1) Talk to me about the making of your latest project. What was the inspiration behind it?
The inspiration behind Be Here Now is basically a sense of urgency about living in the moment. Life is fleeting and there’s a lot of really negative, fucked up shit going on in the world right now that makes me feel like there might not be a lot of time left for any of us.
Increased police militarization and power abuse, climate change, eternal war in the Middle East and the expanding division between the richest few and the poorest majority are just a few things off the top of my head that are behind the music. I really wanted to find a way to discuss those topics without being completely dark or coming across defeated.
Be here now, as a unified humanitarian force, so we can come together to solve these major issues and truly enjoy our lives for the short time we are allowed in this world.
2) With the music industry tanking and record sales falling, how do you envision yourself earning a living as an independent hip-hop artist?
I don’t envision myself earning a living as an independent hip-hop artist. Although it would be nice to survive solely through my passion, it would be naive for me to expect it, especially with a family to support.
I will continue to create music independently and proactively but money will most likely continue to come primarily from other avenues. That said, I need to keep building with folks, doing shows and educating myself with marketing techniques that apply to using the Internet so that I can gain some more traction.
3) From a business point of view, which artists in the game do you think are really pushing the boundaries and changing it up?
I think Nipsey Hussle’s approach to social media has turned out pretty well for him. You wrote a dope article about it that inspired me. When it comes to branding, A$AP Rocky is the king. His style is consistent and it allows him to focus on a very specific demographic. I’ve got a lot to learn from him. J. Cole’s also an inspiration and I think I identify with his musical style a bit more than the other guys I mentioned.
4) What business lessons have you learnt from the music industry so far?
I learned that very little of the music industry has to do with the music, or talented musicians more to the point. It’s an image driven industry, which is ironic for obvious reasons. It’s seems like the business is more about an artist’s back-story than it is about their art.
Hip-hop specifically, has been turned into such a watered down, poppy, bubble gum version of what it once was, that there needs to be a distinction made between the brand and the art form for me to even feel comfortable identifying myself with hip hop when talking to people who might not get it. I’ve written stuff on that exact topic. Songs and articles.
5) What do you love about hip-hop music?
I love the expression. I love the directness of the expression. I love the infinite directions that you can take the music. I love the fact that you can sample something to achieve a vibe that would be impossible without elaborate and expensive studio time or you can play live instruments and create your own vibe.
But more than all that, I love the voice that hip-hop gives to the people. Whether disenfranchised, oppressed, on the fringes of society or over privileged, first world problems and everything in between, if you got flows, you got a voice through hip-hop.
6) What still surprises you about hip-hop?
Well, speaking of flows, I guess it’s a testament to how far you can take the art that I’m still consistently surprised by quality lyrics. Creativity, rhyme schemes, wit and straight up technical execution keeps getting better.
People keep pushing the limits and raising the bar, at least in the alternative and underground world. The mainstream garbage is exactly the opposite. I’m consistently surprised by how much worse pop hop gets.
7) If you had the power to change one thing about the hip-hop industry to help independent artists – what would it be?
Wow, that’s a good question. I think the best thing that could happen is what’s already happening.
It’s the introduction of consumer level recording technology and the Wild West climate that the Internet has created that has allowed everyone to participate in what was once only an industry accessible to major label controlled artists and people with major money.
Now the playing field is leveling and you’re eventually going to see the cream rise to the top. Allowing more people access is going to do nothing but advance the art and push everything forward.
8) Who do you think are top 3 rappers doing it at the moment?
I have trouble with questions like this. I like so many styles. As far as better-known MCs I would go with Kendrick, J. Cole and Freddie Gibbs. As far as underground and just best MCs stylistically I would say Myka 9 is probably THE BEST overall. Andre 3000 and k-os are also personal favorites but they’re both far beyond just “rappers”.
9) So what are your plans for the future?
I would like to get a live group together and get back on stage as soon as possible and now that my kids are getting a little older that’s what’s going to happen.
I’ve taken a little break from performing but I’m back now and my style has changed and is more mature. I’m ready to make an impact and live in the moment. It’s time for me to be heard and take my own advice and BE HERE NOW.
Check out Louis’ website – louiskling.com – for more music and updates!