What do crack dealers and rap artists have in common? Almost nothing, it turns out. Following 50 Cent's (aggressively label-abetted) rise to the status of bad-boy artiste, many thought a new model had arisen to describe the successful twenty-first century street-credible musician. This failed to happen. Why? Because the intellectual requirements of drug distribution are far exceeded in rigor by the demands of studio and stage, and correspondingly few souls have migrated from the former world to the latter (though the reverse transformation has certainly transpired in music lore). And yet, having reached the lintel of artistic fame and fortune, are the lessons of addiction and its business plots so far from relevant to former crack dealer Kilo M.O.E.? No; listen to 'Everything Designer' and you'll see where and how it all comes together as the fascinating picture of a single human in supremely challenging circumstances. Independent reporter Alexis Adams recently caught up with the muscular rap artist to talk about the music industry, the challenges he faces creating material that others can relate to, and his plans for the future.
ALEXIS: When did you first get that feeling that your music career was gaining momentum?
KILO M.O.E.: In 2013 when I pushed my first major marketing campaign Globetrottaz. I never expected it to be received so well. I moved a hundred pieces of merchandise and literally broke the Dropbox link I posted of my performance. The shows were small and personal but I gained a very solid following. I knew this was going to be something when profile pictures of woman were changing to them wearing my tees. All in the course of two months I went from 10-20 plays per week on SoundCloud to 100s of plays per day on multiple platforms. I literally had to look twice at the link because it kept saying shut down due to too much traffic! Yeah, momentum.
ALEXIS: Your song 'Everything Designer' is receiving a positive listener response on radio. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
KILO M.O.E.: Well, I sort of had mixed feelings in this regard simply because I'm always working. So I was picking it apart at first. But the next time I heard it in rotation with some majors I was completely convinced I really know what I'm doing. All I could think was ‘I got it!’ The excitement of your work paying off is a feeling many humans never really experience. It's powerful.
ALEXIS: What was the inspiration behind your debut radio single?
KILO M.O.E.: Around winter 2013 I flew back out to Kansas to promote my upcoming mix tape ‘Plug Life.’ We were hanging out at our hideaway we call ‘The Q.’ We made plans to drive down to Dallas to hook up with some old friends. My man pulled out the big 400 Lex and we were just bouncing and laughing about how good life was at the moment. That experience gave me the inspiration to the hook and the verses. It's why I am saying ‘we like’ because that's the anthem and its dedicated to my day one crew. We always have been designers, always had sports cars and Louis gear, even back in High school. For the ‘Presidential Obama’ part I had my man Dash Diggla in mind. This is why I had to have him appear on the couch with me in the video. Dash is the President. He picks up the phone gets things moving when needed. Like when the president has to pick up the red phone.
ALEXIS: It is often said that great art arises from difficult experience. Is there something in your life experience thus far that you would describe as the ‘catalyst’ or ‘fuel’ for your desire to create music?
KILO M.O.E.: Certainly, when I create I'm channeling triumph on every song. Every lyric is a feeling of triumph over pain whether it’s physical or mental. When I restarted my music career I was fresh off of a very promising bodybuilding and fitness career. My body completely shut down on me. I had nothing else but music to fall back on. I'm an ex-felon. There are not a lot of options for guys like me. We have to take the entrepreneur route. People that do this are often secretly ridiculed. We’re kicked when we're down and looked down upon. So for every lyric, my catalyst and fuel is the fact that my resilience and successes - small or large - are a triumph over those who never thought I'd make it. It's not as simple as the cliché of haters. That's corny and boring. It's much deeper.
ALEXIS: How would you characterize yourself as an artist/musician? (Ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving, complicated…)
KILO M.O.E.: As an artist I'm serious. My art is serious. I like to dig deep into the psyche. Call people out on their lies and hypocrisy. I touch on topics of metaphysical aspects of the game. Even in my approach to the streets I am serious and thought provoking. As a crack dealer I was a thinker. Always knew there was more to what I was doing than just bitching 20's and cooking ounces. I’ve been through a lot and I deal with it by making some attempt to understand it. I try to portray this through my art.
ALEXIS: What has your experience been like working with the other people on your team?
