Author: Pedro 'DJ Complejo' Hernandez
P: For those who don't know, tell us a little about your history in the rap game, when you started rapping, et cetera.
K: Actually, I jumped in the game in 1983 if you're speaking about when I first started writing. If you're talking about getting into the industry side of things that was 1986 when I first started making records. That's when I first took it seriously as far as making a living, so I've been in the game for 22-23 years now.
P: You mentioned getting into rapping back in 1983, what was the hip-hop scene in Houston like back then?
K: In 1983 there wasn't a scene! You had some people rapping on street corners, in clubs, and at talent shows but it was all smaller. This was all until someone actually put out a record. There was a group that had a record called "McGregor Park," dedicated to this park we have in Houston that was real popular especially on Sunday people would come out and hang at the park. But outside of that, the scene was in its infancy at that time. The scene really did not get popping until a couple of years later, maybe 85 with Kiss Jams. There was this college radio station called KTSU and they had this show called Kiss Jams every Saturday morning and that crew that they had was so dynamic! In terms of expanding hip-hop and breaking these new records and playing a lot of the stuff coming out of New York and LA, not to mention the fact that as new artists, the local artists could always walk into the radio station and they would play it on the spot. That was the first platform where you could really be heard.
P: Back in '83, who were your influences? What rappers influenced you to start rapping?
K: Well around that time I was influenced by the old pioneers back in the day, that was the Sugar Hill Gang, Kurtis Blow, and Run DMC. Those early pioneers of rap and hip-hop were the people that influenced me. I would learn the lyrics to they songs word for word, performed their records like they were mine, and that was one of the things that influenced me to start writing. I just loved what they did and was just trying to do it myself and never looked back.
P: You mentioned you dropped your first record in 1986, what record was that?
K: I did a song called "Rockin' It," I was in a group called Real Chill back in the day. It was me and a friend of mine called GT and another friend of mine called Preppy Jay. We all went to school together, middle school and high school. We did all kinds of battling back in the day against each other, but we befriended each other around high school and decided to form a group. That record that we dropped was the first rap record to come out of South Park, to my knowledge. It was one of the building blocks of rap in the city. The record itself didn't make much noise as far as record sales, as far as popularity wise, but like I said, relating back to Kiss Jams, Kiss Jams would play it all the time. It was a good experience for us and allowed us to travel around the country and promote it. It was our first experience with that.
P: When did you decide to start the South Park Coalition?
K: Well, I had it in my mind in '86, around the time we put the record together. We actually didn't make it official until '87. In the beginning we only had 5-6 artists in the South Park Coalition and they all consisted of guys who went to school with me. Then it grew to 7-8 guys that I hung out with and we all hung in the same circle. Once we started branching out and being cool with guys from other areas we befriended those cats and added them into the mix. That strengthened us because there were so many hard rappers in city of Houston at that time and the competition was so great. Prove yourself anywhere you might be. If you got caught up in a battle or someone tried to prove you weren't everything you said you were cracked up to be. The majority of them eventually ended up becoming a part of the South Park Coalition. That's what expanded us.
P: Now the Coalition is quite famous and quite large, go into some detail on some of the members and their history in the game.
K: Oh yeah man, just to name a few. Ganksta Nip and myself we had a rap battle in '87, if I'm not mistaken it was the winter time of '87, I just remember it was real cold that day so it had to be winter time. Before that we had been enemies, we were arch enemies, it was just animosity. So that battle lead to mutual respect for both of us because we went so long and so hard against each other that no one could actually say who won. Everybody said "Man, it's a tie!" So everyone wanted us to keep going more and more rounds. That just gave us respect for each other that neither one of us may not have had at the time because we were both set to the fact that we were the best. When Nip came in he brought in all people that went to his high school. He brought in A.C. Chill, Murder One, and Klondike Kat, so he brought his side over. It made us stronger. Later on I met Rapper K and he took me by Dope E's house because he said he wanted to do some recording. Dope got cool and we brought him in. Dope was real skilled in production and as far as rapping and DJing too. That strengthened us man and the Dope signed to Rap A Lot and when they put their record out they were representing the SPC. Now they were representing us on the global scale. Point Blank, PSK-13, all them other cats came into the circle and started putting out albums. That started that whole phenomenon and interest in the South Park Coalition. We were different from everybody that was out at the time, nobody was doing what we were doing, nobody was rapping the way we were rapping, no one had that large or diverse mix of emcees. None of them sounded like the other one. You just didn't see that back then.
