Everyone’s creative genesis varies. Some people are inspired by artwork, by albums, and others are inspired by dancing. For 25-year-old Kayo Genesis, it was his involvement in the jerk movement that got him jazzed enough about hip-hop to start making some of his own. His hunger first came from a necessity to have music to dance to, but after making his first beat, he was hooked on the rap game.
“I was making music during the jerking age of hip-hop, like when YG first started coming out and there was a lot of upbeat jerk sounds,” the LA artist tells me over the phone. “I was making a lot of that music to go with the dancing that I was doing at the time. It wasn’t necessarily a certain album, but that time period got me into music.”
Making hip-hop for the better part of seven years, Kayo did not take his music all too seriously until 2018, when his label 2020 Gold discovered him on SoundCloud. From there, Kayo went on to release his first album, Bad Sushi, and tour the country with Aminé and Buddy. “I stopped dancing, my heart went towards the music,” he explains. “As soon as I was able to make my first beat, it was a wrap.”
“For the last seven years I’ve been doing music, but I didn’t take it seriously as a business because I didn’t see any money in music and I didn’t see a profitable career in being another rap artist,” Kayo details. “Then my music got discovered by the label I’m on now, 2020 Gold, and then we decided to take [music] more seriously. Let’s put it on all platforms, let’s distribute it, let’s get some music videos going.”
Going, indeed, Kayo’s videos are visual feasts and his music has the quality to show for it. Bad Sushi is a varied and personal affair, with political twists and bangers abound. Focused on innovation and staying true to himself, Bad Sushi is a Kayo Genesis crash course in sound and theme. He moves humbly, but creatively all the same.
Our interview, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: What was the first album that inspired you to make music?
Kayo Genesis: Woah, I don’t think it was necessarily an album. I couldn’t date directly back to a specific album. I kinda started wanting to do music just because I liked creating sounds. I don’t think that came from another album.
What kind of sounds?
I was making music during the jerking age of hip-hop, like when YG first started coming out and there was a lot of upbeat jerk sounds. I was making a lot of that music to go with the dancing that I was doing at the time. It wasn’t necessarily a certain album, but that time period got me into music.
Were you dancing full-time?
Yup, I was actually dancing. I was still a hobbyist, but I was dancing in competitions. I had a dance group, we was doing tournaments, and we was with all the rappers in the hip-hop industry at the time. We was around hip-hop, but we wasn’t the forefront. People dancing wasn’t the main people.
At what point did you decide to go all-in on music?
As soon as I was able to make my first beat, it was a wrap. I went to school for sound engineering so I could really understand sound. I seen the long term effects of music. At an early age, I seen how powerful media was, and I also had to figure out something I loved doing that kind of fit a profession. So I went into audio engineering, but I’m still going to push my own music. That was the end-game for me.
How do you end up rapping full-time?
For the last seven years, I’ve been doing music, but I didn’t take it seriously as a business because I didn’t see any money in music and I didn’t see a profitable career in being another rap artist. I didn’t see it anywhere around me, people making money doing music are the top stars. I just do my own music with my friends, and put it on SoundCloud for my friends and anybody online. From there, I was doing all of my visual stuff: graphic design, photography, film. That was profitable. I was doing that for a lot of different people, and then my music got discovered by the label I’m on now, 2020 Gold, and then we decided to take [music] more seriously. Let’s put it on all platforms, let’s distribute it, let’s get some music videos going. Stuff I was already doing, but I wasn’t taking it to that level.
A year later, I released my first album [Bad Sushi]. So it’s been a really dope journey. That’s where I’m at right now: a year in, first album. Went on a lil’ tour opening up for Amine and Buddy. I rocked every stage with new music, completely new music.
You mentioned you’re trying to create “something new for tomorrow.” How do you tap into a new sound when hip-hop is so saturated?
You have to have a good instinct and just having taste. You can’t really learn innovation. It just has to be in you, and you have to dig inwards to find it. But also you have to be confident that it’s the sound you want to pursue, regardless of what’s popular. Then you gotta be consistent with it. Then you gotta keep doing your own thing, and by the time you get discovered you have this whole world.
Now, you’ve got your album Bad Sushi out. Where’d the title come from?
Bad Sushi came to me randomly and the name stuck. The name felt like a representation of everything I was consuming at the time: food, music, social media, the education system. Just all the things that I was being fed that just wasn’t good for me. It’s the start in my career because I’m going through this thing where I’m just unlearning all the BS that was fed to me over years of just being taught how to work for someone else and all these different things. The name originated from there.
What’s the most important bad thing you’ve unlearned?
This idea of how you learn how to become what you wanna be. I feel like that was never taught, at least not in my community, and nobody around me… It didn’t take ‘til looking out into the world and seeing how people got to their lifestyles or reading books to realize that, “Dang! Why wasn’t nobody taught how to do taxes, or gain financial freedom, or set goals?” All these things is just not presented.
You blend the personal and the political well on the record. Talk to me about the process of getting that vulnerable and thoughtful.
I feel confident in who I am and what I am. I can talk about any situation and really talk about it, not just bypass it. I feel like, I have to be authentic. I can’t not be authentic in my music. As far as the political stuff, I’ve always been heavy in politics, so to speak. More so, the politics on a street level. Different politics that we have in our communities and the lifestyles that we livin’. It’s always been interesting to me; I understand how people operate and I like being able to share that information to bring up some interesting conversations.
What’s the most important conversation you’re having on Bad Sushi?
I think that’s something for the listener to figure out, what’s most important to them, at the time. But if I had to say, my biggest thing is manifestation right now. So, “Glass House” would be the most important conversation, because it has to do with setting your goals and speaking them into existence, and how that’s been very real in my life. I think that’s a lil’ gem.
Last question, what’s your biggest music industry fear?
Being influenced to be average, or falling into doing what everybody else is doing. Really feeling like that should be the way I move, when I’ve always felt like disassociated from a lot of stuff that becomes popular and social norms. Just being typical is my biggest fear, losing my creativity.