YXNG K.A knew he had something special when he recorded his first song. Growing up in Northern Philadelphia, his interests eventually switched from sports to music after a bet from a friend took on a life of its own. Before he knew it, the 17-year-old rapper was laying down vocals. “I didn’t get no negative feedback on it,” he tells me about his first song over the phone. “We got a solid team. Ain’t no yes-men around.”
After he posted the song to Instagram, YXNG K.A received even more positive feedback. “You already feel a little bit of fame when the whole projects is rocking with you,” he explains. This inspired him to dive headfirst into music, eventually creating what would become his breakout hit, “Forever Committed.” Interscope Records signed him to a deal just a few months later.
K.A’s command of melody and gripping stories have been put to use on two projects in 2020: his Interscope debut BABY REAPER, released this past May, and REAPER SZN, released last Friday, December 4. Both projects channel the lionhearted spirit K.A inherited from his hometown, one he’s ready to carry as his name expands: “I’m from the bottom, and I’m trying to get to the top.”
You were initially more interested in sports than music. What inspired you to switch your focus?
It was a bet with a friend; I won’t even lie. I also started slipping a bit, and I wasn’t focused on sports, in general, so it was just what I was ready for.
Things took off pretty quickly from there. How did it feel to sit back and realize you had recorded your first-ever song?
It was cool. I thought it was hard. I didn’t get no negative feedback on it. That’s what drove me, the fact that it was all positive. We got a solid team. Everybody around me got [their] own opinions. Ain’t no yes-men around.
When did Interscope Records first come into the picture?
Like you said, everything came quickly. I got signed three months into me rapping, and I only had one song out. I guess they saw the potential.
I’m really interested in the Reaper aesthetic you’ve adopted. What drew you to don that persona across your first two projects?
I’m more of a quiet, discreet type of person. Reaper makes me think of the nighttime and nocturnal things.
Did the stakes feel higher while making REAPER SZN compared to BABY REAPER?
I always feel pressure for myself. I always wanna be topping myself. As I’m making a tape, I’m always feeling like I gotta go harder than the last one. But it’s all from me. I don’t know what the people think. I think the new tape gonna be fire, though.
COVID has put you in a unique position. What’s been the most challenging aspect of attempting to start a career in the midst of a global pandemic?
Honestly, I don’t think it’s been challenging. I’m very studio-heavy, and the pandemic hasn’t stopped anything I gotta do. It’s been cutting into a lotta different opportunities I could’ve had, though. My main focus right now is just making music.
Do you have a favorite part of building a career during COVID?
Just seeing all the love I’m getting from big names to regular people. So much love from little kids of all different ages. It’s crazy how they feel my music and relate to it. The whole wave is crazy.
Lil Muk is another crooner who you’re running beside in the Philly scene. Talk to me about your relationship with Muk and making “Unfinished Business.”
I had met Muk before the rapping thing. We went to middle school together when we was young bulls. Sometimes when niggas graduate, they separate and all that shit. We didn’t see each other for a little while. He was rapping a little longer than me, so when I started rapping, one of my managers had found Lil Muk. We cool, that’s my bro. Making a song with him is always fun because we be going at it, for real. Keeping each other on our toes. [“Unfinished Business”] is actually one of my favorite songs because of that.
It’s a good feeling knowing they reaching out. I was just listening to them, man. When Uzi hit me, I was geeked. It feels great having people like them reach out and tell me they’re fucking with the music. It’s definitely providing big motivation for the future.