For many, music is way more than just a way to gain fame and stardom. It is a way to get out their thoughts and expressions while providing a creative outlet with no restrictions and unlimited possibilities. Music goes way further than just sights and sounds. For an individual like renowned hip-hop artist Krizz Kaliko, music is more than just his life’s work: it’s his lifeline.
Krizz has built a reputation on not being afraid to discuss topics that many shy away from. He’s established a career as one of the most successful independent rap artists in the game while working with the likes of Tech N9ne and the whole Strange Music roster. Krizz is all about taking chances, and he’s about to take one of the biggest chances of his career. After releasing five consecutive hip hop albums, Krizz is set to release his first R&B/Pop album, Go. Go is a mix of complex sounds including strings, horn and choir singers. Go has a rawness to it with brutally honest lyrics.
In preparation for the release of Go (which drops today), Krizz recently spoke with Singersroom in an exclusive interview. He discusses the reason behind the new musical direction, putting too much of himself out there, and much more
Joe Nelson: Hello everyone, it’s Joe Nelson from Singersoom.com, and I am joined by renowned hip-hop artist Krizz Kaliko. Hey Krizz how’s everything going?
Krizz Kaliko: Going good man, what’s up brother?
Joe: Not a lot, just checking out the album you’re about to put out, Go. I was listening to Go the other night and definitely loving what I’m hearing. A lot of positive reviews and feedback from what I’m seeing online. Everything seems to be promising. Singersroom just published an article the other day, and the response has been great.
Krizz Kaliko: Yeah man, the responses have been. I haven’t seen almost any negative responses, man. To the newcomers that don’t know me, they’re loving it; to our current fan base with Strange Music they’re loving it, and I was taking a chance doing a predominantly singing album, so I am glad it’s being well received.
Joe: Speaking of taking a chance, what made you go to the route of wanting to put out an R&B/Pop album having established such a successful career as of a hip-hop artist as you have over so many years? Your last five albums have all been hip-hop, and this will be your 6th major release, but it’s more Pop/R&B versus what you’ve done in the past.
Krizz Kaliko: Well man, the good thing about Strange Music is that we’ve always been able to do whatever we want to. I come from the tutelage of Tech N9ne and he’s always speaking about doing whatever type of music we wanted to. I’ve always sang. I sang hooks on my album. I sang hooks on his album and the whole Strange Music roster. Travis O’Guin, who is the C.E.O of Strange Music, has been really on my bumper about doing an entire singing album. He said, “Man, you know, I think that the songs that most of our core fan base attaches to, are the ones where you sing.” He’s like, “Why don’t you try?” He’s been asking me for like five years.
I was like, “You know what? If I’m going, do a singing album it’s going to sound like this” and that’s what you hear on the album. I’m just taking a chance. I said it in a song that Tech N9ne and I had, it’s called “Strange Music Box.” I said, “I am just playing with music.” Fortunately, I’ve been able to do that pretty successfully over the years, so I thought why stop now?
Joe: In speaking of Tech N9ne and the guys on the roster of Strange Music, did you get sort of negative feedback? What kind of criticism did you get when you told everyone you were going a different route this time around?
Krizz Kaliko: Not at all, not one bit, everybody was totally putting it like, “Yes, finally.” It’s like they’ve been waiting for me to do it. We’re all brothers over there, the entire roster; Rittz, Ces Cru, Steve Stone, Mayday and everybody that’s on the label. They were all waiting on it, and I included a lot of them on the project. They were happy to do it, so no I haven’t gotten anything negative. Matter of fact I feel like it perked everyone up and in actuality, this is the biggest push and support that I received from the label ever. There’s a lot going on there. I feel like the album with the title, Go, actually goes right along with what we’re doing. We’re just going man. Strange Music is definitely on the rise being the number one independent hip-hop label in the world, and I’m trying to continue that legacy, with trying new stuff and doing the music.
Joe: In working with your label mates, Tech N9ne and the other guys, how is it different on this album versus the past albums that you guys created..not just strictly your stuff, but their project’s as well?
