“Bitch, I feel like Makaveli back in ’95”
-KAAN, Makaveli ’95
First, let’s get this started with a slight disclaimer: This editorial is long overdue. I say this because I first contacted Brandon way back in September of 2015. It’s now February of 2016 and this is just taking its first breath. However, take my word on it when I tell you that the wait was well worth it.
You’re probably wondering who this dude “Brandon” is. To explain him in the simplest of ways; his name is Brandon Perry and he’s a 25 year-old rapper currently killing it in Maryland. The thing is, Brandon isn’t necessarily a “simple” guy. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t even go by Brandon Perry. If you know of him, you know him by K.A.A.N. No, not like the Khan from Star Trek or Genghis Khan from your AP History class, but K.A.A.N. as in Knowledge Above All Nonsense. For short, call him Knowledge because that’s what he is embodies in his music. He becomes the literal physicality of Knowledge.
Knowledge made a name for himself with his impeccable and untouchable flow, as well as his ability to spit abstract rhymes at rapid fire speed, and of course his catchphrase “LAWD!”. All of this started about 4 years ago, when he was 21. Before this age, Knowledge wasn’t fond of writing nor recording music, he was only familiar with the art of freestyling verses. KAAN released his first project on Soundcloud about a year ago entitled Losing My Religion, which is when the world experienced only the very beginning of the wrath of KAAN. Now, at age 25, Knowledge is well on his way to becoming one of the most prominent talents of the rap genre.
Exhibit A. In “Concealed The Outro”, Knowledge lets us into his mind, touching on personal ambitions and his past. Of course, he does so in the most sophisticated way possible –musically speaking–, accompanied by nonstop bars for about 4 minutes straight without break.
“Concealed The Outro” currently has over 300,000 plays on Soundcloud and counting. The fast paced track plays as a gateway into the world of K.A.A.N for most, as many of his current fans discovered this track first, before feeling the need to quench a new thirst for more Knowledge.
Now for exhibit B. “Kaancepts” is another one of Knowledge’s most profound tracks in which he spits 50, 60, 70, at least 100 bars just nonstop in varying flows that are executed effortlessly. This was the second KAAN track I found.
After discovering these two gold mines, I was sold. I started to dig through Knowledge’s Soundcloud, only building my interest to new heights, and soon enough caught myself listening to the EP 1/29/199?, which dropped last year. Immediately, I assumed this dude was signed to, like, Roc-Nation or at least G.O.O.D. Music or something. Nope. He’s simply an indie rapper from Maryland doing his thing with a healthy following of at least 20,000 strong. I had to get to know more about this guy. It’s rare to find true lyricism and actual meaningful rap on the internet. Now it’s a lot of trap or trap music, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just… literally everyone is trying to be a trap artist. It’s the new wave.
I had many questions for Knowledge. We spoke on his name, his passion, his inspiration, what’s dope in music, what sucks in music, pretty much everything. Knowledge’s perspective on life is quite rare. Read our conversation below.
Tell me more about yourself. Who is KAAN?
I just turned twenty five. I’ve lived in Maryland my entire life. I’ve been doing music seriously for a little over three years.
What does your name mean? Is it an acronym?
My name is an acronym. It’s Knowledge Above All Nonsense.
Are you aware that your flow is fucking crazy? Do you stop to take a breath when you record or just spit continuously?
I see people comment on the flow, or the cadence. To me its not the craziest thing in the world honestly. Guys have rapped fast since the art form’s inception. Guys like Bone Thugs, Twista, Treach From Naughty By Nature, Tech 9, Eminem, E-40. Pac did it early in his career on records like “Five Deadly Venoms”. Jay Z did when he was rapping with Jaz O. There’ll be takes, or cuts in some of the songs, but we record so much its not like were keeping track of it. If it sounds dope I’ll keep it. If not I’ll trash it. My only focus is just trying to make the shit sound as good as possible honestly.
When did you first notice you had a true talent for the art?
I never had a moment when I realized I could rap, or rap a certain way honestly. I always freestyled when I was younger. I just never recorded, or wrote, until I was twenty one, almost twenty two. When I first started taking writing seriously I basically copied off of Curren$y. I’m a huge Curren$y fan. I love all his stuff, and I still play his music heavy. Stoned immaculate had just came out, and I was just so deep into his music I just started writing. I was writing to random instrumentals, and beats I found on youtube. I would just sit down, and try to mock currency’s cadences, his subject matter all of it. I recorded that stuff, but it sounded like a terrible currency impersonation. Never put any of it out, but over time I started writing about my life, and really started attempting to be original, and talk about my life.
Is there any one thing you feel you could improve on?
What I personally want to improve is writing more relate-able material. Stuff that resonates with a lager audience. It takes time to get to that point where you take your life experiences, or the experiences of those around you and are able to put them in a song to where its extremely easy to receive, and people feel as though your speaking to them. I feel like that’s tied in with having your own sound. I don’t feel like I have a sound at this point. Creating a unique sound is what I’m pushing, and aspiring to cultivate at this point. Having, and creating your own sound is the only way to separate your self from others, and stand out.
