Krizz Kaliko, the essential right-hand-man to Tech N9ne, continues to learn from the supreme Technician. With Kickin’ & Screamin’, the fourth solo effort from Kali Baby, the attuned protégé steadily transforms himself into a skilled master. Krizz Kaliko’s incredibly intricate wordplay and natural showmanship enables him to be among the few explosive MCs who can truly share the spotlight with Tech N9ne. Each day, he is closer to being immortalized by his lyrics; time approvingly caresses Kaliko’s creativity. Sincerity wraps his sentiment, “I’m not being pompous. When I listen to that album; it doesn’t even feel like I made it. It feels like somebody else did that. That album is probably the best album that I’ve ever heard.”
In part one of this exclusive BallerStatus feature, Krizz Kaliko discusses his Strange relationships with Tech N9ne, and Kutt Kalhoun, his new album, Kickin’ & Screamin’, and his emotional landscape.
Let’s discuss your humble moniker, the “Genius.” You’re a skilled engineer, you’re a breaker, you’re an MC, you’re a father, you’re a husband, you’re a provider, and you can sing pretty well. Have you earned this title?
I would say: Yes. It seems self-proclaimed, but the funny thing is: I didn’t even give myself that title. That title was given to me — proclaimed by my mother and Tech N9ne. Years ago, Tech N9ne said that, “You’re going to develop into this dude and you’re going to be bigger than me, man. You’re me-plus, but you just don’t know it yet.” He was like, “This dude is ‘a genius.’ Man, the way that he comes up with a hook,” and things like that. Plus, it hasn’t been denounced. It would be different if someone said, “That was wack!” You can dislike a song that I have, but you can’t say it’s not a beautiful work of art. I don’t think anybody can argue that. I know it seems not humble, but I think that the proof is in the pudding, though.
How would you characterize your relationships with Tech N9ne and Kutt Kalhoun? Is it professional, or has it crossed over into that family territory?
Of course, we are brothers; we’ve been traveling together for 12 years. I would have to say that Tech and I probably have a closer relationship that Kutt and I. Kutt’s always been like our little brother. Kutt’s always been somebody that we always like, “Kutt, man what you doing?” Kutt’s always been like the little brother to us. And Tech, I tease him, I call him the big, little brother.
Even though he’s older than me, he’s been like my little brother, because I’ve always been like the grandpa of the group. When I say that, I mean I’m the one saying, “Don’t do that, man.” Years and years and years ago, we used to be on drugs. A little bit, well not a little bit, there was a drug problem. I used to be like, “You’re going to kill us, man.” It was to the point to where people would hand Tech stuff. We would almost get into a physical altercation, because I would snatch it out his hand. So, you know, we have a genuine love for each other.
Actually, we spent several years living together, too. I lived with him in L.A. He lived with me in Kansas City, for years. We all have this camaraderie with each other. We’ve argued, we done damn near fought each other. It’s just like families, you know? It’s a blessing that all three of us were able to get along after all these years. A lot of groups can’t make it this long. Fortunately, we have the chemistry that we do, on the court, and off the court.
Your discography is growing. You’ve released: Vitiligo, Genius, and Shock Treatment. Now, Kickin’ & Screamin’ dropped. Over the years, how has your voice as an MC matured?
I would have to say that it takes a minute to find your voice. Your voice infliction and your delivery is very important. The way that you say stuff, you know, you can easily say a line in a plain way and it would be boring. Or, you can say it this infliction and this excitement and get people intrigued, rather than saying something simple. Years ago, I think I found that; I’ve just continued to develop it. I’ve learned what people have reacted to the most. I’ll stick with this kind of delivery and stick with this kind of voice. Years ago, once I found my voice, I just tried to perfect it. I’d always try to get better and better with every project. With every song, I try to get better and better. I’m a person who’s insatiable. I’m not ever satisfied with this particular thing, so I’ll just keep on going and keep on pushing.
On this album, Kickin’ & Screamin’, I really pushed my brain as far as it could go. Years ago. I think I accidentally found it. As a matter-of-fact, I was on stage like, “Yo, let’s do this one time!” I realized when I talk loudly, it sounds like it’s coming out of my nose. I was like, “Oh, let me try and rap like that.” The first song that really came through my nose rapping was “No Can Do,” a song with Tech. I said, “F*** n****s that got it in for me, within the crowd / still got an energy loud…” I realized that it was going to be exciting and I just stuck with it.
Upon listening to Kickin’ & Screamin’, I came to appreciate the sequencing. At the beginning, it felt like a party, and towards the end, it was more melancholy. It showed a chaotic juxtaposition of partying and feeling alone. Was this done intentionally?