P: I have noticed that the South Park Coalition is made up of many different styles, from Dope E's political rap to Ganksta Nip's psycho rap, was that planned?
K: I mean nah, that's what made it so beautiful because everybody was just doing what they did. Now Dope E, he grew into the conscious political rap just based on his life experiences coming into that particular wealth of knowledge as I ended up doing later on myself. When I battled Nip he was rapping the way he raps right now, you know, he was doing the psycho rap. When I met Blank he was just hard edge, hard nose, hard core, reality based street lyrics. Same with myself, I've always been a fan of lyricism and that aspect of rap. So everybody brought these different personalities to the table and those ingredients made one big recipe. It was just a natural , it wasn't like we sat down in a room and said, "Okay, you're going to be the political rapper and you're going to be the gangsta rapper."
P: You mentioned that you yourself did some growth, what was K-Rino like 20 years ago and how is he different now?
K: 20 years ago I was a lot more fiery than I am right now, because my competitive nature in rap was to the point where I just wanted to challenge everybody. Everybody that I saw that rapped, it didn't matter if you wanted to be my friend or not I wanted to battle you and take you out, decapitate you. I was in high school, I was probably in my last year in high school, probably 18 or 19 years old. I was just a loose cannon man, like a lot of us at the time. And I wrote every day because my passion for the rap game was so intense that I ate, slept, and drank rap music. I breathed it. Even though I had experience in business side of it, I hadn't been as deep into it as I am right now 20 years later. I'm the not same guy anymore, I look it now more as a business, though I still got love for the art form. I'm more to the point where I write when the situation calls for it. Back then we were writing with no aim or purpose, we were rapping with no aim or purpose. So that's probably the only difference. Also, as far as experience, I did not have then the experience that I have now. I had a song where I spoke about if I could combine the me then and me now it would be a monster, because it would be the experience mixed with the passion that I had for the game.
P: When did you drop your first solo album?
K: I dropped my first solo album in 1993 when I did "Stories From the Black Book." I had done the Real Chill group before then. Then me and Dope E were in a group called COD and that dropped in 1990. That was after I left Real Chill. After that, Nip and Dope signed with Rap A Lot and did their solo thing so I started my own label with my father, that was Electric City Records in 1992. Then we dropped my first solo in 1993. We had real good regional success with that and sold a lot of records and got radio plays. That was my first, first taste of solo fame and I never looked back after that.
P: What ended up happening with Electric City?
K: Well what it was is that we carried it on for about 8 years all the way up to 2000. My dad wanted to do something else, he wasn't into the music anymore like he was back then. I was still doing it so I decided to carry it on and take over the label, but I decided to put more of my own personality into it and changed the name to Black Book International, which is my label now.
P: And during that time, you've dropped how many solo albums?
K: Awww man! I've lost count. From that time to now I don't know, because I've done a couple of group projects that I include. As far as my whole catalog and pure, strictly solo albums it's up in the double digits, the high double digits, but I don't know the exact number.
P: How do you get prepared for the next album? What do you do, or what is your though process going into a new album?
K: I mean, it's a natural process. It's very rare when I sit down and say "OK, it's time to do a new album." It's more of a situation where I take a break after an album I had just done and then once months and months pass and the inspiration just comes and I start getting ideas and concepts and they just come to you. Rhymes come here and there and before you know it you've accumulated enough material you say "Okay, it's time to work on something new." I think time tells when to do it, it's not something you do yourself.
P: When did time tell you to start working on "Solitary Confinement?"
K: Awwww man, about 3,4,5 months ago. What the deal has been lately is I've been coming out with complete projects at a whole faster pace than I had in previous years. I can remember a time when it would take me 4 or 5 months to put out an album. All the way from "Time Traveler" to now I've been knocking out albums in record time. I mean as far as recording wise, I've been recording projects in three weeks to a month. Literally, that quick of time. The writing process may take a little longer, it may take me a couple of months to get the writing done, but as far as recording I've been knocking that out with the quickness. "Solitary Confinement" I started writing for that about 4 or 5 months ago and just took off with it. My brother works fast and I work fast.
