Art and Entertainment Panel
Two-time Grammy Award, ten-time ASCAP Writer Award, Lifetime Achievement Award winner, twenty-one time Grammy nominee and multiplatinum producer Carvin Haggins is globally known for his contributions to the sounds of artists like Musiq Soulchild, Justin Timberlake, Jill Scott, Will Smith and many more. Throughout his career, he has been blessed with the highest of successes but comes from quite humble beginnings.
Born in the trenches of North Philadelphia, Carvin Haggins was the fourth born to a single mother. In an effort to escape a life of drug use, his mother relocated the family to Savannah, Georgia when Carvin was just three years old, without him ever meeting his father. Growing up, instead, Carvin looked up to his older brother, Leon, following his footsteps as he ventured into learning to play the trumpet. For Carvin, a new world of escape emerged: music.
At 12 years old, Carvin and his family again relocated, this time back to Philadelphia. In 1981, the city was filled with arts and culture, but most of all hip-hop. With his growing passion for music, it only made sense that Carvin become a rapper. His music skills garnered him a popular reputation, but instead of becoming a stereotypical “cool kid”, Carvin became a champ for the people. He made friends and sought out to fight bullies so there wouldn’t be any in his school or neighborhood. It was one of his friends, who Carvin learned was his brother, leading to a first meeting with his father. Initially, Carvin wasn’t impressed.
He continued on his musical journey, learning the fundamentals of story writing from Mrs. Robinson at Olney High School. It was these techniques he used in creating the records that would eventually score him his first record deal at 16. Despite his mother’s warnings, he signed with Shaky Deal Records, and the company proved true to the name. That year, Carvin dropped out of school, moved out of his mother’s house and became homeless.
About a year had passed of Carvin sleeping in abandoned houses, washing up in McDonalds’, and doing what he could to support himself, when his father showed up. He offered him a place in his home, pushed him to go back to school and get his life back on track. The next year, Carvin graduated on honor roll from Martin Luther King High School, only to come back home that day to find the locks changed and his clothes in trash bags on the porch. Back to homelessness it was.
He eventually moved back in with his mother, who now lived in Willingboro, New Jersey. Navigating the music scene there, Carvin met Harold Russell, the CEO of Up and Up Productions, a music production company. The two formed a working relationship, as Carvin joined the company and began learning to produce music while also working a part time job to maintain. Carvin and Harold frequented many industry events, including DJ record pools, where DJ’s from around the region congregated to fill their crates with the latest records. On a cold, snowy night, Carvin and Harold walked into a DJ record pool in Philadelphia, only to see one of the most popular DJ’s in the country at the time, DJ Jazzy Jeff. Not letting the opportunity pass, Carvin introduced himself, the two exchanged numbers and set up a meeting at Harold’s studio. This was the beginning of a friendship that would change Carvin’s life forever.
Carvin and Jeff became fast friends, Carvin getting to know Jeff’s crew and accompanying him on his shows and appearances around the city. When it was time for Jeff to go to L.A. to shoot the fourth season of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, he invited his crew, Carvin included. It was in L.A. where Carvin’s entire perspective on life was shifted.
Being on set, he landed a small role in an episode and hung out with many of the shows’ celebrities. Seeing the lives of young black men like Alfonso Ribeiro behind the camera, as the bosses of their jobs, with mansions and yachts acquired from pure hard work and dedication, inspired Carvin. These people lived stress free lives while Carvin was struggling to survive. There was no envy, just amazement and inspiration to make a life change.
Upon his return, he used his savings from his part time job, moved out of his mom’s house and back to Philadelphia into his own apartment. Seeing his newfound drive in Carvin’s music career, Jeff gave him the keys to his studio “A Touch Of Jazz” for Carvin to use as he pleased. Carvin took advantage of the opportunity and learned everything that he could about the mixing board, teaching himself how to use all the technology and equipment that the studio had to offer. After a while, Jeff decided to create a new Touch of Jazz production team and invited Carvin to the first meeting.
The meeting was filled with about 15 local musicians, singers, producers...and Carvin. They all went around the table, detailing their backgrounds, and qualifications. When it was Carvin’s go, he boldly explained that although he had no musical talent (days of the trumpet were long gone), he wanted to be involved in any capacity. He’d never written a song in his life, but if given the opportunity, he would take full advantage of it. And that’s just what he and Jeff did.
As time progressed, the team dwindled from 15 to 4. Some members lacking in faith, others lacking in drive, but that didn’t stop Carvin, Keith Pelzer, Andre Harris and Vidal Davis. The four were continuing to hone their skills when Jeff invited his young producer friend Darren Henson to join the team. Darren happened to bring along his friend, Ivan Barias, concluding the lineup of the legendary “A Touch of Jazz 6.”
From this super group brought the sounds of Jill Scott, Floetry, Musiq Soulchild, and Will Smith, movie soundtracks like Rush Hour, Love Jones, Wild Wild West and countless others. As the group matured, they each paired up to become the platinum production duos that we all know and love today, “Dre & Vidal”, “Keith Pelzer & Darren Henson” and “Carvin & Ivan”.
Today, Carvin is the C.E.O. and Founder of his own entertainment company, Ethical Music Entertainment, where he is developing artists and producers, just as he was groomed at a Touch of Jazz. In addition to giving back musically, he is an activist in the community, with his involvement in his Rage Against The Ratchet campaign and the initiatives of several political figures, while also a Reverend and Sunday school teacher at his church in Philadelphia.