Kilo Kish: Started From the Bottom Now She's Here

The soon-to-be LA-based singer on staying chill, staying true and collecting rocks.
Kilo Kish RBSS Philly 1 © Ryan Muir / Red Bull Content Pool
By Elliott Sharp

Kilo Kish, 23, started making music as a joke. A few years ago, as a student at the Pratt Institute, in New York City, her friends were always talking about their new mixtapes, so she wanted to make one, too. She connected with producers/rappers Smash Simmons and Mels McCloud, and released some songs under the name KindKidsKill.

Her first release as Kilo Kish was the 'Homeschool' EP, in 2012. Featuring production by Odd Future affiliates the Internet and Jet Age Of Tomorrow, the EP showcases Kish's happily amateurish singing and rapping. With artists such as Kitty Pryde, Kish helped elevate a weird new style of Lil B-inspired Valley Girl Tumblr-rap. 

I just do what I can and work on different things. Maybe it bothers some of my fans because they want more music, but I'm out collecting rocks.

Kish's latest album, 'K+,' was released earlier this year, and featured appearances by A$AP Ferg, Earl Sweatshirt, Childish Gambino, Vince Staples, SBTRKT, and many others. For its release, she hosted a multimedia event in Manhattan that showcased notes, email and other items documenting her collaborative creative process.

Last Friday, Kish headlined a Red Bull Sound Select show in Philadelphia with Joie, Nico's Gun, and Mic Stew. We caught up with her at the venue, before the show, to talk about her work and upcoming plans, including a big move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, which she hopes will inspire her next project.

You have said before that you initially started making music as a joke. Do you still feel that way?

No, not at all. Music is my only job now, but it's fun, and it doesn't feel like work. So it's pretty serious now, but I still have the same approach to it, as far as writing songs and making material. I try not to over-think things. But my situation is strange in that I never really thought I'd do music at all. It happened in a roundabout way.

My friends were working on music, and I was like, “Oh, whatever, I guess I'll make a mixtape.” And then it blew up a lot bigger than I expected. On the other hand, there are a lot of musicians who are constantly trying to get their work out to people. I guess you could take the strategy of acting like you don't care at all.

Sometimes it can get hazy when you have eyes on you and you want to please different people, but you have to remember that the reason you're there is because you are you.

It seems to have worked for you.

Yeah. You could be nonchalant about it, and chill, and don't force it down people's throats. If you have good music, people will come around to it when they want to, and will tell their friends about it. I never did it in a forceful way, like, “Come see my show!” or “Check out my new mixtape!”

Why did you decide to start taking music seriously?

It was because of the response instead of me thinking I was really good at music. People liked it, so I thought, “That's cool. I'll make more.” People came to my shows, so I did another one. It got serious for me when I met people who were touched by my music. I want to do it for them. I want to make them happy.

What do you think it was about the contemporary music scene that allowed for someone like yourself to say “I'm just making music as a joke,” but then to be taken seriously?

The Internet is a crazy place; anything is possible on the Internet. So many artists and different styles of music are accessible now. Now you can make your own audience. Anybody can release any music they want, and someone will see it, and it will trickle up and down, and into the right hands.

Also, the music I was making was kinda rap and kinda singing, and a lot of the other girls now are stuck in the past. A lot of them haven't straddled the line the way I have, so I sounded fresh. I'm not overbearing on a song, or trying to be one of the boys when it comes to rap. But, after a few years of doing it, now there are plenty of other women making a similar style of music as me.

What did you do specifically to build an audience for yourself?

I'm myself. I wear what I feel like wearing. Me and Smash basically style ourselves, for the most part. We do what we like, wear what we like, say what we like. Sometimes it can get hazy when you have eyes on you and you want to please different people, but you have to remember that the reason you're there is because you are you. People don't like the fake, marketed version of you. You just have to be you and do what you're good at, and stick with being yourself. If you change that, people can tell.

Kilo Kish RBSS Philly 2 © Ryan Muir / Red Bull Content Pool
Kilo Kish RBSS Philly 3 © Ryan Muir / Red Bull Content Pool

Your latest project's concept includes embracing spontaneity and accidents. Why is this important to you?

I'm an art school kid; I love stuff like that. If there's a roll full of film, I like the picture that's completely fucked up and that didn't come out right. I'm into imperfections, and they are one of my favorite things to explore artistically. When you're in the studio with different people, or alone, it's not one take. You go through so many rough drafts, and copies, so I wanted to delve into the imperfections.

'K+' was an album, but also a larger multimedia affair. Do you think this is a necessary way to get the attention of people nowadays, since we are all so overwhelmed by the quantity of music in the world?

I don't think it's necessary; simplicity is beautiful. Not everyone has to be a singer or songwriter or actress or designer, unless that's how your brain works. Personally, I can't keep my brain focused to do just one thing for an extended period of time. I need to do multiple things or I can't function. It's not a choice. I have to wake up and paint before I do music, or whatever.

I've always wanted to be a person who, you know, runs track, and wakes up every day to run track, and lives and breathes running track. But I can't. So I just do what I can and work on different things. Maybe it bothers some of my fans because they want more music, but I'm out collecting rocks. That's strange, I guess.

Is it too early to talk about your next project?

I'm moving to Los Angeles next week. I'm thinking of doing a short EP of songs I'll write while driving across the country. We'll be going to the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon, and hopefully I'll put something out when I get to LA. I've never done that drive before, so I'm super excited.

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