P: "Solitary Confinement" is coming out October 27th, what is the concept for that album? What can fans expect when they pick that up?
K: Well, I mean basically they can expect the same thing that they normally get any time they purchase a K-Rino album. As far as those familiar with my work, they know that my work is always rooted in two things, reality and lyricism. That hasn't changed even with this album. I tackle topics that are going to be relevant in the world today and that can help in transforming somebody's life for the better. I want to turn someone into an introspective individual and say "Okay, I can relate to this and pull something from it." On the flip side of that, just certain songs on the album are where I just kind of like to work out lyricism and bring that style of rap as far as the word play side of things, people really appreciate that side of the game. There have always been fans who want that style of rap coming from me. So "Solitary Confinement" is no deviation from what I normally do. Every album takes on its own personality and this album, I don't want to say its dark, but it is deep. There are a lot of introspective things going on to make you look inside of yourself.
P: Being from where you are from, where to you get the inspiration to keep trying to motivate and uplift people?
K: I mean, it's just that, the things that you go through and the personal experiences. For some people, it can depress them, the bad times it can depress when it should be used as a teaching tool especially when you come through it. Because it is like "Okay, you know what? I can actually speak on this as a qualified individual." You can say "I went through this problem, I made it through this problem and I can educate someone or I can prevent somebody from possibly going through it." Experience is the best teacher, it's all about being able to relate to someone, especially on paper and through music in a way you can connect to a person and make a difference in them for the better.
P: Do you ever feel your at a cross road or conflicted when some times it seems people in your own circle, like the South Park Coalition, don't always get that message?
K: I mean, it's a situation where any time you're speaking on topics that's based around real life, in this day and age where the music industry is based on a lollipop world, neverland, and just fairy tales and frivolous garbage that they play on the radio and you see on the video shows, it is always gonna be a struggle to get your message across and to make sure your message is felt. That's not supposed to stop you from continuing do what you do, you're still supposed to go forward with it. There is a scriptural saying that many are called but few are chosen. So, your message is going to be heard by a lot of people, but it's only going to be a few that accept the message and take it in. Your job is to just deliver, whether it is a total stranger or somebody in my circle, my job is to spit what I spit, that's what comes from my heart, people can take it however they want.
P: You mention the scriptures and it is clear from your music that religion is a big part of your life. Was it always your intent to put that into your music or did it develop over time?
K: I mean, I've always been rooted in spirituality, that's just how I was raised. I was raised in the Baptist church through my grandmother and my mother. God has always been the center of our family, so even in my deviation the remembrance of God is always there. Even when I started coming across different knowledge and different theologies like the Nation of Islam and religion of Islam, which is what I follow now, I felt the obligation to pass on and teach what you know. Once I came into that body of knowledge I was double fired up to express it through my music because I felt that was one of my purposes in life to do anyways. So definitely, without a doubt, I try to make sure that I inject spirituality in my music. I try to do it in a way that is not too preachy and will not make people rebel against what I'm saying. I'm not throwing fire and brimstone at you that's too hard because anything I say in a rap I try to make sure I got a metaphorical mirror up when I'm writing. Anything I say I relate it to my own self. When I speak on certain things I like people to know that I'm talking to myself too.
P: A few years back Chamillionaire made noise by committing himself to not cursing on reacord, I've noticed that while you do curse on record, it is not as pervasive as it is in most rap records today. Is that intentional?
