When 18-year-old Albino (AJ) D. Fernandes died in October 2012, Levi Bazilio honored his friend by penning a song, “A Smile Is Contagious,” on which he raps about his fallen classmate:
A born leader, born lover
Boy we love ya
Wishin' you were back
When we see ya, gonna hug ya
And when Levi’s mother, Paula McDarby of Falmouth, was struck in a hit-and-run accident in Marion last July that killed two of her dogs, Biscuit and Ziggy, and nearly took her life, Levi turned once again to music as an outlet for his emotions, this time writing “Right Now,” in which he raps, in part:
I live to give you what you need
We've been through the nightmare
So now I caught our future dreams
And we deserve that; at least I think so
You hit the earth fast so I told you drink slow
Now this is it ma
This right here is my promise
Love me to the moon and I love you to the comets
This is how 18-year-old Levi, a senior at Falmouth High School, expresses his thoughts and feelings. Some do it through writing. Others do it through painting. Levi does it through rap.
It began more as a hobby, or as he said last week in an interview, “we did it just as a joke,” at his friends’ homes after witnessing others freestyle lyrics. “It was so easy to do,” he said, about his natural ability to turn his words into poetry against the backdrop of a beat.
Although rappers are known for being brash, Levi is anything but, a soft-spoken teenager who brushed aside previous requests for interviews because he did not feel the attention was deserved. And he freely acknowledges he is his own worst critic, noting he is often not satisfied with the finished product. “A lot of it is not being confident in what I record,” he said. “When I record it usually takes me about 50 times on each part because it never sounds right to me.”
Because of this perfectionist attitude, Levi considers himself happy with about seven of the countless songs he has to his credit. Those pieces, which includes “Right Now,” can be found on his SoundCloud channel.
Not in that group of favorites is a song titled “I Got Enough” that was turned into a music video, directed by Boston-based cinematographer Patrick Lizza. Shot all in black and white, the video is set at a house party outside of Boston and features several of Levi’s classmates from Falmouth High School.
The message behind the song, which has a jazzy feel, “is I’m telling people don’t overthink things,” he said. “You don’t need a reason to do what you want to do.”
Although he has songs that occasionally delve into the negative stereotypes that are promoted by other hip hop artists, Levi does his best to counterbalance that with ones that have a deeper meaning. “I definitely have more ignorant music to relate to what kids listen to, but then again I have music that tells about me and what I am feeling,” he said of the line he has to walk between remaining hip and having a positive impact on his audience. “I’m trying to do some stuff that has substance and talks about what happens in life.”
Honoring A Friend
And so it was with “A Smile is Contagious,” which he recorded in the days following AJ Fernandes’s death and which he turned into a YouTube video, primarily featuring photos of his friend. “I kind of looked up to him like a big brother,” he said of AJ. “I don’t think anyone could say anything bad about him.”
Levi did the same when his mother was hit last year by 22-year-old David Pajunen II, who later was sentenced to three years of probation and lost his license for a year.
I just feel like life wouldn’t be the same without [music]. It is something people need and it is how people relate to one another.
“It was probably the scariest thing that ever happened in my life,” Levi said. Following the accident his mother was in the intensive care unit at Rhode Island Hospital for three days, nearly dying because she initially would not take blood transfusions due to her religion. It was Levi who convinced her to rethink this decision, which helped to save her life.
And it was Levi who brought his mother to Mr. Pajunen’s home in November, arranging an emotional meeting in which she finally heard an apology from the man who had nearly taken her life. “She needed to hear an apology and I felt like he owed it to her,” Levi said.
These stories paint the picture of a teenager who acts older than he actually is, having been forced to confront difficult obstacles that have been placed before him at a young age. With each of these challenges, Levi has turned to music for solace.
And he has plans to continue to do so in the future, both in the short- and long-term.
On March 15, his birthday, he is set to perform live at Pufferbellies in Hyannis. The next night he will head to Providence, opening up for King Los and YL at the Dive Bar.
Although he can often be found recording music in his own studio at his home in Mashpee, or in the studio of fellow Mashpee artist Zack Gowan, owner of Micron Audio and a member of the band Phone Calls From Home, Levi prefers the thrill of performing in front of a live audience. “Getting in front of people is awesome,” he said, though he is somewhat hesitant to do so in front of those he knows. “I’m more nervous when I do local shows... I feel like I’m less important to them because they know me on a personal level.”
In the long term Levi is contemplating enrolling in Fisher College in Boston, where he would pursue a degree in marketing. Or he may elect to take a year off and focus on music, both producing and recording, as a way to give a voice to what he is thinking and feeling inside. “It is just everywhere you go. Everyone is always listening to music,” Levi said, when asked what draws him to the art form. “I just feel like life wouldn’t be the same without it. It is something people need and it is how people relate to one another.”