Keepin’ It Real with Kinetics & One Love: A Chat About Rap Trends, Touring, and Futuristic Cyborgs
You're clearly very focused on meaningful hip-hop. What’s your opinion on current trends in rap and hip-hop?
You know, it's funny…the way you framed that question made me think you expected me to say I'm not a fan of current trends in hip-hop – as if there was a lack of meaningful rappers today. Do I think that's true? Not necessarily. I mean, yes, I am of the school of thought that believes mid-90s hip-hop was something special (c'mon, 1996 gave us Jay-Z's “Reasonable Doubt,” Nas's “It Was Written,” Pac's “All Eyez on Me,” AND Eminem's “Infinite”), but that doesn't mean I'm not a fan of the scene now. There are definitely new heads out that are doing something unique and innovative. Just dope emcees. Hopsin, Kendrick, Macklemore, for example.
I think every era will give rise to both quality artists, and garbage gimmicks that fans get force-fed and tricked into liking. But as a musician, I think it's unhealthy and unwise to cling to the “glory days” of decades past while turning your back on new music just because it's different than the music you grew up with. That's stubborn and close-minded. Music, like any style or trend, is reflective of changing times and would be wack if it didn't evolve and experiment over time. Even if you think that rap today, compared to 90's hip-hop, is watered down and values image and “swag” over meaning, I think it's still important to appreciate what is out at the moment, even solely for the fact that it is representative of our culture.
You've labeled your recent album, “You Are Not Alone,” a “socially conscious concept album.” What inspired you to create a concept album and how did you choose the themes present in You Are Not Alone?
When One Love and I started gathering tracks for a new project earlier this year, we noticed a pattern of socially conscious themes surfacing in a number of songs. I feel like that's always been one defining characteristic of our music (on The Kinetics EP, the first project I ever put out, for example, there was the song “Bad Dreams” talking about Darfur and genocide in Sudan), but suddenly on this new album we were writing about a broad range of random social issues like domestic abuse, teen suicide, over-prescription of pharmaceutical drugs even Native American genocide. We sat down and tried to find one umbrella concept under which all these random themes could fall. One idea we had was to pretend the entire album was told from the perspective of an outsider looking at Earth and noticing all these different problems that were causing the downfall of society. So we decided that the narrator of the album would be an alien consciousness talking to a planet of naïve humans. And the first thing the alien would say to the humans would be, “You are not alone.”
Maybe we weren't pretending though.
You recently released the video for “Sign Language,” a tragic story ending. What inspired you to discuss the topic of teen suicide?
“Sign Language” was a song I had started years ago but decided to revisit in '09/'10 when a number of teen suicides kept popping up in the news and even right on my college campus. I just felt that it was something that my community, my peers and my fans were all experiencing and something that needed to be discussed in a song. The ultimate message behind the song is to take pride in who you are, to not hide and not be ashamed of something because you think others won't accept you.
We're really proud of the video. Our film crew did an amazing job. If you haven't already, definitely check out the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzWmL7iteV0.
You recently co-wrote a song for Meital Dohan and Sean Kingston. Who else are you currently writing with?
We just started running a studio in midtown so we've had the chance to start scheduling sessions with a lot of talented writers in New York. We recently linked up with Cobra Starship. We recently wrote a song for Chris Willis (he has those two huge songs with David Guetta, “Love Is Gone” and “Getting Over You”). We've also been sending some tracks back and forth with Shermanology. We're writing the majority of Collin McLoughlin's next EP. Collin is our boy who was a contestant on this season of The Voice and a talented singer/writer. Excited to see how that does. And lastly, we are writing and producing an entire album with this character named Dreamshow. I can't say too much about that project, but just know that Dreamshow is going to be huge. And insane.
What’s next as far as touring?
We're currently planning a tour for 2013 and have plenty of dates open. So if you're interested in having Kinetics & One Love in a city or campus near you, hit up firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s the craziest post-show experience you’ve had?
Last year we headlined a music festival in China with acts from around the world. We were the only group from the States and the only band there playing hip-hop. After the performance, all the acts partied together at the hotel until we got kicked out by security and then again in this courtyard outside until the cops were called. It was crazy partying and getting rowdy with kids from across the entire planet. Kids are taking shots together and hooking up – and no one speaks the same language. That just shows: the unifying effects of music.
A theme woven throughout your latest album is that of being a futuristic cyborg in a crumbling society. The world’s ending in 2012: what five people would you choose for a cyborg team to rebuild a future?