On Jadakiss’ 2001 hit “We Gonna Make It” The Lox emcee rapped, “You know dead rappers get better promotion.” With that in mind, perhaps Kev Sez is a genius for beginning his career with his death. The first single off of the Minneapolis emcee’s full length debut, First Attempt at a Second Chance, is the song “Kev’s Dead,” and it paints a picture of both his own funeral, and rebirth, as he notes “death is only the beginning.”

The intensely personal, and heartfelt, song is a fitting preview to an album filled with the kind of emotional revelations, and lyrical dexterity that will remind listeners of what they enjoy most about underground hip-hop.

Although First Attempt at a Second Chance isn’t due out until April 1st, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to be the first to speak with Kev Sez about the project, so we caught up with him to learn more about the incredible backstory behind the album, and the amount of times he feels he’s “died.”

Adam Bernard: You have moved around quite a bit, making stops in Denver, Dallas, Vancouver, and now Minneapolis. What’s behind this nomadic lifestyle?

Kev Sez: I was born in Denver, and then moved to Dallas on the whim of my parents when I was a kid because my dad was a photographer, and (we were) moving for better business. I went to Vancouver for a year through a college program. That was just because I wanted to experience something different. I wasn’t like “aw, I want to go travel the world,” it was like, “Vancouver sounds dope, and it’s cheap, so why not?” Minneapolis ended up being because I couldn’t live in Dallas anymore for an assortment of reasons. Now the nomadic lifestyle has basically turned into me trying to find out where I fit in, and where I think I belong.

AB: Did you choose Minneapolis specifically for music?

KS: Yes. It was between New York and Minneapolis for a long time. I visited New York for a week, and then I took a Greyhound bus, a 48 hour round trip in a weekend, from Dallas to Minneapolis, to see the Sage Francis, Kristoff Krane, and Metermaids show in February of 2012. Experiencing that show, and seeing not only the artists, that was the first time I’d met Kristoff Krane, but also the people that rallied behind the music in such a heartfelt, and dedicated, and homegrown way, it really won me over.

AB: Ironically, the Metermaids, from Brooklyn.

KS: Yes. {l*aughs*} That is very ironic.

AB: You mentioned you had to leave Dallas. What was the greatest hurdle you had to overcome there?

KS: The whole Dallas experience that kind of inspired the album is extremely complicated. Have I told you about the events leading up to working on the actual album?

AB: No, let’s get to that.

KS: Essentially, back in 2009 I ended up reconnecting with a girl I went to high school with. We fell for each other extremely hard. I was living outside of my parents house at this point. Unbeknownst to me, I had got her pregnant. I was not aware of this fact. She was not aware of this fact until she was about four months in, which, amazingly enough, that’s when she started to show, instead of a lot earlier. She ended up dipping out, told me, “Look, I have some things to take care of, don’t worry about it, trust me.” I said OK, I trust you. Then I get a call when I’m in the middle of a film shoot, I used to be a film actor, and she said that she had gotten an abortion. I said oh shit. OK. Well, that’s fucking interesting. She ended up moving into a quote-unquote friend’s house back in Dallas for quote-unquote emotional support, and he ended up becoming very physically abusive, (and) ended up physically assaulting her with a baseball bat.

AB: Jesus!

KS: Yeah, the story gets a lot better, bro. That ends up happening, cops show up, see her running away form the scene, arrest her, charge her with a second degree felony, assault with a deadly weapon. She gets thrown in jail for a few weeks. Once she posts bail I say OK, her family didn’t live in Dallas at all, I said to her, “You obviously need some help with this, why don’t you move in with me, and we’ll help tackle this together?” Through a vacuum of concurrent events, and just stupid decisions, and trying to deal with her post traumatic stress, and anxiety, and grief over the loss of her child, and consequently my child, we basically ended up moving back into my parents’ house together. I quit my job, and I survived for the next year and a half off of nothing but drugs, cigarettes, and my parents basically helping me out while I was trying to shut them out emotionally. I ended up accidentally getting her pregnant again. She ended up miscarrying. We had a huge fight. There were various times where I was extremely close to committing suicide. Three or four times, I think, during that period. One was prescription drugs, one was a kitchen knife, all this shit. She eventually moved out to a city that was about 30 miles away from Dallas, and in the midst of all this basically my only coping mechanism, and one of her coping mechanisms, was hip-hop. I had started freestyling late in the car in the backyard at my parents’ house with her, going through probably an eighth of weed a night just smoking and freestyling, listening to shitty Necro and Biggie instrumentals on our iPhones, literally going for hours and hours and hours. I think I probably clocked in about 200 hours worth of freestyling in that year. That kinda started out as just an escape, and then once she left I thought, I actually really fuckin enjoy this, and I think this is something I want to do for the rest of my life in some sort of capacity. With that in mind I released my first EP (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Circle) in Dallas, and then realized that I had to get out of Dallas, I had to move on and separate from her, and the situation, in order to not put a bullet in my head. That prompted the move to Minneapolis. It’s been not quite as much of a roller coaster emotionally, but (I’m) definitely still battling a lot of depression, and uncertainty, and the existential crisis that every mid twenty something person goes through.

