by Chandler Christopher
Keem the Cipher, signifying fluidity and “infinity,” is the pseudonym of 22-year-old Hakeem Vance. A Chattanooga, Tennessee native, the young producer recently relocated to Nashville to focus on his artistic development. While Keem is a multifaceted artist, it’s been his gritty beat production that’s generated a stir in the hip-hop community. Arising from a musically gifted family, Keem planted his roots through playing trombone in his middle school band and making beats on his ipod. Keem is naturally compelled to express himself not only through the art of music but the craft of sound production. With a constant itch to evolve his creative identity, Keem challenges his aesthetic ability in the pursuit of his self-reflection.
Stylistically categorized by the general public as lofi hip-hop, Keem the Cipher describes his music as “funk and dance.” Inspired by the sounds of 80’s and 90’s rap and vinyl sampling, Keem aspires to convey the sounds that echo through his head. As a freshman at Middle Tennessee State University, Keem’s first tracks gained traction on Spotify and resulted in a barrage of new listeners for the young producer. Keem admits that he initially overlooked this small success, ultimately ignoring the significance of this curated gesture. Keem says that as a result of years putting his nose to the grindstone, he has reached the understanding that ‘commercial success’ from his work is not a given. Now ready and hungry to achieve, Keem has dedicated his time to improving his craft and brainstorming ways to elevate his artistic abilities in their entirety.
Spearheaded by an inextinguishable lust for expression, Keem is spiritually integrated into the hip-hop community. As Keem narrates, “Hip-hop is just a general word for me for living.” With this same perceptive lens, Keem transcends his musical abilities with side projects such as plaster-casting and painting. With a desire to exceed the conceptual boundaries of art, Keem envisions the incorporation of live bands and innovative light shows into his performances. A rare and skintillating talent, Keem the Cipher belongs to the radiant culture of hip-hop that raised him.