K-Hill: Livin’ Proof

S traight out of Wilson, North Carolina, K-Hill is one of the state’s brightest talents of today and tomorrow. The producer and MC gained notoriety from producing throwback-minded joints on Kaze’s Spirit of ‘94 project three years ago. While he says he wasn’t aware of the theme at the time, this is an artist with […]

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traight out of Wilson, North Carolina, K-Hill is one of the state’s brightest talents of today and tomorrow. The producer and MC gained notoriety from producing throwback-minded joints on Kaze’s Spirit of ‘94 project three years ago. While he says he wasn’t aware of the theme at the time, this is an artist with a deep appreciation for Hip-Hop’s past. For proof, just get K-Hill talking about Big Daddy Kane.

Early this year, K-Hill released “Stamps of Approval” a pre-album mixtape that features guest production from 9th Wonder and Khrysis. Despite those two very significant nods, K is out to set himself apart from the pack. With Memoirs of a Premature Legend… in the making, K-Hill wants to cultivate his fan-base now, without compromising the image that he’s so carefully crafted from non-fiction. AllHipHop.com found K-Hill in our spotlight of North Carolina, and so should you.

AllHipHop.com: Your pre-album/mixtape is called “Stamps of Approval.” On the insert, you portray food stamps. At this point in your career, what ‘stamps of approval’ are you really after?

K-Hill: Basically, they kinda represent the same thing. Coming up in certain financial situations, you had food stamps so that you could eat. To get to the next day is to get to the next situation. That’s why in naming my project, “Stamps of Approval,” for anything you want to go and do, somebody gotta go and give you that head nod. On that project, I’m [working with] some cats that got a couple of things goin’ on in the game theyselves, I’m tryin’ to draw in some of they listeners. When you look at the project, you’ll be like, ‘Dag, K did a song with Pumpkinhead.’ Any fan of the Brooklyn Academy movement might want something. That’s where it all came from – just tryin’ to get in.

AllHipHop.com: When the Justus League arrived, the media really portrayed a group that was in sync with Little Brother’s own movement. Khrysis is often perceived as an understudy to 9th Wonder the same way that Alchemist was to Premier, or Daz to Dre. You’re affiliated with some of these guys, yet you’re not lumped in. How do you find that balance?

K-Hill: I want to make it clear that I do know Justus League, I do know 9th. I met those guys a couple of years ago. I was doin’ music way before then – the exact same music I’m doin’ now. At the same time, I gotta give credit where credit is due: Little Brother and 9th Wonder are responsible for breaking down the door and getting ears to listen to us. We had a couple pioneers come through before though, like Ski [of Jay-Z/Orginal Flavor fame] – but they didn’t really represent North Carolina. He got in the game at a time when it wasn’t cool to represent N-C. When the fellas came out, they went against the grain and did the music we was feelin’, that we wanted to do. My main thing is to definitely distinguish myself as an individual, but at the same time, I’m gonna always give them credit as the ones to break down the door and providing me for doing what I’m doing today.

AllHipHop.com: I haven’t heard a lot of negative messages in lyrics coming from that area. Because of that, do you think the kids growing up around the way that idolize you all – do you think they’ll grow up different than kids, say, growing up listening to Harlem cats?

K-Hill: It’s definitely not like that here. In fact, on the outside here, there’s people who consider me, Little Brother, Kaze, Supastitution, they consider us like a circle. They think we’re one big circle. To an extent, we are, because we know each other, we kick it, and we can relate to each other on a lot of things. Everybody in this area does not agree with our sound. It’s a big melting-pot. But since we’re pure, we are the ones that people can relate to the most. Street cats can relate to what we’re doing. White-collar workers can relate. The average Joe, religious cats, they all relate.

AllHipHop.com: The fact that there’s resistance in favor of negative or more street imagery, how does that sit with you?

K-Hill: As far as the cats rhymin’ ‘bout cocaine and guns and stuff, I don’t knock them, it’s just the life that they know. If they know that and they rhyme about that, I don’t condemn that. If they never seen a key in their life…if they never sold crack in their life, and they rhyme about it, that’s when I have something against it. In North Carolina, we got a thing for bein’ humble. We keep it real, and talk about what we really know about. There’s a lot of followers here. But there’s a lot of people that stand up for what they really know. There’s people that can’t relate to K-Hill songs.

AllHipHop.com: What did it mean to the North Carolina Hip-Hop community when Big Daddy Kane moved down?

K-Hill: I’m gonna speak from a personal point-of-view…

AllHipHop.com: Well, I know you worked with him…

K-Hill: I did. I had produced Spectac’s single [“One Day remix”] with Kane. But for a long time, I thought [Kane’s living in North Carolina] was an urban legend. I had been hearin’ that he was stayin’ out here for a couple of years, but I’d never seen him. Ironically, I moved to the same area where people was sayin’ he was stayin’ at. I lived there for a year – no Kane. Funny enough, I was out in the world one day, at my job, and Big Daddy Kane comes walking in [laughs]. I spoke to him, but it took me a long time to get my manhood up to even speak. I didn’t wanna come off like a groupie, but this cat is the reason I started rhymin’. After that, I started seeing him a lot. I remember, M.O.P. came down here to do a concert, and Kane walked out on stage, and the crowd went bananas. We love Kane down here! It means a lot to us as Hip-Hoppers. I wish he’d just come on back out.

