Interview by Charne Graham (@88nae88)
Kembe X is a teenage artist who brings something a bit different from most rappers his age in the city of Chicago. Kembe’s projects like “Self Rule” and his recently released “Soundtrack II Armageddon” has song filled with story telling and vivid lyrical content. JENESIS had the pleasure of sitting down with Kembe to discuss a few things including his influences and how he feels about the Chicago music scene.
Charne: So how old are you again?
Kembe: I’m 18 and I’ve been rapping since I was 16.
Charne: When did you realize that rapping was something you really wanted to do?
Kembe: When I started actually going to the studio and recording songs, I became fully immersed in it because I stopped going to high school. So maybe 4 or 5 months into it, that’s all I was doing.
Charne: Do you feel you have progressed as an artist since your first mix tape?
Kembe: Definitely, I think I added more flow to my repertoire, there’s more consistent content and there aren’t really any fillers in what I say now. No filler lines, it’s all concise and has a point.
Charne: OK, so who influences you to rap the most?
Kembe: Now, it’s more of what I like and what I do hear cause I don’t really listen to music like that anymore. But, if I hear like 2 Chainz I can take something if I think it’s raw and that’s not really my lane. It’s all about hearing something in a song and it being something I can add to and make into my own. Other than that nobody really influences me.
Charne: I read somewhere that you like to listen to yourself. Is that what you do more than anything?
Kembe: Yea. (Laughs)
Charne: How do you feel about being apart of the movement that young artist are making in Chicago?
Kembe: It’s cool and surreal cause I saw it happening before it became something that everybody was talking about. We were all good friends before niggas was getting attention and we still are. I would pop-chat with Chance on Facebook before he had fans like that. Back then it was like maybe we’re just kids that are dreaming real big but now it’s really happening and it’s cool as fuck.
Charne: Who do hope to work with in the future?
Kembe: I have this dream song right now of me, Kendrick Lamar, Big Krit and Freddie Gibbs. It’s a lot of niggas I want to work with. Pro Era, Joey Bada$$, De La Soul, Kirk Knightman, I wanna work with Flatbush Zombies. Then I wanna work with Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q umm it’s a lot. If I vibe with somebody I wouldn’t even need to know their name, if I feel like we could make some raw shit then I’ll work with them. I just wanna make some raw ass songs.
Charne: Producer wise?
Kembe: I don’t know. I like the digi-phonics. I want to work with DJ Premier. I know that working with Kanye is not a real thing but I want that shit to happen to.
Charne: Do you feel like artist in Chicago equally get the respect and recognition they deserve?
Kembe: To an extent. It’s hard to say because there are so many people delegating the attention. I also think that artist deserve more because most people don’t know what goes into making the music they just hear the finished product.
Charne: I saw that Lupe and Kanye’s first albums were the first secular albums you were allowed to have. How were you able to become a fan of rap music in your home?
Kembe: Uhh I had gospel rap albums. (Laughs) Then I mean all my friends were listening to shit, I’m a Black kid they were all listening to rap growing up. I guess when I had something of my own to put in my CD player which was College Dropout I was excited to listen every time. It kind of gave me a more biased opinion on content and substantial lyrical content.
Charne: How old were you then?
Kembe: I was nine to put shit in perspective. (Laughs) Then I got Lupe’s album when I was eleven. That was becoming my thing, listening to rap when niggas really were saying shit that meant something to them and to me. They weren’t saying shit just to say it and I think that reflects a lot in my music. When I do say shit just to say it, I’m just being hilarious.
Charne: So what inspired the title of your tape Self Rule?
Kembe: It was my mindset then…kind of when I started to find myself. I stopped blaming shit on other people. When fucked up shit happened to me, I knew it was on me and based on my decisions. I just named it Self Rule based on that theory and principle. That was even before I really rapped I knew if I ever did get serious about it that would be the name of my first project.
Charne: Any last words for anyone trying to make it?
Kembe: Keep rapping, don’t stop rapping and build yourself by yourself. If you know who you want to be don’t let someone else that don’t know shit tell you who you should be.
Kembe X recently released his latest EP Soundtrack II Armegeddon earlier this week.