K: Well, when I first started rapping I didn't use any profanity in my raps when I was young. I used to massacre people cleanly. When I got older, going into manhood, you start that type of language and sometimes you misuse it. If there is such a thing as using it properly, there is such a thing as misusing it. Now I had to grow into the understanding of the difference between cursing and content, because I'm more focused on content than on the fact of whether I'm cursing or not. Because I can use a bunch of curse words and say something very positive, but I can not curse at all and say something very negative. I can say "I pushed your mama down the stairs, kicked her in the face, spit in her eye, and urinated in her mouth." You didn't hear one curse word, but the content was just terrible! I commend any artist that weed out the profanity from their music because you are supposed to do that. You are supposed to enhance your vocabulary to the point of not having to use those words because usually that's why people do it in the first place. People feel like "okay, I really have to express myself, I have to get this F word into the song." You have to challenge yourself as an individual to try to get your message across without having to use the word. Over time if you look at my music and look at "Stories from the Black Book" there maybe one, maybe two, but I just know there is one clean song on the entire album. Every song was cursing on it and some cursing didn't even belong there, it was unnecessary. So as time progressed I realized that I was more intelligent than that and I operate in circles where you use better language. I speak to kids. I perform at churches, I perform at juvenile detention centers, I perform for older people and I have to be able to speak without hearing that kind of language. So you grow out of it, I mean you still hear it sprinkled in some of my songs but if you study it you will see a gradual decrease in the profanity from project to project. I commend anybody who does it and I think everybody should work towards it because I see a lot of younger rappers now where every other word is a curse word and that's not cool.
P: What about the N-word specifically? I have rarely heard you use it, what are your thoughts on the word?
K: I mean, I have used it, but I have never used in the kind of context that it is normally used in or that that rap fans are accustomed to hearing. If I use it I use it in a way to let you know I'm not using it in that way, if that makes any sense. It's a word we need to distance ourselves from, because even though people like to say "well, n-i-g-g-a, that's a street word, that's our word, we put our spin on it" it still originates from n-i-g-g-e-r and we know that word is a negative word. That word is a word the enemy used to bring us down, to degrade us, and to insult us. It's an issue that's not agreeable to us. Now it has become fashionable for everybody to say it, the Blacks say it, Hispanics say, whites even say it. The whites will come around you and say "hey, what's up my nigga." I mean, that's what you hear and we have to weed that out because we instilling that in our younger generation. They growing up feeling like it is no big deal. We have to go and research that word and research all of the negative effects it had on us as Black people and we have to take pride to not use it amongst ourselves to make other people feel like they have a path. They are gonna use it behind closed doors anyway. A racist is gonna use it anyway, we gotta make that it gets back to how it used to be where you wouldn't dare say that in our presence. .
P: Is it ever a challenge to get that message across to your international fans who may not understand all those cultural and social factors you just mentioned?
K: I mean nah, because for me it's about me being me and me being who I am. The thing about those international fans is that they know me and they are familiar with my work. Only the few that may not necessarily be familiar with the whole body of my work, they may not understand, they may be just bandwagon cats who jump on because everybody else is going to the show. But the people who are truly familiar with my work, when I go overseas, when I've seen whole crowds of people reciting my word s lyric for lyric. You can't script that, you can't make that up. These people truly are familiar with my work, so they know what I'm about. It would be foolish of me to represent one thing when I'm in the states and I'm a safe place and in my own circle representing one thing, and then to go around another set of people who may not be involved in what I'm involved in and then I change up because I'm in that circle now. "Oh, well, you know I'm not actually in the Nation, I'm just kind of with the Nation." I can't do that. Whoever accepts me they accept me for who I am. If they have some understanding of what I'm involved they will know for a fact that it's nothing but good anyway. Sometimes people take different beliefs and different philosophies that on the surface may be controversial and they take those things and run with it without even understanding or interpretation of what it means. I don't have a problem with sitting down anyone and explaining to about what I believe to the best of my abilities. So they will understand, if they have any sense in their mind, they can say they understand it even if they don't agree with it.
P: Did it come as a surprise when you found out you had so many international fans? When did you become aware that you could sell out crowds in other countries?
K: I didn't become aware that I could sell out crowds until I actually went over there and started selling out crowds! I became familiar with the international fan base way back to the early 1990s when I started releasing solo stuff, but I still didn't know it was as big as it was. This was before the internet jumped off and gained the popularity that it has now. This was before the time where every household had internet. We'd get a fan letter every now and then from Germany, every now and then from Australia, or Spain somebody would send a letter. Or you'd pick up a magazine and somebody had written an article in a magazine from Brazil. But that was just isolated incidents. You appreciate it, but you don't really look at it like, "Okay, the whole country is really on us like that." It wasn't until I actually went to Finland in 2005 that I got a chance to see the full, full comprehension of it and experience it first hand. At that time I knew we had big fan base in Germany and Australia because the internet was in full spring then, because I would contact these people and had contact with these people. But even then it was 15 or 20 different people or 20 or 30 different people. But to go over there and it is a packed building and they all came to see you, that let's you know just the reaction. You go over and feel like you are Michael Jackson in this country and that's when it hits you.
