“I’m starting to second guess it,” Krizz Kaliko says of his newly released, highly personal album, GO. “When I’m inside out like that, I have to relive the bad parts every time I talk about it.” Nonetheless, the Kansas City rapper forged ahead with his most intimate record to date, addressing everything from depression and anxiety to infidelity and relationships.
After five solo rap albums, Kaliko has clearly jumped the track with the 16-song effort. It bursts with infectious R&B grooves, pop sensibilities and heart-wrenching lyrics, words he’s wanted to purge for years. A self-described “unlikely pop star,” it seems he’s finally mustered up the courage to pursue his dreams of being a singer full force.
Kaliko, who came to prominence alongside fellow Kansas City rapper Tech N9ne and Strange Music, Inc., has managed to build an impenetrable Hip Hop empire over the past two decades. GO, however, is able to portray the seasoned artist with a vulnerability his fans have never seen before, which allows him to be brutally honest about everything he’s experienced in his life—the good and bad.
Prior to GO‘s reveal [Friday, April 8], Kaliko released two videos for the tracks “Stop the World” and “Talk Up On It,” which show the artist in two completely different moods.
“Stop the World” is a somber ballad about suicidal thoughts and depression while “Talk Up On It” is an uptempo song full of celebration. If anything, GO paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to be a human being. Kaliko just happens to have label mates Tech N9ne, Stevie Stone, Rittz, CES Cru, JL, Wrekonize to help him out along the way.
In anticipation of his acoustic set in New York City on Monday, April 11, Kaliko opens up about his struggles with mental illness, being an undercover Michael Jackson and how music is his salvation.
The Source: Listening to GO, I was blown away. I had no idea you could sing like this. What made you want to do this record?
Krizz Kaliko: That’s a crazy record, huh? That album is like you’re dancing and your heart is broken at the same time. Some of the stuff that’s positive I love reliving, but some of the negative things I’m forced to relive because of interviews and everything else I do. I talk about it, but it can be a little bit painful sometimes. I feel like I make the sacrifice for fans and other people; new fans and people who have been with us forever. I feel like I make that sacrifice with my music.
It gives the listener a lot of insight into who you are as a person. Was that kind of the idea behind it?
That’s exactly the idea—to be more and more transparent. It’s a sacrifice I’m making. I’ve grown up as a Christian guy and I’m not sure where I am with my Christian faith anymore, but if you believe Christ existed at all, it was a sacrifice—not the dying part, but going out on a limb and saying what you believe is a sacrifice for other people to learn and grow from it.
“Stop the World” is a tough one. You lay it all out on the line. It’s clearly addressing suicide and depression. What was going on that propelled that song to come to light?
Just going through things I go through—like life and relationships. It takes you up and down while going through mental things I go through, which is something I’ve openly talked about—from having trauma as a kid to my young adult life to everything I’ve gone though. I’ve even had some exams done on my brain, where I found out my chemicals are off. The good part is it makes me ultra-creative. My mind was taking me on this trip earlier this year and I felt like I was seconds away from…you know, I was trying to get help. I was trying to get help with therapy and all that. I was really close to feeling like this wasn’t the place for me anymore. The blessing is I can write about it. I have a way of putting all of those things into song form. It is what you hear on GO.
How are you feeling today?
Up and down. I felt super happy to see all the comments on my video. I feel good about how the people are receiving the album and everything surrounding my record. It’s crazy though—I was sitting there thinking, ‘Why do I have this overwhelming sense of joy and sadness at the same time?’ It’s just how my brain works. I’ve learned in recent days to appreciate by brain, both the good and the bad. That makes me create that kind of album. Had I not been kind of tormented, I don’t think it would have come out like it did. If I acted like everything was hunky dory, I wouldn’t have had the emotion to express things the way I did.
Right, and you wouldn’t have true to yourself. It’s so authentic you can’t help but to feel it.
And I mean it. We’ve been selling it on the road the last couple of days and fans have been coming up to me just crying. Everybody online has been telling me that, too. A buddy of mine who customizes all of our cars, who I’ve known forever, text me the other day saying, ‘I can’t believe you have me in tears over here. I hate you [laughs].’ I was like, ‘Man, I was just writing my life.’ I’ve ben getting text after text saying they can’t believe I can do music like this.
