A West Coast rapper who has pushed for global success from the early beginnings of his career, Kid Ink‘s name has stretched from his early beginnings a Los Angeles local to a celebrated musician across the East Coast, Europe, and even world wide. The 27 year old is not your average rapper, and he has no intentions of letting the barriers and constrictions of genres and the music industry slot him in to any tab of music conformity. Staying true to his own artistic sensibilities from the beginning and even naming the title of his My Own Lane project as a tribute to how working hard in a new way – his own way – was what eventually and inevitably pushed him to success, Kid Ink linked up with HYPETRAK to open up on his thoughts on the hip-hop industry and share with us the journey of his career so far. Sharing his thoughts on the Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore social uprising from the GRAMMY’s while detailing his experiences touring in Europe in contrast to the U.S., and even opening up on the most rewarding experiences and biggest challenges of his career so far, read below to hear more on Kid Ink and the formula to success.
Your new album My Own Lane is hugely successful. Critics are saying it’s helping develop the future of hip-hop sound. How does this feel to you and do you agree?
It feels good because that was really the goal for me: showing that a lot of music in hip-hop today is boxed in and that we need to acknowledge how people are as receptive to certain sounds as much as they are to the content within it. Coming up in the music game as a producer and working with so many different artists, I was able to understand how versatile our music really is, and how it is meant for different moments and situations in life. You can’t really sit back on one thing and be this one artist and only cater to one kind of people because then you limit yourself. That’s the goal with My Own Lane: to show and prove how you can have fun and experiment with your craft as a musician.
What was your state of mind while you were recording the album?
Freedom. Just let your mind go and rock out to these beats. My Own Lane came from making a bunch of different records and letting people – even the people that don’t necessarily understand the ideal that you are going for who you are trying to reach or attack – just vibe to your sounds.
What was the most memorable studio session that stands out for you then?
When I was in the studio with Pharrell and working on the album. Obviously, he’s an amazing musician, but I looked up to him as a real inspiration. He plays a big part of what I’m trying to accomplish with my art, my career. During that session, he told me that he understands me as a musician and as an artist and that was probably one of the biggest things someone has said to me. It just let me know that what I was doing was right and that there are people who understand what I’m doing because he’s the same type of artist.
Where do you see hip-hop after this years GRAMMY awards and Macklemore winning awards over Kendrick? what’s your take on all that?
I think it’s going to open people’s eyes — especially within the hip-hop community. While Kendrick might have had a better album to the hip-hop community, Macklemore’s still being considered a hip-hop artist that had bigger records and more units sold. You can’t really take away someone’s numbers [because you don't agree with] the hype – numbers represent a factor that doesn’t lie. Taking this into perspective, how can we say that this person should have won or this was better when, technically, the other person sold more records or sold more singles. It’s going to open eyes for people and potentially motivate them to make that hit record and not just a dope hip-hop album [if they want to get that] GRAMMY. Now, if you don’t want to get GRAMMYs, you don’t have to make hit records. You can just do whatever you want and be an independent artist and just rock out. I’m sure Mac Miller is happy because he is successful and making millions of dollars while being an independent artist. As far as I am concerned, I want those things, so I have to look at the people who are winning and study their formula.
People’s frustration was that Kendrick’s album was a pure hip-hop album whereas, to some people, Macklemore’s didn’t quite fit the mould.
There’s definitely a frustration here, but there wasn’t such frustration in certain other cases – you know? He was on the cover of XXL and no one said anything then. He was still coming up as a hip-hop artist and when he dropped his album on iTunes, it was listed as “hip-hop/rap.” I am not saying that it couldn’t be something different from hip-hop, but at the end of the day, it’s been categorized under that label. There really is no “genre” for the type of music that me or Macklemore are doing — which is blending pop elements with hip-hop sound — and there’s just not a genre to give him an award for that. Where would you put Macklemore at the end of the day, you know what I’m saying? I don’t have the answer to that. It might be “pop” to you but is it pop to compete with the likes of Pitbull and Katy Perry? Pitbull initially came up as a hip-hop artist but someone made a decision to place him within a pop category, so someone in the music industry is making sure that [that genre] label is where it needs to be at.
