Intuition is one of a musician’s most powerful tools.
If you follow it, you can remain true to yourself and your art. However in this high pressure industry, with deadlines, promotion schedules and constant scrutiny; intuition can often come second place to strategy. It takes a brave artist to dedicate themselves to following what they feel in this world. [KMY.] is definitely one of the brave ones. Crafting beats of equal parts power and flow, this Londoner has been making waves for a while. With the release of his latest project ‘good.feels’ and gig schedule that is ramping up daily, we took the chance to chop it up with the producer.
So first off let’s talk ‘good.feels'. It’s a really sick album. It’s got a really cool, glitchy sound, but is still incredibly smooth. What was the process of putting this album together?
Thank you man! Well to be quite honest with you, the funny thing about Good Feels is that it’s one of those projects that just happened. I’ve got a really good friend, a producer by the name of Eahwee. He called me the night before it came out and was just like ‘you haven’t released anything in a hot minute’. After that conversation it’s like if you don’t release something tomorrow, I ain't going to talk to you haha. He’s a good friend of mine, so I know it comes from a good place but he’s also someone I really trust with things. He’s trying to put batteries in my back.
Trying to give you a little push, as it were.
Yeah. So he called me and I didn’t have anything planned or any idea of what I was going to do, but I was energised and I needed to release something. I stayed up all that night into the day (until maybe let’s say about four o’clock in the afternoon?) finishing half done beats, then mixing and mastering them. I made a few beats that night though, and I put it all together. After that I realised the whole thing really flowed well. Regardless of when they were made. So the project was really spontaneous. I just put them out so it’s cool that people are giving it praise because this is just the beginning of where things are coming from. This was like a re-introduction to me. Like a ‘I’m putting my energy back into music’ thing. I’m back.
Do you think that there's something that links these joints together?
Well yeah I think so. The whole thing is a mix of old and new. It’s stuff that was made on the day and there’s stuff that I have been sitting on for longer than I would like to admit haha. The cool thing about that though, and the reason why it was actually called ‘good.feels’, is because a lot of the music that I make is always about feeling. I wouldn’t say I’m the most technical producer. I have my own techniques, which aren’t technically correct, but it’s what’s true to me. If it feels good to me then it’s what I go by. This project was all about trying to encompass all these different feelings on record and make something that you can feel different things to.
When it comes to making beats, do you have a process? You have a really good balance of heft and flow
I guess it goes back to history. In terms of me making music, it all goes back to why I enjoy Hip Hop in the first place. When I was growing up I listened to a lot of like Kev Brown, A Tribe Called Quest and stuff like that. Also, I’m a proper underground Hip Hop fan. One of my favourite albums is ‘The Cold Vein’ by Cannibal Ox. So you know all that kind of stuff. Like really aggressive Hip Hop. If I go back to that, I guess thats where my desire to merge both styles comes from because I’m really a fan of both sides of the spectrum. In terms of my process for creation I’ll sample anything. I’ll sample stuff that came out 30, 40 years ago but also I’m not afraid to sample a track that come out six months ago if it sounds right. As for drums I try to put all my knowledge of Hip Hop into it and again, chase what feels right.
So it’s all about having no limitations. Just following that good feeling?
Yes exactly that. I do everything by feeling. If the drums feel right and the bounce feels right, then I go with that. If the sample feels right and fits right, then I go with that.
You touched on a few influences there, but who would you say your biggest inspirations are?
Ooo that’s hard one! Well my biggest influence 100% is Madlib. When people ask me what kind of production I do, I always say I’m a brute force sampler. Madlib embodies that totally for me. He’s the kind of producer that taught me there’s more than one sample, one loop and one track. You can sample the same track over and over and can come up with something different each time. For example the sample from Lupe Fiasco’s ‘Paris,Tokyo’ is one I’ve actually flipped like four times. I’ve got four different beats off that. Same thing with one of the songs from Cowboy Bebop. I’ve sampled that song like two or three times.
I feel you. Again it’s that no limitations thing.
Yeah, no limits man. I have a mantra which is ‘Sample Anything, Sample Everything.’ There is nothing that’s not worth sampling, there’s no bad ideas in music. Just create and see where it takes you.
