John Hannibal remembers when he was 12 years old and the other kids would be playing video games, while he was home learning how to produce music.
He wanted to do something "cool" and "different." Music was his avenue to do that.
Hannibal then came to UB to pursue a degree in business.
But he wasn’t satisfied, knowing from a young age that music was his true passion.
Hannibal, an ‘18 business alum, moved to Los Angeles in 2019 to try and “make it big” as a pop musician. At only 23 years old, he’s still working toward it. HVNNIBVL, his stage name, pays homage to the generations of men who came before him carrying his full name. Stevie Wonder was Hannibal’s inspiration growing up, but now he wants to be a more electronic-influenced version of Bruno Mars or The Weeknd. But one of Hannibal’s favorite moments as a musician doesn’t incorporate any of those acts. Instead, it was opening Fall Fest 2017 and setting the stage for Lil Uzi Vert.
“I always wanted to be a musician, but went to school for business to get a grasp on something more stable,” Hannibal said. “I wanted to understand the principles of how to market a brand.”
Hannibal uses his degree in his day job at Slicedbread, an advertising agency, something he says is temporary until he’s able to make a living off of his music. He dedicates all his downtime to music, whether he’s making it, playing shows, mixing, producing or songwriting, he sets aside any time he can to perfect his craft.
Hannibal grew up in a diverse household and said his dad’s African American background and his mom’s South-Indian heritage inspired his diverse style of music.
“That is definitely a big factor in why I am who I am in terms of understanding different backgrounds, in music and in life,” Hannibal said.
Hannibal joked that he went through a pre-teen phase listening to Green Day and Fall Out Boy, as well as 50 Cent, Ludacris and Eminem. But, he said, the artist who really changed his outlook on music production was Skrillex.
“‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ was a very impactful song on the music industry as a whole and the way music has progressed from the 2000s to now,” Hannibal said. “The ability to shift and maneuver sounds in an unforeseen way completely altered mainstream music. This is why I continue to make music, to blend genres and create new sounds in a pop landscape.”
Bobby MacDonell, Hannibal’s close friend, said the two had a “unique” friendship, since they were both career-driven throughout school.
“On a Friday night instead of going out to a party, we would usually just stay in and make music, or talk about our goals for our respective artistics careers,” MacDonell said. “And when I’ve not been with him it’s the same. It’s a testament to his work ethic and professionalism, but more importantly, his drive.”
Still, Hannibal said he regrets never participating in any music programs at UB, but was “ecstatic” when UB’s Student Association picked him to open Fall Fest in 2017.
“I went on right before Lil Uzi. It was definitely the biggest crowd I’ve played for,” Hannibal said.
Since his UB show, his single “Body of Gold” has over 400,000 streams on Spotify and other songs like “No Cover” and “Lose” have made it on various Spotify charts.
Hannibal released his latest “summery” single, “Water,” on June 5.
“It wasn’t really inspired by anything other than making something that I thought people would enjoy,” Hannibal said.
Josh Hannibal, John Hannibal’s brother, said one of his brother’s most “unique” aspects is his ability to create a product based off a single sound or piece, “something no one would think about.”
“My brother is always trying to push the envelope in developing an authentic and real song, something that actually provokes emotion,” Josh said. “I believe he is one of the few that repeatedly remixes a song to flip its original intended feel to something completely opposite.”
Hannibal says his favorite part of making music is the end, when all the production, writing, mixing and recording is finished. His dream is to make a living off that feeling and make creating music his full-time job.
“I’ve incorporated my own art in every piece of my songs,” Hannibal said. “A lot of what I’ve done has been self-started, and no matter where things go in the next five to ten years, I will always know I did what I could with my own ambitions. I’m taking the lead and precedence in my journey.”
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