Rich Homie Quan was born and raised in Atlanta, exiting the womb in the year 1989, there’s no surprise that while growing up he was most accustomed to artists raised on the very same red clay that raised him. T.I. and Outkast may be from Atlanta, beloved by Atlanta, but they achieved a level of long term, worldwide success where children outside of their hometown have memories of their music. I can’t say those same kids know the name Kilo Ali, I don’t know if they can recall hearing his voice on their radios, or remember dancing to the thump of his bass in teen clubs. Quan remembers, I remember, and I’m pretty sure most natives born and raised under Atlanta’s scorching sun at least know of Kilo Ali. He has become something of a local, living legend despite the height of his career happening twenty years ago.
When Organized Noize signed their legendary 20 million dollar deal with Interscope it gave them a position to bring artists in and give them a chance to be heard on a large platform. The first artist to release a project from under that umbrella was Kilo Ali’s Organized Bass. It was 1997, he had released six albums prior as Kilo, the earliest being America Has a Problem in 1991. It’s been said that Kilo was the ninth rapper out of Atlanta, signed to Arvis Records, the first label in Atlanta solely for rap artists, but Kilo was the first from the city to really take Miami bass music and add rap flavor to it.
Being one of the earliest rappers to see small success by being heard on the radio made him a forefather, someone that all aspiring rappers knew, a legend amongst men, and Organized Noize wanted to give an OG a chance to enter the mainstream arena. I was only seven at the time, but Organized Bass is the reason that Kilo ever entered into my ear drums. “Show Me Love,” the first single, was played so much my naive mind thought it was the most popular song in the world. He had this singing, rapping style that was infectious, there was an irresistible urge to sing along. I knew his voice, I knew his sound, it was distinguishable enough for a child to comprehend this was something different and fun.
Organized Bass wasn’t a commercial success, the singles weren’t Billboard chart toppers, but I would continue to hear them, getting older but the songs didn’t seem to age. Radio DJs would work “Show Me Love” and “Baby Baby" into rush-hour mixes long after most singles would expire into oblivion. Bankhead bouncing and brake lights, that’s what I remember when thinking about those long drives from Decatur back to south Atlanta. The DJs at my parents' skating rink also worked him in during a specific part of the night - adult skate. They would clear the skate floor and give kids, teenagers, and adults their own three songs that would fit their taste. Adults would clap, stomp, dance, and twirl to the contagious drum and bass. It was Kilo Ali, K.P. & Envyi “Shawty Sing My Way" and Ghost Town DJ's “My Boo.” I’ve seen plenty of mothers and fathers feel young again as they bounce and groove, skaters care about tempo, that’s how routines are made and I saw plenty to Kilo’s music.
Complex: "You guys left a lot of the money from the Interscope deal on the table, why was that?
Sleepy Brown: "Because we felt like we didn’t click with Jimmy [Iovine]. We didn’t click with him at all. The ideas that were brought to the table were Atlanta ideas, and at the time the Atlanta we were trying to promote wasn’t ready internationally. Because we had Kilo—Kilo is a legend in Atlanta—and nobody from California to New York was ready for that… at all. They were not ready for that sound." - Complex Interview With Sleepy Brown 2016
When you start attending the teen clubs, get old enough to start attending real parties, that’s when you get introduced to records like “Nasty Dancer” from his 1995 Get This Party Started album. It’s a strip club anthem, I don’t even know if Atlanta was known for strip clubs then, but I can only imagine how many Georgia Tech tuitions were paid because of this song alone. Due to the year, just imagine what kind of reaction this song must’ve received during Freaknik. Kilo had the perfect party jams, explicit and catchy. Some of our parents were turning up to this music, music that I still hear in clubs as an adult. When they throw “Love In Ya Mouth” into the old school mix, there’s always a reaction. Raunchy would be an understatement, before the Ying Yang Twins were whispering on “Wait,” before Shawnna was "Gettin' Some," Kilo and Big Boi were detailing their lesson about fellatio and people loved it.
