North Carolina is becoming a novice fertile music terrain with excessive talent. Home to Little Brother and Petey Pablo, the surface has not even been scratched. A part of the Carolina artist elite circle is an artist that holds his own on and off stage, and in and out off the studio.
Recently dropping an album through Rawkus, Kaze has stepped onto the court ready to play the game and show everyone how Carolina truly gets down. With Block 2the Basement in stores, the videos wrapped up and tour dates locked in, Kaze takes a moment to sit back with BallerStatus.com to talk about the ups and downs, the Carolina movement, and of course, the album.
BallerStatus.com: What have you been building to reach this point?
Kaze: I took the hard road. I feel like I came up on the rough side of the mountain in this biz. I didn’t have a manual to follow or no mentor. Other than early on, I saw a couple of things here or there that showed me I could do this music here in North Carolina. The talk around was that you couldn’t blow if you were from NC. Artists thought that they would always be local. Bomb Shelter and Nervous Wreck hit unsigned hype when a lot of the big timers now were featured. In addition, seeing people from Fayetteville starting their movement; Tyfu and Sankofa, started the movement on campus showed me that this sh** could be done in NC. So, I prepared myself. I did all shows, open mics, and appearances in hole in the wall clubs all over the state. I sold music hand to hand. I did MC battles; I battled most of the hottest MCs and was able to maintain credibility. I did my own shows and did any and everything to make it without a deal.
People in NC don’t know how to support their own and it’s not like Houston where people that sold sh** from the trunk, got love practically every where. I had posters, CDs shrink wrapped with bar codes, FYE sells, and my sh** was even on iTunes. I was one of the first on iTunes from NC.
I know that a lot of cats was watching me and saw me setting things up. I watched others do the same, if not similar things, myself. To see Little Brother take off was an example and Petey Pablo was one too. I’ve gone to NYC and repped the 919. I did those Miami, L.A., and ATL crowds too. I’ve been the only NC n**** in there and I come out strong. This is not for my own ego, I’m just letting it known that there’s a collection of us. If they hate ATL for having the ball, (laughs) then they gonna really hate us! Once NC gets the ball, it’s gonna be here for a very long time! It’s all blood, sweat, and tears. It’s just me, a cat with four letters, one line at time, and one brick at time.
BallerStatus.com: What obstacles have you overcome and currently encountering?
Kaze: There’s a lotta different sh**. This is a biz I’m trying to build. I started trying to be the CEO of my only label and build with friends, but along the way, a lot of friendships got messed up. I know that I made some mistakes; had a friend who took advantage, a friend who had the feds run up in his crib and he got time. Every time I’ve tried to built this with people, relationships got in the way and believing “it rains six days out of seven don’t do this.” Plus, too many people left me solo to do all of the work. I got so busy helping people with their careers, but trying to do mine too. I spent too much time trying to be there for everyone — Kaze and Soul Dojo. People knew that was how I operated with my fam. I’m no longer running that kinda biz. It’s not my label; I gotta focus on being me.
BallerStatus.com: What’s the most frustrating to you about your career?
Kaze: Really, I think that I should be further ahead then I am. I can’t promote myself as big as I would like to. Life is real and financially, I have to pay bills, so that I can do this. I can’t wait for no one. I can’t wait to ’til I can do this 365 non-stop. Through it all, I’ve been working a full-time job. Not getting acknowledged for political reasons or cats hate on me for spirit of competition. It’s cool, but when they don’t want me to keep doing my thing, then that’s when it’s bullsh**. That’s the game though.
BallerStatus.com: What are you expectations of your Rawkus situation?
Kaze: What I see right now, I think that there’s still another level. Everyone has been waiting and thus, me getting signed to Rawkus gave me a stamp of approval, since I didn’t have a lot of press, but a steady movement. Im’ma maximize it and give it 100%. This is my step to the next step.
BallerStatus.com: So are you happy?
Kaze: Am I happy? I’m only five minutes into it, f*** that. I’m just getting started. This album is dedicated to the people who f***ed with me, always supported me, and saw that I needed no co-signs to get accepted. They saw it in me already. My reward is that cats know me and they see things going down. Before I can be the sh** anywhere, I have to be the sh** in NC. Before I had my deal, I was doing shows everywhere!