Yeah, it was. When I write these albums, they just tend to take on their own mold, their own life. I think I wrote most of the party songs at the beginning, because that’s how I was feeling. I wanted it to be exciting. Actually, the vibes of my albums follow how I feel at the time. It really does reflect my mood and how my brain is working. At the time I was writing my album, I started to go through more anxiety and things like that, so that’s why you feel that shift. With #10 on the album, you feel the shift to more of a melancholy feel, because that’s how I was feeling at the time. So, I would say that it wasn’t planned from the beginning. When you say intentional, I didn’t say, “Hey, I think it’ll be funny if it’s melancholy at the end.” It was just naturally following how I was feeling when I was writing it.
On “Unstable” you say, “…pain got me jumping through these hoops / that’s why I’m jumping back into this booth.” I understand using music to purge emotional angst, but when do you know that the booth is not enough and it’s time to seek a different type of therapy?
Music will always be my first line of defense, to my therapy, with my emotional battles. If you listen to the lyrics I said, “…now I’m back in my coocoo nest, my coocoo medicine…” When I say that, I’m talking about my crazy pills. Sometimes, I have to take anti-anxiety pills and antidepressants; I take them right now, because I actually do have a disorder. So, when you hear me talking about that stuff, that’s real. When I’m super stressed out, I do everything that I can. I meditate, I’ll exercise, I’ll take medicine, and I do music. Generally, music is the best form of therapy. But, the problem is that when I write — my brain is so all over the place — I write these albums, and this music so quickly, that I’m already done recording and writing it. But, I’ll still be having these issues. It’s kinda like when the music therapy is over, I have to turn to other forms of therapy like medicine, or exercise, meditation or prayer, and things like that.
Did you ever hesitant about sharing your emotional issues know that there may be a negative stigma attached?
Yeah, that was the other topic. That once again comes from Tech’s influence. Tech was like, “Man, talk about that. You should share that, man.” I was going to title my first album FunkRah, but I changed the title to Vitiligo, because of the influence from Tech. He’s always like, “You gotta share that, you got to tell them about that; they’ll love to hear that. They’ll love to party to your pain.” So, I just went with it and people seemed to love it. When I came out with “Anxiety,” people still love that song. It’s probably one of my most popular songs ever.
I get way more positive reactions from my songs where I talk about personal issues that I get negative ones. Out of a 100 comments, maybe two of them will be bad. Most of them will be, “You saved my life. Thank you for your music.” At meet-and-greets, I hear it every day: “Thank you for saving my life, I was going to commit suicide before I started listening to you.” I’m like, “Wow!” That’s a lot of responsibility to have, but at the same time, it makes me feel great that I can do that just by writing a song. For me, that’s going to fuel the fire to keep on writing from an emotional standpoint. I know it will help more people than to make them react negatively.
That’s something that I have to applaud you for, as an MC your words carry power. At times, we forget that y’all are people, too. When you can share your humanity we just really love you for it.
That’s why I don’t worry too much about backlash from people, because you can’t please everybody. You really can’t. I had to learn that awhile back. Still, I don’t necessarily like to read negative comments. I feel like what I do is more of a positive influence than anything. On the Internet, you’re going to have idiots who aren’t in your face and they just want to make stupid comments. Sometimes, they just try to provoke you to respond to them. I don’t do it. I turn to our own forum at Siccness.net and our own forum that’s been on Strange, TheRealTechN9ne.com. I’ve never got on there to respond to idiotic comments, because I try not to make unintelligent statements, ever in my life. You know, just for the sake of saying it… I don’t get on there and say, “F*** off!”
When you’re expressing your creativity, is there a line that you don’t cross? Are lyrics ever too personal?
(chuckles) Yeah, I guess, sometimes my wife will be like, “Why did you just do that?” In Kansas City, [Missouri] there’s a paper called Ink magazine. It’s a local paper put out by the Kansas City Star. It’s just a big newspaper there. When I did Genius, they did a big story on me and I really went deep with it. One time, my wife’s family actually cornered me, when I came home from the studio, they were all over my ass. I was like, “What’s up.” They were just saying that they thought it was too personal. They thought that I was going to hurt my wife, because I talked about us going through this bad breakup that happened back in ’99. They approached me about this in 2010. I’m like, “Seriously, that’s been over ten years ago. Y’all are way too late.”
I felt like, I may have crossed a line, but I’d do it again, because all I did was tell the truth. I just told the story of what happened, which is what I do in my music. If it hurts my immediate family — if it were to hurt her, or my son, or my mother, or something like that — then I try not to do that. I’m inside out, like I said at the beginning of this interview, I’m an open book. It’s not like I gave an opinion and said, “You’re an a**hole.” I just basically tell a story, so. There’s probably lines I shouldn’t cross, but being such an inside out artist, I’ll always push the envelope.
Check back later for Part #2 of this exclusive interview. If you haven’t yet, cop Krizz Kaliko’s latest LP, Kickin’ & Screamin’, over at Amazon.com.