AllHipHop.com: On “Legends,” you said, “My grandmother a day after my birthday / I know the real meaning of joy and pain / I lost my grandfather the same day I met my wife.” What destiny and purpose do you have? You call yourself a “premature legend.”

K-Hill: Exactly. It’s funny that you pick out those two lines, then ask me about the meaning of “premature legend” at the same time. To me, it’s just that. My grandfather for example, I always knew that she wrote music. I always she knew she sang in church. But I never knew that she recorded music. I found out that after she passed. That was a career she wanted to pursue, but she had kids – life issues. This album is dedicated to her, [and] a couple of cats [Sick-L and Dirty Needles] I used to rhyme with who passed away. I thought these cats were some of the nicest cats I ever got to rhyme with, but they didn’t get to fulfill their dream. They had a potential to be legends! Where’s the term come from? It’s a legend that didn’t get to mature. They had legendary capabilities, but they didn’t get to act on it, because of situations. That’s the whole meaning.

AllHipHop.com: In order to reach that status, do you let things float, or do you take your steps carefully?

K-Hill: Hmmm. I try to do a little bit of both. Now, seein’ where I’m at, and that people are really checkin’ for what I’m doing, I really try to be careful. When I say that, there’s a lot of things I wanna try, musically. But I don’t want to lose what fan-base I have right now. I want to be real careful and selective on the type of material I choose to do. Any situation that comes my way, I review it real carefully, more-so than even a month ago. Any bad move, that’s it, it’s a wrap.

AllHipHop.com: Jean Grae is an incredible artist. There’s been speculation that both Jay-Z and Nas are huge fans. You had worked on Jeanius. Knowing the kind of response that album was likely to get, how did it feel when it was leaked and subsequently deaded?

K-Hill: I still, to this day, man… even with everything that’s goin’ on, I’ll still never be able to understand that night. It was so random. I had the pleasure of actually bein’ there while Jean was recording. She’s got a work-ethic like I’ve never seen in anybody. I’ve seen her write an album in like a week’s time. That track, “Smash Mouth” wasn’t planned, man. 9th was in there recording. I was outside kickin’ it with Joe Scudda and Cesar Comanche. He was like, ‘Yo K-Hill, come in the room and drop something for the Jean Grae project.’ At the time, I was only there tryin’ to get a [mixtape] drop. I try to be really careful with artists, especially when they’re working with somebody else. I don’t like to intervene. For that to happen, and for her to approve of it, it was just like…damn! I think she’s incredible too.

AllHipHop.com: When 9th came and said that to you. Were you pressured? I mean, I’m guessing you didn’t have a sweet 16 just sitting around, collecting dust…

K-Hill: It had to come right then. 9th’s the type of guy, he wants it right now. You have to be quick on your toes, man. When he said he wanted us on the track, me, Edgar Allen Floe, and [Joe] Scudda, rushed to the car to go and bang this out. We were just goin’ at it. For them, it might’ve been like, ‘Okay, we ‘bout to get another guest appearance, man.’ For me, it was like, “Damn, I’m ‘bout to be on a track with Jean Grae. A lot of people are ‘bout to hear me for the first time, so I really gotta make this pop.” I felt pressured, but honored at the same time.

AllHipHop.com: You’ve got a track on the record, “Pay Attention,” that seems to be inspired by a conversation with a homeless man. Who is your muse? How often do you write from personal experience?

K-Hill: 85% of my writing is personal experience. “Pay Attention” is a true story. I was outside, waitin’ on a concert to start. This guy comes walkin’ up to me, and he asks me for 35 cents. I’m like, “Man, what the hell you gonna do with 35 cents man, straight up?” He said he was tryin’ to buy a beer. Since he was straight up with me, I gave him a dollar. Since I gave him a dollar, he gave me a story [which became “Pay Attention”]. At the same time, the whole song is really like a letter to my girl. I’m tellin’ her not to get discouraged with me goin’ for now, because eventually it’ll pay off. Just stick it out with me.

AllHipHop.com: On your records, you reference the people like Mister Cee, Large Professor, or obscure AZ lyrics. How smart do you think your audience is when it comes to Hip-Hop knowledge?

K-Hill: Wow! Paine, you really threw me on that one. [laughs] [AZ’s] “Rather Unique” is one of my favorite songs. It was just something that just came to mind. Because of my age and the era I came from, you’re always gonna be guaranteed to catch those lines from me. It’s not ‘cause I’m tryin’ to slide it in, it’s ‘cause it’s comin’ natural. I’m not saying I’m stuck in a time-warp or anything. But when these people are your heroes, and you’re listening to them everyday, you just subconsciously mention these things in your song. But is important to educate the listener on who these people are. For example, Kane did the same thing that Jay-Z is doing now. Kane had that swagger, Kane was dressin’ nice, Kane had the crazy collabos. It’s just that when Jay did it, he got paid for it. It’s important to teach [about] the originators. But a lot of people don’t know that Jay-Z and Kane almost came out at the same time!

AllHipHop.com: Last words?

K-Hill: Shouts to my girl, Kris, my right hand man, Jarred Jeffrey, my right hand MC, and the Gyphted, my right hand producer, and I’m good.

For more information visit www.kick-a-verse.com.