I can’t either. It’s like you’re an undercover Michael Jackson [laughs].
That’s what everyone’s been saying all day—even about the album, not just about the video. You know what’s really weird? I fell asleep last night in front of the T.V. on the tour bus. Our big homie and security guard Muggs watches all this death and destruction stuff. I woke up and he was watching Autopsy and it was about Michael Jackson. It’s funny because everything they were saying about his last days, I identified so much with it. I went to bed dreaming about it. I woke up and I was like, ‘Damn there’s so much Michael Jackson in my head.’ It kind of creeped me out.
How does it feel for it to finally be out in the world?
I’m really excited about the release, but I was kind of sad to that day, too and I was like, ‘Why?’ I think it’s because I see a lot of him in me. For a lot of diff reasons—creatively and the medications he was on. I knew every single one. I took ‘em all. Only thing I didn’t take was demerol. I’ve taken all of that other shit. I even took propofal when I had knee surgery. I never allowed myself to get hooked on prescription medications even when my brain was telling me to. My brain was telling me drugs and alcohol would get me over the hump. I don’t think that’s what the universe has in store for me. I’m stronger than I think. I just start eating organic food and working out instead. I have children. That’s the most important thing.
Yeah, you want to be around for them.
I do because I lost my daddy when I was a little kid. I feel like I got cheated. I want to be there for my kids.
I totally get it. Once you get to a certain age, you’re like, ‘Oh wow I’m not immortal?’
It’s very interesting you started off the interview the way you did because I remember interviewing Tech right after K.O.D. came out and that was a super dark record, and he said it was really hard reliving it over and over again any time he’d talk about it or perform it.
We talked about that. We always talk about that kind of stuff. When he was going through it, we talked about it. I’m with him every day. He’s literally 20 feet from me right now. We only live separate lives when we’re in Kansas City. He’s a single dude and I’ve got a family. I’m at Little League games and changing diapers, so it’s a totally different life when I don’t have to be Krizz Kaliko. I mean, I always have to be, but you know what I mean.
Right. There’s a difference between the artist and the man.
Absolutely, but not much though. My art imitates my life.
Especially on this record. There’s not much more you can say. I feel like I know you more than before I listened to it.
You do. Everybody does.
I think it’s super brave. How were you feeling the day before it came out?
I was living with that music for awhile. I knew what was coming my way. I knew anyone that interviewed me was going to ask about anxiety and depression, and mental health issues. I’m getting ready to do Sway in the Morning and I know that’s going to be the first thing he’s asks me about. It’s just crazy because I don’t want to be known as some psychotic dude, but I want to bring awareness to mental health issues. It doesn’t mean I’m a maniac. Life happens to people. Trauma happens to people that creates negative thought processes in your brain. They can throw off chemicals in your brain where you’re suffering constantly, which is what happens to me.
Does it scare you?
I feel like my brain is saying go do drugs, commit suicide, get on alcohol, but that’s not for me. It’s for me to go through these things and paint the pictures for the people so they can party with my pain.
You are talking to the world. Why do you think it’s so important to get this message out there?
I can’t remember where I was, but a fan told me they loved my message in my music and that I talk about issues nobody else talks about, but there’s never a solution at the end of my songs. They said, ‘If I was suicidal, I would probably still do it because you don’t have a solution.’ I was like, ‘Damn, there’s no resolve.’ When I was doing “Stop the World,” I was like I just cant’ leave ‘em like this. I remember Tech having that message to mentally disturbed to his album. I snatched the vocals to his song and put it on mine. I went to his house and played it for him. He was really tripped out. After my mother heard the album, she called me saying how sorry she was. I told her I might be a bit of a sacrifice. And said, ‘Mama, don’t worry. You don’t know how much my music helps people.’ I feel glad I’m able to do this.
The more I talk to you the more I admire you.
Thank you. The music is going to find its way to people. I feel like it’s God’s order for me to do this. I don’t even have to blast it to people. It’s going to find its way to the people and it’s going to be the biggest shit ever.