Staff Writers



Perhaps it was growing up in close proximity to Harvard and MIT, perhaps it was his close affiliation with the legendary Mush Records imprint, or perhaps it is just his natural bent for swaggering, imaginative, hyper-intense wordplay – whatever, K-the-i??? has carved out a unique and inimitable corner of hip-hop for himself, peppering his rhymes with quasi-futuristic philosophy and speculative leaps of image and form which leave most rappers stranded in the dismal now, cradling their beloved Maximas and Accuras.

His new LP ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,’ released on Big Dada in the UK, is a scattershot selection of deconstructed dance music poly-rhythms and bumping beats, courtesy of superproducer Thavius Beck, renowned for his collaborations with, among many others, Saul Williams and Lab Waste. Featuring guest emcees of the caliber of Busdriver, High Priest, Beck himself and many other leading lights of the underground scene, the album is a no-nonsense assault on the senses, a quantum leap of both rhyme and music.

Following on from his much-beloved debut LP ‘Broken Love Letter,’ it showcases an emcee whose star is on the rise in both the US and the UK, and beyond. Weaponizer emailed K-the-i??? (Kiki to his friends) for an extended diatribe on hip-hop, robotics and philosophy. This is how it went down…

I imagine a lot of people ask about the question marks in your name. You’ve said elsewhere that they carry a lot of meaning for you. When did this first become your name, and what was the genesis of it?

Back in the early days of the mid 90's when I really started getting into the actual art of emceeing, a lot of emcees in those days were spelling out their emcee name somewhere during there songs. I first, at one point of time used to go by my name, Kiki. Sometime around 93-94, I had this rap where I started the verse out spelling Kiki, like... Well it's the k-the-i??? the k-the-i??? and so forth. A few of my friends thought it would be interesting if I went by the name k-the-i???; I at first thought that the name pretty was stupid, haha. I thought about it a little more and ended up using the name, not to mention, since I kicked that song at every party, venue, etc, in Cambridge, Massacheussets, everyone in the neighborhood when they would see me would start chanting, well it's the k-the-i???, the k-the-i???. It's kind of funny; my friends actually helped the name stick. 3 is my lucky number, I always tend to emphasize my expressions to the third power. The 3 question marks at the end of my name accelerate the curiosity, the question marks draw you closer toward the interest of actually wanting to know who??? k-the-i??? really is.

Your LP ‘Broken Love Letter’ came out on Mush – how long have you had a relationship with Mush, and how have they supported your music?

I first got with Mush towards the end of 2005. They were interested in picking me up to add me to there already amazing roster and I felt honored to be accepted to a label I personally been a fan of for a few years. Around that time, I happen to have recorded 25 % of a record that I was working on, called ‘Broken Love Letter.’ I sent them what I had, they liked it, I finished the record, sent it to them, AntiMc mixed it, and there you have it, haha. The record came out October 31st 2006.

Mush has supported me for three and half years now. They helped raise my career by giving me the freedom to express myself through song, releasing my music and helping me draw attention, as well as helping me create a decent following. They also helped me land the licensing deal with Big Dada by sending them the record, and giving me a chance to establish another level of success.

How did you hook up with the Big Dada?

I wasn't signed to Big Dada. I was part of a group that was released on Big Dada. The group was called NMS (Nephilim Modulation Sessions). It featured powerhouse emcees Bigg Jus and Orko Eloheim. On the first record 'Woe to Thee O Land Whose King is a Child' I appeared on the song 'Ha Ha Ha Ha (x4).' I was the first verse. On their second Big Dada release, 'Imperial Letters Of Protection,' I had a solo song titled 'Hold The Atmosphere.' Those appearances helped open a new audience for me in Europe.

It’s been said that you have a lot of love for UK trip-hop like Sneaker Pimps and Portishead. Was this one of the reasons you wanted to release your music in the UK as well as in the US?

Yeah, I've always been a huge a fan of the UK music scene. From the Beatles to Broadcast, Portishead, Sneaker Pimps, just about everything on Big Dada, and Warp, not to mention the dubstep scene out there is insane.

Your lyrics pack a real philosophical punch. What inspires you to write? What proportion of your lyrics would you say were ‘personal’ (ie, just to do with you / your state of mind) and what proportion are ‘observational’ – (ie, about the world / people and so on)?

Ever since I was a child I would always over-observe, over-analyze, and over-imagine. I was an extremely curious child that wanted to know more, questions that lead to more questions. I was that elementary school kid that wanted to know why the sky was blue, and why water was wet. The actual will to learn inspired my philosophical attributes, as applied in my music. So I would say throughout each song I apply 50% personal experiences and apply 50% observational tendencies.

What lead to you collaborating with Thavius Beck on the new LP? What do you like about his beats and production style?

We officially met March 2006 at SXSW. We both played the Mush Records showcase, we've talked about doing music. Mush (Robert Curcio) later suggested to us that we should create a record with me on the emceeing and him on the production, They flew me out from Cambridge, Mass to LA and we made it happen.

