Q&A: Kid Ink Drives Into His Own Lane of Success
Hip-hop not only seems to set trends, but notoriously follows them into the ground. When a unique musician or song makes it big, it is immediately followed up by clones and attempts at recreating the same result. Feeling pressure from record labels, fans, and even the people around them, it is often difficult for an artist to develop the type of sound they are comfortable with and which truly expresses their creativity.
Building a strong foundation through his mixtapes and independent album releases, Kid Ink’s major label debut, My Own Lane, is a representation of how the producer turned rapper refuses to be locked into one style or category. He draws inspiration from all different genres of music, including (but not limited to) rap, rock and pop, while focusing in on growing his own brand and not following in anyone else’s footsteps.
The 27-year-old Los Angeles entertainer started producing when he was just 16 and has worked with various names across the industry, including Diddy, Nipsey Hussle, Sean Kingston, among others. It is that production background that helps him carve out his own spot in the industry, allowing him to approach making records from a more stylistic and complex perspective, rather than just recording rhymes over a beat. He creates the melody, hooks, harmony and lyrics all to match up and build off one another.
Being lauded by numerous publications and earning a spot on Shazam’s “2014 New Artist to Watch” list, his current single, the infectious and flirtatious club hit “Show Me,” featuring Chris Brown and containing a sample of Robin S.’s 1993 “Show Me Love,” is taking over radio airwaves and has made the Top 10 of both Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Rap Songs charts.
Kid Ink recently made a global impact on his 14 date sold out “Roll Up” European tour and is also preparing for his upcoming My Own Lane U.S. tour, with King Los and Bizzy Crook. Finding a bit of time in his demanding schedule, he talked with GALO about his collaborations and inspirations as well as adjusting to his RCA deal and who the king of L.A. is.
GALO: Congrats on “Show Me” going Gold and hitting number one on Rhythmic radio. You, Chris Brown and DJ Mustard all collaborated on that track and “Main Chick” for the new album. What made you pick “Show Me” as the single before “Main Chick”?
Kid Ink: Really, man that was the initial record I wanted to go in with Chris. The “Main Chick” record, I didn’t know how long we were gonna be. I went in like, “alright, I know I’m going to play this ‘Show Me’ record and get this done.” As soon as we got it done, in like 30 minutes, there was so much time left in the session, he was just like, “yo, what else you got?” So I played about four or five other records, man, and “Main Chick” was just that next one that he wanted to go in on. The next one after that, we just cut brand new from there, from scratch. I feel like it was all natural and organic, and I just knew that “Show Me” was the one from the beginning.
Video Courtesy of: RCA Records.
GALO: Eight out of the 13 tracks on your album are collaborations, which has usually led to interviewers asking about other artists. I’ve already done it. Do you think it takes any of the spotlight off what you can do? How do you look at it?
KI: Nah, I feel like the ones with different hooks and different singers, I wrote [those], and so I felt like I don’t want to sing this, or someone else wrote it and they’re like, “I want to ask someone else to sing this with a bigger voice — who could we have come in and sing on this record?” It’s not like someone is writing my verses. You listen to a Jay-Z record, all through his career, someone is singing the hook and he’s doing his job. At the same time, I’m doing a lot of my hooks, and the one’s that I’m not, I just feel like they’re not for me to sing. I can have someone else do the music or guests. I don’t think anything got taken away, because it’s also people that I’ve been rocking with since my independent career, so it’s not like it’s a bunch of co-signs that the label bought or anything.
GALO: I heard you recorded about 25 plus tracks for My Own Lane. Do you think any of the ones not released will ever see the light of day?
KI: There were a couple that got leaked before the album came out — I think there was one that might have came out after. Certain records I’ve given out to other people, you might see [them] on other people’s projects and not even know it’s from my album. Definitely not going to be any wasted records.
GALO: You, Ill Will and Tha Alumni Group have always handled the promotion of your projects. Now, since you’re with RCA, does that free up more time or do you find yourself still wanting to be hands-on and checking-in on them?
KI: I try my hardest to always just focus on the music and be in the studio, less than the numbers and business side — try to be creative. I feel like with the major label situation, I have more of that time. Definitely dope to be able to go on the road and not have to worry about little things. It’s less weight on my shoulders.
GALO: As far as that part of it, was it a hard adjustment going from being independent to on a major?
KI: It wasn’t too difficult, man. We proved so much independently that we kind of had a dope situation where they trusted us and they just added on to everything we were doing. I felt like we had been doing so much, trying to make their job easier and just working together.
GALO: You started off as a producer, and I read you had a hand in, or put your touch on, all the tracks on your album. When you get back into releasing full production tracks, do you think it will be for yourself or for others?
KI: It’s probably going to start slow with just some co-production. I want to get different sounds and join this new production wave — learn some things from all the new acts and new programs and stuff that people are getting into. I don’t know if anything’s a little more dated on my end, but I try to keep up with it. It’s just more so about me having extra time to produce. Producing takes a lot more time in the studio, might take a whole session and make a couple of beats, and, you know, I could record eight songs in one session.
GALO: I read and heard interviews about you being a perfectionist, so I could see you taking your time before it’s out.
KI: Right, man. I feel like it’s a slower process of getting records done if I produce all my records. It’s going to take a lot more time.
GALO: I know you listen to a lot of different types of music and also seem to have the ability to jump on anything — rock, pop, club, street, etc. — and just make it sound natural. Is there someone you listen to or some type of track you want to do that you think would surprise your fans?
KI: Growing up in the music game, people I looked up to were Timbaland, Pharrell. Those were producers who also stepped into being writers and never really limited their sound to a genre. I always just wanted to take it to all those levels — to never consider having limits, and try to aspire to do some of the same type of things and even more. All the way from doing music and writing for pop and rock people, to going to what music may be in the future — as an overall musician, feeling like I covered one thing 100 percent and [had] proven myself.
GALO: Kendrick Lamar did the “Control” verse and said he was the “King of New York.” You have your song “More than a King.” Does L.A. have a king and, if so, who would it be?
KI: I feel like, if L.A. had a king, it would have to be Dre or Snoop at the end of the day. Those are definitely people who are still killing the game, still making music, and still alive. There’s a new generation, but as far as just everyone in L.A., man, I feel like everyone is a king of their own situation, of their own crew. I feel that a little bit more so than the whole city. They’re the king of their area, their movement. Everyone is really owning up to their own situation and not riding anybody else’s wave.
Video Courtesy of: RCA Records.
Kid Ink’s album “My Own Lane” was released on January 7, 2014 and is currently available in stores as well as for digital download via iTunes, Amazon and other major platforms. For further information about the artist or his tour schedule, please visit http://www.kidinkmyownlane.com/.
Featured image: Pictured: Rapper Kid Ink. Photo Credit: Courtesy Estevan Oriol/ RCA Records.