Thehiphopdiva.com spoke with Kandi Cole. Here’s what she had to say.
HHD: You’ve been writing since you were nine to ten years old yet you released your first song in ’99, “Priceless”. What made you decide at that moment to begin seriously forming your career as a hip hop artist?
KC: Well, at the time when I recorded “Priceless” I was going to college and I met up with a friend that I knew from back in the day. We kind of reconnected and he told me he would work me in the studio. He told me to come in, and you know, he had never heard me rap. He heard me rap and was like ‘Yo, we gotta record it.’ That was when I recorded my very first song. From that point I was like this is what I’m doing.
HHD: In one of your interviews you’ve mentioned that you are hip hop. What is your definition of hip hop and how do you feel you and your music stays true to that artform?
KC: I feel I am hip hop becasue I was raised with hip hop. When hip hop was a baby, I was a baby and we were raised together. So the pogression of it, the transitions of it from Big Daddy Kane all the way up to now Jay Z, Ludacris. Along with the music comes the culture. There’s the style of dress. I used to be a little graffiti artist back in the day. Alll of that is hip hop to me. If I walk down the street people know what type of music I listen to. I’m just that person. They’ll ask me ‘Do you rap?’ With hip hop it’s just a part of life. It is my life and that’s what I think it is.
HHD: What do you feel is the current state of hip hop and what do you think has contributed to bringing hip hop into its current state?
KC: Hip hop right now as far as mainstream has gotten away from where it started. You know where everybody was talking about what’s going on with them, and how we can progress, and self destruction back in the day. Now, it’s kind of gotten away from us a little bit because money got involved. People started chasing that dollar. So, right now the people that are getting the shots are the people who want the money. But MCs like myself who still write for the love of it, there’a million of us out there. We may not be on MTV, but we’re still grinding. We’re still making good music and that’s what’s going to bring hip hop back to where it is the voice of the people. If I was raised on this stuff today, I don’t know where I would be. These kids, I really feel for them. That’s why I want to put out quality music and be responsible with the art.
HHD: Who are you listening to right now?
KC: Method Man’s first album. I play a lot of old CDs. I like the power hitters – Kanye, Ludacris, Jay Z. But I think I’m stuck in the 90’s. Redman, Bahamadia. A new cat I kind of like is Blue. Blue is true to the artform and making good music. I like him.
HHD: You relesaed your first song in ’99 so basically you’ve been an underground atist for about 10 years now. Would you like to have a major record deal? What are your goals as far as your music career?
KC: I don’t consider myself strictly underground. I think I’m underground because nobody’s heard of me. I’m not trying to stay on open mics with a backpack for the rest of my life. That’s not my goal. My goal is not to have a major record deal. I don’t want that. I’ve seen too many horror stories where they try to change my content and put out this thing they think is marketable. What I want to market is good music. So, right now my current goal is to stay on tour for the next five years. Do that, get the word out, touch as many people as I can. But the independent artist is ultimately the route I want to go. I don’t want to go with a mjor deal because I don’t think I could have my creative control.
HHD: You are one of the artists with the (SIS)TEM. Would you like to see the (SIS)TEM branch out to include female hip hop artists all over the state of California, build to countrywide, and eventually worldwide? Can you see the (SISTEM doing that and is that one of the (SIS)TEM’s goals?
KC: Well, absolutely. Right now it was formed in Los Angeles but we have members in New York, members in the UK. We definitely want to reach out. We want female emcees to know that you are being heard and you are putting out good music and it seems like we’re not doing it individually. So, let’s see what we can do with the numbers approach. The (SIS)TEM is inclusive of emcees, DJs, vocalists, photographers. So, we just want everyone to be a part of it. Women can make good hip hop music. It’s been done before. It’s being done. Hey guys, listen to us we’re over here.
HHD: If someone wanted to be a part of the (SIS)TEM how could they reach out to you guys? How could they become a part of that or is it open? Do you guys reach out? How does that work?
KC: Absolutely, absolutely. I’ll go out with some of my sisters and we’ll go out to hip hop shows. I’m really an addict of supporting your local artists and supporting Indie artists. We’ll see some females rocking and be like ‘Man, she’s dope.’ We’ll see if she want to be part of the movement. We get a lot of emcees who hit us up, email@example.com. Say hello, we’ll get the conversation started that way. We’re definitely open to emcees. It’s not like we’re a gang and you gotta get jumped in. If you are doing your thing in a positive light in hip hop, we feel your pain, and let’s work together.
HHD: What, in your opinion, is the current state of the female emcee? Why do you think it’s that way?
KC: The female emcees that I know and work with versus the ones that are mainstream are too different. I feel like there really is no position for the female emcee in hip hop right now. I don’t really see any females putting anything out. I think it goes back to Foxxy and Lil Kim when they came out. They was real sexy and they sold like crazy. But when the major labels saw they were racy, sexy, controversial like that, all they wanted to sign after that was the same kind of rap artist. So, the tide kind of died down. Once you pump the industry with so much of one thing it just kind of gets bored with you. My intellect has heard it before. It was sad not to see Lauryn come back after her first album. She sold millions of records becasue we were hungry for that. Now we’re just trying to find this sexy, dolled up girls to be the back burner to the male dominated industry. The counterparts should be side by side, male and female, like it used to be. It’s not like that. I think the reason why there’s not a lot of females in the game right now is that the industry is trying to pump us wihth the same stuff we’ve been seeing and their overlooking the ones putting in the time and good work and effort.
HHD: Who would you say are the most influential female contributors to hip hop and why?
KC: MC Lyte, when she came out in like ’86 she got the ball rolling. Queen Latifah, just because she’s done so much in hip hop and continues to do more. Lauryn Hill. I want to say Salt ‘N Pepa. Anybody who’s done it before, they have the upmost respect from me. Da Brat.
HHD: Why is it important to you to collaborate with Erykah Badu? Why her?
KC: I just think with her, her music has touched me in a way that I would like to touch others. Just for an artist to embody the music the way that she does. I can only see it bringing out the best of me on tracks. She’s awesome. She’s big but down to earth and humble and I think that’s so important in the industry. She makes real music, you know. She rap when she want to.
HHD: What is your definition of a hip hop diva?
KC: A hip hop diva is someone who can put on a show, make you love it, go get in the car right afterwards and put on that CD. Someone who can do that and still remain true, go shake hands with their fans, win a Grammy and bring their mama on statge. I’m doing me. I’m doing my thang. I hope you like it cause I love it. A diva is a woman that can hold her own on a track. You can put Lil Wayne on a track with her and she can hold her own on 16 bars instead of getting murdered like some of these cats out here.
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