Who is KR?
The elusive Los Angeles emcee prefers not to answer this question directly, but he has provided answers in other ways. If you visit the Datpiff page for his breakout 2013 mixtape, I$0Lyf3, you’ll find a bare-bones description: “Dont wanna say much just vibe.”
While it’s hard to tell if KR was providing the world with a set of instructions or merely shedding some light on his personal mantras, as it turns out, this is the exact blueprint KR has followed over the past four years.
“I was taught consistency. If you have a good product, the message will get out there,” KR told me over the phone. “I don’t want to give you too much in-between because I want you to know me as an artist. I want you to fall in love with the music first, and you can fall in love with me later.”
If KR had to define KR, he would use one word: versatile. “Ever since I was young, I looked at music as one whole thing,” KR explained, adding, “I feel that what matters most is consistency and being yourself. If you’re yourself, then you can go into any genre you want and be successful.”
Great, but who is KR?
For starters, he is someone with an undeniable lust for life. For an artist so committed to the idea of mystery, KR is unexpectedly exuberant. He credits his zeal to his LA upbringing, telling me, “I grew up in a very rough area. Fortunately, I had a very protective and loving mother. She kept me away from a lot of dangerous things. Watching the area I came from, I’m not supposed to be here, if that makes sense. The fact that I made it past 21, I’m grateful. I never look at where I am, I look at where I want to be.”
If you haven't picked up on it, KR loves his mom. In fact, her advice and support open his upcoming EP, The Intermission. “Mother To Son,” a phone conversation between the two that highlights the strength of their relationship, caught my ear in much the same way a Top 40 hit worms its way into the brain. I had to know if this heartfelt recording was planned. With gratitude coloring his voice, KR gleefully tells me it wasn’t.
“I was actually recording a song while she was calling me!” KR revealed. “Her call interrupted one of my verses, so I had Pro Tools going and I didn’t turn it off. I listened back when we hung up, and it sounded so authentic. I cut the beat, exported just the audio, and opened another Pro Tools session. It was a complete accident.”
KR is an artist who relies as much on instinct as he does on his team. The stirring, island-flavored jam “Stress Riddim” came to him after binging on Sean Paul videos. The empowering and dynamic hustle anthem “All Goes Down” was the byproduct of bumping Pharrell and JAY-Z’s “Frontin’” on repeat. Always inspired and never far from a mic, KR describes himself as a true workaholic. He’s got the creative bug.
“The whole project took about three weeks,” he explained in a nonchalant manner. “I mixed, mastered, recorded, and wrote everything myself. I’m working on music as we speak—I can’t stop. I have album’s worth of songs stacked up in an arsenal. The songs are all produced by Dinuzzo, [who] I started working with last year.”
Distilling an album's worth of material down to a seven-track EP isn't an easy task, but that’s where his team comes in. “I trust my team,” KR told me. “After recording the music, my manager Natalie structures it for me. The music is like a movie in her head. If I record twenty songs, I’m going to want to put out twenty songs. I love them all, they’re like my children.”
Even the title and timing of the project reflect KR's tenacity. Before the 22-year-old started work on The Intermission, he was actually in the middle of crafting a completely different project. Instead of making his fans wait for his forthcoming full-length, KR decided to hit the pause button on his larger project so that he could drop something in the meantime. After kicking around ideas with Natalie, the pair landed on the concept of The Intermission, a project that could serve as a break from recording "the next big thing."
As for what we can expect once the curtain rises once again, KR, in a shy but proud manner, says to “stay tuned.”
Understanding KR’s musical methodology isn't difficult, but what about his shadow-like approach? “New people are discovering me every day, but I still feel alone,” he explains, citing his battle with depression and the feeling of always being overlooked as the drive to make music that comes from a place of pain. “I’m slowly getting better,” KR says confidently.
Who KR is not: someone who’s averse to vulnerability. The Intermission standout “Real Talk” is as gripping as it is cleansing. KR describes the process of making that record as him “attacking the microphone,” but more specifically “speaking my truth without hurting anybody.”
With a little practice, KR is also learning to laugh at himself. The video for one of the EP’s smoother joints, “Party,” features the emcee stuck in a time loop and constantly being clowned. While working at a local dinner—goofy paper hat and all—he gets a milkshake poured over his head and is decked by the boyfriend of the leading girl. At first, he admits, he hated the concept of the video, but it also served to humanize him. “This was the first time I got zero negative responses on one of my videos. This video, there was nothing but love,” he said.
Before our conversation came to a close, we discussed the EP's final track, “Solid.” Like all memorable closing tracks, the song leaves us with a promise for big plans for the future.
So, who is KR? The answer lies in the question.
Stream The Intermission, out Friday, September 8, below.