Congratulations on winning the Loud.com MC contest with L.F. Daze. When you entered the contest what kind of a chance did you think you had to win it?
Originally when they picked the final 10 I wasn’t in the 10 and I was kind of honorable mention. That kind of put a bummer on the whole situation because I thought I had a good chance of competing but when they picked the 10 I wasn’t’ there. That was kind of a bummer. I had even forgot about the contest altogether and then a week into it they called me because I guess two people had dropped out. They brought me back into it and that’s when I jumped in. So from the very beginning I came in like an underdog. I feel like I came in a week behind everybody else. Once I got the itinerary of things that we were going to have to do and I saw that the competition was based on the grind of make a song, make a video, promote yourself, get a street team…Once I saw what the contest was based around, that’s when I saw that I had a chance to win this.
You’ve basically been doing that your whole career.
Exactly. And that’s what I knew. When I saw it was like that as far as making a song, making a video, doing viral marketing, getting a cosign from an established artist, I saw that this was my normal routine. Each week it was just something that I had to learn the hard way anyway and I think what really needed up being dope about it was that the cats in the contest were all independent and were all doing things on their own and they were all there staying at the end. The final four were people that all had projects or mixtapes or had worked with somebody. They weren’t just people that were fresh off of MySpace and that’s all they had done. It all worked out.
How much do you think your previous experiences, like being around 9th Wonder and touring a lot, help put you ahead of the other artists in the competition?
I would say that definitely all of that. Having relationships established helped me complete things by the deadline. You would only have a few days to complete something that would take a few weeks to do. They would tell me I had to have a track with somebody famous by next week and these were all things that if you didn’t have these kinds of relationships established already then you were at a disadvantage. I had been grinding for so long and all I had to do was holler at people. I told them what was going on and I had been around my block. This wasn’t my first rodeo. And that’s what I said in the competition. This wasn’t the first time that I had to do any of these things. I definitely feel like this gave me an advantage. It helped Homeboy Sandman out as well. It helped No Name as well. And I know L.F. Daze had produced for a lot of artists as well. I think what I had done in the past let me not panic with any of the challenges that we had.
What kind of music did you think you’d need to win the contest?
You know, that’s an interesting question because coming into it I knew a couple of things. I knew it was Loud Records. I knew the history and the tradition of Loud and what it was and I was saying at the same time that I wanted to make the biggest record possible. This is Loud Records and SRC/Universal. If I’m really gonna make an impact here at this label, I need to first of all show that I can rap and at the same time show that I’m business minded and show that I can sell records. I want to be able to do all those things without compromising who I am as an artist or who I am as an MC.
You do have a fanbase of cats who don’t know me for Spirit of ’94 and 9th Wonder. But a lot do know me. I feel like I’m in the same position Eminem and Kanye were in when they had to make a transition from the type of music they did to please themselves and what you have to do when you step into the light when you’re trying to go platinum and sell the biggest records possible.
I think there is a happy medium and what I’m always going to let my fans know is that the lyrical content is always going to be present and the MCing aspect is always going to be present and the hip-hop is always going to be present even if it’s mashing up with rock or R&B. Hip-hop is what’s always going to be heard in my music.
Coming into the contest I wanted to show them that I could rap and at the same time show them that I could make a song because there are so many cats that are nice in the battle realm or freestyling or whatever, they have difficulty making songs and I wanted to show the diversity that I could make a song and give them something catchy and make something accessible that the heads are going to love and the mainstream is going to love at the same time.
Most fans know you from your critically-acclaimed Spirit of ’94. Do you feel like fans expect a certain vibe from you?
I think that a lot of cats are expecting certain things because even when I put out the record “They Don’t Know” that I won the contest with, when I put that record out, a lot of cats on the blogs were saying that it was a different sound coming from me just because it had singing and R&B on the hook and my flow was real slowed down and my delivery was. People were already saying that but I think what cats can always expect from me is something quality because even with my last couple of releases I’ve changed and grown.
That’s the thing. I’m not going to continue to put out the same music every time. Cats can expect me to be consistent and as long as the music's consistent, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. The cats that know my steez and know how I get down, they’ll know what I bring to the table. If cats is expecting to hear another whole album of me rapping like the Spirit of ’94 all over again, I hate to disappoint you but we’ve been there and we’ve done that. I’m going to stay true to my sound and stay true to hip-hop and I’m sure me and 9th will work together in the future but I’m still trying to do something new and improved as well.
How much are you working with 9th Wonder today?
I haven’t been really recently, man. Honestly that man, I know he’s real busy. I tried to link with him but I haven’t been able to link with him recently, like lately. He’s on a different level from me right now. He’s really been inaccessible. But it’s just a matter of schedules and two people linking up at the right time to make a song happen.
How close are you affiliated with the JUSTUS League today?
That’s the thing, man. A lot of cats get it confused and they think that I’m in the JUSTUS League and they think that I’m some type of affiliate. You know how they have a hundred different affiliates. We were all coming up in the 919 at the same time. IU was in Chapel Hill and they were in Raleigh and Durham. We all grew up in the same hip-hop community and me and 9th were introduced on a different level. That was like the first person that I knew that I had a relationship with there. Everybody else there I’m cool with and I know but he’s the first one that I had a relationship with. And we built outside of what he was doing in his camp and outside of what I was doing in my camp. We made something happen on our own as two individuals. I got a lot of respect for that camp because they shined a big light on what the rest of our scene had going on.
