Photo by Ashley Sebok
You've heard of Kilo Kish, right? Of course you have. She's the girl who's been rap-speaking softly into your ears all of this year. And now she's becoming big, purely because she's pretty good but also, well because, she doesn't give a fuck. OR at least she appears as if she doesn't give a fuck.
I called her up on Skype at her Brooklyn flat to find out a little more, and ended up talking to her like she was an old friend; about everything from her life pre-New York during her teen years in Florida; her love for both Egon Schiele and old-school rap; how her music career started, y'know, "just for fun"; and what the acronym KKK really means. I still have no clue what you should expect from her in the coming years – but be sure to expect something big. And when that happens she'll probably say, "It's whatever!"
Noisey: Hi Kish, what are you up to?
Kilo Kish: I'm just home, writing songs, hanging out.
Are you working on new tracks?
Yeah, I'm working on some songs for another tape. I just write, then later on I see what I actually want to put out. I'm using some stuff from the group that I'm in, Kool Kats Klub, we have a producer named Mell [McCloud] who has a lot of beats and I'm going through his and all the other stuff that I have in my computer that my manager [A$AP Snacks, Justin Scott] sent me. I try to go through them all.
Actually, I was going to ask if you were going to produce anything new with Mell and Smash, I think I'm more into stuff you did with them than Homeschool.
I'm definitely still working with them. We're actually doing an R&B tape. We're all into early-90s and 00s R&B, so we're working on doing a tape over those beats – super fun. I feel like, with KKK it's a lot more playful; Homeschool was a bit more "eurgh! EMO!"
Ha! What type of other 90s stuff were you into? I mean, you were born bang in the middle of 90s pop.
Yeah! I listened to Spice Girls, N Sync, and all the boy bands. And I guess at the tail end, it was stuff like Biggie and all the old Bad Boy songs. It was a really interesting time. I think boy bands are coming back around again, I feel like my little cousins will be into boy bands or like Disney pop stuff.
So you grew up in Florida. What kind of gigs did you use to go to? I'm sort of interested to know how you used to hang out. You know, what it's like to be in your teens in Florida.
I was super academic at school, so I didn't party much, but I did go to teen nights and dance to Little Jon and stuff like that. In fact, I wasn't really into music when I was younger, I don't come from a musical family – so it was a shock to any of my family members that I even started making music, they were all like "You don't sing!?". And I'm like, "No, but it's whatever", I just make this and that's what happened.
My most fun times were involved driving to school in the morning listening to Lil Wayne's "Lollipop," then hanging out, going to parties and drinking Natty Light, like, nasty beer. That's all we did, really. There's nothing to do in Florida.
I was wondering, you're saying you didn't come from a musical background and this whole thing started just for fun, but you seem super-confident. Do you think growing up with the internet and being part of this new generation that has no reservations about what they create has helped?
Of course! And I think I'm pretty good at faking it until I make it. You can ask anybody that I ever worked with: I do not feel any different about any of my songs, they're all things that I make, and I'm like, "Oh, OK, this is alright, yeah, whatever." Somebody would say, "This is really good," and I would go, "Really?? Meh, OK!"
But even then, as far as my personality goes, I enjoy my solitude, I enjoy being to myself, so it's tough to do music and have that same attitude. Most artists are eager-faced and confident, that's not me at all. It's great that you see it that way, but it's not actually how I am. But I definitely agree, growing up I had my own Xanga, and I had MySpace – I remember my mom finally seeing it and she couldn't believe we'd put all this stuff on the internet. Our generation is definitely a lot better at putting out the things that they make and not really thinking whether it's good or bad, they're always "Oh, this is the stuff I love to do, here it is" and showing the rest of the world. I think in my case there's that factor, along with the fact that I didn't really take it seriously at first.
There were no risks involved – when it's a dream you always had, there's a risk of getting hurt by what people think of it. When it's a bit of a joke, there weren't any risks. I'm sure as I grow as a musician, it will be more personal. The first few things I made were like "whatever." I didn't have any expectations for it to become what it became.
So your attitude is about trying out and not being scared?
Back to what you're producing, in the past year you've worked with The Internet and Super 3, and Childish Gambino and KKK. Will you keep on working with them exclusively or do you have any other collaborations coming up?
For me it's just about doing things in a natural way. I meet people and if it works out, then it works out. I'm not best at being set up in the studio with someone, because I'd rather be friends, then make music. That's the way it's been working thus far. I don't have the crazy confidence to get in the studio with some big wig and be like, "OK, so this is the hip song! We're gonna make that now!" I really wouldn't know what to do. So, it's very important for me to have a relationship where I could feel comfortable.
