We first came across KOF because he was giving away a load of shit hot tracks on his Soundcloud. Turns out he’s been hyped for a while by people like Radio 1xtra, since he was called Young KOF. We’ve been obsessed with his music, which incorporates everything from hip hop, soul and RnB, to bass, reggae and DnB beats – his versatility is blatant to see, and we can’t wait to see what he produces for his next EP, which will be available to download on his Soundcloud from 15th October. The exclusive track he’s given us is a taster of what we can expect; it takes a toned down DnB vibe, puts it on top of a mid-4/4-tempo, and is completed with KOF’s husky, heartily-sung lyrics. The song is called ‘Runaway’, which you can exclusively from the widget at the bottom of the post. We caught up with the man behind the music to find out more.
You’ve lived in both London and Liverpool and have quite a rich cultural background – what out of all these influences as you were growing up has played the most prominent role in shaping your music?
One of the main things about growing up in London was the wealth of culture. Living in Liverpool, at times I was the only black person on my road and it was the same in school. It was the total opposite in East London; I had every race imaginable living on my estate. Being brought up in that environment enables you to mix with so many different types of people and you just become more culturally aware. That’s one of the beautiful things about music, too – it’s full of culture, but it’s race-less in the sense that no matter where you’re from, you can find a common bond with the world through it. I remember moving to London being very young and really not wanting to do the move. Looking back it was one of the best things that could’ve happened to me – it’s a different energy and pace of life. The music was always one step ahead, too. I remember coming to visit my cousins and putting them on to all the garage music that I recorded off the pirate stations. I was always banging DeJaVu and Mission FM. I remember hassling my mum to get me a pair of decks because all my friends had them, I just never bought any records – I think I had maybe 6 or 7 and I would just rinse those. That was probably my gateway into being involved in music.
You’ve talked about how it’s hard to make a career solely in music now. Do you see yourself as a musician who’s business savvy or more of an all-round entrepreneur who does music along with other things? What comes first?
Music is my main thing – it’s the first thought I have in the morning, and if I manage to get some sleep after the late night studio sessions then I’ll think about it then too. The business side has never really been my passion although I co-founded an award winning company, URBEATZ, with my cousin and manager. He’s the brains of the outfit and handles the day-to-day running, but we’ve managed to base the work that we do around a lot of the music that I’ve created. For instance, I’ve made songs that have not necessarily been ‘hits’ commercially, but we’ve used them as a stimulus for workshops and projects that we’ve rolled out around the world. Most recently, we did a project called Crossing The Line in which we brought youth from around Europe together to make music, and made several documentaries discussing the issues they go through in their home countries and how it relates to the youth in others. I’m a creative so I submerge myself in everything – from producing and engineering; to directing and editing my own music videos; as well as being involved in, and writing for, stage productions. I need to find a healthy balance between being a musician and an entrepreneur because at the moment the musician side of me is running wild having the time of his life, but the bills need to be paid all the same.
Can you tell us a bit about your musical background?
I grew up listening to everything from hi-life to hip hop, to folk music, to motown and pop.
I’ve been making music for about 8 years now. From day one I was producing my own stuff – it was mainly hip hop and RnB, but once I’d been back in Liverpool for a few years I got into the electro house scene. Liverpool is a hub for dance music – I was partying every weekend, and the music I was partying to just seemed to spill over into what I was making. I had quite a bit of success doing that but then at the end of 2010 I went in a different direction, when I started to create what I call ‘Alternative Soul’. Personally I’ve always had a love for neo-soul since I first heard Musiq Soulchild ‘Just Friends’. A friend then put me onto Glenn Lewis‘ album, World Oustide My Window – that was where I really got the soul bug, especially in terms of songwriting and the usage of vocal tones and such.
However I didn’t really start making that vibe of music until last year. Since I have, I really started being respected as a songwriter and vocalist across the board. I’ve had quite a bit of kudos for what I make – it’s not your average soul – it’s a blend of some of the genres I love but it has a soulful heart and mind. At times it’s conscious, at others it’s playful or tongue in cheek, but more importantly it’s honest and real. I released An Alternative Soul EP on iTunes in April this year and it managed to span the globe as far as being playlisted on radio stations in UK, Poland, U.S and Dubai. Also one of the tracks, ‘Looking At Me’ was recently featured on VH-1′s Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta which was pretty cool, and we are about to release a deluxe version in Europe.
