Ra’ed Poetical and Holly Hope Harper meet greet and discuss his bright future with Roc Nation’s most recent UK acquisition, K. Koke. Hailing from North London, he began the year on BBC 1Xtra’s Hot for 2011 list and with the likes of Jay Z signing him after the release of his first and only mix-tape ‘Pure Koke Volume 1’ there is no doubt that the 25-year-old is well on his way to fame and fortune. Here Flavour gets an exclusive insight on what makes the artist – whose real name is Kevin Georgiou – tick. (Please note: this interview was completed before his arrest).
Nice to meet you sir! It’s all been a bit hectic. You’ve had a lot of positive hype surrounding your music recently, has it sunk in yet?
Yeah, I’m just riding the wave to the grave you know, I’m here and I’m good…
For those who have been locked in a cupboard for the last few months who is K. Koke?
K. Koke is fresh out of Stonebridge, North West London; I’m just out here on my grizzy, trying to put it in.
Speaking of the name K. Koke where does it actually derive from?
In a nutshell K. Koke is actually a road name; because I’m white and I spit that pure, raw music that has listeners hooked.
You mentioned that you’re from Stonebridge, what was it like growing up there?
Stonebridge is notorious for drugs and gun crime; it is what it is though, it was hard, but when you’re out there, living it everyday, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. We grew up around it; it was what we were used to.
How did music come in to it, do you think it was an escape?
Yeah of course! When certain things were going on, when life got hard and cold I would turn to music, it gave me an opportunity to free my thoughts and pass time.
Do you think if you hadn’t done music your life would have been at all different?
Yeah definitely, I could be dead, in jail or even worse…
How would you describe your sound?
I don’t know, God, I don’t think I could pigeon hole it. I suppose I would call it road music or UK music, somewhere in between those I guess.
You’ve had comparisons made between you and some very successful and well-known rappers including Ja Rule, how does that feel?
That’s a crazy one isn’t it…I never really used to listen to Ja Rule, I didn’t really feel him, I don’t actually know where that comparison has even come from!
If you had to say that your sound was similar to someone, who would it be?
I can’t answer that; I don’t want to answer that!
There is a young rapper from Leicester called El Khaled who really looks up to you, if you could give him any advice, what would it be?
I’d tell him to just do his ting, keep doing him, stay true to himself and work hard, get me, if he keeps that up he can’t lose.
Your lyrical content is very deep; it’s almost poetry, where does it come from? Does it all derive from personal experiences?
Yeah definitely, everything I talk about is an experience I’ve been through; seen, heard, and lived- I just speak my mind and my feelings.
Do you need to go somewhere to write or does it just come to you?
Often it comes wherever I am, but sometimes I like to be alone to write, no distractions, I can just zone out and do my thing. I am strictly a pen and paper man, I like to feel the rhythm in my wrists when I write – it’s not the same doing it on your phone or your computer. The music I write to depends on the mood I am in, sometimes I just go with what I’m listening to, its different every time.
How did the process of your mix-CD ‘Pure Koke- Volume I’ come about?
I just made songs, I didn’t realise how good they were until we put it all together, I did have the intention of making a mix-CD but it wasn’t my first priority. It actually took me four years to make it; I kept getting lost in the roads and even though I knew I had all these songs I hadn’t really thought ahead enough to see an end date. Eventually I just put them all together and made a CD.
Did you expect to get as much recognition as you did?
Yes and no, I feel what I’m doing, obviously you can’t expect people to like you if you don’t like yourself but the amount of recognition I got for it was definitely more than I expected.
Do you think social networking websites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter help up and coming artists?
Yeah of course! YouTube was our main help; it let us put ourselves out there when TV and radio wouldn’t. YouTube really let people see what we were about, and helped us get the love we’re getting now. Facebook played a big part getting me out there too.
Your ‘Fire in the Booth’ session with BBC 1Xtra’s Charlie Sloth got over a million views, how did that feel?
Its love you know, that is my first million views.
You’ve actually been signed to Roc Nation and Sony RCA, how did that process came about? Do you know how they’d heard of you?
I’m not really sure, maybe the hype that I’d created in London; I had a bit of buzz around me at the time. It all happened really quickly; we literally had one meeting and then made it official. Being signed after one mix-tape feels like a really great achievement, but saying that it’s still the beginning of my journey, I’ve still got a long way to go. I just want to knuckle down and get it in.
Tell me about Volume II. How does the sound differ from Volume I? Do we still get the rawness of K. Koke?
The Volume II mix-CD was released in April, it’s in the same format as Volume I and was hosted by DJ Livewire again and has 19 tracks. It has the same effects as Pure Koke Volume I but you definitely see the growth in my music.
Do you have boundaries now that you’ve been signed or are you still going to say what you want to say; you’re known to be ruthless.
I am always going to say what I want to say, I can’t change who I am and who I am is why people like me and what got me here.
Going back to what I was saying about artists adapting, some have become commercial to sell more records, do you agree with that?
No I don’t, I don’t feel like people have to change their style to become commercial, I want to prove that.
What can we expect from K. Koke?
Good music, hard work and real life ‘ish’.
Photography by Storm Parties