UP ALL NITE (Black Jacket) and Ree Santana (Burgundy HILVL sweat jacket)
It may be difficult to place a finger on when the beginning of the hip-hop scene actually started, however, it is the hip-hop of Philly that receives the respect but not always the credit that it deserves. And while it’s acknowledged that the Bronx played a pivotal role in the infamous genre and lifestyle, Philadelphia birthed the likes of Wendy “Lady B” Clark, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Eve, The Roots, Meek Mill, Lil Uzi Vert and so many more. Philadelphia has a vital place in the progression of the genre. Which brings us to the group HILVL (High Level) consisting of Donovan “Up All Nite” Jones-Betters and Kahree “Ree Santana” McLean.
Both claiming Philadephia as stomping grounds, HILVL is the collaborative efforts of Jones, McLean-Betters, and Drizz, curator of Clxxd9, exclusive artist showcase. HILVL CO. is “lifestyle movement and artistic collective consisted of likeminded individuals who “Own Life” and “Live Up To It.”” Not only do HILVL produces good music and showcases other artistic efforts, the “LIVE UP TO IT” “OWN LIFE” brand also have their own apparel line, same name, further pushing their purpose of urging people to live up to “their highest expectations” of themselves.
Who are you?
Up All Nite: I am Donovan Jones-Betters born in Baltimore, Maryland raised in Philadelphia, PA
Ree Santana: My name is Kahree McLean. I was born in Philadelphia, PA and raised in Scranton, PA. Throughout my life, I’ve been moving back & forth between the two.
Who are (were) your musical influences?
Up All Nite – I always looked at Drake, Jay-Z, Travis Scott, and Partynextdoor as my influences in music. I feel they all have something about them that makes their music timeless.
Ree Santana – Growing up, I was heavily influenced by rappers such as Biggie, Pac, Wu-Tang, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne & Jay-Z. Now that times have changed, artists like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, & J. Cole all have musical influences on me.
what hip-hop albums did you grow up listening to?
Up All Nite – My favorite hip-hop albums growing up had to be Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation, Drake’s Thank me Later and Jay-Z’s Blueprint. I still feel those albums to this day give a great example of how timeless music is made.
Ree Santana – Well, let’s start with the album that made me want to rap; 50 Cent’s ‘Get Rich or Die Trying’! I’ve probably listened to that album more than I should have; I was only 8 by the time the album came out. ‘The Black Album’ by Jay-Z is definitely an album I used to enjoy listening to. Also, all of the Carter albums by Lil Wayne are classic & always will be.
What was the first song that you wrote and what was it about?
Up All Nite – I wrote my first song at the age of 10. I wrote it about God, my girlfriend (at the time), and my mom. I was mad at my mom and God because we were moving so I wrote it about how my girlfriend and I were breaking up.
Ree Santana – Well, I’ve been writing since age 8, so, to be honest, that is kind of hard to remember. I didn’t start taking my music career to the extreme until 2016, although I did release my first song on the internet in 2013 called “IDGAF”. It was a song about expressing my feelings towards haters and people who were trying to prevent me from succeeding at the time.
what is your writing process?
Up All Nite – My process has a lot of rewriting and thrown away papers. I am the type of writer that really takes his time and likes to see all the possibilities. That’s probably why it takes me so long, however, I am always satisfied with the product. I just feel music is endless possibilities and I am just trying to find a perfect one for every song.
Ree Santana – Usually I listen to the beat and let it tell me what to write about. I never know if I’m gonna come up with the hook or verse first. Although, there are times where I might think of some dope bars or a sick hook in the middle of the day and I have to write it down.
what would be your dream collaboration with any rapper/singer or producer?
Up All Nite – Dream Collab would be to work with Travis Scott or PartyNextDoor. I could make some good music with those two.
Ree Santana – If I ever have the opportunity, I’d love to collaborate with Lil Wayne. He has always been one of my biggest idols. A singer I’d love to collaborate with is Sza. I really enjoy & appreciate her sound. A producer I must work with one day is Swizz Beats, I feel me & he could make timeless music. I’ve always been a fan of his production!
What is the importance of the connections you make? How can you utilize them?
Up All Nite – Connections are important because you can’t do it all by yourself. Connections are also important because if you don’t know anyone you will find yourself 3 years in with no progress. Connections can be utilized by simply just keeping communication open with people. In the past, you had to be mysterious to get a following now you have to always engage to build a following.
Ree Santana – Making connections & networking is very important! You never know who your gonna run into at a show or an event, or what that person might do for you. You might be doing everything you possibly could, but wondering why you still can’t progress or move forward. Sometimes, your answer is right in front of you; just inside the mind of a person, you are afraid to introduce yourself to.
Tell me a little about your latest release? Who produced it? What inspired it?
Up All Nite – I am currently working on a project with Ree Santana for HILVL title “HILVL Radio 2”. I am also working on my solo ep “Because You Doubted”. I have been taking time to really work on a better consistent sound for myself after releasing HLR1 (HILvL Radio 1). I really believe that you have to make a distinct sound and live it if you really want your lifestyle in your music.
Ree Santana – I currently have a single out right now called ‘2126’! It is now available everywhere. It is produced by Kid Ocean. The song is inspired by my team, HILVL Co.! We are all on the same mission in life and we bleed loyalty! The song is about having a crew or a group of people chasing the same dream as you and showing the same amount of loyalty!
How do you feel about the music scene today?
Up All Nite – I feel the music scene is wide open these days. Every day somebody new is introduced. I think we have a lot of different sounds in music; some copy some are original, but what I like is that people are giving opportunities to people they never have heard before. This is a great thing because everybody has an opportunity to be heard.
Ree Santana – I feel the music scene has definitely changed. It’s much different compared to how it was 10 years ago. There is a numerous amount of music artists out nowadays and all that really means is that we’re in a music era where quantity is defeating quality. I’ve always been a supporter of being different or unique and I always will be, but I feel that “motto” or mindset has been abused.
What do you want the readers to know about you?
Up All Nite – I put me in the music. My music will always be an extension of me and my being. I want the readers to know that I want my music to be an experience because that’s where it comes from life’s experiences. I’m trying to create something that can timeless so it may take time. However or generation will look back at my music and call it our oldies. That’s the goal with our music. To grow with the people that listen.
Ree Santana – I am a 23 almost 24-year-old music artist who has been writing since the age of 8. It’s always been a dream of mine to make it in the industry and I will never stop chasing this dream or possess this passion for music. I love music & everything about it!
What advice would you give to a young musician that wants to get into the game?
Up All Nite – Pray for patience, understanding, and a strong sense of self. People will come to you if you are you and not somebody else. Lastly, there is a fan base for everybody. There are days I wake up and feel discouraged because I am not where I want to be and I remember that word of advice and it puts things in perspective.
Ree Santana – Don’t think its an overnight thing. Although that could happen to you, you should never expect that. Appreciate the time it takes to actually make it. Nothing is perfect, but practice can definitely get you as close to that as possible!
What plans do you have for 2018, musically?
Up All Nite – To Learn and To Work. I feel my first year I had a lot of learning experiences with how to set yourself up as a brand and stand out. This year I am working to apply some of that to have a strong 2018 and gather momentum for years to come. Musically HLR2 and Because you Doubted will come and more HLVL Apparel. A piece for everybody.
Ree Santana – Work, work, and more work. Me & Up are currently working on HILVL Radio 2. Also, we are working on our solo EPs. The grind never stops!