Rapper dedicates ‘Care Package’ to all students


Legend Mane performs Thursday at The House Cafe, 263 E. Lincoln Highway. Student rapper Legend is set to release “The Care Package,” which will be dedicated to students, and is participating in several other projects.

By Alex Hyde

Senior communication major Keith Winford’s rap lyrics are getting more personal.

Winford, known as Legend Mane, performed Thursday at The House Cafe, 263 E. Lincoln Highway, and he is featured on Marquis Hill’s album “Modern Flows Ep. Vol. 1.” Hill’s album will be released Oct. 21.

Legend Mane’s music career got a kickstart in DeKalb when he helped create the jazz and hip-hop fusion group Legend Haz It with his Neptune Hall floormates. He continues to focus on hip-hop with his upcoming “The Care Package” solo project, which he dedicates to students worldwide.

Northern Star: Tell me about your background and what really inspired you to —

Keith Winford: With the music?

NS: Yeah.

KW: … My big brother influenced me with the music, he introduced me to hip-hop at a young age, helped me to learn how to write music, how to flow, how to get over stage fright [and] things of that nature. He really instilled the things in me right now.

So, I’ve probably been rapping for about 15, 16 years now. [I] started out just doing my own production, doing my own recording stuff and making music just for my family.

Once I got out of high school and came to college, I started getting out on the streets and performing more and doing shows. A couple of guys I used to live in the dorms with, in Neptune, one of my best friend’s name is Dan Pratt, he played the drums and … was like ‘Hey, you got a good flow, I think we should put a band together.’ So I said ‘OK, find the people, let’s do it.’

A year later he was like ‘Hey, I got the people.’ We rehearsed then we comprised the group called Legend Haz It, which is a jazz/hip-hop band. We did two albums. [We] actually charted on the CMJ charts in the top 20 for a month straight … . We just kind of took it to the next level and tried to do some innovative things with jazz and hip-hop and with just music in general. That got me to where I am now where I’m just taking it right back to the roots of hip-hop … .

NS: What are some of your accomplishments, and what are you currently working on?

KW: As far as accomplishments, last year I released an album with the band titled Legend Haz It, “Neptune Deuce.” I made it just for the school’s sake because we all met in Neptune on the second floor of Neptune Deuce. We dedicated it to the origins of the band and how we got started.

My set goal with that was to chart along the side of the people I look up to. We would work diligently and independently and we were able to do that. We charted along the sides of Jay Z when he dropped his last album … J. Cole’s last album, “Born Sinner,” and when Kanye dropped his last album. It was cool to be in [the] top 20 with them and see my name alongside with them … .

As of right now, I’m currently working on my solo project titled “The Care Package.” It’s gonna be more hip-hop based, dedicated to the students on campus and just throughout the world who need a care package, and what’s better than music and good fresh music that you know you can get in tune with?

Also, I work with this [alumnus] of NIU by the name of Marquis Hill. He’s a trumpeter. Very talented guy. One of the top trumpeters of Chicago, and he just released an album … .

NS: Are you on the album?

KW: Yes. I’m on the album a lot. I’m one of the main artists vocally on it … . It’s very intricate, very innovative with jazz and hip-hop. Also, I have an EP I’m going to be doing with the Legendary Circle… .

Right now, I just really want to bring unity among hip-hop and artists in general because that’s not something that’s been exercised a lot. I feel like that’s a lot of talent that’s one entity and they don’t want to band together. It’s more power when you come with a team. You can’t win a championship with just one person.

NS: You said you were in the top 20 before. Do you see yourself getting there again or going up with anything that’s coming out soon?

KW: Well, certainly. I definitely have a lot of faith in an up-and-coming project I’m going to be dropping at the end of the month.

But more specifically, the album I did with Marquis Hill, I’m very proud of it because it’s very innovative in the likes of what I was doing with my band. So, I feel like it’s going to be a huge impact on the jazz community and the hip-hop community because we’re really taking it up a notch and doing some things that are new and fresh… .

NS: I feel like [jazz and rap] are really related.

KW: Yeah. It’s like they’re counterparts. The same way an instrument and a musician can improv with his trumpet or the drums. A lyricist does the same … . I’m not just a rapper, I’m an instrument of myself. So I use my vocals and my lyricism as a way to move melodically through a song. I study John Coltrane, Miles Davis … . I try to implement those flows with lyrics. It creates something new. You’re right. They’re definitely relatable. I feel like they’re cousins, man. I feel like without that jazz improvisation, hip-hop wouldn’t be what it is. They both have some impact on each other.

NS: What else do you think we should cover?

KW: … It’s becoming more melodic and personal with my music. I don’t want to ever lose my soul with the music… . When you listen to it, I don’t want it to be like, ‘He’s just assimilating to the current trend of what’s going on.’ I want to be the person that trends in the trend and creates the trend that’s actually a permanent trend. Not something that’s just going to be temporary… .