Interviewed on February 14, 2018
Kakuyon’s music spans across a range of disciplines and influences. With a passion slowly built up from a young age, this budding artist is blooming into his own artistic identity, intent on laying the foundation for his next steps with each release. “Celebration” is no different, an early track that found renewal with the help of RELLA, whose masterfully emotive contributions add a somber complexity to the song’s concept. Coupled with the carefully chosen lyrics of Kakuyon himself, the song pulses with dignified animus, driving the nuances of a common topic to center-stage.
What The Sound: If you had to describe your music to someone, in maybe one or two sentences, what might that sound like?
Kakuyon: I mean lately I've listening to a lot of 70's progressive rock, so, mix that with R&B.
WTS: (laughs) ok, so what got you into that?
K: Just crate digging honestly. I was looking for something different, because I used to sample a lot of music, and at one point I found this one artist, Laurence Vanay, this one song "Demain," like "Tomorrow," and that song was just so ill that I just started digging more 70's French, specifically progressive rock. It just sounded different, so I wanted to keep going with it.
WTS: Yeah, I got on this wave like a year ago of French psych-rock, like The Limiñanas, I'll send you the links. So how has that influenced the style of your music?
K: At any given time, whatever I'm listening to will find its way into the music. And the discovery of Laurence Vanay was probably three years ago, so it's been around, and I think it's probably leaked in to some degree. At least, so the song that I heard from her, she had a flute on it, and that was my first instrument, and I'd never really put it into my music until recently. It's funny how hearing someone else doing it gave me the confidence to try it.
WTS: For sure. So getting into more of that background, how did you get into music, and where does your recent work fit into that?
K: It's always been in my bones, I guess. I remember plenty of stories where we'd be on road trips and I would sing the same thing, the same one bar loop, for like hours. My brother would get so mad, this one time we went to Texas and it was like 24 hours, and I swear a good chunk of them I was singing this same one bar loop (laughs).
But formally, I think it was 3rd or 4th grade, my teacher was encouraging us to try choir, and I just did it because everyone was doing it. You're just this one voice in this huge choir of voices, I wasn't really invested in it at that point, I was just doing it because my friends were doing it. And then the next year, I remember it was a similar situation except it was band, but you had to actually like get an instrument so it required a little more investment. I did that for similar reasons.
So my older brother was also in band, and he was performing in a concert, and at one point the director paused the show and said that the next song they were going to play was composed by somebody in the band themselves, and my ears perked up like...they played the song, and the whole time I was scheming like, "Wow, I want that to be me," like actually, so from there I just had this self-drive to learn how to compose music. At first it was classical music, writing on staff paper, I would like read Music Theory for Dummies in band class (laughs). And then in high school I discovered Kanye West, and switched from classical to the more rap/singing, hip hop thing.
WTS: Nice, that's an interesting progression for sure. Ok, so if you had to introduce someone to you music for the first time, what would you show them?
K: If you asked me this at different points in time, I would tell you different songs. But at this very moment, I might tell you to listen to "Nirvana," it's a song I did with my homie out here Ammar, he's one of my managers, like, the first dude that my manager Ahmed met when he came to America, and Ammar is just a real one. I remember last year or two years ago he showed me the beat of Nirvana, and it was the first time I realized that I just got quiet, I was just listening, thinking this is special. It came together in literally a week. It's just raw, it doesn't sound like anything, and it's hard so...(laughs).
WTS: That's a good point about the songs changing. So when did you make and release that song?
K: That was probably a year before my debut project, Now Go and Flourish, and it was on that project.
WTS: Fasho, it's kind of cool that it's been that long and that's still the track you'd go to. So getting into "Celebration," how did you link up with RELLA to make that track?
K: Yeah, so when I decided to start performing and getting more serious, I was just going to open mics and stuff, any opportunity I could get. At some point I caught one of his sets, and I was just blown away. I was really geeking out over it. I got introduced to him after the show, just fanning out real hard, telling him it was ill and everything. If you’ve ever talked with him he's mad cool, he was chill about it, so we just stayed in touch after that.
Finally this year we got to link up a few times, and nothing really came from it, we made a beat but no vocals were laid down, then both of us got real busy so we decided to just send stuff back and forth. I knew I wanted to put this record out for a while, but it was only like 1:30 long, so I sent it to him to try to help fill it up, and he just bodied it. He sent it back in like 2-3 days, and I was just like yo this is crazy.
I was kind of contemplating my verses, I'm kind of writing in my head all along, but when he sent that I really vibed with it. We finally made it happen, and I really feel like he kinda stole the show (laughs), but that's what I want with all my collaborations, I want them to shine on my record. So I'm just happy with what we made together.
WTS: So did you like make the beat and have the concept for the song, and then send it to him? How did that back and forth workout?
K: It's kind of cool, so that beat was probably like the first or second song I made after I decided to become an artist, so that's probably 3 or 4 years ago. But my boy SaBang, even when he heard it himself he thought it was ahead of its time. My boy Pierre had laid the chords down for that song, and I wanted to do it justice, so I held onto it until I felt like my vocal chops were at least good enough to put it out.
Anyways, the beat hadn't changed in 2-3 years, so I just sent that to RELLA. It was titled "Celebration," I didn't really tell him anything I just sent it to him, and he came up with all that, even doing some arrangement with the stems. His words were exactly what I wanted to say, it didn't need explaining, he was just on the frequency.
WTS: I really love how celebration as a concept is usually very upbeat, but with this you all tap into a somber side of celebration that feels more complicated in such a meaningful way. There's definitely something uplifting about it, but there's also this darkness to it, this triumph out of spite, it just feels very real to me.
K: Yeah, definitely.
WTS: I also love the juke you pull on that one line, "It's a celebration...ladies and gentlemen," (laughs) because we all knew what we thought you were going to say, I thought that was a nice touch. So, how does this all fit into your aspirations going forward?
K: Yeah, so I don't want to talk too much and set expectations, but definitely trust that if I'm going to put something out, it's something I really feel. I just put out a song recently actually, but yeah, if you like what you're hearing keep an eye out.
WTS: For sure. So quick random question, what have you been jamming lately, other than the prog rock?
K: Hmm, let me actually pull out my phone, gotta show some love...ooo so BIGYUKI just dropped an album, I think at one point he opened up for Corey Henry who's like the illest keyboard player I've ever seen, he's a really great producer. I just started bumping that.
WTS: Dope. Is there anything other than music that you've been vibing with?
K: I mean, just life in general, like balance is always great. So I just try to stay excited about everything, I like to think it's all the same.
WTS: I definitely feel that. Alright man, anything else for the people out there?
K: I guess just expect the unexpected, my goal with these next few releases is to put out the music that I feel with no compromise, so I invite and encourage everyone to come in with an open mind.
Interview by Broccoli