Kid Ink, the 27-year-old Los Angeles rapper-singer, is riding high. Released in January, his major-label debut album, ‘My Own Lane’ (RCA), debuted as the No. 3 album in the country, thanks in large part to the success of his gold single, ‘Show Me,’ featuring Chris Brown.
Of course, the heavily tatted artist has benefitted from an independent grind that rivals some of the genre’s heavy hitters from the 1990s. Racking up tens of millions of YouTube views for his videos for 'Time Of Your Life' and 'I Just Want It All,' not to mention his steady stream of mixtapes and collaborations with Meek Mill, Cory Gunz and others, has helped Kid Ink build a massive fan-base.
With his 'Iz U Down' single with Tyga gaining momentum, Kid Ink spoke to us about the impact The Notorious B.I.G.’s 'Juicy' had on him, why he likes working on songs he didn’t produce, and the special connection he shares with DJ Mustard.
‘Hello World’ and ‘Sunset’ have a different lyrical angle than your more popular singles. How do you compare those songs to ‘Time Of Your Life’ or ‘Show Me?'
I feel like I definitely separate the records. After I finish records is when I can figure out whether or not it’s for me, or it’s for somebody else, or if it’s for a mixtape, or if it's album material. Afterwards, I don’t feel a certain type of way. It’s more so if I feel like I’ve covered all the bases for whatever project I’m doing. I definitely feel like each song has its own moment, its own place, its own part. In different people’s lives, it hits differently for everybody.
‘Hell & Back’ also has a different approach than the songs that you’re known for. What made you want to write about overcoming struggle?
Besides just getting across the truth of all that grind that I’ve been through and the rest of the team has been through, I feel like when I do do that, I see how those songs translate to certain people and take them to a different level in their lives, or help them get through something, whether it be a breakup, someone going to jail or their finals. I’ve had all types of those things being told to me from certain songs like ‘Hell & Back’ and ‘I Just Want It All.’
After getting that response from ‘I Just Want It All,’ I kind of did tap into that mode with ‘Hell & Back.' I feel like I always have to try to get the personal message across that will touch people and hit ‘em in different ways ‘cause I know how it translates.
What songs like that did you enjoy when you were coming up?
'Juicy' by [The Notorious] B.I.G. was probably one of the biggest records like that, where I could relate to it and understand that struggle. It motivated me to want to do more, more than people could actually tell you. Growing up, I always tried to listen to music that I could zone out to and live a different life to and not really have to relive any struggles or anything like that. I was not too personal like that as a kid. Even the records I do now, they’re a step out of the box for me because I’m really not somebody that gives off that energy.
On ‘Up & Away,’ you had the song ‘Rumpshaker,’ which plays off the 1992 single from Wreckx-N-Effect. How and when did you come across that song?
I think I first came across that song when I was young and that CD first came out. I remember one of my aunts having a copy of it. It was definitely a radio hit, but at the same time, I remember just having that whole entire [Wreckx-N-Effect ‘Hard Or Smooth’] record and that being that one hit and later on finding out that Pharrell co-produced on it. Plus, it’s one of those dope samples that might be forgotten.
Given that you also produce, how do you decide when you’re going to produce versus when you’re going to write to someone else’s beat?
It’s a little harder for to me to really go in on records that I produce. I always know where they’re going to go because I sat and listened to the beat the entire time I produced it and I’m kind of sick and over it, the melodies. Sometimes when I produce, I exhaust all of the melodies into the beat and I’ll know when to stop and use those melodies.
When I go through other people’s beats, sometimes I’ll have more of a creative mind and let the beat speak to me, not knowing where it’s going to go. It being brand new, I’ll have brand new ideas that I probably wouldn’t have thought of myself and kind of co-produce it from there. I just need to make sure that song still fits me and is comfortable for me.
You’ve worked extensively with DJ Mustard and have enjoyed success with your current gold single ‘Show Me.’ Why do you think you work well together?
Aside from just being in the studio and wanting to make good music, it’s just a vibe outside the studio. We’re just comfortable to hang out outside the studio, just on the regular, that beginning hunger that I feel like a lot of artists when they’re just moving around and having fun and not really focused on it too much like a job. We kind of just sit and vibe out, man, like it should be.
What do you think has been the change in the atmosphere with the fans to where people who were into rap weren’t really into singing are now cool with someone like you, who has a blend of singing and rapping?
Just people owning their craft, man, and not putting any limits on themselves. There’s always going to be someone out there that relates to you, so as long as you own it, people can’t tell you, ‘That’s not you.’