I.K.P. – New Music & Interview
Emcee/spoken word artist/producer I.K.P. (Infamous King of Positivity) released the single “MAGiC!” (produced by Swanny River) from In Positivity We Trust: I.K.P. 4 President, Pt. 2, out now. I.K.P. was born in the East New York section of Brooklyn, New York and raised in Norfolk, Virginia and is the head of Positivity Music as well as a veteran of the U.S. Marines. He previously released a visual for Executive Realness single “No Mention” on YouTube in 2015.
“I.K.P. stands for “The Infamous King of Positivity”. I respect a lot pioneer rappers and a lot of them had names that were acronyms and sometimes there’s a story behind it. For instance KRS-ONE is Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone, and there’s a statement there. He turned part of his real name to a tag name for when he did graffiti, then when he began rapping, he added another layer of substance, and that’s the type of sh** I f*** with! That’s a reason why I site him as influence. Then you have The Notorious B.I.G. (Business Instead of Games). Brooklyn all day. I was born in Brooklyn and some of my roots are there. B.I.G. is another one of my big influences. His energy on a song, delivery, personality, all effortless and in a class of its own. Then he had a group called Junior M.A.F.I.A. (Masters At Finding Intelligent Attitudes). Like, there was a vision happening there. LL Cool J, Ladies Love Cool James… that was his whole rap persona. Then you had N.W.A., DMX, and others that had some measurable influence on me. So my name stems from my mission to elevate people’s perceptions through Positivity, and also because of how devastating the HIV epidemic is especially to people of color. I’ve seen firsthand how it changes lives; how affects people’s perceptions of themselves and the pain that comes with living with the stigmas associated with it. This is a fight that’s near and dear to me especially when I’ve seen my own family members taken away by it, so it’s deep rooted in that sense. I felt it necessary to turn something that was viewed as a negative into a positive, so it’s almost like I wear the name as symbol of pride for those that may or may not have found the pride within themselves as a result from being affected by the condition.
What made you decide to become a rapper?
“I had always been the kid that was by himself a lot for many reasons. But I was always surrounded by rap music among other types. My older sisters listened to a lot of hip-hop and it made me curious. Then a cousin of mine, who I hung out with sometimes, came to me with one of the dopest freestyle verses. So wanting to be cool like him since he was older, I tried it. Writing little raps in my notebook. Turning stuff I wrote in my diaries into songs. They all sucked and those first raps, I probably threw them away, because when I showed em to my cousin that spit the freestyle, he said they sucked and they didn’t make sense. It was embarrassing, but I kept trying and nothing was ever really as dope as what my cousin did. He stopped and I kept writing since I didn’t have a lot of friends, not many people to talk to and I was often alone while mom and dad worked. After homework, there was nothing else to do. I used to go to Brooklyn a lot over my spring and summer vacations from school to stay with my aunt in East New York. At one point, I discovered another cousin of mine was spitting and she let me hear some of her tapes. I was blown away because back then going to a studio to record was a big deal to me and she was the only close family member I knew of doing it actively. I had to be about 13 or 14 at the time, maybe younger, and again wanting to be cool, I kept writing. What I wrote about? Who knows, but I do know I was listening to Ready To Die, Life After Death, Hard Core, some Eminem, some Rah Digga and others at the time, listening to what they did, adopting their styles and adapting my young perspective. Half the sh** they said, I didn’t even understand, and that’s what made it ill to me, because I had to try and decode their lyrics on my own, which was a mission pre-Facebook, much less Rap Genius! By then getting into my teens, all I listened to was rap. As I went to New York more often, buying mixtapes in Brownsville, carrying around my CD player and stacks of CDs on the trains, I was absorbing everything I could and applying it to pen and paper. I was lucky I never got robbed back then, because Brooklyn then was not the way Brooklyn is now and I was riding EVERY subway from terminal to terminal listening to music. It even helped me when I was back in school through some of my English classes because I always had to read something and write a paper. My teachers would love the way I wrote because I took in well how to formulate well-written paragraphs; my word game was on point and this is all stuff I applied to my early raps. One would influence the other. And there was always a paper I had to write. When I was done with that, I put something like “Everyday Struggle” from Ready To Die on, vibe out, dug deep into my feelings and my teen angst came out. Rap became part of my whole upbringing. The popular rappers became the early mentors that I didn’t really have teaching me how to creatively express myself. It was like when I wrote in my diaries before, except now everything rhymed. After high school, I joined the Marines and it was more of the same except because I was stationed in North Carolina, the more people that I met, exposed me to other styles of rap in different parts of the States. That’s when I started getting more into the Southern style of hip-hop and that’s just as vital to my development as all the East Coast stuff was. However, I didn’t start recording and performing until a couple years into my service when I had my own place and figured out how to set up a mic to record. This is Myspace-era now, so I could ask a random producer on a website I downloaded beats from how to do it. That’s what I did and started recording my demos, then a mixtape that I performed and sold at open mics around the area. At first the songs were pretty bad. Then I got the hang of it and the material got to a point where I was even comfortable performing it in public. I got booed a lot, but I did get some love too at them open mics and those were the confidence builders! I also sold some t-shirts in the process because people liked the designs. Eventually, after my time in the service was done, I went to school at Full Sail in Florida and studied recording arts and production and developed my ear for it and figured out how to use my voice better on records and performed at more open mics when I could. The more I studied and the more I practiced, the better my material got till I put out my first independent album, Ignoring the Known Protocol in 2011.”