Who are some contemporaries you think are really killing it right now?
Definitely Eahwee. I will say that without hesitation. I feel he has a special something and I'm not just saying this because he’s a homie. As a fellow producer he’s someone that I look up to in terms of sound and texture but he’s not just making music for the sake of it. The stuff he makes comes from a totally natural place and I 100% resonate with that. We talk all the time and I have a high respect for him and his music. He’s a legend already in my eyes; he doesn’t need to release anything else. He can have his discography now and I’ll be happy. I’m also really feeling a lot of rappers as well. You’ve got rappers like Denzel Himself, who I’m really cool with, and all their camp. Shout out to Set Count! You’ve also got a rapper like Myylo Whyte who I’m really good friends with as well. To be honest with you, I feel like the London scene in general has amazing talent. I just want to see everyone pulling together because there are so many dope people over here. It’s like boiling pot of talent right about now.
You tweeted about applying fighting game theory to making beats; can you get into that a little bit? What’s the theory?
Yes, yes, yes. Oh my God haha! So all right, I’m a huge fighting game fan, always have been, always will be. I grew up with my dad being a heavy Street Fighter 2 Turbo player. Going to tournaments, all kinds of stuff. In that game he used to play Balrog, he used to play Sagat, but most notoriously he used to play Blanka. The theory behind approaching a fighting game isn’t based on who can take out who first. It’s always about who has the most life and who makes the best decisions in that round. In terms of applying that mind-set to music, it translates into resilience. The way to be the best in fighting games isn’t always an easy trip. It comes from a lot of experience and learning from a lot of different places, you feel me? Matches come down to figuring out what the other person’s habits are and your counters to their strengths. It’s all about putting yourself in the best situation that benefits your strengths. Now if I put that into music, it resonates because a lot of music is feeling things out and strategizing so you can be in the right place as an artist. It’s definitely a mind-set, a resilience.
Exactly. I feel you, that makes perfect sense. So you also rap.
Is this a new thing? How long have you been rapping? Are we going to see a project?
Okay, so that’s a good question. I’ve always been into Hip Hop and I first started rapping about five to six years ago? Even before that I was freestyling with my friends and doing stuff really lowkey in school. My first breakthrough in rapping was when I met Busyfingers and he introduced me to Crew Four Two, who are family. We started making stuff but it’s kind of funny because as much as I’m a fan of my own stuff, I’m a fan of my friends’ stuff. I feel like we didn’t really go as far as we could’ve because of life stuff. It’s still legendary though.
Ah ok so tell me more about that.
So it’s me, Busyfingers as a DJ; we got R-son, Myylo Whyte (his penship is amazing) and another rapper by the name of Modest, who’s now part of Set Count with Denzel Himself. So everybody here is legends already as far as I’m concerned. Anyway we were freestyling outside of a club in Central London at one of Busyfingers’ nights and we got approached by another friend and producer. He was like ‘Hey what are you guys doing? You guys want to come next week to meet someone?’ and at this time I was broke so I was like well shit I got nothing else to do; I’ll come and check this out. All five of us went down to the same venue the week after and he introduced us to this lady by the name of Line, who we didn’t know at the time was one of the heads of MTV. I might be wrong when I say this, but I believe she also worked for a company called Mean Fiddler? Which at the time was the biggest Hip Hop booking agency in the United Kingdom.
So this is like my friends and my family, but we never really put two and two together. We’re all rapping and we’re all doing music, why don’t we do something together? So within that week we went off and came back with something. She gave us the opportunity to do a set at Box Park. This was the time where I was just freestyling, so not even writing a single rhyme. It went well though, she took that footage and from there we started working with her. Working on music with her two producers Cronus and RJ. From there we ended up going from just five dudes that lived in Croydon, to performing before 1995 (which this is a huge French group), to performing at Jazz Café with Jean Grae and all these people. So like I said Hip Hop’s in my blood, rap’s in my blood. This is the reason why I’m taking time with a rap project. Primarily I only started producing because I wanted to produce my own raps. That’s how I started. Now producing has come to the forefront, but because the rap project is such a passion project; this is one I’m taking time with. It may come out this year, next year, it might come out the year after but I just know that even if this is the first or last project I rap on, I just want to do this correctly.