We discovered you through the free music you’ve been releasing on Soundcloud. What do you think are the benefits of doing that?
Music has always been for the people, and sites like Soundcloud just make it easier for people to get what they want and at the same time letting the artist keep track of where their music is going. We live in an era where if you know the right websites, you can download almost anything for free so I really see no harm in giving music away. It lets your fan base know that you appreciate them and the support they give, whether that be coming to shows or even just simply tweeting how much they love a certain song. I’m a fan of real artists who connect with their supporters and who make good music. If I can connect and enjoy an artist on a level then I’m more inclined to spend money on their music when the time comes.
Still, I don’t want to give free music just for the sake of it; I want there to be a little more thought to it, which is what I’ve done with the SOUL Series of free downloads. The first, SOUL: Love, which I released a couple of weeks ago, featured 3 brand new songs and has been getting a lot of good response on the blogs and radio alike. The second bundle titled SOUL: Life is out next week and then the third, SOUL: Live, features 3 live acoustic sessions and will be out shortly afterwards. I hope this allows even more people to discover my music and learn more about what I do, as well as rewarding a lot of my current supporters.
You sing, rap and MC. Is there a difference as to how you approach each of them?
For me, it always starts with the melody, whether I’m singing or rapping. Then the words just come into place – I just put the mic on and let the vocals dance over the beat, in a sense. I just see where the vibe takes me and if I catch it, I stick with it. If not, next song.
What inspires you lyrically?
Anything and everything. Life: the highs and lows, the good, the bad. I just write about the things I see. I’m not the only person who sees them and that’s why people can probably relate.
You’ve done a lot of collaborations. What do you get out of them that you might not do from working by yourself?
I’ve been lucky enough to collab with a variety of different people, from Wiley to Wretch 32 to Manu Dibango to Wanlove to Terri Walker. Collaborating is just a different vibe. When you’re in the studio with a good artist, you feed off each other’s energy – they might think of things you never would have, and vice versa.
I love getting in with good producers too, I always pick up a few new tricks and techniques. You can only grow into a good artist by surrounding yourself with good artists. Like, as I’m talking now I’m in the studio with a producer called Michael Seary – he’s just taught me how to suck the air out of the room with a sub bass! Blew my mind!
What’s been the most successful collaboration you’ve done so far?
Definitely Terri Walker. She’s an amazing singer, her voice is just on a different level. The first track we worked on was called ‘Need Somebody’ and it’s probably my favourite song on EP, and the vibe in the studio was just perfect. We’ve got some more stuff in the pipeline too.
You’ve had a lot of support from people like Radio 1Xtra. Would you rather stay big on the underground scene or would you not mind going mainstream?
Yeah, 1Xtra have supported me from early in my career. Really, I’ll go where the music takes me, I don’t make music with any particular area in mind. I want it to reach as many people as possible so whatever way I can do that without changing the core of my music, I’m with it.
What’s the ultimate dream?
World domination!! I feel that’s what I should say. Really, I just wanna live a fulfilled life, travel the world making and performing my music. I don’t want much, really!
What new music (other than that of yourself) have you been into this year?
I downloaded Alex Isley‘s EP last week, that’s been getting a lot of air time on my headphones. Terri hooked me up with some of her unreleased stuff too so that went straight on the iPod. I’ve been listening to some ASAP Rocky, Azealia Banks, Frank Ocean and I’m feeling Jaden Smith’s new track ‘The Coolest’ too.
What makes you different from all the new musicians that have emerged recently? What do you think makes your music distinctive?
Nothing and everything. We are the same generally, however what separates us is our soul and experiences. And it’s those things that naturally makes the music I create different than anyone else’s in the world.
What are you most looking forward to this year? Any big releases or live shows?
First and foremost the SOUL Series, then I go on my UK Tour for 6 dates, all with a live band. All info on those dates are on my site here. In the midst of that I will be releasing An Alternative Soul LP in Europe via various licenses we set up. The launch is in Paris. Then I will be ending the year with my next domestic single. It’s set to be a good end of 2012.