Finally releasing his debut album Vitiligo just last year, Kaliko displayed a unique sound and style many followers only caught glimpses of through sparse features with Tech. Now, with his sophomore album out entitled Genius, Kaliko spoke with DXnext about his city’s destiny, major label praise, and why his new album is better than anything you’ve heard in 2009.
Influences: Tech N9ne [click to read], Marvin Gaye, Slipknot.
A Young Emcee In The Making: “I really always rapped, ever since I first heard Sugar Hill Gang and N.W.A. [click to read]. It’s funny because I come from a background of singing. My mother was the director of a church choir and she taught me harmonies and how to sing. Back in the day, we used to do this thing called rap cracking. Because of the way I looked kids was always trying to get at me, but they didn’t know I could freestyle rap. I was able to freestyle rap, beating on a lunch room table talking about their mama and their sister. I used to do it just for fun and never really thought it was gonna be a career.”
Making The Connection With Tech N9ne: “I met DJ Icy Rock, who was my sister’s boyfriend when I was a kid. When I grew up I moved into his neighborhood, and he just happened to be the guy who kick started Tech N9ne’s career. Tech had gone to look for several record deals, but they never really worked out. So when he came back to Kansas City he started working with DJ Icy Rock, and I was Icy Rock’s protégé. He put us together, and Tech asked me to help him do one song called 'Who You Came To See' on Anghellic. We’ve been working together ever since.”
More Than Tech’s “Right Hand Man”: “We’re like brothers man, that dude is my best friend, and we used to live together. I lived at his house, and slept on the couch. He lived with me and my wife, and slept on the couch. We lived at somebody else’s house, and I slept on one couch and he slept on the other, you know. Every tour that we’ve had we drove in vans and cars. We were driving 20,000 or 30,000 miles on tour, and that’s a long time to be with somebody, so you can either learn to love or hate them. And we have the best chemistry, even on a social level. I don’t have my son’s birthday party without inviting him over. It’s way deeper than music.”
The Appeal of Kansas City: “It’s not a major hub for entertainment. It was a major hub for Jazz back in the day, but Kansas City is not necessarily known for huge artists coming out of it. It’s like a Cincinnati or Akron, Ohio, a place you don’t see or hear about any major noise being made as far as entertainment goes. We’ve had a few people over the years come out on the R&B tip, but Hip Hop in Kansas has never been known for breaking artists like a New York.”
“It’s really diverse, but what you’ll hear more is the gangster stuff. Kansas City, it’s like any city; it’s got its hood, it’s got its suburbs. Of course, most of its rappers come from the hood, so they talk about what they know. The Rap scene doesn’t really have a huge outlet here. Tech and I are pretty much the only guys doing it big, but there’s a lot of talent here. We are a horse of another color as far as business goes, and as far as talent goes. That’s why while the industry is declining, we are elevating.”
Ready For The Lime Light: “It took us almost a decade to build a Tech N9ne/Strange Music entity this big, and I even felt like it wasn’t time for me back in the day. People used to be like, ‘When you gonna do an album?’ but it wasn’t time. I had to mature musically to become a solo artist, and I feel like I showed that on Vitiligo and even more on Genius. I told Tech I wasn’t ready to be on my own after Vitiligo, but I feel like now we’re ready to ‘cut the proverbial umbilical cord.’ I feel like I can cut the umbilical cord and not necessarily be separate from Tech, but be my own artist and still be part of a Tech N9ne show.”
New Album Genius: “It’s the best album I’ve ever heard. And when I listen to the album man, I listen to it as a fan and I listen to it with a very critical ear. I think, ‘Would I enjoy this if it wasn’t even me?’ And it doesn’t even feel like it’s me. I’m so impressed with it, and I feel like it’s the best work I’ve ever done in my life. And that’s a big statement considering the wonderful Tech N9ne albums I’ve been a part of. Also, this album goes all over the place. It goes from a rapid fire sound that people are used to hearing from us, to straight Hip Hop, to R&B, to Nine Inch Nails type stuff, even Reggae. I did everything that I’ve learned how to do on this album.”
“The ‘funkra’ style has been perfected. Funk, Rock, R&B, Reggae and opera makes the ‘funkra.’ And what I’m trying to do is create a genre of my own that’s really all the genres mixed into one. It’s like vocally forming Voltron; it’s putting everything together. I call it musical gumbo because I got every style. And I don’t care what kind of style you like, you gonna find something you like on this album. This album is gonna be talked about for years and years to come.”
Indie Artist With A Big Label Sound: “A lot of big record executives who we sent Genius out to 'cause we were thinking about up-streaming the album to a major label but decided this would help grow Strange Music, were salivating over the album. I’ve been getting emails and calls left and right. The guy that mastered my album masters Beyonce, Nine Inch Nails, Rolling Stones, etc. And he called and personally told [Strange Music CEO] Travis O’Guin that this is probably one of the top three albums he’s ever heard in his life...I knew if I was gonna call the album Genius that it was gonna have to live up to a certain standard, and you’ll find out when you listen.”
“Misunderstood” Music Video: “The concept didn’t come together until they talked about writing treatments for the video. They were like, ‘we’ll come up with a couple ideas.’ I was on the tour bus and I was taking a nap before a show, and all of a sudden I was like, ‘I got it.’ The relationship in the song and the video is that it’s a misunderstood love. And in the video I’m reminiscing about the times that we had. I reminisce about her putting on lipstick and having dinner with her and dancing, but really she’s dead now, but I can’t let go of her so I just keep her around anyway. So she’s at the dinner table, and I’m trying to force feed her, and putting lip stick on her and making her watch TV with me even though she’s just a corpse. That’s a misunderstanding right there, so it was a perfect treatment to accommodate a song called “Misunderstood.”
Major Label-Bound?: “If the deal was right and I can have my executives at Strange Music, you know, if they can help me drive the bus, then I’ll take the trip. But it would have to be a really good situation for me, as well as Strange Music, who’s helped me get here.”
Final Words: “You’ve never heard anything like me, you’ve never seen anybody that looks like me. This is a fresh drink of water to music, Hip Hop, and everything else included. And you will hear one person do what you hear on every radio station whether you listen to Reggae, Rock, Pop, backpack Rap, Dance. You’ll hear all that on one album.”