P: Going into your music, where do you come up with some of the concepts for your songs? Like in "The Debate" where you play the role of both sides of a debate as well as the moderator, did that just come to you?
K: Well, sometimes concepts come, sometimes you get ideas off of experiences. "The Debate" was based on one day I was on Youtube and I saw a debate. I saw a Christian minister debating an evolutionist and I watched a little of the debate. I didn't watch much of the debate because it was kind of boring, but I started clicking on other videos of people arguing and I looked at both sides. I saw a video entitled "how to defeat Christian in a debate if you're an evolutionist" and another one would say "how to defeat an evolutionist in a debate if you're a Christian." I would read the stuff and I was naturally familiar with the creationist side of it because I grew up with that, but I wasn't familiar with the evolutionist side of things. So I learned and I just studied it and I thought, "you know what? That would be a real tight song if I were to just to do that." Knowing me, I always wanted to do things in way that no one else would do it or in a way that no one else had done. So I came up with the idea to do that and give a fair debate for both sides. Even though I don't believe in evolution I still wanted to make that I spoke on it the best I could for their behalf. I didn't want to come out just destroying the evolutionist because I believed in God. I wanted to make sure that both sides were represented to the best of my ability and hopefully I did.
P: I know SPC International has taken off in recent years and you've worked with Wolftown Records in the UK and just released a collection of songs called "Speed of Thought," tell us about that.
K: Well it was a collaboration between myself and Late and Tricksta, they reached out to me. They were fans and then they sent me some music and I became a fan of their music. And we decided to do a collaboration because they showed me love and they've been on a mission to promote me over there and get my name bigger over there. People know me but it's not like here or places like Germany or Australia. So they've been working just tirelessly to blow my name up over there so we have a really good working relationship. We just dropped another project called "Speed Of Thought" on the SPC UK label and we just trying to push this thing and hopefully go over there and do some shows.
P: "Speed of Thought" is a situation where I wanted to give them the opportunity to pick certain songs from my previous albums that they felt would go over in UK, because I wouldn't have good judgment of what type of music is going to win over there. I just make my songs. They can tell me which songs would go over so I just let them pick the songs out on the first project. On the second one we kind of just came together and picked them out and did a lot of new stuff on their production. Tricksta is their producer. I know any K-Rino that's got all my albums is not going to want to purchase something they've already got, so we always try to add 4 or 5 new tracks that will be exclusive to that project alone.
K: Looking at your entire career, does it ever frustrate you to know you've been in the game for so long producing quality music and yet you are not at the level of some of your east coast and west coast contemporaries?
P: I mean yeah, at times it has, I go through stages where I go to that level of thinking. On the same token you have to put everything in its proper perspective. The fact being number one, whatever is meant happen is gonna happen and no one gonna keep you from it. Also, you have to factor in mistakes that you made in your own life and your own career. Things where I say "maybe I messed up." In my growth I also look at the point now where a person like me could never reach too high of a pinnacle in this game anyway because of the belief system that I'm under and the things that I stand for and represent would be in direct opposition to the powers that sit in those big seats. I couldn't possibly on the level that Jay-z is on as far as status wise and popularity wise and record sales wise, because I'm a different type of cat. I'm going to walk into the office and there is going to be problems when they tell me I can't talk about problems in black community or can't mention Minister Farrakhan in my music. There's going to be problems if I couldn't do that. So I look at that in the way that I will never reach that level because there is a ceiling on me because its only so far that they let you go when you try to be that real and when you really care about bringing people up. With that side of it, it don't bother me at all. I just have to strive to reach as many people as I can reach in the way that I do it. Latch on to people who want to push that cause with me.
K: Speaking about your message and the things you have going on, I know you have Justice Allah you are pushing as part of the Coalition, tell us about him:
P: Justice Allah was on the 144 Elite project and he just dropped a solo album, "Supreme Mathematics," on his own label. We're actually going to have a big show out here in Houston and we are going to have a joint album release concert for my new and his new album on the 15th of next month. His album is on Elite World Records and he actually did the 144 Elite album, they dropped that on Dope E's label, Akasha Records. He's trying to get his label off the ground. I dropped 3 projects on my label recently. I dropped B-1 – "Off Hook Part 2" and the Kuwait album "Face of God" and the Rapper K album which is under my label. We didn't release it in the stores though.