So it’s coming but not even you know when?
Not even I can put a date on it. To be honest I’m not going to put a date on it. Any other beat project I’d be like ‘yes this is coming at this time or at this time.' This is the one that I’m taking my absolute time with. There’s no rush and I don’t ever have to release it, but it’s something I want to do. It so important to me for so many reasons but a crucial point is when I met the guys from NINETOFIVE and DJ Devastate. He pushed me on stage at this event we did with LAB Co. I went on stage and I freestyled and it was great. It was like ‘yes I’ll send you beats’ but unfortunately he passed away before he got home. This is my first time meeting him and I never got a chance to meet him again. He was a big influence. Like he said ‘I want to work with you, you should rap more.’ So another reason why I want to push this rap project, no matter what time it comes, is because I want to honour that. Rest in Peace DJ Devastate.
So you have also been killing it live recently. How important do you think building and maintaining a live scene is to the beat making community?
I think it is incredibly important. I’d almost go and say it’s imperative. I think that this is the path LAB Co. is on. Before it was even a thing Busyfingers was always like Low End Theory is the place. All these legends you see like Flying Lotus, Samiam, Teebs; all these guys. They had a scene where they could go and even if they weren’t performing they saw their people in the local scene. It wasn’t just local rappers either; it was a place where producers and beat makers could really dip into the culture. One person I’ll point out specifically is Jonwayne. I feel Jonwayne is a prime example because he even says himself he’s a student of the Low End Theory. You know what I mean?
Yeah I get you.
If I apply that back to here, I feel especially in London, the beat scene is flourishing. London’s a huge hot bed for everything. We all need to come together and make the scene grow so everybody can start getting bread. That time is definitely now and the way is definitely having a live scene led by producers. I accidentally put myself in a position of being someone people want to battle and it’s funny because I never intended that at all. But the positive of that position, is that when I’m at a venue people follow the beat scene through these battles. People that have a bit of curiosity come in and to check it out, and through that they come and see the other people involved as well. So yeah the beat scene over here is healthy, but for me the whole thing is just to inspire that one person that’s unsure about producing. I just want to show them if I started by watching YouTube video tutorials, reading documents and just generally listening to Hip Hop, then by all means you can make music as well. To incorrectly quote Homeboy Sandman haha, he said something about the distance from the stage to the crowd is about a ten feet. That’s not a real big difference.
When it comes to building your sets, how do you approach it?
For me it’s sporadic because I make a large amount of music over a short space of time. No matter where I’m going or what I’m doing I want to play something new. It’s not just the whole excitement of a new song; it’s also because I want to test it. I want to see how people react to it, see how people feel when they hear it. So I always play something new whether it’s a good or a bad song, it’s always just to gauge people’s reaction. Aside from that, I try my best to build a feeling. So for example I have a lot of songs that are all SNES based stuff; all really old 8 bit, 16 bit stuff. Then I got my experimental stuff which is my project ‘MELT.’ So I’m very fortunate because I’ve got a lot of stuff on the back burner, a lot of released stuff and a lot of stuff that isn’t even out. There’s always music that I can play and people might recognise the style, but I always try to surprise people. My main thing is have stuff that flows well and feels great, with a few surprises.
What’s your favourite thing about playing live?
Just having fun. I think it’s not just about the reactions of other people because like I said, I enjoy my own music regardless. If people didn’t vibe with it I’d still be happy to play. I would be a little disappointed, but I also know it might not be to their taste haha. I think playing live is a really great way of engaging with people because I like to keep myself to myself. I’m very tortoise like haha. I don’t really come out my shell but playing my music to people is a real and true way of connecting with people for me. I feel a connection to other people regardless of where they’re from, who they are, gender or anything. When I perform I like to let my music speak for me because it comes from an honest place; it’s me honestly connecting with other people. So I feel that’s where my real enjoyment comes in. It’s me talking with people, in the loudest, most honest way I possibly can.
What do you think sets the London beat scene apart?