Certain people cannot be in the studio when I record, I can't have my manager – who's my best friend, Justin [Scott, A$AP Snacks] – he can't be there, I'd be too embarrassed. But I'm definitely trying to branch out a little bit, and work with some more people for the next project. Like you said, I'm such a new musician, and I'm still at a formative stage where I'm trying to figure out what I actually like making the most. So I'm trying different things, dark beats, more house-y beats and I'm trying to sing sometimes. That's kind of where I am right now.
Darker beats – was "Creepwave" an example of that.
Yeah, that was produced by, actually I think he's from the UK as well, it's a producer named Cronos.
Oh, I was going to ask you about him. Also, is "Creepwave" still unfinished right?
Yeah, I'm still working on it! I have a few other tracks from Cronos too, it's really fun to make that kinda creepy music.
And I saw on your Twitter that Joey Bada$$ has some beats for you too. Are you going to work on something together?
Maybe we will. I was on tour and I'd heard his music when we were on the bus coming back. I really like MF DOOM, like, the old beat tapes that he used to have, so I when I heard Joey, I was like, "Who is this artist?" and then realized "Oh, I'm super late." I tweeted him right away, and it happened to be around the same time that he found out about my music, and from then on we started talking on the internet.
Good stuff. I think Joey's vibe would suit yours, it's more like the sound you have with KKK. Like your track "OKKK" reminds me of Rammellzee's "Beat-Bop".
Yeah, aha! The KKK stuff that we do is a little bit more rap-y than the stuff I just make on my own. It's definitely lot more playful, a lot more varied. It's fun, I get to be a rapper, make up weird lyrics and just sing them.
You can see it in the videos too, it's got this home-made video tape vibe to it whereas for example "Navy" is a bit more artistic. KKK stuff is more juvenile, in a good way obviously.
And when KKK starts doing shows, that's going to be really fun. When Smash comes out at my own shows, it always makes me comfortable, it's always like a party, and I'm cracking up on stage.
I kinda want to ask to you about the KKK title and why you chose that acronym.
Actually J. Scott has to tell you this. Basically, him and Steve [A$AP Yams] came up with the name, it meant Kool Kats Klub. Mell also used to do beats with them. When Smash and I started making music together, we only had beats from Steve and Mell. Then we thought, why don't we just make a group, and J. Scott was like "Oh you can be Kool Kats Klub," so we just took that name. KKK, in general, is just an acronym for whatever we want the name to be. It doesn't always have to be Kool Kats Klub, it can be Kilo Kish Killers, or Kind Kids Krew, we tell people different names, just for fun. It basically forces you to say KKK.
To change the association of it?
Exactly. People get angry at us about the name, like "it's racist." But, obviously, we're all black! There's no racist associations on our part. I don't think it's fair that Ku Klux Klan gets to have the only acronym for the letters KKK. It sounds cool, and there's no reason they should get to keep that to themselves forever.
Pretty smart way to reclaim it.
I want to move on to your paintings. Have you exhibited them anywhere?
I had one art show, and I had some photos in an exhibition last week. I went to school for textile design so I like making patterns, but painting is like a side thing that I enjoy doing for fun. I always think, "Ah, I'll finish that later", I have no patience at all. So when I discovered music it was perfect, because it's super quick for me; in a good two or three hours I can complete a song and put it on my blog. I keep coming back to my paintings, but with music I just do it and it's done.
Any painters you admire?
Yeah, I fell in love with Egon Schiele's style when I was younger. His stuff is my biggest inspiration.
I love him too. My favorite is Agony.
I definitely like his portraits, pencil drawings, and watercolors, and the unfinished ones.
Moving on, are you signed?
It's all self-released except for the "Navy" single which was released on my friend, Juliette's label The Blue Rider, but I'm not signed as an artist. I work with my booking agent who's a really good friend, my manager, J. Scott, is one of my best friends, and I've got a good PR, and good lawyer. So I'm not looking into making an album anytime soon…
I'm interested to know, after talking about the internet and this neo-DIY age, do you think it's better to be unsigned?
I'd have to be signed to know if it's better or not, but I have everything that I need to do what I want. At some point I might I need to go on the next level and need help that's actually bigger than me. I've met with label people, it's not something I feel I've been needing or thought "this is perfect for me". Until that happens I'm not going to sign. I like making everything myself, I like having the control over my merchandise, over my music, over who I want to work with. I don't want to be pressured to put out something that I don't like making, I put stuff out when I feel like it. I like having my own rules.
That's admirable. OK, one last random thing before we hang up. I saw you tweeting your brussels sprouts with pancetta to Action Bronson. Does he cook for you or anything?
Ah! Any time that I make food that's pretty-looking I send it to him. He's really funny, he's one of the friendliest rappers around, well, one of the friendliest people ever. I told him that I definitely wanted to cook with him or, like, go to his house and eat food.
Do a cooking show together!
We'll make a video of it, just for fun!
SWEET, and we know what happens when Kilo does shit "just for fun"…
Follow Esra on Twitter @esragurmen