Other than rap itself, what has inspired you and your music?
I like to read. Especially about historical figures, religion, innovators, and creative periods in human history. I watch a lot of movies.
What artists have made the most impact on your material?
For me in terms of wanting to be like them in a way, or finding inspiration through them its Tupac, Kurt Cobain, Sixto Rodriguez, Eddie Vedder, Jim Morrison, Michael Jackson, Logic, Childish Gambino, Kendrick, J. Cole, Curren$y. Anything from the Motown era from Tammy Turnner, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson. I played Eazy E’s first album a lot growing up. Wu-Tang, Nas, Big Pun, Big L, Jay Z, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Lauryn Hill, Johnny Cash, James Brown.
Anything about the music industry that you can honestly say you don’t fuck with at all?
Honestly, I’m not apart of the music industry, so I don’t know everything about it. I’m an independent rapper throwing songs out on the internet. The few people that have contacted me, or I’ve met with, or even sent verses to were cool
honestly. From the conversations, and interactions I’ve had to me it seems like nowadays unless you know someone that can get your music in front of a gatekeeper, or decision maker you’re on your own. Even if your the dopest artist in the world If the business people with in this industry don’t feel that your marketable. That money can be made, or recouped off you then they’re not willing to take a chance on you. To me it seems like people are waiting for you to make that song, or project that they can make money off of. Which is cool. That’s how business works. My thing is that were not guaranteed anything in life. You could make music 24/7 everyday all day for years, and still not make that perceived hit record, or hit project. Me personally if I build something by my self with the people around me then those are the only people im cutting a check with. Im not fucking with the vulture mentality, of you do all the foot work, and we’ll cover you on the back end. Thats dead to me. If I
create a hit song, or project that takes off I don’t intend on including any one other than the people that helped me along the way.
“It’s very hard to find positivity, or things to be happy, or proud of while you’re damn near losing your mind trying to make something happen that seems impossible.”
What do you feel the music industry needs more or less of right now?
I think it needs more variety. More artist that are speaking about deeper issues, with more thought provoking content. You look at J. Cole, for example. His album was a story about a guy losing him self, and wanting to get back to his roots. The whole album to me was like the saying be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. The albums about a guy getting all of the things he’s ever wanted, and when he gets them he realizes none of it made him happy. It made him miserable. The only thing that made him truly happy was all the things he over looked on his journey like family, and home. I’d like to see more mainstream projects like that. He’s so genius that he did it in a way that if you only surfaced listened to Forest Hill Drive, you still enjoyed it because of the sounds, the song structures, the melodies, the rhyme schemes. To me that project feeds you intellectually. It makes you question yourself. Your motives. Why we’re chasing the shit we’re chasing. What does any of the materialistic shit mean if we’re not truly happy. I don’t think we need less of anything. There’s a time, and a place for everything. Guys that rap predominantly about the “trap”, and all that stuff are speaking about the reality they live in. It may not be for me, or you, but a guy like future for example is speaking for a demographic of people that no one is speaking for with in the mainstream. He’s they’re voice in terms of talking about those types of life experience, and struggle.
Do you feel artists who have gone through more a struggle tend to have more meaningful or better music than those who live the average life?
Honestly no. I feel like every one struggles, or deals with tough issues through out they’re life at some point, or another. I feel like until you walk in some one else shoes, and put your self in they’re position you cant judge a persons plight. People make music based off what they’re inspired by, or what they like to hear. I think artist decide how personal they want to be with they’re audience. You never really know what someones been through until they open up about it. Until then it’s all just speculation, and uninformed assumptions.
Tell me about the song “Concealed The Outro”. What is that song about and what made you want to make it?
There wasn’t much thought to it honestly. It was the quickest song I wrote for that project. It took the least amount of thought, and effort to write. I heard the original version which was by Yo Gotti. It was a track off one of his mix tapes called “Fuck Em”. My boy played it while we were smoking. I looked for the instrumental when I got home, and wrote it the next day in a few hours. That project was done, and I said fuck it and put it on there.
Now, Makaveli ’95 is my ultimate favorite track of yours. I’ve listened to it at least 50 times within the week. Tell me a little more about that song and why you feel like ‘Pac back in ’95.
