With his third album Shock Treatmentright around the corner, we thought it would be good to get in the mind of The Genius himself and find out what’s in store for all the fans on September 14. Krizz sat down and answered questions about his third full-length album, touring, and the process behind writing all those hooks that populate the catalog of Strange Music.
So the new album Shock Treatment is done right?
Krizz Kaliko: It’s a done deal. We already got the CDs back here.
What can fans look forward to from the new album?
Krizz Kaliko: Fans can look forward to me…well you know on the first CD I came up with the “Funkra”: which is funk, rap, rock, r&B, and opera. So this is another term that I’m using. After I did the album it made me come up with it: “hip pop.” You hear that and you’re like “that sounds like the same thing” but I’m talking about hip-POP. So what I’m doing–and some people have done some of it, but I’m going to show you how to do it for real–is to mix the hip hop and pop together. I know some of our existing fans probably don’t like pop music, I actually like some pop music and it can’t be the gay kind, and when I say gay I don’t mean music targeted towards homosexuals I mean the shit you hear and go “that’s fucking gay.” I like some pop music and really I like all types of music with pop being one of them. I think our core audience would like it if I did it so let me show you how I think pop music should be done mixed in with some of the ways that I’ve done music that our fans are prone to love.
How do you compare this with your previous albums?
Krizz Kaliko: I think that every album is better than the last one and I purposefully try to grow musically. Like when you heard Vitiligo, that was the first time I’d ever done an album by myself and it was dope, you know? People got on it. Then I went to Genius and Genius was mainly me introducing some of the stuff that I’m doing on this album too which is–when I say “pop”, most of it is the beats that sound like it it’s not like “I’m a barbie girl!” I’m talking about the beats. I did some of that on Genius and on Genius I showed more like, watch: I can do rock, I can do reggae, I can do all of these different things, displaying more of the Funkra. With this album, everything has to be shocking, that’s why I call it Shock Treatment.Everything has to have a shock value which is: the artwork, the marketing that we’re doing, the music–I should’ve said the music first because that’s what’s most important, the music–everything has to have this shock value to it. So when you ride by those billboards–my wife was saying the other day that some of her co-workers were like “I saw Krizz’s billboard and wow that really grabs your attention!” and she told them “Krizz really knows how to do that, Krizz knows how to grab everybody’s attention.” Matter of fact I just got this motorcycle vest made for the tour for my own set, and I went in just to get leather vests man and I end up getting these super-shiny-vinyl motorcycle bulletproof vests made with my logo on the front because I thought “You know, a motorcycle vest is cool, I mean I look like a bad ass, but a super-shiny motorcycle vest with my damn logo two-feet-tall on the front of it is like ‘hey look over here!'” That’s another part of me doing what I do and getting all those things combined in what the Shock Treatment is: everything has to have shock value, everything has to be yanking your attention, and shaking everything up. I come to shake it up, you know what I’m saying? When I come on stage, I want to shake it up. People scream when Tech hits the stage. He comes out of there: [imitating crowd noise] “ahhhh!” but they know when he says “make some noise for Krizz Kaliko!” it’s time to shake it up. That’s what the whole Shock Treatment thing is about.
Speaking of the live performance thing, do you train to move around as much as you do?
Krizz Kaliko: I didn’t use to, I used to just do it man. I used to just get up there and just do it and I was 350 at that time. I’ve since cut off about 75 pounds. Now I do. I didn’t used to but now I exercise, like I’m going to the gym as soon as I leave here. I was just telling Brother Al [Strange Music touring sound engineer] because he was like “I see you’re trying to slim back down again!” and I was like “man I’m training in there like I’m training for a season.” You know what I’m saying? I should have started training camp a few weeks ago actually but we’ve been so busy but, yeah, I do now. The answer to that question is I didn’t used to but now I do. I do cardio, I do the stair-stepper, and I do a lot of the elliptical machine and I actually rap and sing while I’m on it. Not loud, but I do it while I’m on it just so I can get used to saying words while I’m taking breaths and stuff because what happens is, when we’re touring, eventually I get used to jumping up and down and singing but the first couple shows I’m kind of out of breath. I want to be tip top shape right from the first word of the show. So yeah I’m training now. Tech, his Uncle Ike and I we train every day…well five days a week anyway.
And you do that so you know you can do whatever it is that you need to do, basically?
Krizz Kaliko: Mm-hmm, but I really want to drop about another 60 pounds. I want it to turn into like the craziest thing ever. I want to come in and just do a backwards flip into the crowd where they’re like “holy shit!”