Krizz Kaliko: It’s not really different, it’s pretty much what we’ve been doing all along. I get on their albums, and I either do a rap verse, or I sing the hook, or I do both. I’ll have them rap on my projects, give me a few bars. So I did that on this one. I got pretty much everyone on one song called “Orangutan”. We always have these chopper songs where we rap really fast and you know that’s what Strange Music has really been known for because of Tech. I had them all get on “Orangutan”. I have Tech on like four songs, but I really wanted to do this without a lot of features. I wanted to do it by myself. I wanted to get that attention on me, and that’s basically what we did. Hip-hop albums usually have more features anyways. When you’re doing a predominantly singing album, I don’t feel like you necessarily have to do that. It’s good politically, but I just wanted to do it like this. Like I said before with Strange Music we’ve been able to do whatever we want to do, so that’s what I did.
Joe: Speaking of “Orangutan” I remember reading your notes on the individual songs and you have your wife Crystal Watson, and her group, Kali’s Angels on there!
Krizz Kaliko: That’s what I called them, Kali’s Angels. Kali short for Kaliko. They aren’t necessarily a group, but I call them that because they sing background with me on stage. They sing on my album; Crystal Watson, my wife, and her artist whom she manages named Delinea Janelle and another young lady named Gena McFadden and I called them Kali’s Angels. It was really just a joke. I didn’t even think that you would even know that, but I have them help me out. That was part of the make-up of this album… it needed to sound vintage and futuristic at the same time. So I had them on there, doing all my “oohhs” and “aahhs”, little doo-wops, background pieces and singing. It all came together so beautifully especially with that alive instrumentation that I used on it.
Joe: Reading through the notes on the different tracks, I also saw that your mother played a big part on Go, especially on tracks like “Mama’s Intro” and “Logged Off”. What’s it like having her play a pivotal role, especially on the first track of the album?
Krizz Kaliko: That was just something she wanted to do. I usually have her singing on my records, but she has a little bit of respiratory trouble going on right now, so I didn’t necessarily have her do it. I will always include her in my records because if you go back and listen to any my other previous albums, she’s usually singing on something. I do that because she taught me music. She taught me how to do music. I wouldn’t know how to do this if it wasn’t for her. So that’s me just paying homage to her and thanking her. Besides, being able to buy her the last three cars. That’s me thanking her for teaching me to do this and so on, really forcing me into music because I didn’t want to do this.
My father put money away; he passed when I was 15, but he put money away for me to go to college and be an attorney. I dropped out my first year of college, and I knew that wasn’t me. I tried everything, I tried to do everything for a job and I mean dang near everything. I ended up turning to music, and it’s all because of her. So just me paying respects to my mother, I always include her. She’s a great writer. She taught me how to do all the writing and everything, so she just wrote that quick intro. She didn’t he even write it for an intro; she just said: “I just want to write so maybe you can put it somewhere on your album”. She just wrote something down, when in there and said it and I ended up using it for an intro. I told her what I wanted her to do for “Logged Off”. I explained it to her, and she wrote that, too. So I just had to use Mom, I think I am just a different artist. Everything is pretty organic with me. I’m a pretty opened book; I speak openly about my mental health issues, I speak openly about my family, I speak openly on the album, about everything. Probably TOO openly, to the point I almost got divorced several times, so… yeah man, let’s go, man, you know, let’s go for it.
Joe: Being such a deeply personal album covering topics of infidelity and suicide while running the gamut of human emotions; do you ever think you’ve shared too much or made yourself too vulnerable?
Krizz Kaliko: Maybe. Maybe. You’re probably right man, there are times I’m like, “Why did I say that?” I go through that a lot, where I’m like I might have opened up too much, but it’s like I have to almost because it really helps a lot of people. The comment I get most commonly on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram or whatever is, “You saved my life because I identified so much with everything that you say in your songs and things that you say in your interviews.” They identified so much with me, but it works out in my favor even though it hurts me in the process.
Joe: In speaking about so many different topics, going back to the suicidal thoughts, the infidelity… do you have any advice for individuals going through the same situations whether it’s personally or work related?