Appreciate you listening to the music. I wrote it in Oklahoma city at my boy Josh Sallee’s house. He also raps. Really dope down to earth guy. My engineer & I were out there for a week and josh was playing beats. That particular beat came on, and I was really feeling it and he gave it to me. His friend whose producer name is Cub$ made the beat. The song itself is more about a mental state than anything. 1995 was the year (Tupac) went to jail for sexual assault. I’ve watched every documentary, read every autobiography that there is on (Tupac). Everything that I’ve read, and watched that talks about that time in his life describes it as a hectic, unsure period in his life. That was a year when his career was in a good place, and it was all in jeopardy because of his incarceration. There was a lot of frustration. anger, and uncertainty. In certain interviews he describes how he felt alone, and betrayed by the people around him. While I wrote the song, I related to him in the sense of the uncertainty, the inability to trust those around you. I wasn’t at home for that week, so I was out of my comfort zone, and familiar surroundings. To get out of jail, he signed with Death Row because he didn’t have the money to post bail. So there was a sense of hopelessness, which is how I view a lot of things, honestly, including the music. It’s very hard to find positivity, or things to be happy, or proud of while you’re damn near losing your mind trying to make something happen that seems impossible. Overall, the song represents a mental state of hopelessness, and disparity in a bleak situation. Obviously I’m not in jail, but I used that part of his life as the tool for artistic expression. To express the way I was feeling without saying it.
“Rap, hip-hop, whatever you want to call it, was created by African Americans that didn’t have money, and weren’t into disco and the music of that time, and wanted their own form of expression.”
Within the last few years, music with barely any solid lyrical content, but with heavy instrumentals have been receiving more attention than artists who use strong lyricism and storytelling. How do you feel about this? Do you think that lyrical content should be a valued aspect of rap music along with the instrumental?
I think people are playing and listening to stuff they feel. If you turn on your radio it may be a lot of trap, but if that’s what people are feeling, and that’s what’s selling, then there’s going to be a high concentration of it. It doesn’t matter what genre, or period in time it is. Whatever is selling is going to be pushed, and reproduced and given to the people ’cause that’s what they want to hear. I can’t be mad at the next man doing his thing. I may not have the same perspective, or even like the music itself, but from me trying to push my music, and get out there I know how hard it really is to do what a Future or Drake does. It takes a lot of work that people don’t see. It may not be my cup of tea, but you gotta respect the next man’s grind. Can’t be bitter or hate on others for doing the same thing you do just because they’re more known or successful than you. Lyrics are the only thing I care about. I really only listen to lyricists. I like to hear people talking about issues or things they’ve experienced or gone through. That’s just me, though. To each his own. People listen, and support stuff they feel and relate to.
“When you think about the size of our universe, we are so small in the grand scheme of things. I just refuse to believe we’re put here for the superficial bullshit we’re fed on the regular.”
Would you agree that rap is one of the most powerful forms of music out there?
I think it is. Its so apart of American culture now that its impossible to overlook it. You got people that can’t even name every republican, and democratic candidate or any of they’re policies, but know every word to “Hotline Bling”. It’s undeniable at this point. But this is what the originators of the art form wanted. For this art to be placed on a pedestal, and be appreciated at the highest level. Rap, hip hop, whatever you want to call it, was created by African Americans that didn’t have money, and weren’t into disco and the music of that time, and wanted their own form of expression. Guys like DJ Cool Herc, Marly Mal, Grand Master Flash, Curtis Blow, Eric B & Rakim, RUN DMC. All these guys sacrificed, and grinded so the art could get to where its at today. Rap, hip hop what ever you want to call it is the most influential music of my generation.
The concept of knowledge plays a key role in your music. What is it about human knowledge that intrigues you so?
I’m always trying to learn something. I’ve always tried to understand things that I’m ignorant to. I equate knowledge with trying to be a better person honestly. Wanting to improve not only mentally with the things I know, or things I’ve learned from experience, but wanting to improve as a person overall. To be more kind, more generous, and giving. Not just be someone that’s so consumed with my own selfish needs, like making money and having this or that to where I forget the reason why we were put here. That’s to help other people. When you think about the size of our universe, we are so small in the grand scheme of things. I just refuse to believe we’re put here for the superficial bullshit we’re fed on the regular. Wanting to learn more, embracing knowledge, and just learning period I feel like can give some sort of insight on how to be a better, helpful, more positive person.
Is there anything you want to tell to other young aspiring artists who might be reading this?
I’m still trying to come up my self. I still have a lot of days where I’m more frustrated then enjoying myself. Shit’s only fun sometimes now. Most days it’s just stress for real. I have no idea what I’m doing, and the more I try to understand the real intricacies of putting yourself in a good position, the more I see all the bullshit. Honestly it’s a lot of days where I’m like fuck it. Some of the stuff people pay attention to, and point out in the music is mind blowing to me. Growing up I just listened to the stuff I liked, and appreciated it for what it was. I never went on the internet, and liked, or disliked something. I never left comments on shit, even if I was crazy about it. It’s more the people listening to the music I don’t get. You can’t read comments, ’cause its either “you’re the greatest in the world”, “you’re my favorite”, or “you’re the fucking worst, your musics terrible”. Theres an elimination of the gray area, and you’ll never get a real sense of where you’re at. People don’t point out what they like, and don’t like. Where they think you should improve, or where your strong suits are. It’s just an over extradition of they’re positive or negative opinion. I would just tell anyone to do what they love until they don’t love it anymore, ’cause that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Just do what you’re passionate about, and if that passion no longer makes you happy, and frustrates you, find another passion, or interest.
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