Kings Konekted, from the Underworld to the Underground /// INTERVIEW

In 2015 Kings Konekted released their highly anticipated debut album, Corrupted Citizens on Unkut Recordings. Following in the footsteps of label boss, Trem, with that D.I.Y. quality-over-quantity ethos and a penchant for grimey Hip Hop, the album was always going to be an end-to-end burner. To go behind the scenes of Corrupted Citizens, Ben Iota sat down with Dontez the Chief and Culprit the Captain to discuss their slow-cooked craft, local and literary influences, living by a code, and their upcoming releases that will have the faithful jonesing for a release date.

First of all, Dontez and Culprit, congratulations on the release of the long awaited debut LP, Corrupted Citizens. You two certainly don’t rush to release music and this album is a testament to the hard work that you have put into your craft. Corrupted Citizens is a beast.

Thank-you, we are glad to hear the positive feedback, & thank-you for having us.

Corrupted Citizens is tied together by strong underworld themes. Can you talk on what ultimately inspired the underworld to be the primary focus of your debut album?

Donnie: It’s not exactly something we consciously thought about, but the lifestyle we were living at the time informed that perspective. We were involved with, or witnessed most of the content we wrote about. Keep in mind we wrote majority of that album around 2010 so it’s a time now passed for us even though the project was released in 2015.

Culprit: To some people the content and that theme may seem like talk from the other side of the tracks, but to us, it is everyday plausible and possible. Like the skit on the album says “I publish everything I know“. From our community and our crew life we have seen, heard and been involved with a lot. And those events and experiences are the platform not just under Corrupted Citizens but also Kings Konekted as a whole.

‘Every word pertinent’– KK choose words carefully. As a Hip Hop listener of two decades, I appreciate the attention to detail and the craftsmanship that has gone into these songs. Can you describe the KK writing process?

Donnie: I don’t really have any set process for writing anymore, these day’s I make sentences/ words &concepts in my head while driving in the car. I try to make a sentence a day then write it down at the end of the week when I have a few that work together. I use the metronome on a phone app to get the BPM of a song and use as a guide.

Only on occasion do I write a verse in one sitting, I’ve become too picky. I puzzle it together overtime then adapt it to the music later. One verse could take half an hour or an entire month. We have a constant stream of beats Culps and I continually write to, we send ideas to each other weekly. There has never been any lapse of written content; in fact I think we write more now than we ever did. You have to have healthy competition or you stop pushing and become static.

Culprit: That’s very humbling. We would definitely consider ourselves lyricists in that we aim in every rhyme to create something the listener will value for many more listens. And ultimately, it’s something you have to LISTEN to. If you want to interpret it. Personally, I’m traditional with it. I only write my rhymes in a book, one book at a time. The lines themselves usually come from day to day thinking (in any situation) then converted to the book and worked on there. I only ever do the actual writing in the comfort of my crib. With my drink and smoke, and I only ever write to the beat. I’m not the type to write verses willy nilly then match ’em up. I gotta write to the beat. It dictates to me how to flow and what to say.

KK are not just spitting lyrics, there is poetry in the way you express yourselves, providing strong imagery for the listener. Can you reveal some of the writers or poets that you get in to?

Donnie: I’ve always had vast interest in the structure of things and the process more than the outcome. I read Crime, a lot of History, Biographies and some wild theories on Quantum Mechanics; I’ve delved into the world of Robert Anton Wilson, former editor for Playboy and Author of Prometheus Rising. I recently read a brilliant book by Edward Bunker called No Beast So Fierce, shout out Joshee 3000 for that gold. I loved the dialogue. My other favorite was House to House by David Bellavia whose book was a door to door account of the his Alpha Company’s presence in Fallujah in early stages of Iraq war.

Culprit: I actually read a lot. Everyday reader. But I only read crime books really. Specifically organised crime and in particular Sicilian and Italian-Sicilian organised crime. I’m a fiend for them books. Too many to name but Philip Carlo has written some gems in that category and John Dickie also. Best book I ever read tho has to be Marching Powder written by Rusty Young and Thomas McFadden.

You two have great chemistry as emcees, complementing one another with comparable voices, flows and wordplays. It harks back to some of the classic groups that emerged in the 90s- the Artefacts, Das FX, Smif n Wessun, who made their mark as cohesive teams, rather than coming across as individuals on a track together. Can you speak on the importance of partnership between emcees in a group?

Donnie: Chemistry, you’re correct. It is really the most important key reasons why groups fold or prevail. Culps new how to rhyme the first time he tried, we would have been around 17 years old hanging out smoking to Dog Pound and Yukmouth, but he is a natural. Culps has it straight up, he decided to represent with words while I chose the graffiti route. Slowly over the period of a year or so Culps had just made it fun for us to cypher, which eventually was dubbed “Freestyle Friday”. Once we started making beats it was all over, forget about it! We would meet to write 3 to 4 times a week at Culps house, and we did that till our mid 20’s religiously. I think that provided the foundation for our current mentality & the fact we are brothers before the music.

Culprit: For us, and advantageously it has come to be, is the key fact that we were boys, crew, before we were Kings Konekted. Our allegiance and cohesion was already established long before we knocked out our first track. Our styles grew naturally familiar with each others cause of that. I’ve lived with this man Dontez for years at a time when our economic status was… broke. We’ve built together, shared nuggets, stolen clothes and scraped together grub money, ya dig. That constant association and familiarity bred into our rhyme styles. Local slang and references on a local release are interesting to me, so I was pleased to hear.

Brissy west line lingo heavily peppered throughout the album, particularly on ‘Windtalkers’ (KK’s flip of Big L’s classic, ‘Ebonics’). I imagine the heads on your line are pumped to hear the local talk represented on track. How has the local west line reaction been to ‘Windtalkers’ and to Corrupted Citizens in general?