The youth. Absolutely. If you look at all the scenes starting up, it’s just young people. These are the same young people who are trying to find a creative space, and create their own spaces because unfortunately all the places we had previously have been closed down. There’s no real night clubs, no real Hip Hop spaces, no real Garage night, no real Funk night; unless it’s young people that go and make it happen. It’s the reason why nightlife needs to survive because it’s important for the culture. Young people need something to do and one of the reasons the beat scene is so special is because it’s a lot of young people that come from all different races, age groups and backgrounds, coming together. Like if you look at the guys from Loud House and see their age group….man it’s crazy and I 100% respect those guys and I want to see them succeed because again it’s young people.
Yeah it’s relatable, but impactful.
Exactly. I also think the London beat scene is so fearless. It’s not afraid to test boundaries, not afraid of crossing genres, not afraid to reach out. I definitely think that’s one of the things that makes the beat scene special here because at the end of the day we’re all just trying to learn from each other and share each other’s experiences, so I think that’s key.
How would you say London has influenced your beats?
I guess from my experiences of growing up. It’s funny because when I was in school I was kinda outcast for being a Hip Hop fan? Well it’s not I was outcast but the main thing at the time was like Channel U and stuff haha. I watched that too, don’t get me wrong, but my heart lay with Hip Hop. I was searching undergroundhiphop.com and finding every single recommended album I could. There was a record shop near where I used to live and the owner used to burn me CDs of everything. So on the one hand I’m getting an education in Hip Hop but on the other I’m around all this UK culture. I would listen to Busta Rhymes, but I’d also bump Newham Generals. You know what I mean?
Yeah I feel you.
There’s a lot of grit growing up in England that you carry with no matter where you go. Especially being black, British and growing up in London. In terms of music, I try and carry that grit with me wherever I go because, you know, everybody’s just an amalgamation of their experiences. I feel like my music’s mad gritty, I feel like its mad London. It’s mad New York, but it’s mad London too. I mean even how I rap. I always get compared to a lot of American rappers but at the same time I’m British. That’s how I define it. I’m mad British.
What do you think the next step needs to be to elevate the London scene even further?
What the scene needs is everybody from all corners to just communicate more and pool their resources together. I think the reason why scenes like New York and LA, for example, are more prominent is because they are unified. The whole point of Low End Theory was bringing together all these artists from different corners of LA, and then going to one location to communicate. I would love to see that happen here and I know it’s coming but I’d love to see like LAB Co. to work with people from Loud House for example. To see different movements work with each other to collectively pool their resources, put all their artists together and grow the scene. It’s not just about just one scene. We’re all in this together and we all have pretty similar goals, so let’s just see what we can do to make it work.
What coming next for [KMY.]?
Ah man, I’m the worst person to ask this haha. I’m working on four projects simultaneously. I’ll tell you about them, but I won’t tell you which one’s going to come out first or whatever because it’s in the hands of fate haha. So one project is almost a sequel to my project ‘MELT’, which was my drive to push the Lo-Fi sound as far left field as I could. In the end that was my take on Lo-Fi Hip Hop, but it was as experimental as it could be. The second project I’m working on is my experimentation with more glitchy stuff. More SNES sounding, more video game sound track kind of vibe. That’s going to be my ode to being a gamer 100%. My third one is like a proper gritty, New York sounding project. That’s again me paying tribute to people that inspire me. I feel great that I’m finally making something of my own with that man. Then my fourth is eventually going to be my rap project. I don’t even know when that’s going to come or if it’s even gonna have my name on it. One thing with it is I wanted to build a character. You know I’m a huge Doom Stan?
Yes of course man.
So I was going to build a character and let the music speak for itself but there is no reason why I can’t have this element of showmanship. That’s one thing I love about Flying Lotus because if you go to a Flying Lotus show you’ll see the visuals are amazing. I want to create something that can excite people visually as well as musically. I don’t know how I'm going to do this and I need mad help from people but I want to create something that the beat scene hasn’t necessarily seen before. Especially in London. I don’t know how I’m going to do it yet, but that’s the dream, that’s my dream.
Listen to 'good.feels':
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