Having toured the world with some of the biggest names in rap and recently released his EP ‘Draughts Pic’ Zimbabwean born emcee Kulez is ready to conquer the music world. Here the 22-year-old London bases rapper talks to Flavour about his love for music, how he got his name and why he doesn’t like the word controversy.
When and where did your love of music begin?
I played musical instruments from an early age, piano, had a go at the guitar, touched on the drum kit. But didn’t really connect or stick to anything majorly until I begun rapping, I guess it was the freedom of speech that I liked about it. The freedom to just ride a beat, change flows or concepts as you desire. No real set rules. I wasn’t a fan of rules either from an early age.
Where did the name Kulez come from?
It is a Zimbabwean slang term used between male family members. My cousins used to call me it, wasn’t quite sure about the meaning at the time but I liked the way it sounded, so I kept it as my stage name. It actually means grandfather – for the amount of years I have been putting work in the scene I might as well be known as that.
What is Kulez about?
I have been known as Kulez since I was about 15, it meaning something like grandfather, I’m going for ahead of my time. Two steps in front. I remember this old lyric I used to drop in ciphers like, “Call me February 29th, because I’m so ahead of my time I leap years”
Where do you want to go?
Only time will tell, I didn’t start battling with the aim to be a boy wonder YouTube sensation with over a million views that gets flown out to America to represent the United Kingdom. At the time YouTube was nonexistent, we were on the streets mocking other rappers to build a reputation and earn stripes.
Tell me about your journey how did you get to your current position?
My current position is working on an independent debut album. I feel the time is right, the following is there and I feel confident enough to push a successful album on an indie level. Got here from battling on street corners, hustling C.D.s at raves and jumping on any stage I could possibly get on – the hunger. One lyric I used to love raping at house parties was “What you know about the system, rolling with the mics and plugging them in where ever there is a system”
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
A lot of writers do pick out on bits of my career in articles and stuff, (especially the battling which gets a bit tiresome, like that’s all I am known for), but I don’t feel I have reached a real career highlight yet.
You’ve toured the world with some big names in hip hop and grime. Do you have a favourite memory or moment from this?
Probably my early days, my first experiences of really having a dressing room. Meeting influential hip hop artists like Brother Ali at such a young age and performing on the same stage as him.
What motivates you?
A good story. Seeing people like Matt Stone and Trey Parker who came from starving artist’s backgrounds, moving to Hollywood, given $1200 to create a video post card that turned from an underground stir into a global cartoon – having such a divisive track like Blame Canada being Oscar nominated.
What 5 songs are you listening to at the moment?
In no particular order:
2 Pac – Trading War Stories
Eminem ft. Kobe – Talking to Myself
Flatbush Zombies – Caps Lock
Akua Naru – Nag Champa Gold
French Montana ft. Curren$y – So High
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in your career?
No real challenges, if you are an independent artist you need a lot of self motivation. Jay Z says it best, “difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week.” You need to be ready to get the job done by any means within reason.
Tell me about Draughts Pic?
Draughts Pic is an underdog tale stating I don’t care what the radio is playing, I’m not waiting for no promoter to put my name on a flyer, this is me self proclaiming myself as the pick of the bunch. Painting that rough draft picture in the form of a promo E.P before the final piece in the form of a debut L.P. Based on strategy games try guess the name of the album?
You had a track out called Pawn Star. Do you say controversial things or have a title like that because you feel you need to do that for your music to get attention?
I don’t like the word controversy. I feel it puts artist under bounders and pigeon holes them. People are too scared to say certain things because it’s controversial or may strike a nerve – that alone limits the song writing and creativity. I know not to bite my tongue or eat my words for anybody. As far as the title, it comes from the chess piece – it’s the most numerous and, weakest piece in the game of chess. I.e. me being humble, admitting I am still an underground rapper amongst millions of other underground rappers. I rap about a lifestyle and portrait the hunger a lot of underground rappers go through but they feel they have to dumb it down or hold it back when it comes to putting a record out. The star part is the transition from being just a pawn to actually shining out.
If you were able to create a super rap group of five members, who would be your first choices? Dead or alive.
Jay Z, Eminem, 2 Pac, Nas, Notorious B.I.G
What’s the plan for 2013?
Firstly release the album for all the fans out there and just to keep doing Kulez.