From Lupe Fiasco to Chance the Rapper and SABA, Chicago has long been a hotbed for rap music.
Kayo, from the city’s South Side, is one of the rising stars in the genre. His debut album It Was Fun While It Lasted was released earlier this year. He will play at the Epiphany Center for the Arts on Thursday, joined by fellow Chicago musicians Sydny August, iGoByLC and Morgan Gold.
It Was Fun While It Lasted drew on what Kayo described as dark times in his life but grew into a more positive message as the artist overcame traumas from his past.
Kayo recently joined WBEZ’s Reset to discuss being emotionally vulnerable in his lyrics, the Chicago music scene and more.
On how he knows a song or album is complete
“It has to resonate, and I know that’s a buzzword but it’s probably my favorite buzzword. … I feel like a lot of people are just like, we’re in a microwave here where people are just dropping what they can when they can, but it’s not really resonating. To me a song is finished when you can play it. For example, I’ll send it to you … my brother, my girl, all of these people. If it doesn’t connect with them, then it probably won’t connect with the average person.”
On the interconnected Chicago music scene
“Everybody is one person away from the next person. That’s why I always tell people, ‘Be careful who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about,’ even outside of the [people who make music], just people like managers or like radio. Even if they’re not working with that person, they have … some kind of affiliation with them.”
On rappers being emotionally vulnerable and processing trauma in their lyrics
“This album, I had to give like 40% of the credit to Jay-Z’s 4:44 album. It gave me that place to just be kind of vulnerable to those stories and realize and realize it’s not like cowardice to be vulnerable and, like, to be all those things that I guess as men we’re ‘not supposed to be.’ ”
On having a more positive outlook
“I think like 90% of our problems can be changed once our perspective changes. It’s not that the losses are any different than they were before making the album. … You can kind of look at things from a depressed point of view, like ‘Oh man, I lost this, I lost that or this happened, this person died, me and this girl broke up, whatever. … You have to take the good with the bad, and with every bad there’s always a good, and with every good there’s always a bad. … There’s a lesson there.”
On the importance of religion in his life
“I am many things but most importantly … a child of God. … Music aside, business aside, all things aside, I feel like my purpose is just leading people to peace and prosperity and happiness, all those good things — even if you don’t believe in God. It’s like leading people to a better life and a more prosperous life than what they may be leading. … I always believed in God, like believed in Allah, which is just the Arabic term for God. But at a point around high school religion itself kind of became a disconnect. I’m kind of just getting back in that, you know, like the flow of things like the ritualistic side of things. But God always stayed with me for sure.”
Bianca Cseke is a digital producer at WBEZ.