You write a lot of hooks for Strange.
Krizz Kaliko: Mm-hmm.
A lot of great hooks I should say.
Krizz Kaliko: Thank you.
A lot of artists, it seems to me from listening to a lot of them talk from people that I know to people I’ve read about, it seems to me that a lot of them feel that the music just comes through them. Do you feel like that?
Krizz Kaliko: Yeah. Absolutely. It doesn’t take me long to even come up with hooks. I tell Tech all the time: if I don’t come up with a hook as soon as I hear the beat, if I listen to it eight times, I’ll never have a hook to it. There’s two ways I do things: one way is that I hear the beat and I immediately say something to it or Tech will say “Hey man, I want this song to be called this” and if he gives me an idea I can really go and it might only take me five minutes right there. So the beat usually tells me exactly what to do or he hears a concept for it, and he’ll tell me the concept and then I’ll go right there. That’s two different ways and I should’ve said three. The third way is, when I’m sitting there–I take inspiration from every…where: people on TV, somebody walking, somebody in a restaurant saying things. I could look at this chair or I cold look at this light and depending on the color it could tell me “Oh write a song like this that says this.” My wife and I were on a cruise and we kept getting in this glass elevator. My wife and Makzilla and a friend of his, we were on tour, and we kept getting in this elevator to go everywhere and every time we got in there my wife would say “Elevator going uuup. Elevator go downnn!” I was like “Ohhh…shit! That’s a hook!” and she was like “You really think so? I was just playing” and I said “Nah that’s a hook.” Saved it in my phone. Then I start thinking how do I want this to move? So I start coming up with the beat in my head and then I call Seven (Michael “Seven” Summers, producer) and I say “Hey Seven, I want the drums to sound like [beatboxes “Elevator” drum beat]. I want to do that and then I want a [imitates synth line]” and I’ll hum it to him. He’ll be like “give me a minute, I’ll call you right back.” Then I’ll tell him “use these drums, use this kind of drum. I want this to sound like this, dadadadada. I want you to use this kind of snare, stack three of them: stack a snare that sound like this, stack another snare that sounds like a rim shot, and then do another one that sounds like it’s kind of like someone knocking on a wooden table. Stack those things together. I want the bass an 808 yada-ya. Tune the 808 to the synth line.” I’ll explain all these things to him and he’ll call me back with a beat: “How’s this?” I’m like “Perfect!” He e-mails it to me. When he e-mails a beat to me, I write the song that night and record it the next day.
Krizz Kaliko: That’s usually the process of me doing an album. So that’s why I’m able to do an album in like three weeks. That’s provided that I have my creative juices flowing it’ll hit me like this (snaps fingers). On my last album I had a song called “Misunderstood.” “Misunderstood”: I was sitting at the dinner table and we were watching The Munsters: my wife, my son, and I; and I remember hearing that guitar’s going [imitating guitar melody] on The Munsters and it sounded like, you know because that show is from the 60s I thought it sounded kind of like a Beach Boys’ guitar and in my head I’m thinking I could do something like “[imitates guitar melody from “Misunderstood”]. Call Seven, tell him how to make the beat. Same process. He sent me the beat. I had it for a couple of weeks but I wrote the song right then. He sent me the beat back the hour while I was still sitting at the dinner table with my family, he sent me the beat and I just started writing it right then. We’re eating and every couple of minutes I’m like “you left me, and I don’t know why” while I’m eating just into my iPhone. That’s usually how it happens. It comes and goes in three ways: it comes to me, sometimes with no music at all, and other ways I have things that are just in my environment in that time. Another way, I hear the beat and it tells me what to do. Or Tech might have a concept like “Leave Me Alone”. “Hey man, I hear this beat, I want this song to be called ‘Leave Me Alone’.” “Give me five minutes,” I say. Came right back and said “Stay away from meeee!” You know what I’m saying? So, that’s how it goes.
So it’s all coming through you. Do you ever look back and say “damn, I can’t believe I wrote that!
Krizz Kaliko: All the time. I don’t ever hear any music that I do and go “…yeah…I’m good at that.” I hear music that I do and go “What–where did that come from? That does not sound like–” If you asked me right now “Man, can you write songs?” I have to say yes but really my weird brain feels like “No. I have no idea how to write a song.” I don’t know where this comes from. I have no idea where it comes from. I feel like right now if someone were to say “can you do another album?” I’m going to say “How could I do that?” I don’t know what to talk about. But it just comes out of nowhere and just hits me…and I don’t even understand it.