Kilo Ali is a staple in Atlanta culture. Although I was only 5, 6 when he was in his prime, his music and influence lasted over generations to even currently. He WAS party music. He was the definition of fun! If a party or the club was dead, his music would always save the party. People love the nostalgia of Freak Nik. Well guess what? Without Kilo Ali, Freak Nik would have been totally different. Atlanta has always been a place of self-defining stars. We've NEVER needed outside opinion or cosigns to determine our legends. I'm not sure how other regions feel about our legend Kilo Ali, but he was pre-Outkast, so it's understandable if they don't appreciate him like Atlanta. There were no labels in the South, no resources, no way to get your music out to the entire nation at that time, but please have no doubt, with Atlanta's influence over the music industry for the past 13 or so years, every artist has taken something from Kilo and indirectly he has influenced generations of recording artists. - Steve Dingle
Kilo Ali was from Bankhead, the same Bankhead that T.I. and Shawty Lo would emerge from, although it had two sides. Even though he didn’t originate the Bankhead bounce, Kilo’s “Dunkey Kong” added to the phenomenon that was trailblazed by Diamond D and Outkast’s “Benz and Beamers” music video. Even though the dance music is what has kept his name alive, when you dig into the history of Atlanta’s rap scene you will discover Kilo’s “Cocaine (America Has A Problem).” Even though the pulsing bass is there, this isn’t a party record, but a song that was meant to raise awareness about the problem of cocaine that had been sweeping the nation. His rhyme scheme is '90s, very '90s, it’s easy to date the song, but from DJ Drama to Complex the song was a huge deal. It also shows another side to Kilo, a rapper who can make suggestive party records and conscious rap songs. It’s a juxtaposition that can be heard on Organized Bass - “Save Me” takes a classic negro spiritual, lyrics fitting of a gospel and a beat that feels like a modern trap thumper and pairs them all together. There are many dimensions to the music of Kilo Ali.
DJ Drama: Before there was a T.I., before there was a Jeezy, before there was a Future, before there was trap music, Kilo Ali was inspiring all these kids to make gangsta music coming from Atlanta.
KP: It was a celebration record because it was fun, but it was also conscious. Because Atlanta is a place where people can be hood and intelligent at the same time. - Atlanta: 23 Hip-Hop Tracks That Put The City On The Map
Sadly, after Organized Bass, everything fell apart for Kilo Ali. He would serve six years in prison for arson that took place in 2005. Thirteen years separated Organized Bass and his 2010 album, Sa-La Means. In the interviews that followed his release he seems to be in a better space, still being booked to perform the hits that haven’t aged since his time away. The same records that you can still hear on the radio, in clubs, even skating rinks, are still introducing new ears to the music two decades old by one of Atlanta’s oldest rap artists. I still believe that his sound of yesterday could fit now, the bass music he made, his way of rapping and singing, could easily transition into today’s trap arena. Even the music video for “Baby Baby” is one big meme waiting to happen.
Rich Homie Quan growing up in Atlanta isn’t an excuse not to know Biggie’s “Get Money.” In all the places that played Kilo Ali, there was Biggie. But I do understand how you can be fixated on the artists from your home. My little brother is 22 and heard his first Jay Z album a few months ago. At 16 he didn’t care about Jay, not when Future just put out Dirty Sprite. He didn’t have a relationship with Jay, but he had one with Kilo. Even though Organized Bass came out a year after Reasonable Doubt, the music from Kilo’s album traveled with him to places that “Dead Presidents” and “Can I Live” could never go. Kilo Ali is Atlanta. He has influenced countless artists and will continue to as his offsprings breed offsprings. Not everyone reaches the status of a Biggie, Outkast, or Jay Z, but on a local level, there are legends whose impact is just the same. Kilo Ali falls into that class, he's Atlanta rap history, an Atlanta rap legend, so if you don’t know, now you know.
By Yoh, aka Organized Yohzie, aka @Yoh31
Photo Credit: Flickr