K: Along those same lines, are there any new members of the South Park Coalition or new projects you are working on?
P: Actually, we got so many people in the click that there's always going to be people that nobody knows about. We have been on a campaign to bring in new members. We working on some internship type things we have going on, because certain people who may not have the experience, we'll bring them in on like an intern basis. We pretty much have to show them what we're all about and we have to show them what it takes to be down with us and slowly walk them through it. We also have a couple of other established individuals in groups that we are possibly bringing in now that have always been avid supporters of the SPC and we're going to bring them in. We've got Big Sniper and Re-up entertainment, they've been some real close affiliates over the years and have always repped us to the fullest. I actually met with them last night and did some recording with them and I'm actually going to bring them into the SPC on an official basis. Also, with Late and Tricksta, the duo in the UK, I made them official members this year. We lifted the affiliate tag off of their title and made them official members. We got to grow, everybody is familiar with myself and the main members, we have to grow so we have to bring in new people that will continue this thing on and bring in new styles. That's the only way in this game to stay relevant.
K: And we are looking for people! So anybody reading this, we looking for people but you've got to be real. You can't come in thinking this is some record label that you can sign to with some big contract, you gotta be down with the team. The SPC Showcase this summer was definitely a big part of it. We have a couple of those groups that we are bringing in right now as far as the intern basis. The Showcase went over well. One of our purposes was to scout groups from a talent perspective first and then meet with them and see where their heads were at and if they would be ready and able to come in and be a part of the clique.
P: I know you have your new solo album "Solitary Confinement" coming out this Tuesday, October 27th, is there anything else coming from the SPC anytime soon?
K: Like I said, Justice Allah is available now. Murder One just did a project with Wolf Town records in the UK and it's available now. Also, Murder One solo is getting ready to drop. The Rapper K solo is about 2 songs away from getting done. I was working on that last night. Ganksta Nip just finished his new project and it's ridiculous! Everybody is still active and still doing a lot of work. It's just a situation where you gotta make sure all of our supporters and fans know where locate us. You can always find us at the website southparkcoalition.webs.com, and at any of our MySpaces. If you google my name the first thing you'll see is my Myspace page. So there's no excuse to not be able to keep close tabs on us and what we're doing.
P: Will all those projects be available on the web site?
K: A lot of them will. We got some guys in the clique who like to sell their own product from their own base and that's totally fine with us. But anything we can sell in the store will be available and you can order from the site. And if there's something anything that you know that is out and is not available from any of the SPC members, you can enquire and we'll point you in the right direction and provide you the opportunity to order it from any entity you can order it from.
P: On the website you have the forums where people can talk to other SPC fans as well as with you and other artists right?
K: Oh yeah, we're totally accessible. We're not in the stratosphere where people can't reach out and talk to us and ask us questions personally. That's what the forum was really set up for. It was set up for fan interactions among themselves where they can discuss SPC related things. It is equally important for them to be able to talk directly to us and ask us questions and have us answer it directly. If there is somebody who may not be on the net or get online and you want to know something about them, either me or a couple other cats can always answer a Point Blank question or a Klondike Kat question. That's what it is for, the myspace and the web site. There aren't many artists where you can actually get on the website and talk to them directly. If I don't get with you right that second, I will get with you.
P: Finally, is there anything you want to say to the fans?
K: Yeah, all I can say is first of all praise to Allah for the strength and everything else he provides. I appreciate you for interviewing your boy, it's all good, it's all love. True fans, make sure you purchase the album. I had the 1000 list which was project I started where I wanted to get the email addresses of 1000 people who were truly going to support the album and purchase the album. I got a lot of good responses from that so I'm just encouraging anybody may not have known about that and wants the album to just hit me up or go to the site and order the album. You know, don't burn it, don't download it, order the album. I can put a guarantee on it that it's worth your purchase and you're not going to feel like you wasted your money.
You can check K-Rino on the web at SouthParkCoalition.webs.com.
Originally posted: October 27, 2009