Lakisha Robinson (whom most know under her musical moniker Kilo Kish, a nod to Atlanta rapper Kilo Alli) is the newest member of indie-hop’s DIY digital age, a valley-girl-voiced lyricist who demurely evades being called a rapper while simultaneously giving the hip-hop genre an exciting new spin. Songs like “You’re Right” and “Sick,” tracks off her 2012 EP entitled Homeschool, find the recently graduated Florida native waxing on romantic troubles (some a little disturbed) with a poetic softness, offering a sharp contrast to the more hard-shelled female MCs music fans are likely used to. Although Kish initially had trouble hearing her voice on record, she better get used to it—with folks like Childish Gambino, A$AP Rocky, Lena Dunham, and Mos Def coming out as fans and a debut album supposedly set for the end of summer, Kish’s blithe approach is taking her places she never expected. We spoke to the young talent about her style, working with Odd Future, and her plans for the future.
HOMETOWN: Orlando, FL
MUSICAL UPBRINGING: Growing up, I kind of was into Spice Girls, Britney, Justin Timberlake, Usher and all the boy bands—pop music. In my house, my parents would play Earth, Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye and stuff like that, so I really enjoyed that stuff. I listened to Michael Jackson a lot—he’s probably the person I listened to the most growing up. In my early teens, I listened to a lot of NERD and Pharrell. My mom has this huge case of CDs, so I would just go through them. I don’t understand why she had so many, but I would go through and listen to one every week. I’d be like, “Mom, I discovered this!” and she’d be like, “Yeah, okay, cool.” But that’s kind of what I did.
PARENTAL APPROVAL: My mom’s pretty proud. At first, I was being kind of secretive about it—I’d be like, “Oh, I’m recording this at my house,” and I’m always doing random artsy things, and she’s always like, “Okay, whatever.” I think she figured—and I figured—that this was something I would be doing in passing, and was a random hobby. Then it ended up taking off more than we expected. It’s funny for her and weird for her, but she tries to understand what’s going on. She has her iPad and she’ll Google the people—it’s really funny.
HAPPY ACCIDENTS: Downtown, everyone will be like “I’m doing music, I’m doing this, I have a mixtape out,” and I kind of got annoyed with people saying that, so I was like, “I’m going to put out a mixtape just for the hell of it.” I figured it’d be really funny if I were at a party and some rapper guy was like, “Hey, I have my mixtape out, you should check it out,” and I could be like, “Hey, I have my mixtape out too, you should check it out.” So that was kind of the premise of me starting to do it—it was originally a joke. One of my friends who I make music with, Smash Simmons, had a studio in our apartment when we were roommates, so it was really easy and accessible to make music. I kind of just did whatever—I didn’t really have a plan or formula, so I just did what I could do. I played it for a few people I work with, and they were like, “No, it’s actually pretty good!” I was like, “Really?” And it just snowballed from there into something real bigger. But that was my original plan: to put out a mixtape so people would be like, “What the hell is going on?” I wanted to take a stand against everyone being an artist.
SCHOOL TIES: I just graduated like a week ago. It was really, really long, but it was kind of cool. I’m really happy to be finished. If you run into me on the street and ask me what I do, I’ll usually say I’m a student or that I make things, but “I’m a musician” is never the first thing I say—it feels weird to say that.
ON WORKING WITH MEMBERS OF ODD FUTURE: I was on The Internet album and they also produced a lot of tracks on my EP, so a lot of those were done in the studio together. I actually just left LA—I performed in a show with The Internet and basically spent a week with them. We listened to beats, hung out. Everyone is nice and chill and really cool people to collaborate with—the whole Odd Future group is really cool people. We definitely have a relationship that’s more than like, “You do this hook and send it back.” It’s definitely more of a collaboration thing where we sit down and discuss and work on things together. It’s good to have relationships with people where there’s no pressure—when I’m working with The Internet, it’s not like I have to work on a particular song or make something a certain way. There are no rules, which is good, and there’s no expectations. It’s always good when you have a free space to be creative and you don’t have to fit into some type of box.
LIVE: I really like performing live—I never thought I’d ever be doing it. It’s not really in my personality to want to jump on stage and dance weird in front of people. I thought that I’d be nervous and scared, but it is actually really fun, because you can make the songs a little different, you can improvise, you can talk and explain yourself. I’ve been performing in New York, at places I usually go like Santos Party House and stuff like that. I don’t know if I have a big fan base here, but the last show I did in LA was really fun because it was more like my actual fan base—they actually knew who I was, which is crazy to think about. I look forward to performing with The Internet again soon.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Sometimes people will come up to me on the street, and a lot of times it’ll be normal interaction, which is cool. But mostly the weird thing for me is if I’ll be somewhere, and like an hour later I’ll look on twitter and someone will be like “Kilo Kish was here.” It’s just like, why wouldn’t you just say hi to me? Don’t tweet about it later and creep me out. It’s kind of weird to me because if someone comes up to me I’ll be like, “Hey! What’s your name? What’s going on?” And they’ll be like “I just wanted to say hey to you—I didn’t expect the conversation to go any further than that.” I’m like, “Okay.”
CONSTANTLY CREATIVE: I’ve always been painting and drawing, but when I was in 9th or 10th grade I started a business where I made these bracelets—they were really tacky, like really bad. They were denim bracelets and I stitched names into them. They were like customized and people at my school bought them. It was the first little business that I started. I graduated FIT for textile design, so I basically just make patterns and prints and stuff. But all my invites, album covers, or any type of thing relating to me, I’m usually the one that designs it. I’m working on my friend’s album cover too—I’m always doing little odd things. Today I did an art project, which is kind of what I’m into—museums and fine-arts culture.
LONG-TERM GOALS: I want to use my music and the idea of a more well-rounded artist to fuel different projects. I feel like a lot of people are talented in a lot of different ways, and I kind of see music as an extension of whatever fine arts projects I’m doing. It’s kind of the same process; you’re working on something, you have a concept and you work through it. I kind of like music in the same way, and I want to branch those things. I want to do little collaborations and projects with actual visual artists and musicians. I have a lot of different ideas about collaboration, and different design things I want to work on, and I think the music will help me have a broader audience for my ideas. This week, I’m doing my music videos, which is pretty cool. I thought of the treatments and everything, so I’m excited to direct that and see what people think of them. I try to keep designing and being creative, not just in music, because I feel like that can take you on another tangent. I want to consult and share whatever my perspective is with other people—that’s my main goal.