Well…don’t fuck with a good thing.
Krizz Kaliko: Yeah I’m not! Tech told me a long time ago, I used to second-guess my lyrics and he was like “Krizz you got it. You have it, just go. Don’t look back, don’t second guess, don’t do anything. You’ve got it and that’s why I got you with me. You got it, so just go, just write. The first thing that comes to your head, is right because you know what you’re doing all the time. ” So I just go with it.
Trust your instincts.
Krizz Kaliko: Yeah. That’s pretty much all it is is just instinct. Musical instincts. Damn, that’s dope.
I noticed in a lot of your hooks that there’s this super-deep growling harmony that you put into a lot of them. How did this come about?
Krizz Kaliko: We was kidding around. I think one thing I admitted to Tech, Scoob, and Kutt: more Tech than anything, as my guinea pig, for years. I always wanted to merge this sound with hip hop but I didn’t really have a vehicle. Tech was very unique and it didn’t fit into the format of everything else already going already and stuff, that I could try different things. That was one of the things I tried: I’m going to put this deep octave under stuff. Even now, if you hear stuff that has that in there, everybody says something like “Oh, that sounds like you.” I didn’t make that up. I heard it from songs from back in the day and really that comes from being in the church choir. Being in the choir, they always have the altos, the tenors, and the sopranos separated, and the tenors were the men. So whenever [grumbling noise] and I’ve had a range since I discovered that I can do this stuff, I knew that I could range from “whoo!” to “ohhhh.” You know, so I just put it together. I just tested it out and it worked and now that’s kind of like one of my signature things. We call it “Max Monster.”
Krizz Kaliko: Yep. A lot of times we’re like “Man, put the Max Monster on it.”
Krizz Kaliko: It came from: I would see Tech’s approval of it all the time like “DAMN! That’s dope! Look at that nigga he got a monster in his throat!” and I just started always putting it on stuff.
Krizz Kaliko: Yeah like maximum.
Krizz Kaliko: We call it that because it’s so deep that it’s like a whisper. One thing that comes to mind, if you ever listen to “Life In The Game”, a song from Skatt and Snug’s first album they did with us, and there was like a really big, deep part in that song that my wife used to be like “That turns me on!” And it goes like “Life in the gammme” and it’s real deep, you know what I’m saying? It also comes from–man I always loved a lot of music and I always liked when groups added that real deep tenor part. When I was a kid I used to be a big fan of The Oak Ridge Boys and like Alabama, which people probably wouldn’t think but for real the way that you make your music, hip hop music and rap music, the reason why I think it’s so dope, what we do, is because we’re eclectic. Tech and myself, we listen to rock, he doesn’t like country but I like country music, pop…all of that so that’s what gives us the idea to fuse all of these genres together. But I used to always be fond of that when I was a kid, like, some of these old-school country groups–I think The Oak Ridge Boys sang “Elvira”, but there was this part in there that went like “Giddy up! (in a deep voice) A-boom-bop, a-boom-bop, a-mow-mow. Giddy up!” and I was like “Yeah! That’s my part!” Of course all my dudes are like “Man why are you listening to this?! This is bullshit!” I’m like “man, this is dope!” So, I’ve always been inspired by: from gospel music to country music to rap to pop to all of that man so that’s where Max Monster comes from.
Do you have a track that’s your favorite from all the albums that you’ve been on?
Krizz Kaliko: (inhales in thought) “Anxiety” is the first one that comes to mind from Vitiligo. One that I don’t do on stage or anything is the song “Genius”, which was inspired by the group Queen. There’s a song that they had on the movie Flash Gordon that came out in ’79, and it went “Flash!…Ohhhh!!! Savior of the universe!” You know what I’m saying? So I was like “Damn, I love that!” and was like “Genius! Ohh-OHHH!!!!!” That’s where that comes from! So that’s another example. Just think, from The Oak Ridge Boys to Notorious B.I.G. to Queen, these are my inspirations. Just Queen period, the way Freddy Mercury used to do those vocals–if you listen to my music it’s got a lot of inspiration from Freddy Mercury in it, and I know he’s a flaming homosexual but I wasn’t tripping off that I’m talking about the music. The music is so dope man and I always wanted to make my vocals like super-thick. Tech and I used to always talk about that. We found out that the way they used to get their vocals thick was to get like three or four in there, they all sing one note, and then do that like five times, just that one note, and the next note they do the same thing so it sounds huge. So “Genius” is one of them, and “Anxiety” after my old one. Off of my new album I have to say one of my favorites is called “Get Active” and it’s got this guitar on it, and it kind of sounds like something from the 60s because I like to put little vintage accents on the music but within the context of keeping things modern. Seven played me this beat and I thought: that sounds like something I would do for like a Wii-Fit or something like that or maybe even some sports arena would use it. It reminded me, I used to hear, what song was that? On the iPod commercial…but for a minute I would always hear the song by U2, the “Vertigo” song that had that guitar riff, and it had a lot of energy. I was like boy that song sounds energetic so when I first heard this beat, from Seven, I was like “damn!” It had a lot of energy and so I thought it needed to be called “Get Active” because I wanted it to be like “don’t sit down when you hear this song!” You hear the song and it sounds like you need to get up so the first lyric of it is: “Get off my lazy ass.” That’s probably my favorite off of this album.