His production style is really different. Though it has dance elements applied to each track there's a sense of darkness and obscurity within his beats, they bump heavy and it's hard not to like them.

Many of the tracks on your new album are very short and succinct – did you set out to make an album of short pieces, or did it just happen that way organically?

That wasn't intentional at all, it was mainly organic. 70% through the recording of the album we noticed that the songs were short, and we actually enjoyed it that way. We wanted to establish punch but keep your attention: we would rather have you wanting more than you wanting no more.

Do you party a lot, and go to nightclubs? A lot of the musical flavors on the album seem to be smashed-up electronic sounds, so I was wondering whether you’re a regular club-goer…

I do like to party, when I first moved to LA I partied almost every day than over a period a time I had to stop, haha, the LA party scene is intense, sometimes way too intense, haha.

I took a break from the party scene to make sure I devote all my time into the new record. Now that the record is out I'm ready to push this record, party and be in the party scene once again, you know mingle with my fans, haha.

How do you feel things have changed in terms of your lyrical outlook since ‘Broken Love Letter’?

‘Broken Love Letter’ was more of an experimental record: even though the record was based around relationships, I wrote the lyrics with an abstract appeal to it.

On ‘Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow’ the record, to me, lyrically, was more crafted. Since I didn't have to devote any time into making the beats like I did on ‘Broken Love Letter,’ I had more time to really structure my lyrics. The two records differ in content, as well as an upgrade of better structured lyrics, I think.

The album features a lot of collaborations with other MCs – who else would you like to collaborate with in the future?

In the future I would like to work with bands, producers; basically musicians in general. I personally think I've worked with all the emcees that I ever wanted to work with. I would love to work with bands / producers / musician's like Broadcast, Stereolab, Bjork, Portishead (haha I know, I know, it's still just a dream), Flying Lotus, Daedelus, Mike Patton, El-P, DeerHoof, and Tobacco (of Black Moth Super Rainbow) - that's to name a few, haha.

Did you enjoy living in LA while recording the album? What was it like compared to Cambridge?

I love LA. I honestly don't see myself moving anywhere now that I'm in LA. LA is now called home. Cambridge is college city for the most part. With schools like Harvard, and MIT, we're placed high on the level of education. This is what Cambridge is known for. As for LA, this is place known for movie stars, and musicians and so forth. There's more limelight out here, it's sort of reminds me of wonderland out here in LA, it almost seems like everything is too good to be true out here, and that I'll eventually wake up in my bed in Cambridge, Mass and none of this would have ever even happened. LA feels surreal, like a dream.

When I listen to the album, I find myself thinking about time travel, scientific advances, robots and suchlike. Did you set out to make something quite futuristic?

This is an interesting question. Well, there's two parts to my answer. In a sense, take the name of the record for example: 'Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow.' The exact name and meaning is self explanatory yet there's other intricacy applied to the title.

Yesterday = My past: where I came from, and how is it was then.

Today = Where I'm at now, as far as my life, and music career goes.

Tomorrow = Where I see myself in the future: what I expect to come, with the new world / my life, etc...

So you figure with those attributes applied to a title, the words represent time travel, scientific advances and future development. Also the fact that I've read a lot of sci-fi, time travel and books on robotics and circuitry my whole life, and gaining a huge infatuation for learning about technology in general, it's real easy to teach what I've learned to my listeners.

With that said, I'm not always attentionally (sic) trying to make my music sound so futuristic, but due to my natural interest on these subjects it's hard for me not have them involved within my words expressed.

The record wasn't thought out to be completely futuristic, but it is what it is, as well as what you make and take from it.

I thoroughly enjoy what people get out of my record and my lyrics in general. It always seems to impress me when I hear what people get out of my music.

As a writer, where do you see yourself heading in terms of subject matter in the next few years?

I'm not really sure. My subject matter tends to change on it's own depending on my specific mood and feel. I work off emotions more than anything. I do know that the next Mush record that I'll be working on is called 'Color The World In Polka Dots' This will be more of a psychedelic record and with a musicians linking up with me to produce a 70's sounding album. We'll just have to wait and see where my subject matter drifts from here on out.

When can we see the K-the-i??? live show in the UK?

Me and Thavius should be up their sometime towards the end of January or early February, we're currently setting up a European tour as we speak. Check my MySpace for updates to come.

What are the key early releases and K-the-i??? rarities my readers should be trying to track down?

I have a CD that came out in 2003 on Beyond Space Ent that's pretty interesting. All my production, titled 'Me, Myself, K-the, 3rd Person - I???.' It's kind of a weird record, and outdated now but people tend to love the CD, hehe.

I also put out a CD on a record label called Shadow Animals, it's a Belgium-based label that released a CD of mine in 2005 called 'Symbiosis Inside Never Never Land.'

Those are actual album releases of mine, I do in fact have tons of early production work done for others. I've done compilations, put out 12"s, and there's a bunch of tour CDs surfacing, haha. Good luck finding any of those!

'Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow' is out now on Big Dada / Mush.

Watch K-the-i?? kick some mindbending rhymes on YouTube:

K-the-i??? and Ira

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