K-Trap Unmasked – The UK Drill Pioneer Talks Blowing Up On His Own Terms

VICE caught up with the previously masked MC for 'Behind the Bally', our freestyle and interview series about the lives of drill's hottest acts.

28 October 2021, 11:27am
Behind The Bally is an interview-based column where we speak to UK drill artists, producers and creatives about their lives, upbringing and influences.

Very few rappers can claim to have led UK drill’s success, but K-Trap is an undeniable pioneer.

When “David Blaine” steamrolled onto UK streets in late 2016, right at the peak of drill’s first national takeover, the south London MC took listeners to the product cooking in his kitchen ("Whip in the kitchen, scrape that bowl / I'm David Blaine with the magic, 2 and a Q from O”).

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With veracious lyrics (think: bars about wrapping white; references to chasing opps) and a concealed identity, fans knew K-Trap never lived too far from his raps.

Characterised by witty double entendres packed with pop-culture references (see: “Tray in the ride tryna do them like Ricky / let me see them Boyz In The Hood”) and vivid metaphors, Trapo immersed listeners, bringing them into his risk-laden life. But while many MCs embrace fame, K-Trap remained an enigma, taking minimal interviews and never revealing his full name.

All of which meant that fans were stunned when he whipped the bally off with third mixtape No Magic in 2019, rocketing him toward the mainstream-ish world of Guardian interviews and festival stages. Since then, he’s deposited debut album Street Side Effects, launched a label and, most recently, dropped his newest mixtape Trapo – a 16-track return to the bally sporting, crud-talking spitter that catalysed his trap rap career.

Speaking on Zoom, K-Trap is a friendly, personable conversationalist, clearing the mist of ambiguity and reservedness that many would expect of a once masked up rapper. As one of the original bally wearers in the UK, it was only right that VICE caught up with him after Trapo’s release for Behind the Bally, our series covering the hottest drill acts in the UK. 

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Discussing everything from studio sessions and stage fright, to cooking and the importance of karma, the full interview – aided by an exclusive freestyle, per the series – can be read below. 

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VICE: Did you expect “David Blaine” to blow like it did?
K-Trap:
I wasn’t really thinking about if it was gonna blow, but I knew it was something [the music industry] hadn’t got yet. I didn’t think it wouldn’t blow – like, I knew it would do well. 

How did you come up with the intro of the woman claiming the song is entirely fictional?
I did that on purpose: it’s the same as why I wore a bally. I’m just a paranoid person and that’s why it took me so long to make a video when I started. I just didn’t want to put out music that would end up being my downfall. I was going through some things and had a few open cases at that time, so I made sure to say, you know: “it’s just music.”

Did you think UK drill would become what it is today?
No, to be fair, I didn’t. But even when I dropped “David Blaine”, drill wasn’t in my head. I was at the stage where I was just making whatever music. Obviously there were genres and today people will put you in a category, but back then you’re just making music and people could take it however they wanted to. Like, I came out with the name K-Trap, so in my head I was making trap music! 

What was the first drill song you heard? 
I don’t remember the first one, but obviously I used to work closely with 67, they’re my proper close friends. So, before I ever put myself out there, they’d been making drill and I was around most of their music. It was normal to me. I’d been making music for as long as they were, I just didn’t drop it. I didn’t want to be a rapper, but we’d been doing it.

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Tell me how your first ever studio session went?
Obviously, I’ve been making music from early, so I used to record in my house. My first proper studio session was probably with Carns [Hill], years ago when I was still in school. It was calm. It’s hard to explain, but I’ve always been doing this stuff, so even before my own studio session I’d probably been to a session with somebody else. It must’ve been exciting but almost normal. I knew what to do, I’d been watching stuff, doing it from my house, so studio would’ve just been the next level up.

What’s the best thing a fan’s ever done for you? 
I couldn’t just say one thing, there’s bare stuff. Even getting a ticket for my show and pulling up, I really appreciate them things. After a show I proper reflect and think “Rah, I really appreciate it.” Fans help with so much. Like, even if I don’t know the name of something that I wanna find, I’ll just put it on my Insta. I’ve lost my phone before and someone’s found it for me. I feel like my fanbase, anyone that comes out for me, has been with me through the come-up; they’re proper supporters. Even at my launch party the other day, it made me proper happy, like they’re really rooting for me. 

