Changing the Way You Listen to Hip Hop
I have never in my life interviewed any other rapper so well spoken, intelligent & adamant about being a beacon of light & hope for all the up & comers in the game. K-Beta completely floored me with his thoughts & opinions. Heís in this rap game for more than just the power & the glory; K-Beta is here to prove that hip hop can be therapy, timeless & inspiration.
With his debut album Inglorious Beta on the shelves as we speak, K-Beta hopes to give listeners that donít follow the DMV hip hop scene a chance to hear his progression as an artist & as a man. He grew up listening to Big Daddy Kane, Run DMC & LL Cool J, just like every other rapper, but decided just six years ago that he could have music as a career. Since then, K-Betaís had his ups, downs & setbacks, but stayed determined. He & his friends started Interloop Records in 2004 & the rest has been history. With producers & artists--K-Beta included--coming out on Interloop, the next couple of years are surely going to be prosperous for K-Beta. Through his music, he plans on bringing change & growth. Thatís a great thing because itís exactly what the world needs, especially hip hop.
The albumís been out for a few weeks, do you feel youíve gotten great feedback?
Thereís been a good amount of people. I know that obviously I am unknown, so I know the world isnít sitting there waiting. The fanbase has grown. Weíve been fortunate enough to build a fanbase in the area & itís growing. Once we started pushing the album as a project, it helped us build the anticipation outside the area. For me, honestly, I am not sure. This is my first time cracking on to this team. Itís up to the people.
Tell me about how you got your start in hip hop.
Iíve been rhyming all my life, since I was a kid. I started listening to hip hop when I was really young. I was watching TV & saw rap music & it was unlike anything Iíd ever seen. I was 7 or 8. I saw two dudes, standing up there with some leather on & these hats with this guy standing behind them with two turntables. Run DMC just blew my mind. It was a natural attraction for me. Ever since then, it was something I wanted to do. I seriously sat down & thought about making a career out of this in 2004. Before that, I would rap at open mics.
How would you describe the grind youíve been on since í04?
Itís been up & down honestly Danielle. In í04, I started & I was going at it. I didnít know anything about the business. I was just making music & doing my best to get it out there. Just those few, short years ago, there werenít many outlets like there are today--,blogs & things wasnít popping like that. It was more of a street thing--the street team era was giving way to the digital age--in terms of the method of getting your music out there. We did well throughout the next few years. I went through a lot of stuff--I was battling personal demons. That was mostly through í05 & í06. By í07, I had to sit down & take a long hard look at myself & ask myself what I wanted to do with my music & with my life. Fortunately, I was able to turn things around & thatís how we started operating Interloop Records. It was all systems go from there. Since í07, weíve been running as the unit we are right now. I think it narrowed down to the people who are left for a reason.
For those that havenít gotten it yet, what can they expect to hear on Inglorious Beta?
Basically, youíre going to hear everything that it took for me to get the album out, really. We were recording these songs over the past couple of years & it really gave me a chance to get a lot of my struggles & ups & downs in perspective in a way that doesnít whine & cry or make it sound like a sad & terrible thing, but at the same time, not glorifying it. It really helped me & the listeners to see it for what it really is. Thereís a lot of hardship & struggle, but on the flip side, thereís a lot of understanding & insight. Those are the jewels & gifts that I was able to receive as a result of the struggle. I just really went through the task of putting all that together. Hopefully it comes together in a way you see the transition & progression.
How do you feel the D.C. areaís hip hop scene?
Thereís a really dope hip hop scene out here. It always has been for a long time. The music, artist & opportunities are there. From this area, weíve have artists like Wale & Tabi Bonney who have really went out there to press hard & brought the industry to an area that it hadnít even stopped by to chill for a minute. Being that as it is, everybodyís level of hunger is up & the competition is higher, itís really making for a great scene. Every night there is some dope hip hop going on & thereís demand for it. For me, coming up in this time, out of this area, it really excites me because Iím looking forward to having my opportunity to add on to the growth thatís already happening--to not only complement it, but grab it & take it farther than where it is now. Itís a relay race.
Does the D.C. area influence your sound?
Go-go is definitely the prevalent sound in this area. We all grew up listening to go-go. Me, as an artist, I love go-go music & will always listen to it. I definitely incorporate elements of go-go into what I do, but not to the extent that I would have it be the defining sound of the album. Itís definitely hip hop music. That influence is going to shine in what I do in the same way the influences of the emcees I grew up listening to or the music my parents listen to--all of the different ways I was affected by these sounds coming out are going to shine through on the music Iím making now. Itís important [to me] to not be emulating any particular artist or sound that came before me. I just take that influence, grind it through the filters & bring it out as your own expression.
Itís obvious that hip hop evolves. How do you feel youíve been able to see it change over the years?