KILO M.O.E.: Oh, the team... Well a lot of ups and downs and changes. However I will say this; when I've called upon people to perform and get things done there were few let downs. Or I wouldn't be here. My producer Tony with GoodFella Muzik is just so efficient and I consider him my family. Also Top aka 6 foot 3 Blackmale, another great producer and great person that keeps me inspired. The camraderie between me and my cousin Milk is just amazing. We have chemistry. There really is not enough to describe to you exactly how great the experience is. I would compare it to those years in High school or middle school where you spend your entire life trying to relive it simply because you knew that it was so special it would never happen again. Yeah. This team is like the Chicago Bulls 72 win season.
ALEXIS: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?
KILO M.O.E.: Yes I did. My brother is 7 years older than me. He was a DJ. He had DJ equipment in his room when I was 7 years old. He stayed making mixing tapes and lived in the record store. He taught me how to DJ. My sister was always in band and played clarinet and was also senior conductor her sophomore year. My father and grandmother can sing and my sister was married to a man who played four instruments and toured all overseas in small bands and I'd rap for them and lived in rehearsals. Our household was a musical household. It was damn near a requirement to know the latest dance and have a routine. You had to know about songs first. And you had to be on point with songs on the radio. That was our way. We bonded that way. From rap, rock, R&B, heavy metal to country, if it was hot and popular, we had it and we played it. And you better know the words.
ALEXIS: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist? What do you find most challenging?
KILO M.O.E.: The most rewarding thing about being an artist is to see what it is you put together in your mind become a complete product. It's the whole idea and theory of creation. Nothing is more rewarding than creating. Since a child I haven't found anything to match it. Real creators know the reward I speak of. The most challenging part is taking all the things you create in audio, visual, and text and packaging it to a viable and understandable product others can identify and relate to. It's so challenging to get people to understand and see what you see. To hear what you hear in the way you hear it. That's exactly what I find so challenging.
ALEXIS: Who are your role models in music?
KILO M.O.E.: Jay Z, 50 Cent, Master P, Raekwon, Dr. Dre, and Eazy E, these guys mostly, not just musically, but for the businesses they created and the brands they built. I have studied these guys and watched countless hours of video and have read so much on these guys over the years especially as a teenager. Michael Jackson is also another great role model. I also learned about owning your content and publishing. It was never about emulating others. It was more about consuming what they've learned and respecting their journey.
ALEXIS: Describe your best or most memorable performance.
KILO M.O.E.: That's easy. The Kansas 420 2014! More than 1500 were in attendance. So many artists showed up and showed out. And I just took the stage and killed it. This was the first time I actually seen people sing the lyrics to my songs. I've never experienced that in all my years of entertainment. That was when I knew all my marketing and promo work was spot on. It was an experience that would be on someone's bucket list. A & R's were in the building and checking me out. It was definitely the biggest and the best.
ALEXIS: What advice would you give to young, aspiring artists out there who are unsure and need guidance?
KILO M.O.E.: Stop thinking that because you are good it’s worth anything. Worth is built on time and work. A great song is only that. It is in no way a reflection of how talented you are. Talent is cultivated over time. Give yourself time and duplicate that great song a gazillion times. Don't swing for your own nuts. Let the fans do that. Get fans.
ALEXIS: What's next for you as an artist? Is there a new single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
KILO M.O.E.: An exciting year planned out ahead. I am focused on increasing sales and besting 2014's run. I am also going to be focused on developing the newer artists on my roster as a CEO and growing the label. I've just completed my first studio album ‘Gods and Generalz.’ It'll be dropping sometime mid-2016. I've pushed it back twice. The first single from this album will be dropping in the fourth quarter in October/November. That's called 'Outchea Winning' produced by GoodFella Muzik. The album is currently being mixed down and its second and third mix phase. It's an epic journey of mental warfare. It’s very aggressive and deeply concept-oriented. I'll be bringing out one of our newer artists Guillotine Garvez and a feature from the president Dash Diggla. There will also be a feature from the former Rough Ryder J Hood on the hook. A lot of other surprises on there I can't give it all away. So, cop it when it drops. Thank you for having me!
ALEXIS: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us about your musical journey and life experiences! We really look forward to hear what’s coming next from you!