And 9th never charged me for a beat so I can’t say anything bad about him. I was running in the area on my own and this man took my album and he already had a name and he knew all he had to do was remix it and it would draw attention. That’s how that album came about. And once that came it was a whole new ballgame as far as people knowing who I was. I just took that and I tried to capitalize on that when I was with Rawkus in the Rawkus 50 and then in the Loud contest this was another opportunity for the cats to say that they remembered me and that they heard of me before. This was another way to help with the momentum.
I heard some horror stories from artists involved with the Rawkus 50. Were you happy with how that went down?
I mean, honestly, man, that’s the thing. I was in a position where I went into it and I had high hopes for it but at the same time I kind of knew better. I had been warned about what it could be. What I wanted at the end of the day was to be associated with the label for its history and what it used to be with Mos Def and Talib Kweli and Company Flow and Pharoahe and Soundbombing. That’s what I wanted to be a part of and I wanted to be associated with that and the razorblade and that logo. And at the end of the day I got that. I’ll never sit down and wait for a label to do something. I learned the hard way with that. I take what’s of value and I run with it. The logo and the name was what’s popping. I used that to get a whole ‘nother level of exposure and it was good for me.
Did they promote me or put me in a better position? No. Did they put me in a position to rebuild Rawkus as a real label? No. But at the end of the day I got the marketing and resources to put me in a better situation for another year and that’s where we’re at now.
How far do you think you can take your $50,000 budget in today’s game?
Yo, it’s a recession, right? That’s what Steve and all them told me. The thing is, coming from my background, everything has been a blessing. I’ve had to crawl on my knees. What I learned how to do was MacGyver the whole game and make something out of nothing. Everything that I ever did was grassroots because I never had no money to do it.
Let alone $50 grand, I can stretch $10 grand. I can really make it last. I’ve had to learn how to do everything from scratch so now that I got a little bit of bread to do things with and I got a little bit of love, they see my grind and I respect them and they respect me. They’re helping me do a lot of things for half the price or for free. They understand that we’re in it together. I’m trying to pull the next director that’s gonna be the next Hype Williams to come and do my video. Now he’s got something for his reel and I’m trying to work with people on that level. Come design my flyer and then you got something on your portfolio that you can show the next big artist that can pay you more than I can. That’s the whole part about bargaining with cats and all that. When I come at somebody for a 16, they’ll say, “I usually charge $5 grand, give me $2 and a half.” If they charge $2, maybe they’ll give it to me for $1. That’s what I like. There’s nothing like grinding on your own. I don’t wait for nothing. If I’m doing something, I’m doing something that I set up.
How’s your next album coming?
With this situation, I have to make a single pop for me to have any future here. This was a crack in the door. By no means can I throw my feet up. I have to make this one song matter and count. What you’re gonna see me do is a lot of music leading up to the release of the single. I’m going hard. I’m going to do a Gangsta Grillz. I’m going to be putting out a lot of music so when the single pops there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind what I’m bringing to the table, man.
You’ve already sold over 10,000 units of Spirit of ’94. Are you happy with your fanbase right now?
I feel I got a group of cats that are real heavy on the ‘net and they know about the music I make but by no means am I done. I have a lot of work to be done. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a small community but it’s a community that matters. The cats that know me are the cats that blog and the cats that do the websites and the cats that send stuff out virally. Those are the cats that know me and that’s a blessing because they have supported me as quality for awhile now and to see me come in a situation where I could get a little larger exposure, all of them are reaching out to support me because they saw me come in on a small level and they saw me do the 9th Wonder stuff and get ahead. They’re going to help me. I have a small cult following and I want to shout them out and thank God for them because they already know what time it is.
What producers do you want to work with in the future?
Jake One laced me. I’m trying to work with Nottz. Of course I’m trying to work with 9th and Khrysis. I got my own fam at home. Erg 4 and my man D-One. My man Analogic from Jersey. I’m going to be trying to break a lot of new cats, man. There’s a lot of new cats I want to work with. I’m not big on chasing producers around that ain’t interested in working with me. I would rather work with somebody with a smaller name and they would give me more attention than to work with a big producer for $10 grand and then they give me a throwaway beat. I would rather work with the cats that would give me 100% and we would make some great music. You might see me working with some names that you haven’t seen before but there are names I respect that I would love to work with like Primo, Swizz, Timbo…Those are the names of the people you respect and hope to work with. Black Milk, people like that. We’ll see what happens at the end of the day, man, you know?
Getting back to your prize money, what’s the best way that you could spend that $50 grand today?
I think that marking and promotions is the best way. I think that when cats ask me what they should do with their $10 grand when they’re about to put an album out, I tell them if they can do an album and have $8 grand leftover to promote, you’re doing it because marketing and promotions is hard. If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? The answer is no. If you make an album and nobody knows that you dropped it, it doesn’t matter. Marketing and promotions is the hardest part. You can make great music for a small cost but if it’s not marketing right then it doesn’t matter.
What’s next for Kaze?
Check me out on my MySpace. Come through and holla at me on there. I’ll be putting out some new music real soon. Real, real soon.