Carvin & Ivan: Lead Creative Ambassadors
Songwriters and Producers
Carvin “Ransum” Haggins and Ivan “Orthodox” Barias are a Philadelphia-based multi-platinum songwriting and production duo who first began working together at DJ Jazzy Jeff’s production facility A Touch of Jazz. Since being paired together, they have worked with Will Smith, Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Justin Timberlake, Jaheim, Patti LaBelle, Chris Brown, Faith Evans and Jaime Foxx. Carvin & Ivan are currently celebrating their 10th anniversary in which they have had a Top 10 hit every year for the past 10 years. The powerhouse team has been nominated for 15 GRAMMY Awards over their careers, five of which are for the 2011 GRAMMYs.
Carvin & Ivan also started their own record label, Forever Music Inc. They also work with the DASH Program which provides opportunities for students to learn about various aspects of the entertainment industry while also learning how to become innovative thinkers and leaders.
How did you two meet?
Ivan: We met at A Touch of Jazz Productions—DJ Jazzy Jeff’s production company in Philly in the mid 90s. I originally came in as a rapper. We were all in a rap group together. From that, that relationship developed, and we started producing records together and writing songs. Eventually it just clicked and through a lot of different circumstances, we became Carvin & Ivan.
What brought the success that you found together?
Carvin: I think it rests on respect. I respect his space. He respects my space.
Ivan: I think added to what he says too, what makes us successful is the fact that we’ve never been hungry for the spotlight. We always understood that when we worked with an artist, it’s their shine. It’s their time. We're like tailors behind the scene. But we don’t set out to say we’re going to make this record and be bigger than X, Y, Z. We always understood that the work speaks for us. And aside from it being a respect factor, I think it’s just a mutual friendship and we have fun. We enjoy what we do. We don’t let it be driven by the financial aspect of it.
What are some of your achievements?
Ivan: We’re synonymous with the success that Musiq Soulchild has had. Because that’s an artist we went in from the beginning. That was a crowing achievement at that time for an artist, a brand new artist in the music industry—song debuting at number 1 on Billboard, getting four and a half stars on Rolling Stone Magazine.
Carvin: I think that and the Faith Evans thing when she first came back. That was big for us. And, the world accepted that record immediately. It was like, wow, they really felt that.
Ivan: And then you know, being nominated for back to back GRAMMYs for R&B song of the year—that was pretty cool too.
Ivan: It’s been a real diverse group of artists we’ve worked with. Besides Musiq and Jill (Scott), we’ve worked with Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown..
Ivan: 2pac, Keyshia Cole
Carvin: R. Kelly
Ivan: Mary J. Blige
Carvin: Raheem Devaughn
Carvin: Jaheim, Faith Evans
Ivan: Jazmine Sullivan
Who influences and inspires you?
Ivan: When I came to Philly and I really absorbed what was going on at A Touch of Jazz, like (DJ Jazzy) Jeff would have weekly jam sessions. I remember the first time I came up. They had drummers, and bass players and guitar players and keyboard players jamming. That’s when I really discovered the Philadelphia sound, the Gams (Gamble) & Huff sound. Really, really paid attention and got more in detail with the Motown sound and a lot of Stax (Records) and a lot of those soul records. And that helped give me a new perspective on the music we were making at that time.
Carvin: When we go back, Berry Gordy, Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton—Lionel Richie is one of my favorite writers—Elton John, Billy Joel. Gams (Gamble) & Huff is what I’ve been fed my entire life. Those guys are like the staple of our whole understanding of music. Because when I heard those records as a kid, they meant something to me.
What advice would you give to yourselves today?
Ivan: I would say that you don’t need the music industry to give you an outlet. As long as your internet savvy, with all the social networks out there, with all the music software that’s out there, all the amenities that we have available to be able to get our music heard on a global scale—I don’t think you need the record industry and the process that’s required to get a record released in the industry. I would say record your own music and if you have your own Protools set up at home, record it and put it out on your own. You’ll get quicker feedback I would say within days, as opposed to going through the music industry machine.
Carvin: I would say it all starts with a song. If you don’t have a great record, then you won’t have a great career. And that’s it. You have to find the records that make sense. You have to make records that mean something to people. So if you going to make music, create music that’s going to last forever—that’s going to outlive you. And that’s the basic idea of it. That’s been our philosophy. Let your music outlive you.
What do the next 30 to 40 years look like for both of you?
Carvin: It’s all about great music. If the music is great, and again, like Ivan said—if it’s honest and it’s believable and it touches the heart of people. That’s our mission, just to make sure that these records are forever.