Any hooks off of other guys’ albums? Tech, Kutt?
Krizz Kaliko: Off of Kutt’s new album I would say “Naked” and the one before that “Girl’s Best Friend” or something like that. Off of Tech’s latest I would say “O.G.”, that’s definitely one of my favorite hooks, and “Jumping Jax”. Oh yeah, and “F U Pay Me”. Everybody trips off of “F U Pay Me”. Those songs stick out the most to me. Off of Scoob’s album naturally “Salut” and off of his new album he’s got this funny thing that him and I are jumping into it’s called “Two Fat Fucks” which is kind of like me and his little clique. So “Two Fat Fucks” off of his new album and one called “Drunk and Stupid”off of his new album. Those are definitely my favorites that I can think of right now, but we got so much music and it’s hard to pick any right now.
How does it feel now to be Krizz Kaliko and not just “that dude with Tech.” I remember when I first saw you, you were–
Krizz Kaliko: Just that dude.
Well I was just like “who the hell is this guy?” It made quite an impression.
Krizz Kaliko: That’s funny! Guess what they used to call me: I used to call myself “who boy” because it’s like “who the fuck is that?” So I named myself “who boy” because Nelly had a song called “Midwest Swing” and Murphy Lee said “If you can’t have Nelly, you’ll settle for ‘who boy!'” and he called himself “who boy” because “that’s the dude with Nelly.” I took that and attached it to myself like I was “who boy” like “Who’s the big dude that’s with Tech?” and I have been under that shadow forever. I’ve been slowly emerging into my own over the last, probably five years. So it’s like “Oh there’s Tech N9ne…but there’s Krizz Kaliko too!” I knew to just play my position and that what I do would just stand out, the way that I can do music, and the stuff that I do on my own–after I did Vitiligo I knew I could do anything. If I had a shadow to stand in, I would want none-other-than Tech N9ne, but it feels really good to where I could maybe be the next artist’s shadow that they could stand in. People really see that I can do this. I always felt that I had a star quality, even from when I was in the fourth grade. Man, I remember having a “Beat It” jacket and being in the sixth grade…kids would gather around me and feel like they had to be my security because of that jacket. You know, from back then I always felt like I was going to do something like this. Jim Carrey said something I always attached to myself when they asked him “Are you surprised that you got this much success?” and he said “No, I’ve been waiting on it, I was just wondering what day it was coming.” That’s how I feel too.
Last question: what’s the future look like for Krizz Kaliko?
Krizz Kaliko: With the progression of Strange Music and the attention that we’re getting, I would assume Krizz Kaliko to be a household name. That’s what I aspire to happen. You know I don’t control anything, God controls everything, but I think that I will be–I think that people that I love like Prince, or your Outkast, and Cee-Lo is already on to us, they’re going to be like “now that dude can do music.”
What do you mean about Cee-Lo?
Krizz Kaliko: I talked to him twice last week. He’s was like “Man, I see people comparing you to me but you are truly your own artist and what you do is phenomenal. You named your album Genius, I think that was really appropriate because you’re a phenomenal artist and I just want to reciprocate those comments that you make about me when you’re doing interviews.” I would assume that more of these elite artists like him–naturally I’ll get more fans as Strange Music pushes me more–but I would assume that other artists who are elite will have super respect and admiration for me.
Is the peer-appreciation important to you?
Krizz Kaliko: Yeah because people say I’m your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper–I really want to be that. I really feel that I have what it takes to be that. I feel like, how people say “Man I’m about to change the game!” But do you have game-changing material? I feel like what I do is game-changing material.
I think that’s as good of a note as any to end on. I appreciate you taking the time to do this.
Krizz Kaliko: No problem, man! Thank you.