What’s the first rap song you ever heard or remember hearing?
“Wow. I don’t know which song came first honestly, but there were three rap songs that looked like they were big hits in 1989 that I remember hearing or seeing on TV a lot. That’s MC Lyte And Positive K’s “I’m Not Having It”, Queen Latifah’s “Come Into My House” and “Ladies First”. It’s funny because all involve female rappers and I have a ton of respect and admiration for female rappers to this day. At the time though, I was just a baby, not even in pre-school yet. My sister was teaching me the alphabet and how to read and shit; she was already in high school. My family was still living in East New York, so I was around so many cousins, aunts and uncles all the time. I don’t think I was able to grasp the music the way I do now, but because the videos were on all the time, I can recall that distant memory through the repetition. Especially “Ladies First”, where Queen was moving the big chess pieces and the board had a little glow. And unless Positive K somehow entered my subconscious mind by osmosis or something, I would say the similarities in our stage names is pretty much coincidence.”
How did “MAGiC!” come together?
“I had moved to New York City. I was recording a lot and linking up with Swanny heavy, producing songs for In Positivity We Trust. By then I knew I needed to switch my style so I was looking for any type of record that would allow me to flex. Swanny had this track on SoundCloud at the time. It was one of the ones he was offering to anybody with cash to get the record. I begged him sooooo hard not to give that track up because as soon as I heard it, I needed it in my life. I remember 2014, when I wrote the record, being a f***ed uuuuppp personal year for me. I was JUST getting on my feet after being in different shelters throughout the year before. I hated life and I really just wanted to escape. I like cars and this was not too long after I gave mine up to my nephew to live in the city because without a good income and the way NYC is set up, it’s impossible for a broke nigga like me to have a car. I missed my car that I gave up because I was used to driving everywhere with it. Always getting speeding tickets. So just thinking about all that, I was like “Crown Vicky sideways on vogues”. Yeah imagine a car that’s literally nice as f*** with all the trimmings, sitting sideways. That’s MAGIC! That’s not normal! At least not for me. Then I saw Beyonce reppin it hard all in her “No Angel” video off that first visual album. The track sounded MASSIVE to me out Swanny’s studio speakers so it was Slab music basically, that’s where the Texas influence come in. Then it goes “…watch the inches disappear inside the throat”. Another magic trick… imagine that. I respect the different regions, cultures and experiences that go into the “melting pot” represented by hip-hop. I feel like everything has its place and everything that exists in hip-hop is not for everyone at a particular moment, but if it’s out there, there’s a chance that later you can come back to something you’ve heard, discover the roots of a certain movement within the culture and anything that coexists with it, learn from it and embrace it at your own time. So in a way “MAGiC!” does that because I incorporate elements of pop, West Coat rap via Too Short, Southern Hip-Hop and reggae in my tones and deliveries, just to celebrate some of the cultures I’m influenced by. I think that’s the magic with Hip-hop.”
What are your goals for 2016?
“In 2016, I’m building my brand by taking more chances. I’m continuing to support my album In Positivity We Trust, dropping more new music with a mixtape and I’m working with my group The AlliYance. We got a lotta dope s*** in store. My team is just building at this point, so it’s an interesting time. I’m always putting in work, creating new ideas, experimenting with different sounds so you never know what’s next. But as far as my album, after the “MAGiC!”, my next official single will be “You Know The Drill”. Video is on deck, and the mixtape, Make Peezy Great Again!, is coming after. I’m just evolving. That’s what it’s all about.”
Video: “You Know The Drill”