We were fortunate enough to converse with local Seattle artist Kublakai. For those of you who weren’t able to see our album review of his latest album The Basics 2 you can check it out here. Me and Cyprian were excited to finally score our first interview and I feel like it’s a gold mine.
Blunted Pundits:What does your name mean?
Kublakai: I think your pen/stage/rap name is important. It is who you are presenting to the world and if you go far in this or do it for a while, it definitely becomes a part of you – maybe even MOST of you. (I mean you heard Mos Def is changing his name – that’s real shit) When I started doing Hip-Hop I wanted something that was unique. I never wanted to have to be mistaken for someone else. When you heard the name Kublakai – I wanted you to know exactly who it was. I also wanted something that sounded kind of eastern and mythical. Plus it looks cool when I practiced writing signatures back in the day…lol.. When I came up with it, it didn’t necessarily mean anything, but now that I have made it my own I think it embodies my Hip-Hop sensibilities. Which are have fun with it, be smart and don’t be afraid to be yourself – no matter what.
BP:What do you think about the current state of Hip-Hop?
Kubi: I love the current state of Hip-Hop. I think we are in the beginning of seeing smart “conscious” Hip-Hop re-surge into the MTV mainstream and I hope that it continues. I have a line in a song that I am doing with Gift of Gab coming out soon where I say, “If you ain’t noticed, Hip-Hop is gettin’ smarter/ so it’d be stupid to call it dumb and play the martyr…” I think hip hop is in transition at the moment but I think we are moving towards a place where smart is going to be the most popular thing out. I’m looking forward to it.
BP: What inspired you to begin rapping? Was there a certain song or artist you heard that made you want to write? Did your parents influence you since they both have had a history with Jazz?
Kubi: I grew up in the 80′s and 90′s man. It was hard to not be a fan of Hip-Hop and wanna be a part of it. It was everywhere. But specifically, Fresh Prince, Ice-T and Muhammad Ali were some of my biggest influences and they were just so cool to me. Smart, cool with so much bravado. That was what I wanted to be like. I wrote tons of poetry in middle school and then one day I heard a line in a Fresh Prince song and thought, “man, if he had said this instead of that, that line would have been that much better.” I think that was the beginning. So I started writing raps instead of poetry and that was kinda that. I can’t remember which song.
My mom had a big influence on my music because she was always listening to Jazz around the house or in the car. It’s funny because at the time, I was so immersed into Hip-Hop that I wasn’t trying to hear any Jazz, I didn’t dis-like it, I just wanted to hear rap all the time. But now, if you listen to my records, there is a HUGE jazz influence and I love Jazz. Mingus, Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie – that’s my shit! And I love Jazz singers in the style of Nat King Cole – crooners. Type always says if there is horns in a beat, you can bet I’m gonna love it. Hes pretty much right.
BP: Are penguins your favorite animal? Maybe even your power animal? Or did the penguin just belong on your album cover?
Kubi: I don’t know why I like penguins so much. I have just always liked them. A fan actually just asked me this same question the other day. I told her I think that I like there innocence and sense of curiosity. Plus it’s like they are flying, but underwater, I get that’s what most fish do but its different with penguins for some reason. I tried to distance myself from them as I grew up and was like, “I can’t like penguins – I’m a grown ass man!” lol… But I saw that one and he looked so perfect for the album cover so fuck it. Penguins are dope. Don’t tell me you didn’t watch March of the Penguins and then be like, “Penguins are awesome.” yeah, that’s what I thought….haha
BP: Who has been your favorite producer to work with and why? Favorite artist(s)?
Kubi: Slouch. His beats just bring out the best in me. Unfortunately, he isn’t really into making beats that much anymore but we still talk so hopefully he’ll make some new stuff soon. My favorite artist to work with is probably Grynch. He loves Hip-Hop so much and its obvious and he doesn’t do it for any other reason than that and I love that about him.
BP: What’s your opinion on the future of Seattle Hip-Hop? Is it going in a positive direction? If not, what would you change personally?
Kubi: The future of Seattle Hip-Hop is looking bright. There is so much talent here it’s ridiculous. Obviously, this is where I name drop MACKLEMORE and honestly, I fully expect Macklemore to be worldwide famous and to bring a major label frenzy a-la Nirvana to Seattle. Although, majors for the most part ain’t doing shit these days that indie labels can’t do, but when it happens and it will, its gonna be a wild ride.
Is it going in a positive direction? I don’t know. I think so. I’m a pretty big fan of all the big names out of the town. My personal favorite though is Helladope. Taysean is a monster – lyrically and behind the boards.
What would I change? A chosen few run the Hip-Hop scene in this town and I think that’s lame. If you disagree with the status quo or do anything to fuck with the balance, you get blacklisted basically. The same group that runs the venue’s are connected with the papers, the festivals and the radio so if you piss them off, you’re fucked. And all these people will tell you that’s bullshit, but that’s because (you guessed it) they are in that group. It feels very biased, unfair and not about the music. And its very taboo to talk about, Like for example, right now, to publicly say you don’t like Shabazz Palaces seems like it could get you fucking killed in the town. You can talk about it with your homies in the car, but if someone asks you about it in a public place – you never say you don’t like them. The same goes for how things work around here. No honesty with it – just posturing and dick riding. That shit is waaaaack If I could change it, I would but the reality is that I’m sure that our situation isn’t very different than any other town so it doesn’t really bother me anymore. Se la vie, you know?
BP: Do you like to freestyle and if so do you have any that are recorded that we could share with our readers?
Kubi: I like to but I suck at freestyling. I wish I was better. There are no tapes of me freestyling and if I ever found one I would burn it and tell any interviewer that asks that there are no tapes of me freestyling…lol
BP: If you could have any other rappers voice, dead or alive, who’s would you want? Or do you like your own better then the rest?
Kubi: Man, I like my voice actually. Dr. Dre has a super dope voice though, so does Rakim. Really,Its all about how you use it though.
BP: I see you just announced your tour today, what’s your favorite place your going to be playing at?
Kubi: Salt Lake City is always dope. I always assumed it was only tweekers and Mormons out there but that place jumps the fuck off – they support indie hip hop. I’m excited to go back there. I am also excited about Mt Shasta. Its beautiful there.
We want to thank Kublakai for providing us with this opportunity. He is about to embark on tour, and I highly recommend you see him. You can check out the tour dates below. Also, you can purchase a signed copy of his cd, The Basics 2 and his new t-shirt here!