Krizz Kaliko: You know this is just life, you’re going to have good, and you’re going to have bad. One of the things that I’ve learned is to appreciate my brain, the good and the bad, because my brain is crazy. It torments me, but it also makes me ultra creative. The one thing that I learned is that creative people generally are like this. There’s something wrong with them, they’re a little bit to the left. Everybody has that little bit of craziness to them. Tap into it and have a creative outlet. You have all these creative outlets is what gets you through these rough times. It’s definitely what I used for my therapy. As far as relationships go, things are going to happen. I’m not saying that, when I speak about infidelity I’m necessarily saying that it has happened to me. I’m just saying that it does occur in life and, you know love conquers all, love conquers all. I grew up a Christian person, but I have soon blossomed into just a godly person, more a spiritual person because I believe that God is pure love, and that conquers everything. If you let that prevail, then you can really make it through pretty much everything. So that’s my advice, that’s kind of a blanket statement, but that’s really how I live my life and how I get through all of these struggles. I have that creative outlet and I just try to look at the glass half full instead of half empty as much as I can. When things come around I use those two tools to overcome it.
Joe: Outside of music and the success you’ve experienced through it, who is Krizz Kaliko?
Krizz Kaliko: It’s hard really to say man, because I’m so many things. I think it’s represented in my music when I do all these different genres. That’s kind of a representation of my personality. Krizz Kaliko is ultra musician in many different ways from rapping to singing to, you know, to doing anything. I don’t play any instruments, but I seem to pick them up really easily because I co-produce a lot of stuff on my album. I’m also somebody’s daddy…I’m a couple of people’s daddy. When I’m not on the road, being Krizz Kaliko living a whatever you want to call it, a rock star, rap star, whatever you want to call it life… I go home. Then I’m at PTA meeting, I’m at little league basketball, football games and changing diapers. Really I am a father. I think that it’s important I say that as an artist because lot of these artists do have kids. We have kids sprinkled around sometimes, but nobody’s raising them sometimes and that’s why they end up doing things that aren’t savory, as they should be. My father was an important person in my life, you know he died when I was 15, but he gave me a lot in those 15 years. So I feel like I owe that to the children that I have fathered to actually be that. I’m also a guy that people come to for advice and counseling, even fans.
I take time to talk to fans at the meet and greets. We have 150, 100, at least 100+ people every day at our meet and greets before each show. We have one today at three o’ clock, and I talk to these people because these people hear these kind of interviews. They see what I’m saying on the blogs, and they hear what I’m saying in my music, so they come because they want to see if that’s real. Even though they know that it’s real by how I’m talking, how I’m singing. You can tell I mean it, but I’m that to man. I feel like I’m put here to help, Krizz Kaliko is here to help whether that be musically, whether that will be… Whatever… You know what I mean? In actually, it’s funny, my wife teases me because if I’m ever around, and a fight breaks out with people I know, sometimes people I don’t know, I jump in. I’m here to help man, I’m like a servant, a servant to this world, you know, this is what I do.
Joe: In terms of the EP dropping next Friday April 8th, what do you guys have planned for the album, promotion? How can people stay up to date with what’s going on with you, Strange Music and the label?
Krizz Kaliko: We’re doing it all, which is a media frenzy, which is touring, which is… That’s our biggest thing, we tour, tour, tour, tour. Right now we are on the Independent Powerhouse 2016 tour, and we do that and support everybody’s career. Since my album is dropping, this is going to be the byproduct that ends up being in support of my record. So we’ll continue the tour, drop new music. We continue to do what I’ve been doing which is dropping tunes, dropping videos, we constantly give fans more and more and more and more man, so we’re going to continue doing that and continue to contact people. We’re going to continue to have people contact us like Singersroom to get the word out here, to spread this beautiful music, that has had an effect on people for the last 16 years. We’ve been around for a minute. Then, of course, people are going to see me as a new artist because they maybe heard of Tech N9ne and oh the other guys. So now the other guy has a name, it’s Krizz Kaliko, ha.
Joe: Well of course. Again listening to your album the other night, going through the notes; you definitely have a lot to say, a lot to discuss and a lot to offer to people. Not just from a music standpoint, but from a life stand point. It’s deeper than just music, it’s not just a guy singing on a track, so I would definitely have to say, this is to me definitely an album worth checking out and listening to a few times. I listened to it with my sister on the other night, and she said “It’s kind of that John Legendish type of vibe, a Maroon 5.” So yeah, I mean… Krizz thank you for getting on the phone and speaking about everything going on.
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