What was the first thing you ever bought with a music cheque? 
Not to sound a certain way but, with music cheques, I haven’t got one and spent it straight away, because I’d either bought it already, or haven’t got one where I’d be spending out of my comfort zone. Music cheques have just been like ‘Cool, that’s some money in my account, I’m good.’ I’d be lying if I told you I got one and went to buy something straight away. 

What made 2021 the moment to release Trapo?
There was a time where me and the supporters got a bit tangled. They didn’t really understand where I was going or what was going on. Even when I dropped my album Street Side Effects last year, it was a bit different, there were a lot of my supporters that weren’t really feeling it. But when I started making familiar music again, people started reaching out like ‘Bro, this is what I want, this is what we’ve been waiting for. Stay doing this.’ For me, it felt like experimenting, but for others they felt like I’d lost it, that sound, that presence – so I had to remind them.

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You’ve said you think people prefer when you’re talking about violence, crime, etc. Why do you think this is?
It’s not a lot of people’s reality. It’s like watching an action movie – it’s exciting for people that don’t live that life. So that’s number one. But also, this generation, they just like badness, in all sorts of ways. It’s not even just on drill, it’s mad. Negativity is selling like crazy right now.

On “Tape Night” you say you still get stage fright. How do you manage live shows?
I’ve gained more confidence. Even though we haven’t done shows for so long, I did Wireless recently and performed at my launch. But the stage fright is real. Sometimes there’s a lot of doubt. Especially festivals. See, with headline shows there’s no stage fright at all, but at festivals not every single person is there for you. When you’ve got an industry hit song, no matter what, you know they’re going to know your song. When you’re an underground artist, you’ve got hits that go off in certain places but sometimes you get stage fright when you’re at a festival or a new city where you’ll think “They might not know this one.” 

“Big Mood” was a crossover, so I knew that even if there weren’t core fans there, somebody would definitely know that song. But now I feel patterned, I’ve got enough hits, so I’ve become more confident.

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“Addiction” talks about using material things to help deal with internal pain. Is that how you usually deal with issues? 
Yeah that’s real life, but I wouldn’t say that all the time. If I see something I like, I might put money down, maybe I’ll go out to eat, listen to music, maybe speak to someone.

You also say you don’t fuck with karma, why is that? 
I don’t fuck with it, in the sense that I don’t pree it too much, because if I pree it too much, it’ll make me think about stuff I’ve done. I’m not an angel. But certain people do certain things and it’s fully wrong. There’s no way you can get away with certain stuff. Like, karma has to hit you. 

On “Free C Roy” – you said you didn’t have Sky or Disney channel. What did you grow up watching when you were little? 
It’s funny that you ask that. When I said that line, me and my engineer sat down for long. I don’t like to fabricate, but I was thinking “Rah, I don’t really want to say it, because it sounds like I came up proper hard”, you get me? We were debating. I don’t remember what I was watching off the top of my head...

What are your favourite shows now?
I swear to you, I don’t watch nothing. I’ll watch or listen to a podcast – not the ones where people just sit down chatting shit, but motivational ones, interviews with people I respect. I watched a Meek Mill one, a Yo Gotti one. Not idols, but people I respect.

What’s your guilty pleasure? It can be anything. 
See, I don’t know. I’m very bland, I’m boring. Actually, cooking. It’ll depend on the day, but I like fish, so maybe sea bass with baby potatoes and some asparagus.

What’s an achievement you want to have had in the next few years?
I would like to do a headline festival or something, but right now it’s about building up my brand. I’ve just launched my label, Thousand8, so for the next couple of years I’d like to get that more established, maybe have an artist and push them. I’m looking at the shorter term.

What made you launch your own label?
I started to realise that we, the artists, are the catch. These big labels feed off of us. They definitely do stuff, but I feel like... I don’t know, man. I feel like I’m too ambitious too, I’m very hands on. I need to have my own stuff going on, to build my own brand. For years, I’ve been adding to other people’s brands and their images – not my own. It’s very important to have your brand, to have something set in stone that’s yours.

@tochichels

Tagged:

Interviews, k trap, UK Drill

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