World Premier: KayOKen – LOVE EP

In Hip Hop by Nick Russell

World Premier: KayOKen – LOVE EP

Following support on BBC Radio from Zane Lowe and Charlie Sloth, true-school lyricist KayOKen takes the next step of his musical journey with ‘LOVE’. The first of a three EP trilogy, as he explores themes of love, fear, regrets, insecurities as well as inspiration and creativity. // //


Grab the EP on a ‘name your price’ basis via Bandcamp and stream below!

We spoke to Ken recently who discussed his inspirations behind the EP, the hip hop game in 2015, and how kick starter projects help to connect the fans to the artists on a deeper level than was possible before!

Tell me about the concept behind the EP, what was the catalyst?

The concept was inspired from a book I was reading at the time called ‘A Return To Love’ by Marianne Wilson which highlights the importance of love in finding inner peace. One of the key philosophies of the book is Love vs Fear and how we are born as beings of pure love, full of creativity and invention, with no limitations. Slowly as we grow up we add layers of fear on top of ourselves which then represses our true nature; stopping us from reaching our full potential which we were more in tune with as children. The book is a guide on how to let go of all the fears and return to your core self which you were born as by showing love in order to find your inner peace.

This was a very relevant message for me at the time being at a crossroads as an artist and person contemplating what to do next having just experienced all sides of the music industry as part of Kings of the City. The book highlighted the connection between love and creativity (everything we create is inspired by love), which fully resonated with me so I decided I wanted to explore it musically on this EP by being as creative as possible. Not thinking about limitations and parameters and what I should and shouldn’t do – just be creative and express myself along the theme of LOVE. That’s why there are hardly any set structures to the songs and typical hook and verse structures. It’s very free form in keeping with the theme of creativity.

Another catalyst for the record was weed. I literally hadn’t smoked weed for about 10 months and one night I was chilling with 8bit (producer from De$ignated) and he started playing me some music. He played the ‘Everything Ode To You’ beat and the ‘Am I Mad’ beat, which both blew my mind. I ended up going home, found some more beats by the same producers and wrote about three quarters of the EP that weekend, I was so inspired.

As an artist you take a different approach than most to the lyricism – from who or what do you draw inspiration?

I draw most of my inspiration from the music I choose to write to. As crazy as it might sound the beats dictate to me how and what I should spit. I like my lyrics to complement the beats as much as possible in terms of flow, and feel so wherever the beat goes I go. That way it sounds cohesive and like a true collaboration between words and music. Also that means every track will be different.

In terms of lyricism, I grew up listening to very skilled lyricists like Nas, Eminem, Jay Z, Talib Kweli, Klashnekoff, Kano, Ghetts, amongst others. Nowadays they include Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Joe Budden, Elzhi, Royce Da 5’9″ and many more who I try to emulate whenever I write.

How do you think the hip hop world has changed since you first started rapping?

Wow, A LOT. I started rapping when Stillmatic came out. Hip Hop was in it’s prime and fast becoming if not already the most popular form of music on the planet.

Rap songs were dominating pop radio but without musical compromise. All different types of styles were prospering. Since then technology and the internet has changed the landscape completely. Mainstream Hip Hop has become a lot less balanced and there are fewer artists reaching high levels of success anymore. There is also less money in Hip Hop in terms of sales and investment, as record labels have stopped investing long term into artists as they are not confident of a good return.

The internet has allowed for more people to get exposure more quickly, which has led to a lot of viral hits and less artists with originality and longevity. However this is mainly on a mainstream level and to be fair it seems to be shifting back now towards more lyrical and meaningful Hip Hop at the forefront. The internet has also benefited the underground scene, as good music is still being made so it’s not hard to find great material if you mine for it. In fact making music independently seems to be the new model for success, as the need for a big record label to reach your audience becomes more and more obsolete.

Musically Hip Hop is more global now and there are so many variations and scenes around the world inspired from it. The UK created grime, and a number of artists have seen major success from that. It’s turned into a music genre that has influenced many artists and been fused with so many genres that you would be hard pressed to not hear a rap somewhere in any type of popular music.

You were recently involved in a kick starter project to fund the final Kings of the City record – do you think this will become more common practise in the independent music world for artists to get funding?

Yes definitely, the internet has provided artists direct access to their fans and something like kick starter is perfect for raising funds directly from the people who support your music as opposed to going to a record label or funding it yourself.

It also brings the fans closer to the artist and opens the door for the fan to take on more of a role than just the end-consumer, as they can get more involved in the whole process of a project from start to finish. The creation of packages for different levels of investment is a great model because the artist can offer more to the fan than just the music with the guarantee that it will be fulfilled as the investment is secured early. It’s great value for both sides, which is what makes a good business model.

What can listeners expect on the following 2 EPs in this series?

The next two EPs are called ‘Legacy’ and ‘Truth’, and without giving too much away you can expect a unique sound and theme from both of them individually. Whereas LOVE focused on creativity in it’s purest form, the next EP will focus on the idea of LEGACY and explore the importance of creating something as a human being that will outlast you. There will still be the creative aspect to it but the mood, feel and content will be different.

TRUTH will be exactly as the title suggests… It will be the EP where I candidly express my views and opinions on various subjects including myself. Anyone that is familiar with my music knows I like to have a conscious element in my music and this will be the project where that is brought to the forefront in the most exciting way possible.

The idea of these three EPs is to showcase the elements I represent as an artist going forward, I view them as like a 3 part demo to producers, DJs, listeners and other artists.