BallerStatus.com: Speaking of Carolina, where exactly do you fit among the Carolina scene?
Kaze: My sh**s don’t sound like Little Brother, Shelly B. or Jozeemo. I make it clear to not sound like everyone. You’ll see me at a variety of shows. For example, a show at Cats Cradle tonight and tomorrow at a hole in the spot club. I like to mix in all types of scenes. I feel like one of the kings of Carolina. One of the n****s in the Carolina making it happen, somewhere. I’m in the top list whether it’s thugs, white boys, producers, and even the n****s who don’t like my flow. They gotta respect my grind. There are no handouts and I don’t have a gang of people with me.
At one point, I did have a crew, but I’m still coming up solo, like back in the day. I feel like I can bring Rawkus back and carry the torch that Mos Def and Talib Kweli held high. I’m coming to bring that flavor back and my street intelligence. There are so many categories. I can get disrespected for not being a b-boy or for not being a criminal or there is no falsehood in my songs. I’m the same person 24/7, 365. Kanye said, “Everything I’m not is making everything I am.” I feel Block 2the Basement because I can speak to the projects, to the dorm, to the 9-5ers, and even the thugs. It’s that backpack sh**! I can bridge the gap and bring good music to both sides of the fences. It’s important for me to have black faces and diversity.
BallerStatus.com: What’s up with the NC artists? What’s your relationship with them?
Kaze: At one point in time, I’m not gonna front, but I thought that I did have a good following and all was good. But now, some people see me as a threat. My name has become known and competition is competition. It is what it is. I can respect anyone as long as we keep it 100. There is no longer mic Mondays or people networking together.
Unfortunately, everyone is too busy with the “I’m doing me and f*** what they doing” attitude. I’m guilty of it too; that holds us back right now. Five fingers wrigglin’ in more than one direction gets nothing accomplished, instead of ballin’ up a fist for more force. I f*** with anyone that is really doing it. I’ve done songs, shows with them. It’s not about the money, it’s about North Carolina. The feeling is not in the air no more and some dudes act like stars. A lot of people don’t understand the bigger picture and that’s that.
BallerStatus.com: Where do you see the Carolina movement going?
Kaze: It hasn’t translated for anyone here, instead of one person at a time. It should be us kicking the door off the hinges. I think that’s what it’s gonna take. Collectiveness is the key, just how Miami did it, Chi-town, NYC or ATL. A coming together for this state is needed to really blow. It’s not gonna be everyone together, but an elite group, if not then one person who has NC’s best interest at heart. In the past, we had what seemed a solid movement, but now it’s bullsh**. We had the microphone Mondays and a wide range of shows that Pauly Snubnoze and 21st Records was doing.
At one point, I would say that I felt the energy of a movement here, and like NC was beginning to have its collection of solid ground breaking artists. Now, at this point right here, I see several of individual movements and so many that steadily “stay doing their own thing.” That humble energy and feeling is gone. I haven’t seen it more popping than that. I once felt the energy of a movement. Artists that have been successful, haven’t solidified the game here. A lot of artists have said “You have to go to ATL or NYC to make it happen.” Any city in NC, you’re going to find talent, but once people leave NC behind, they forget all about it.
BallerStatus.com: What songs can fans look forward to catching on Block 2the Basement?
Kaze: Ya’ll can look forward to hearing and watching everything come together, like Spirit of ’94. There is a lot of lyrical and conceptual vibes to it. B-Boy hip-hop sh**. This sh** has something for the club or something to listen to while walking to the bus or ridin’ in the car — 20 joints with everythin. Compare and contrast. Cats that bought to rock with one side of the album, are gonna definitely love it all.
I’m attempting to bring the hottest sh** here. Let’s make hip-hop music. I can rap about anything and switch my style, as long as I’m true to me. Im’ma show lyrical skills and talent diversity. It’s gonna beat you in the head.
BallerStatus.com: So what is the ultimate goal?
Kaze: I want to be a brand, an entity, and be known for quality and good sh**. That’s important to me. I can’t wait to start working with majors and continue building with minors. I want to bring NC to the front — to make the movement bigger than it was before.