What started out as a hobby for Kilo Kish has become a full-blown gig. Her sprightly child-like voice is an unexpected but invigorating take on ‘rap music’ and although most would classify what she does as rap, she much prefers the simpler title of ‘music maker’.
The recent textile design graduate moved to New York four years ago from her native Florida to attend Pratt and then the Fashion Institute of Technology. Growing up in Orlando, Kilo Kish, in real life Lakisha Robinson, had your typical 90’s teenage upbringing listening to the Spice Girls and Britney Spears but mixed in with a bit of her mum’s Earth, Wind and Fire, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson. During a year out of uni, she started playing around with her roommate’s makeshift recording studio and what she thought was just a joke, would begin getting her recognition in New York’s Soho neighbourhood and beyond. Her collaboration with Odd Future crew ‘The Internet’ had people asking about her and a subsequent cover story in New York’s local rag The Village Voice cemented her as a fully-fledged musician. i-D online chatted on the streets of Soho with the little voice that’s about to make some big noise…
What type of musician would you classify yourself as? I wouldn’t really consider myself a rapper. I hear a beat and I do whatever I like with it, whether it’s just like, talking or whatever. People consider me a rapper because I talk and I rhyme too. So anything that rhymes people automatically assume is rap music but I don’t really consider myself that. I would call it experimental music.
Do you produce your own music? No, I have amazing producers that I work with. I work with two producers out of Los Angeles, Matt and Syd (of Odd Future), they’re called The Internet. I’m now working with a few more producers, some based in the UK.
How did you hook up with The Internet? I met Matt, he was friends with my manager J. Scott and he came to our house once when me and J were living together about two years ago. I played him a song and he wanted to put me on a tape. It was kind of all a joke at that point and then he kept the song on the tape and people actually really enjoyed it.
How did you get started in music? I took a year off from school and I was just working around Soho and my roommate had an at-home studio and he would have me on songs because he needed a girls voice on a few songs. So I was like, sure I’ll do it. And then I did one of my own songs just for fun as a joke. I used to work down the street from here and I would play them at the place I was working and people would be like, this is dope what is this? And I’d be like, are you guys serious? It’s just a joke. And from there it got more serious.
Tell me about your writing process. How does it all come together? I basically listen to a beat. I don’t usually already have songs written. I’ll have little thoughts that I write on my phone on a daily basis or whatever and I’ll hear a beat and if I don’t get a feel for it in the first minute or so, I just don’t use it and I go on to the next one. I get an endless amount of beats.
People just send you stuff? Yeah, I just pick and choose and see if I have a connection to the song. I hear a beat and then I write whatever comes to mind. I automatically get a mental picture and I just kind of try to convey that in my writing.
Who influences your sound? This question is weird because I usually have no clue what’s going on in music at all. People always ask me if I know this band or that band and I usually have no clue who they are. I subconsciously know, I just don’t know people’s names or what’s new. I don’t really check music blogs or stuff like that. I try to do it purposely because I like to be in my own box and I don’t want to copy or be influenced by anyone else. I’m sure I’m indirectly influenced by a lot of different things I hear when I’m out. I definitely listen to a lot of Frank Ocean at home. I still kind of listen to the same music I listened to when I was younger like early 2000′s R&B and 90′s R&B like Boys II Men, Tyrese, B2K.
Who are some people you’d like to work with in the future? It’d be cool to work with SBTRKT, just people I can learn from. Some other girls would be cool to work with too. It would be really cool to do a song with Kilo Ali since I jacked his name.
When did people first start hearing your music? I do music with a rapper Smash Simmons and Mell McCloud and it’s called Kool Kats Klub and that’s kind of how it got started. They just wanted me to do hooks and stuff way before I put out the Homeschool Mixtape, this was years ago. So I thought okay, I’ll just do hooks for you guys, that’ll be easy. And then I put out my own songs and they ended up catching more of a wave than anything else. But on more of a national scale, I guess it would be with The Internet. And I guess it became kind of serious when I was on the cover of The Village Voice here. I guess they ended up finding the accidental story so funny that they just put me on the cover because they thought it was a good story. The Village Voice here is all over the place so it was good, I didn’t have to explain everything I could just be like, here read it.
So technically, you are a rapper of sorts. How does it feel being a really unlikely young female in the very heavily male dominated ‘rap game’? It’s kind of hilarious because I do not care. I’m just like, whatever. I really care about my songs and stuff but as far as rap game credibility, I don’t care. Especially because I don’t really consider myself a rapper, it doesn’t really bother me. But it’s funny how some people get mad at me because… I guess I’m really unconventional when it comes to writing my songs and I guess some people see them as ‘rap songs’ and they don’t get how I work. I don’t count bars or do conventional rap lyrics. I’ll show a ‘rapper’ my songs and how I write them in my own notebook and they’ll be like ‘that’s really strange’. But I think the music industry is changing to a place where you can still rap and have a different thing going on, like Azaelia Banks with the whole house music thing. I feel like there are gonna be a lot more people who break the mould.
So you have a background in fashion. How important is fashion to your music career? Not really that important. I feel like I’m the worst because I went to design school but some things just don’t interest me. I definitely love design but as far as keeping up with trends and fashion and stuff like that, I don’t really care so much but I definitely have designers that I really like just because they make cool patterns and that’s what I’m really into. I really like Stella McCartney’s work.
Text: Hazel Ong
Photography: Gogy Esparza