AB: Is that why First Attempt at a Second Chance is the title of your full length debut?

KS: Yup. That’s exactly why.

AB: The album is very personal. Do you feel like you’re kind of naked on this record?

KS: Absolutely. There’s no braggadocio about it. This, honestly, the approach to this album was more along the lines of a suicide note. I wanted to extrapolate, and put out in the world, everything I was feeling, so in the very likely event that I killed myself people would be able to listen to the album and say, “Oh, I get it. I understand.” I couldn’t talk to anybody, this was my outlet, so it’s very much tearing off the skin and letting the heart beat on an album.

AB: But, to make things perfectly clear, you are not currently suicidal.

KS: No. I’m talking about it, but that part is behind me.

AB: You’re leading things off by releasing the single “Kev’s Dead.” Why have you decided to die at the very beginning of your career?

KS: {l*aughs*} Interesting word choice. Everybody goes through death. The main thing is that the person that you were when you were five, that version of the ghost inside the shell, is dead. It has evolved. It has had information added to it. Perspectives have changed. The person that I was when I started the journey that led up to this album is dead, and that was the death of the former self that I had a really hard time focusing on, and making peace with. For the longest time I thought, “Oh shit, I’m different, this stuff has changed me,” like any other traumatic experience. I thought, OK, do I like the person I’m becoming? I don’t know. Let’s find out. Eventually, later on, I learned to like the person I am, but there still remains the fact that the person I was is dead. That’s why in the song it talks about “held a funeral for my past self, went way past self righteous. Always told myself this grave would be my dynasty.” It’s basically a song of mourning to my former self, and I’m hoping that carries over to anybody experiencing the same thing. Like, OK, I can put the former self behind me, I can focus on the now. That’s essentially what it is.

AB: There’s a quote on your site from Blockhead where he says he appreciates you trying to do something different. Why do you think someone would view you as different?

KS: At least on this album, death is something that not a lot of people talk about, especially in this society, in Western culture in particular, and I feel like that, in and of itself, puts me in a different corner than a lot of people in the rap game, in the rap scene. Also, it is a very emotional record. Emotion first, wordplay second. That’s what happened with this album, and a lot of hip-hop artists don’t focus on that. I feel like I always have something to say rather than just speaking for the sake of speaking. That’s my approach to writing every song. I feel like I’m doing myself, and everybody else, a disservice if I’m saying the same shit that RA the Rugged Man is saying. Why would you say that? Why would you do that? You are your own individual human being with your own personality and experiences leading you up to that second in time in the cosmos, why would you deny yourself, and deny everybody else, that perspective? That’s why I gravitate more towards artists like Sage Francis, and all of them, who, if you listen to their discography, you get a clear idea of who they are as a person, as an entity, not just Chief Keef trying to raise murder rates with his mixtapes and shit.

AB: One of the experiences you had was touring Ireland in the summer of 2013. What was that like?

KS: It was scary, and at the same time it was phenomenal. It was completely self-funded with a bunch of rappers I had never met in person before, and basically (there was) no guarantee that it was gonna be a success. We had no PR companies behind us. It was very much, if you go over there you’re going to have to rap on the street, and promote to people, and slang flyers, and get people into your show. That was terrifying, but at the same time extremely gratifying when the crowd actually did show up, because you knew that you had a part in doing that. It was phenomenal. Also, they have fantastic beer over there.

AB: That’s for sure, but why’d you choose Ireland?

KS: That was actually the (decision of the) headliner of the tour, a guy by the name of Infidelix out of Denton, Texas. That was actually his tour. He had been over there once prior, and he loves the country, he wants to live over there at some point. He had heard my music over the internet, I can’t remember through what source, maybe one of the other supporting acts, and we got to talking, and he offered me a spot on the tour if I could pay my way. So I didn’t really have a choice in the destination, but I did have a choice in the journey, so I hopped on it.

AB: Tell me about your next journey, which, from what I hear, is a planned move to Brooklyn.

KS: I’m currently planning to move there in October, for music, and because Minneapolis is turning out to not be what I thought it was, so it’s time for me to move on.

AB: Could you elaborate on that?

KS: One, fuck the weather here. I just want to go on record saying that. Two, the thing with the Minneapolis scene, it’s very tight knit, it’s almost like a high school. In the scene here there are a lot of cliques that run together, there are a lot of people that kind of stay within their own social circles, and as a transplant, as the person that just transfered into the school, so to speak, it’s extremely hard to get a footing with anybody. That, kind of coupled with my social anxiety that I have as a result of all this bullshit, makes it so that I don’t talk to a lot of people here, and therefore I’m just kind of stuck writing rhymes. I don’t have anybody to freestyle with. I don’t have peers here, and I’m at the stage of my career where I need peers to improve my skills, and generally be a happier person, and my producer is in Brooklyn, as well as a lot of other people that I will be able to sharpen my teeth against, so to speak.

AB: Finally, you previously had an acting career, where might we have seen you?

KS: A shitload of short films. My biggest accomplishment was acting in a film that beat out Black Swan for an encore screening at the Austin Film Festival.