Tomatrax caught up with Canberra’s hip hop artist Citizen Kay, ahead of his Demokracy tour, to talk about the influences behind his music, how he got into rap and what you can expect from his latest album. Apparently Canberra is where all the music action is at! With a fast growing reputation Citizen Kay is definitely one to watch.
TRAX: What inspired you to be a rap artist?
CK: The inspiration for rap in particular I guess was mainly due to 2 people – my older cousin, Miracle, who had gotten signed to Sony at around the age of 17 or 18 was the first… I suppose seeing a family member achieving so much, so young made me want to do the same! The second was the day I came across Kanye West! That dude was and still is such a boss when it comes to music..he was the first hip hop dude I consciously made the decision and effort to really get into! For a year or 2 about 70% of music I listened to was Kanye!
TRAX: According to your bio, you taught yourself how do rap and make beats, how did you manage to do that?
CK: Teaching myself to rap is a bit of a weird thing to say now that I think about it. I mean, no one really goes out to a Rap School and gets a certificate in rapping haha… but I guess like every, or at least most other rappers I learned by listening to them do it, and then from that I began to form my own style, which I guess was really just a mixture of other peoples styles – mainly Kanye and Lupe Fiasco when I started!
To this day I think those early influences can still be really heard in my music. As for making beats, I still consider myself a bit of a rookie at it, but like a lot of things I try and learn, it’s just about experimenting, finding what I like and what I dont, and I suppose just working on it…which I’m still trying to really get the hang of. Making beats is really something I wish I could focus on solely for a year or so.
TRAX: Where did the alias Citizen Kay come from?
CK: It started from when I first began rapping – I used to go by ‘Kay’ (which wasn’t really the most creative of names) but when I started taking hip hop a bit more seriously the ‘Citizen’ was suggested mainly to individualise me a bit. So at first it didn’t have a lot of significance but in saying that I also didn’t really know what my aim or ‘style’ was. Now, though I think its worked out – the ‘Citizen’, I believe fits in well with the vision I have for the CK project. I want it to reflect a citizen of our world – someone, just like anyone else expresses their thoughts, feelings, opinions and emotions. Except that I do so through music. A ‘Citizen’ who isn’t afraid to speak their mind, no matter the circumstance…I guess basically it has come to have that sort of meaning to me.
TRAX: You have the mini album DEMOKRACY, how will this compare to your previous work?
CK: DEMOKRACY really isn’t different to my previous works in my opinion- it’s more of an extension of it, rather. From the beginning, before I even really knew the style/s of music I wanted to make, one thing I always said I wanted to be known for was versatility, a word people will hear me use a lot. My first EP was a small taste of what I could do; that I wasn’t a one trick pony. I wanted DEMOKRACY to further showcase that, rather than be one sound throughout.
TRAX: You’ve said that the inspiration behind your latest single, Freedoom, was different to your other tracks. How was the inspiration behind this track different?
CK: Freedom is one of a very small handful of songs I’ve written which is meant to be from the perspective of someone else. I challenged myself to put myself in the potential mind-state of another – a person living the rough streets filled with brothers killing brothers – a sad but very real thing. The concept and approach of the whole song was so different to anything else I’d tried to do which is one big reason why I like this track so much. It’s a song that will go over the top of most peoples heads but at the same time I know it will really connect with some on a deeper level – which is all I wanted from it. It wasn’t a song I’d ever imagine would be dropped as a single, that’s for sure.
TRAX: What was the inspiration behind the video for Freedoom?
CK: The video was all the work of my main man, Nic Vevers (who’s put together all my other videos). You’d have to pick at his brain for the real answer I think, but for me I wanted something simple/subtle but in a weird powerful way – something that would let the song be the forefront. I really wanted visuals that were enough to somewhat keep you locked in but not so much to distract in any way from what I talk about in the song.
TRAX: You’ve entered songs on Triple J’s unearthed page. Has that had any impact on your music’s exposure?
CK: Yeah, I think I have only one song on unearthed, Ansah Brothers, which is a song with my younger brother, Genesis Owusu. This made a huge impact on my exposure – it was the first song triple j and people in general heard from me as Citizen Kay and people just loved it! It was never a proper release because we didn’t expect anything of it but I think that song really got people, especially at triple j, to take notice. It was something different to everything else happening at that particular time there. After that though I haven’t uploaded anything else onto unearthed; I’ve been blessed enough to be able to have my music on the national Triple J station!
TRAX: What is the Canberra music scene like these days?
CK: Canberra is sooo wild! And so damn underestimated. There are MCs here that would destroy most of the hip hop you hear in AUS! I think we are really on a come-up – trying to prove ourselves because no one ever thinks Canberra can produce talent – which aint right in the slightest! So basically it’s in the works but I can guarantee you that in a few years Canberra musicians and rappers alike will become very known and respected in the national (and likely international) scene!
TRAX: You had a lot of critical acclaim for your debut EP. Does that make you feel any pressure in making your follow up music?
CK: Not at all actually – like I mentioned before, this mini-LP is basically just an extension of that EP, so if people liked that first release I’m sure they will at least appreciate this one . Since the EP I’ve grown a lot as a person and as an artist and DEMOKRACY really shows that growth in comparison to the YES EP!
TRAX: Do you ever listen to your own music?
CK: Sometimes! I meant A LOT when it’s being made – critical listening rather than for enjoyment though..a lot of the time I’m pretty over hearing the tracks before they’re even released..for example the last two singles; Manage and Freedoom were tracks that were written at least 3 years ago and they’ve just had some updates done to them!
TRAX: What other music do you listen to?
CK: To be honest these days I haven’t really been able to get into music like I once did – which is a shame. But bands like The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against The Machine are old favorites that I always find myself coming back to! I listen to a lot of music but just not religiously like I once did. I’ve been really into Kendrick, J.Cole though!
TRAX: What do you plan on doing once DEMOKRACY is released?
CK: Once this is released it will be all about shows! Getting the shows done but then straight after, and even a little bit during, I’ll be working on the next release, whatever that may be – just working on more potential songs and ideas and hopefully a few features!!
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