Krizz KalikoWith the changing structure of the music industry, the lack of artist development is continuing to grow as emphasis on hit singles overcomes artist development. While the attention seems to be shifting to who can create the hottest ringtone or iTunes download, many artists are forced to either dumb down their rhymes or create a catchy song usually involving dancing. Now meet Krizz Kaliko.

Not only providing quality-driven compilations with underground legend Tech N9ne, where he has contributed chorus vocals and written talent, the Kansas City, Missouri native has put together a debut album that may be a hip-hop blessing. Collaborating with the likes of Tech N9ne and other well-known artists like the Bay’s E-40, Krizz Kaliko is like nothing anyone could imagine. Skillfully mastering a mixture of rap, rock, R&B, and opera all in to one format has attributed to his undeniable originality as he introduces his set, which may be one of the best indie albums of 2008.

Taking a few minutes before a performance, Krizz spoke with BallerStatus about how his relationship with his partner Tech could be one comparable to Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon, the slight modification of his stage name, what being on the road with Paul Wall is like, and why his debut, Tech N9ne Presents: Krizz Kaliko Vitiligo, is important for hip-hop. For the readers unfamiliar with your music, who is Krizz Kaliko?

Krizz Kaliko: Krizz Kaliko, most people would probably know me from doing music with Tech N9ne for the past nine plus years. I’ve been doing a lot of the hooks and co-writing with Tech for years on all of the albums you’ve heard [of his]. He’s like Johnny Carson, I’m like Ed McMahon. I’m breaking out on my own now man, not leaving the crew, but just doing a solo project it’s called Krizz Kaliko Vitiligo. I’ve been known as like — the Nate Dogg of the underground is what they dubbed me as. That ain’t what I call myself, but that’s what they call me. You used to go by Big Krizz Kaliko, but as of recently, you seemed to have dropped “Big.” What is the reason behind the slight name change?

Krizz Kaliko: I dropped the “Big” off [because] those little prefixes usually have you dated. Sometimes those will fade out. I’m an artist who believes in longevity. I wanna be around for the next 20 years, so “Big” may not be popular then. You have worked very close with Tech N9ne from songs to touring. How did that relationship begin?

Krizz Kaliko: The relationship between me and Tech began through a mutual acquaintance named DJ Icy Roc. He’s a pioneer of rap music in Kansas City. He’s actually who [the original members] on Strange Music went through. Icy Rock and Tech used to be called the Nut House. Tech went off and got a couple of other deals and got a solo. He came back and I was Roc’s protégé. Tech knew me from singing, but saw that I could [rap]. Roc asked me to help him — and I guess he was just so impressed at how I worked in the studio. We call Icy Roc’s studio “The Rock Pit.” He asked me to work with him and [Tech] was like the Jay-Z of hip-hop. I thought he was just blowing smoke, but we’ve been working together ever since then. Your album title, Vitiligo, refers to a skin disorder that results in white patches on various parts of the body. How much of a role does this play in to your project?

Krizz Kaliko: It’s a skin disorder that I have. It’s what’s made me the very unique person, which ends up transcending into a very unique artist. To me, nothing else could embody a debut album besides what makes up me. That’s the first thing you see when you see me is my vitiligo. If you look at my artwork, you see various close-ups. Krizz Kaliko Vitiligo features a wide variety of music ranging from the club tracks like “Do It Like I Do It,” to an ode to your wife on “Beautiful You Are.” Is there one particular record that means the most to you?

Krizz Kaliko: Everything really comes together [as one]. I talk about various aspects of my life. Black culture and hip-hop culture — are kind of at an all-time high right now. That means you have a lot of races coming together. I’m leading up to a song I have called “Jungle Love” –I poke fun at the white girl wanting the black dude. I ain’t going to spill all the beans. It’s really kind of funny because I use every black racial slur I could find — it’s me and Tech on there. It’s just me poking fun at races. [The album] is real diverse. I rap, sing, and produced about almost half the album. It’s out now. How long did you work on the debut album?

Krizz Kaliko: I was writing most of it while we were on the road. By the time I actually went in to record it, it took me exactly 29 days. I did it in less than a month. Within a month’s time, I was already having it mastered. I listen to the beat, write it that night, record it the next day in the studio, hear another beat, and go record it the next day. I sit in my son’s nursery at home, rock him to sleep, and sit on the porch and write. You’re been on the Fire and Ice tour with Tech N9ne and Paul Wall. How has it been so far?

Krizz Kaliko: It’s been really good. For one, we have only had about three or four shows that haven’t been sold out. Two, Paul Wall is an extremely good dude. Me and Tech either say “He’s that other kind of dude” or “He’s one of us,” but we said he’s one of us. He reminds me of someone I went to church with. Being away from home cooked meals, what are you eating on the road?

Krizz Kaliko: Usually I eat pretty crappy on the road. But I’m strictly on a sandwich and chips diet, you know peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. A lot of the venues are catered that give you the home-cooked meals. You seem very energetic and unstoppable when you perform, where does this energy come from?

Krizz Kaliko: I’ve been hearing all my life, “This dude is light on his feet.” I’m a big dude. This is the lightest I’ve ever been and I’m still 325 [pounds]. I played football and basketball in school. I used to win competitions all over the country [for] skating. Tech has always had that energy, and the first show we did, he noticed I was one of the only guys still up there with him. You’ve previously spoken about the positive impact your mom has had on your life. How much of an inspiration is she to you today?

Krizz Kaliko: My mom is the reason why I know music, period. She taught me music as a young kid — grinding it in to my head. She even took me to go see Run DMC — a churchwoman, with me on her shoulders seeing Run DMC and LL Cool J. That’s why me and Tech can bang these albums out so fast. He had a similar uprising. My mom is a great inspiration. My mother and doing it for my family. Your style is a mix of funk, rap, rock, R&B, and opera. Who were your musical influences growing up?

Krizz Kaliko: You can’t notice, but I was really inspired by Roger Troutman. Notorious B.I.G. Everybody’s a big Pac fan, I wasn’t really inspired by Pac — I was inspired by the fat guys. Hollywood has always been made up of the beautiful people. When cats wasn’t the beautiful people and could still make it, it was really [special] to me — Heavy D, Chubb Rock, the Notorious B.I.G., The Fat Boys. Even today, people taking chances like Amy Winehouse and Gnarls Barkley. Not to mention your rock bands growing up — Kiss, Linkin Park, Slip Knot, System of A Down. I’m still inspired. What do you do when you’re not working on music?

Krizz Kaliko: I’m pretty much at home, raising my son. My father died when I was a kid, but what he did for me for the 15 years I had with him was [had an] impact for me. I do regular stuff. I tune up the neighbor’s car. I take my son to the park. Play golf. I’m a big car enthusiast. Where do you see yourself a year from now, especially since everyone always focuses on first week sales, but not the long-term success of an artist?

Krizz Kaliko: First week is not as important to us. Our deal is a slower roll. I plan to be dropping another album, that’s bigger than this one. I’m getting ready to go back in to the studio in October to work on the next one. Still touring, still rocking, and still making music people love. [Hopefully] getting a Grammy nomination. I’m not shooting to be mainstream, but I am aiming to get my music out to the world. Do you have any final words to the people reading this on BallerStatus?

Krizz Kaliko: My album is important to hip-hop. I like everything in hip-hop, but everybody in hip-hop isn’t taking chances. This music is important. If you love the different directions it can take you, get this album. Nobody can beat us at making music. I know it sounds arrogant, but no body can beat us making this. The proof is in the pudding. If you don’t believe it, go get the album on May 6th and find out.