By: Saúl Berríos-Thomas | Layout Editor
Kid Ink is a Los Angeles based rapper, who gets his name because he is covered from head-to-toe in tattoos. He has been to Pittsburgh several times and is returning on Tuesday April 21 at Xtaza Nightclub. The Duke had a chance to talk to him about his new album and his show in Pittsburgh.
SBT: What went into the process of making your third new album, Full Speed and what were some of your favorite parts of putting that album together?
KI: The process of making that album was me just feeling like I’m going full speed and headed in the right direction. We have more confidence in the music and the movement and everything that we are doing. We want to take it further and go Full Speed with it.
My favorite process of the album is near the end of the process. After you have all of your radio singles done and you are at the end of the album you can make records to fill in on the album. You can have a little more fun making those songs that are a little more close to home instead of just making records for the radio and for the fans.
SBT: You started off making music in the underground hip-hop scene. You have had some major hit songs since then that differed from that style a bit. How much of a push and pull do you face between wanting to put out club hits, but also making the most “Kid Ink” music you can?
KI: It’s definitely one of those things where it’s the best of both worlds. Sometimes when you have those hits and you are getting acknowledged, your name is being heard, but sometimes when you have those big radio hits people don’t listen to the rest of your album. They miss things and they will judge you off of just that one song. Because they are not people who go out and buy albums they listen to the radio and only buy singles.
From there when you are not able to get a bunch of different sounding singles it takes away from that natural creative side that you put into the other records that everyone is missing. For me with this album I was glad that I was able to release all of my favorite songs first on the internet, do videos and put them through iTunes before the actual “Hotel” or “Be Real” singles were out. I was able to put some other singles out and get people excited about hearing the album because it sounds different than what they were used to.
SBT: One thing that makes you unique is no matter who you work with, you make it sound like a Kid Ink song. What goes into the process of collaborating with other artists? And how do you make it a Kid Ink song while maintaining the voice of those artists?
KI: What I do is I usually present the record not only with the hooks or the ideas done, but I sit down and talk to these artists. Like, with the Migos I was in the studio with them and able to explain what this could be and where the direction could go. We did a lot of records together, but I felt like out of the three records we had, [“Every City We Go”] was the one that stuck more as a Kid Ink song and something different from what they have done.
[Migos] still sounded good on the record. It opened doors for them, too, to do different things. From there the process is really just paying attention to those artists and being a fan and knowing what the limit is. I’m not going to go up to the Migos and play an EDM record and be like ‘Yo, this the work.’ It has to still fit a vibe. It is all about the content of the record that gets them in, not the sound. Once you get a sound that they are familiar with they say ‘Oh, I rock with this. I get what you’re saying on the hook.’
SBT: How do you balance between picking people to work with who are at the top of the game like Migos and Young Thug, and then also putting on new artists?
KI: It’s definitely a balance because you don’t want to over-extend your brand and make you seem like you are just being thirsty to get records out. The balance is really me just rocking with people that I am cool with or close with. Whether it’s the fans rocking with it or because we are in the studio all the time and doing shows together. It’s all natural vibes.
Of course you have to separate it and there are certain songs that I’ve done, that even if it was with a major label artist, I would say ‘Nah, this isn’t an album song, it is a mixtape song.’ So if there is a song that is really an album song, it goes on the album and it doesn’t matter who is on it. I will not be picky about the person as long as it sounds good. You see people like Drake and Kanye, every time they have a feature on their new record it is always someone you have never heard of and the music is good enough for that to work.
SBT: You are coming to Pittsburgh and you have been here before. What can we expect from Kid ink for the show coming up?
KI: Look forward to growth as far as the set and stage production. We grew last tour but I think this is the biggest stage production we have had as far as really having things built on stage and stuff I can stand on and jump on. This is the biggest show that we have done. It has been great. The feedback about how it’s been going has been great. It’s not just a hip-hop show, it’s a movie. We are trying to script it a little bit more and make sure things are always on point.
SBT: I have to talk to you about WrestleMania. What was like performing on that big of a stage and how much fun did you have with that whole night?
KI: WrestleMania is the biggest stage I have ever performed on. The entrance and that ramp … it was like a mountain climbing up that ramp. I felt like a wrestler coming down that ramp. I respect that whole scene. I grew up a wrestling fan. Wrestling sometimes bleeds over into the hip-hop game. These characters remind me a lot of the hip-hop game. How the characters act.
SBT: Was there a wrestler there that you met, that you were surprised that they were excited to meet you?
KI: There were a lot of wrestlers that were showing love. John Cena showed love in the middle of the match. He came over in the middle of his match and was like ‘What up bro?’ and then he went back to the match. Mark Henry came through and showed love. It was Hall of Fame time so everyone was there. I went into fan mode when I saw everybody out there. Triple H showed love, Stephanie McMahon showed love and that was great because growing up I had a crush on her at one point. The old school guys were the best for me. The Rock showed up. The UFC girl Ronda Rousey showed up. It was a very cool experience for me.
SBT: What can we look forward to with your involvement with the X Games?
KI: I’m really excited about the X Games. Definitely look forward to me showing how much I’m into the extreme sports. You might see me on a board or a bike out there. I might hit a half pipe if I’m feeling good.
Doors open at 6 p.m. for this all ages event and the show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $20-28 and are available at druskyentertainment.com. This interview was edited and condensed.