Kilo Kish

by Heather Corcoran

The Mutant Rap Takeover Part 2
Through the thick door of the Williamsburg rehearsal space comes the sound of Kilo Kish mumbling and flirting with the mic. J. Scott from the A$AP crew DJs from a MacBook, while soul singer Jesse Boykins III sits in on drums. From the beginning of her meteoritic and unexpected rise, Kish has always been surrounded by talented people.

Kish’s Homeschool mixtape, out now, is full of giggles, whispers and slow, feminine flows all over lazy-day beats. With deadpan rhymes about catching your boy cheating, being bored on the bus, and drinking beer outside, Kish slips from aggressive (“The only way you’ll win is if you’re dead first”) to baby-voiced in a matter of lines. “I think she’s in her own lane right now, because people don’t know what to box it into yet,” says Scott, Kish’s manager and sometime collaborator. “It raises people’s eyebrows. I’m curious to see what it is about her, find out more...”

It’s not quite rap, yet she’s not really singing, and if you haven’t heard it, this is the ideal scenario for cracking her album: “Definitely at home. In a comfortable place. Maybe in the morning. On Saturday. Or Sunday. Eating cereal. A place where you feel comfortable, and a place where you feel yourself. And you want to have coffee with someone or have a conversation with someone.” Kish says all this with her legs dangling off an amp that she’s sitting on, a mass of springy curls bouncing as she talks.

Kish (real name Lakisha Robinson) had zero plans of a music career when she started recording in her roommate’s bedroom studio just two years ago. An art student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, she was living with Scott and rapper Smash Simmons, who would sometimes call her in to lay down a female voice when they were drinking beer or hanging out around the house. She and Smash started recording quirky, sunny raps under the name KKK (Kool Kats Klub) and she did her own stuff too. Her break came completely by accident when Matt Martians, of Odd Future spinoff The Internet, lost his keys. The key-less Martians was waiting around for Scott when Kish played him one of her songs. Next thing she knew, she was in L.A. recording over beats from Martians and his partner Syd tha Kyd.

For someone with so many major players at her fingertips, Kish admits she doesn’t really follow new music unless someone puts her on to it. (Right now she’s listening to a lot of Tyrese.) “I’ve always kind of been one of those people, that was like the ’80s have so many cool things and the ’70s have so many cool things, the ’60s, they all have their different movements,” her eyes are big and round and intense when she talks, a stark contrast to Charles Manson, who glares from her T-shirt. “And then I feel like the ’90s and the 2000s had the internet as their movement, and so it’s super easy to work with people and I think that makes it a lot easier.”

She doesn’t have a YouTube channel and didn’t get discovered by posting to her blog. (“I’m not really that personality that wants to constantly be in front of other people.”) But like many young artists today, Kish makes full use of the web, interacting with fans on her Tumblr and compulsively posting to Twitter. She even writes lyrics on her BlackBerry. The result is a loose sound that defies categorization, all the more charming in its girlish naivety, those moments when she questions herself on tape.

“This is what artists go through to make what you hear,” she explains. “I kind of like that idea and I like to push those boundaries. That’s why there is a lot of talking on my songs. And a lot of interludes and a lot of fuck ups—I enjoy those a lot more than the final product.”