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k.flay talks moving past sampling and dealing with female emcee preconceptions

Photos by Mike Frash // Written by Molly Kish //

Showbams spoke with rapper, producer and Stanford alum k.flay at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival.


Showbams: Coming up in the local scene out here, how does it feel as an artist to play shows in the Bay Area?

k.flay: Well, I actually grew up outside of Chicago and came here for school when I was 18. I’ve been living in the Bay Area since then, so it’s kinda like my second home. More like my musical home, because I started doing music here and there have been so many people, you know fellow musicians or promoters, DJ’s on the radio who have gotten behind it and helped me just continue to do it and push forward. So more than anything it’s kind of a nice tribute to everybody and it’s been a team effort and I really appreciate all the help that people a little bit further along have given me. So you know I’m just super grateful and very happy.

Showbams: It’s awesome to have you here, I love what you’re doing and I almost feel that right now there is a surge (especially within the Bay Area) of women emcees coming up bringing back the whole scene and giving it the correct type of exposure.

k.flay: Hip-hop is in an interesting spot right now and I mean it’s always in an interesting spot, but I feel like maybe the early 2000’s was in a less crazy eclectic time in sort of hip-hop’s history. You know, you think about the 80’s/90’s being super innovative having a lot of different things going on and then I think there was a lull and now there’s a resurgence, with people doing a lot of different things in different lanes. The whole thing with being a female emcee, it’s kind of fraught with all these preconceptions, but I think for me more than anything I didn’t come up as an emcee or in the cypher world or anything. I just started doing music and I found that I really liked the process of rapping and the kind of song writing opportunities that it afforded me, so I almost feel like I’m coming at it from almost an entirely different angle. Which is cool and I think more and more people are doing that and it makes for really interesting music. Less focus on me being a female rapper and more on this person doing their thing.

Showbams: There are always going to be different trends you see in music and right now with the industry and how everything is turning and becoming digital, a lot of people are kind of taking it more into their own hands. Exploring and taking it the independent route and being able to do different things, which is appreciated a lot by fans and the community alike.

k.flay: Totally! You know it’s like I’m a huge fan of pop music and I love that kind of stuff, but I think right now it’s a kind of musical landscape in terms of a lot of the urban pop radio that’s very dominated by electronic dance music. Which is not necessarily a bad thing and at times is really fun to listen to, but you know we’re in a weird spot in that this whole aesthetic is dominating, so for me as a listener too, I’m into people kind of pushing the boundaries and doing something weird. You know doing their own thing just in the fact that it deviates from this pretty dominate norm. Even if you look at pop music ten years ago, it’s a very different landscape. It wasn’t that same kind of ‘dun dun dun dun dun dun,’ you know like those kinds of synth hits.

Showbams: Well, something that I appreciate that you’re doing and that I took a liking to are the creative ways you’re using the samples you choose. Bringing a lot of electro and indie into your collaborations, like for example The xx sample, whose album I really like and ended up drawing me into your work so much more do to the fact I could tell you appreciate it too. I feel like you get to show yourself through your music so much more not only through your rapping but also in the choices you make on which tracks you choose to include.

k.flay: Yeah, I think the sampling stuff is cool, it’s a fun way for me to play around with the music that I already like and do something interesting in hopes to pay homage to those people I already respect, but the stuff I’m working on now is all pretty much sample free. I’ve been working on the process of creating sounds and creating riffs that kind of sound like samples and treating them in kind of the same way I would have treated pre-existing music. So recording something, then chopping that up. It’s all original, but I think that methodology is interesting and can produce a pretty weird and interesting sound.

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