Your song “Miracles” is featured in the new Beats Music commercial – how did this come about and will we see any more Kid Ink and Beats collaborations?
Me and Beats have grown a cool relationship. We’ve worked on different things, not just what you see on TV, but things that are personal and get swept under. I’d attend events with the Beats team and been shown new products and things like that. At first I didn’t have any records to give them but now there’s “Show Me” and “No Miracles” which are hit songs off the album and they have new stuff to go with. I missed another commercial we did – I ended up missing the placement on that one – and they gave me an even better one and they played it at the SuperBowl. It was crazy and I can’t ask for nothing more than that.
How do you consume music? Spotify, iTunes or any favorite websites? Do you have time to listen to any other artists music and who is on your radar?
I definitely check out everybody’s stuff. I try to stay with the times and check other people’s songs and check comments to see what people are saying. I’ve always been a fan of music – it keeps me motivated and hungry. I go to all the sites as much as I can and click on interesting things and check out the new cats. Right now, there’s a lot of different things waving on the net as well as on the streets. I feel like there’s a lot of dope artists still coming out of the South right now. Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug for instance. There are artists on the West Coast buzzing as well — people like myself, YG, Casey Veggies, Ty Dolla $ign and the whole Odd Future clan of course.
So when you say you search the net you just hit up the blogs?
Blog sites, news sites, I’m searching through like a regular fan. I’m not the person who’s like “oh I’m not reading blog sites, I’m not reading this and this and this” — it’s entertaining and at the same time you really can catch wind of some stuff that’s going on before other people and really be a part of new music. It’s definitely internet over radio for me.
You’ve been touring these days — what’s the major difference between the US and the European music market?
The difference between the two is really the fans — the European market doesn’t know when or if I’ll ever really be back here again, so they might only see me once a year. When I’m in the States, I might go to Boston four times in the year and go to Arizona three more times, and then LA everyday – those people can see you all the time. They know where to find you and they’re paying attention, [but] their friend is a friend of a friend, so basically, there’s a little less excitement. So when I get over [to Europe] and I’ve not been accessible to these people everyday and it’s such a shock that they didn’t prepare themselves about how they’re going to respond or act.
How important is Fashion to you? Do you consider yourself a style icon or someone that’s coming up in that sense?
Fashion’s always been important to me just from growing up in school. I remember the first time I was teased for the wrong clothes and I was like “man I need to step my game up” because it’s like “people can’t say this and that” – I’m not really creating it but I’m in to dope things and dope brands and I like to see how I can make things my own. I’m not like a Hypebeast, so I’m not looking to see what everyone else is wearing. I’m obviously going to pay attention to hot stuff, if everyone’s wearing something it must be because that’s quality, but at the end of the day if I see something, and I don’t know what it is, and nobody else knows what it is, then I’m still going to rock it. It doesn’t have to be about that one “hot” thing.
Highest and lowest moments in your career so far?
Coming from the West Coast, some of the biggest moments were my first East Coast shows that I did. In addition to that, it would be landing a XXL Freshman cover. That just opened so many doors for me. We did the EP, which was successful, we signed a major label deal, the gold singles, the number 1’s – these are the things that I really cherish. The lowest moments, on the other side, are the moments where people discredit the work. It’s always sad when people feel like you didn’t do enough of this or think “I don’t want to give you a hand out” without really knowing if I was a hard worker. I feel like I miss certain things because people don’t know if I’m an average rapper or if I’m going to approach it in a different way, but that’s not something that I dwell on.
Final words of wisdom?
My two things now is just to always stay humble and stay hungry. These two things play well in to each other and work hard out here. I’ve never had anything handed out, anything I’ve gotten has always been from hard work and grind, and I’ve been knocked down times enough and I didn’t quit, it’s all about timing and patience and people — just keep working what you love.
My Own Lane is in stores now.
Interview & Photography: Ravi Sidhu/HYPETRAK