Iíve seen it change all type of ways. Iíve seen it go from Run DMC being pretty much the only hip hop stars in the game for a few years to here comes LL Cool J--who was the bridge between Run DMC & the whole í88 era--Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick. When I first hear Run DMC, I was blown away by the lyrics because it was something that wasnít done before. I was able to see real serious, heavy lyricists at 10 years old. Iíve seen it go from no videos to Yo MTV Raps, Rap City. Iíve seen hip hop music only coming out of NYC & L.A. I remember the first time I saw a Section 8 Mob video on tv. Thatís another OG DC group that a lot of people around here remember, but everybody else might not. Just the fact that weíve been able to take this music that started off with someone playing records back & forth, catching the break to having full-on orchestras; weíve been able to do anything with this music. Through all the naysayers that say, ďall you do is sample,Ē thereís no limitations of what you can do with hip hop music. I donít allow myself to get caught up in this era or that era. In my opinion, the best stuff is always going to make it no matter what. Thatís really what it comes down to. You have great artists in every sub-genre of hip hop.
What is it that you bring to hip hop?
Hmm, thatís a good question. I think that I just bring raw, brutal honesty, introspect, innovative lyrical styles--all types of stuff. In this album right here, I really sat down & just put it all out there. I get up on the stage & in the booth & I want to dazzle you with the way I rap. At the same time, what Iím saying is what I am really trying to get across. You have artists who have the content & you have artists who have the style. Then you have some that have both. I grew up & always was amazed by the elite emcees of any given era. My ultimate goal & our ultimate goal at Interloop Records is to bring some more of those neverending memories--the albums, the sound, the look--for generations to come. Thatís not speaking to a sense of elitism on my part. Itís really to help you stir the competition. The example that was set forth by the artists I grew up listening to is, if youíre going to do this, then strive to be the absolute best. Make music thatís going to affect people, write rhymes that are going to give people something to think about, present solutions when you spit & at the same time, go at it in a way that people can regard you as the best thatís ever done it.
Who have you been able to work with?
On this album, I worked with all the greats--Kev Brown from Low Budget, J Scrilla--who is is part of our label & the primary producer on the album, Judah--who is also from the area, Over Rock--who is also part of our label. Then youíve got my man Grussle & Soulful--the two newest additions to our label, both talented producers & young dudes who never seem to stop coming up with new styles or making beats. Then thereís my man Kevlar who produced some of my favorite songs on the album. Thereís a wide variety. Iím glad that we were able to sit down & make all those different sounds & style of production on one album. That was a challenge. I have a broad sound, but itís cohesive. Itís been a learning experience, making an album. We sat down & made sure it wasnít a mixtape with original beats. People can vibe with it. I miss that. What I see now with the iPods & the lack of quality in a lot of the albums coming out today; people donít sit down & just listen to the album. Iím guilty of that. I was the dude. I bought tapes & played them front to back, over & over again. Now, you might like this song when it starts, then midway, your attention span is down & you skip to the next one. Thereís a lot of good music, but thereís not a lot of great albums anymore. Just being blunt about it, hip hop fans & media are quicker to give an album classic status to say itís a great album just because itís head & shoulders above the sea of mediocrity weíre dealing with right now. I just really want to go all out & not be lazy on any part of the album.
Where do you see your career going?
All the way. Iím in this to make this a full-fledged lifestyle. I love music. Iím in this to get to a point to when I wake up, thatís all I have to do. In addition to that, I make this music to not only give me a measuring stick for myself, my life & how I live; I want to help people. Iíve been through a lot in life. I truly believe that a lot of the turmoil & struggles that Iíve endured is the same that other people have gone through. Being able to hear that, as opposed to the lack of substance that is crowding the game right now; it gives them a chance to see that somebody can relate to them. A young hip hop fan may identify with me because of the shoes Iím wearing or the way that I rap or my attitude, persona or swag. Hey can listen to my music & see that not only do they identify with me on a surface level, they can go deeper than the surface on a substantial level. My career doesnít stop with making music. Thatís my love & what I want to do every day, but at the same time, Iím going to hopefully be able to explore other avenues of putting forth & being a presence in the world for change & growth.
What are you currently working on?
I actually have a few projects in the works. Weíve been working really hard lately. Iím working on an album with a production group out of VA called Team Demolition. They actually produced 50 Centís ďCrime WaveĒ from his latest album. Iíve been working with them for years. In 2009, we decided to go ahead & put this album out. Their studio is mainly where I record anyways, so it was a natural occurrence. Weíre about 80% complete with that & hopefully it will be out by the end of the summer. Iím about to start working on the follow-up for Inglorious Beta. Hopefully I will have that out before the year is out.
Is your project with Team Demolition a solo album or youíre teaming up?
Itís a solo album. I will be the main emcee on there; itís primarily solo records. Itís an album & theyíre producing the whole thing. Itís just going to be a particular sound because they have a sound thatís so hip hop. Itís heavy on percussion, samples; itís a lot of fun making this album. Weíre doing it organically. Itís the first time I sat down & had one producer & we go in day in & day out & create an album from scratch. Itís been a whole different experience from creating Inglorious Beta. Itís shown me a whole different way of going about & creating music.