Donnie: It’s kind of funny that still made it to the album; we attempted the same concept on a separate beat a few months before which didn’t hit the mark. I remember I had this punchy sample from my Fruity Loop days stuck in my head so I pulled out the old laptop and pulled the sample into the Machine. I made the beat, Culps heard it the next day and demanded we use it. From what was really supposed to be much broader slang joint was really taken from about three or four older mates daily vocabulary. We sent word that we were making this track and the boys texted us the favorite sayings, we used less than a quarter in the end! laughs Once we showed our circle the recording they were in tears of laughter so we kept it. Trem attached it to the album and we are grateful he did.

Culprit: Word. There is a lot of pride attached to that track for many of our Westline comrades. Majority that I’ve witnessed hear it tend to laugh, because behind each reference to a word there is usually a memory of an event. I’ve had a couple boys look at me like “you cheeky fellas, gonna mention that ish eh”. laughs That there is inspiration to keep doing that localness ya know. First and foremost we make this music for those closest to us.

Dontez, your production is dark and brooding. It provides a perfect backdrop to the lyrics. What is it about the dark and brooding sounds that resonate with you? Also, can you speak on what drives you and gets the creative juices flowing when you are in the moment making beats?

Donnie: I’m drawn to the mood of a song, the mood of a sample and how I respond to it. We knew as a group what kind of samples and tracks we wanted on the first LP because we planned it years before. It’s the album we always wanted to make and knew we couldn’t move forward unless CC was completed and off our chest. I didn’t set out to make such a dark album really and in hindsight I was concerned it would be too heavy for the average punter to vibe with. My approach is strictly Akai MPC5000/2500 lots of records and a few instruments. I’m digging weekly, I can’t remember a week in the past 4 years when I haven’t made a beat. I’m heavily influenced by Blues so maybe that contributes to some of the melancholy music we make. I want to make the hairs stand up on your neck like GZA’s Killa Hills 10304 did to me.

The viewpoints and stories on Corrupted Citizens are spoken from the margins; from a place that doesn’t often get a look in in Australian mainstream society. Many heads have spoken of making Hip Hop their home because it is an accepting alternative to a mainstream that doesn’t represent them. Is this the case for KK? Can you elaborate on this from your point of view?

Donnie: Graffiti really was the draw card for me, the fact that you could gain fame for a specific skill set whilst remaining faceless, I loved that aspect. Graffiti writers back then were hard, and rolled with a code. My good friend Dane Brown is really the one to thank for that. His older brothers schooled me up when I had none (shout out the Fornowski Family). I remember we stole a Lench Mob Tape, a 36 Chambers dub, couple of rusto cans, Posca pens and that was that! I didn’t know what Hip Hop was but I knew I was part of a movement.

Culprit: For any individual who falls under the title of a Corrupted Citizen then the album is hopefully a representation. But for those who are not, then the album is a documentary of sorts. An education or even a wake up call. That’s our natural intent in this music game. For me, I started rhyming because I could not paint but I had the true desire to represent my team. My hand skills are bad. My homeboy Barex was the one who knew I was listening to the music from a real deep perspective, ya know, he could see me studying verses. He was the one that basically said to me have a go.

KK speak about traditional values, loyalty, honesty, humility, discipline and patience, which are lacking in a lot of young people these days. How have these values made you what you are today?

Donnie: I think our longevity as a duo shows you that we try follow those principal’s as best we can in our personal life. There is a mis-education about what some of these things really mean and in turn often misinterpreted. This is the digital age, Media is king and it’s cheaper to eat unhealthy. Young people are adjusting to this environment, nothing more. It’s what’s accessible and fashionable at the time. I see young kids from wealthy homes turn into drug fiends, and poor kids who want nothing more than to be able to go to school every day get caught in the vicious cycle of intuitionism. It’s about early education that starts in the home, if they have one. We can’t blame those kids for what they were never taught in the first place. We have to educate them before pointing fingers.

Culprit: Yeah man, how you conduct yourself and how you operate is how people going to recognize and remember you. We follow them with blind obedience. As a man, I’m not perfect. But in accordance with those values I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to and I’m not losing any sleep at night debating that. I think there are plenty of youngens doing the same these days. The ones that aren’t, most likely ’cause of ice. Yea I said it, get off the gear.

Where to now for KK, now that the debut album is out there? Can you give us any word on your upcoming projects and creative directions for the future?

Donnie: We have the Wax & Tape bundles for CC still to drop in 2016. There will be a nice little surprise for KK fans mid-year. For now I am currently writing and producing for another KK album whilst our Studio is being built.

I’m working on L Flows album for Unkut Recordings 2016. The “Konekt Game” E.P for Suspect the corax type out of the Karsniogenics camp . I’m still working closely with Stricknine on the Blaq Poet & Tragedy Khadafi Full Length projects.

Culprit: I’d like to think that we’re going to keep pushing this album to its maximum potential through the triple threat release, merchandise and of course live shows, which we take very seriously. As for making tracks… Never settle, never cease. It don’t stop. While there is no details now, any Konekted listeners can hear it right here right now, in terms of what were doing and creativity etc, we only do classic. No corny, no castrated. Chess pieces and the handcuffs, ya dig!

Cheers Dontez and Culprit. Best of luck and enjoy the fruits of your hard work.

Donnie: Peace Ben & OzHipHop.Com for having us.

Culprit: Much appreciation to all those who support us and our music. Peace. Thank you. If Cru’s Knew. Westline 4 3. Much Corrupted Citizens by Kings Konekted is out now through Unkut Recordings.

You can pick up the Corrupted Citizens via Unkut Recordings online store or all good record stores and stay up to date with the crew on Facebook here.