outside of what I wanted to do – they were always supportive."
He did not play any musical instruments as a child, and therefore does not consider himself a musician.
“A lot of people think being a music producer means one must be a musician or play musical instruments. For those who think so: it is a big misconception.”
He said the role of a producer is not about playing an instrument – though he laughed before saying he can play chords on the piano.
“Obviously, being able to play instruments would be an asset, but music production is about creating, combining, sampling and editing sounds and compositions.”
Being drawn to music since his early years, he sang in his primary school.
“From a young age I found myself beating on the desk, drums or snapping my fingers. There was always a rhythm inside me. I always had that inner desire to create music.”
Before bursting into laughter, Soodeen said, “I used to actually duck music class, because in theory I found it boring. I always liked to sing, which I was not good at – but (I had an) early love and desire for creating music.”
After DJing at parties for a number of years, Soodeen discovered software which allowed him to create beats and rhythms. This combined his love for music and IT – making it evident that being a music producer was the path of least resistance. “It was a blend of art, technology and music.”
Though not formally trained in music production, Soodeen fine-tuned his self-taught skills by doing courses in both basic and advanced music production at Star Broadcasting and Media Skills Ltd.
Saying his work in underground music is what put him on the map, he explained doing hip-hop in TT resulted in his breakthrough.
“Pumpin’ and Nah Boy with Mark Hardy and Yung Rudd is our most successful song to date, with over 100,000 views on YouTube.
“It may not sound like a lot when compared to soca artistes who may get millions of views. But we have to put things into context.”
He said hip-hop is almost non-existent in TT, and so to generate such traction, which led to numerous media interviews and features, was meaningful and changed the game.
Another production of which he is very proud is the parang hit Annie by Rome. Soodeen said Annie is his most successful work in terms of commercial success and radio play.
He said being raised in a household where he was exposed to “all the bacchanal that comes with Christmas” affected him musically.
“I grew up in a Christmas house, where parang and Christmas music became things I loved.”
This love for parang saw him producing parang, which led to the creation of Annie after he met Jerome “Rome” Priscilla.
Because he recently became a full-time music producer, he still does not require much external motivation to create.
“I think I have that over-zealous appeal and self-belief. I may have another answer a year from now.”
He finds motivation in the rush that comes with creativity being the only source of income.
“Coming off the heels of having a decent salary every month, I am motivated by knowing I have to work very hard. I put much more hours and effort into work – which will determine how much money I make, ultimately.”
One of his greatest challenges in music production was learning about the industry. He said understanding the environment still took effort, even though he was exposed to it for about ten years. because this is the first time he has been completely immersed in the industry.
“Almost a year ago, when I took it on full time, I had a huge learning curve in terms of how things are done when it is not a side-hustle, in terms of revenue streams, how to approach artistes and the back end of everything. It is not about creating: I also have to ensure that everything in terms of the business side is in place. It is a whole new kettle of fish.”
Those who enjoy music from Xplicit Entertainment can anticipate a wider range of musical productions from Sooden. He is currently working on two dancehall tracks/ riddims in an effort not to limit himself.
“I was basically known as a hip-hop producer, then the parang producer. But I do want to expand into soca and dancehall. I want to create every genre of music that feels good to me.”
He is currently working on another single with Mark Hardy and Yung Rudd which should be released in mid-year. A parang riddim featuring Rome is also being created, a collaborative work with Blaxx, and a power soca beat with his business partner DJ MV for Carnival 2020.
Though he is not able to disclose much of what is in the pipeline, he said Carnival 2020 will see a number of projects from Xplicit Entertainment which includes the latest production, Good Oye Riddim featuring Blaxx, Rome, Turner and Olatunji.
For those who have a dream but may be timid about taking the necessary steps, Soodeen said, “Trust in yourself, trust in God, trust the process and your team, which should be aligned with the vision – and have a plan. Without a plan, it will be more of a challenge.
“The process can be difficult, but don’t be afraid. It is going to be hard, but continue to show up every day. One of the best (pieces of) advice I got from a friend was to keep showing up to work every day. Every minute wasted is money lost, and loss of an opportunity to be injected into something positive.”