Don’t Let Him Stop: A Thoroughly Inspiring Interview With Rapper I.K.P.
A few hours after interviewing I.K.P. for Manhunt Daily, I sat here at Manhunt headquarters, closed my eyes and really listened to his new song “Smilin’ (Don’t Let Me Stop)“. It had been a long, emotional week where I kept beating myself up for stupid shit. His words washed over me in therapeutic waves, as I recalled our conversation about his struggles and the ways in which they fueled his latest musical project Executive Realness.
Then I nearly broke down into tears.
It wasn’t from a place of gloominess, so much as an unadulterated admiration for this man’s strength through life’s challenges. It ignited a spark, flipped a switch or however you want to put it, and I felt energized to reach higher for my full potential. In a way? I think that’s what I.K.P. is all about as a musician… But perhaps I shouldn’t be speaking for him! Continue reading to hear about his newest release, the inspiration behind it and a new music video that’s coming soon.
Read our interview, listen to some tunes and see more pics below:
I’m sure folks are curious to know. What does I.K.P. stand for?
I.K.P. stands the Infamous King of Positivity. I put the name together to best encompass my personal identity. “Infamous” pays homage to my New York roots and The Notorious B.I.G. (notorious, a synonym for infamous), “King” is an homage to T.I. and my southern hip-hop influences, and “Positivity” being a duality that represents my HIV status and the striving to bring a positive voice to music.
How did you first get started making music?
I grew up listening to a lot of rap music and watching MTV. On one of the Spring Break countdown shows, I believe, Ananda Lewis said words to the effect of, “You know it’s cool to make a song, but it’s gotta be harder to make an album that people are going to sit down and listen to.”
So that fired a neuron in my young mind. I think I decided to give writing raps a try, and because I enjoyed writing and my teachers encouraged it, I kept going—filling notebooks with different color glitter pens and different color paper.
With production, I used to be the kid downloading music from the early internet days of Napster and web forums. I would collect mp3s, ripping CDs into my Windows 95 desktop and would be examining the wave forms, splicing and editing songs to my liking.
Your rhymes deal with more sociopolitical themes than some of the, ahem, more mainstream queer rappers. In a sense, do you feel an obligation to bring more truth and substance to the genre?
Not necessarily obligation… More like motivation. Motivation to do something that’s not the status quo, whether in the queer arena or otherwise.
What, in particular, motivated the songs on your new project Executive Realness?
I was gonna save those songs for later, because I had been mapping out the IKP 4 President series. I put out Part 1 back in January, and in my head, there was gonna be 3 parts. I had a plan all set, and I was working on all three projects concurrently.
I wanted to have “Part 2″ done by this time, but by the end of the summer, I didn’t feel like it was fully developed enough, erstwhile having a collection of material that I thought would come out later and be “Part 3″. So I switched it up and said let me put this material out now under Executive Realness before it goes stale. Otherwise, we would STILL be waiting for “Part 2″.
So releasing this music as Executive Realness opens up possibilities for where I can progress next. I thought I would use the music to explain some of my struggles and let loose lyrically some of my angst.
Eep! I don’t want to pry or cross a certain line, but would you be comfortable elaborating on those struggles
Well, the military, while it was fun… The years take their toll on you. I contracted HIV and got injured, which ended my time in service. I already had self-esteem issues, so finding out that the doctors couldn’t work with me enough to help me recover, then waiting to be released while feeling like you failed yourself didn’t do much to make me feel good about myself.
Then, I was going to school with all the hopes and dreams of making it, then graduating only to find yourself in a shit-storm economy holding you down. It hurt the pride a little. I gave up my apartment in Florida, couch surfed at friend’s house for six months and moved back home to Virginia, a place I had not lived since I graduated high school. I watched my parents struggling and getting older.
One New Year’s, I just cried in bed, because I was so depressed. No countdown. No drinks. Just me, porn and Wikipedia.
Had a temp job that only lasted a month before they let me go. One guy at that job thought I was coming on to him and felt uncomfortable… Like, really? After that, I landed an internship in NYC for VEVO. Coolest job in the world, but it didn’t turn into an opportunity.
In New York, my uncle was renting a room from another distant family member and allowed me to share the room with him while I did my internship. But the homeowner found out, and I just left before things got ugly.
That’s when I bounced from temporary housing to temporary housing facility, subsidized by the great city of New York. But these places range from YMCA facilities to souped up tenement buildings. And now I’m surrounded by psychos, drug addicts, parolees and people with no sense of cleanliness.
I was hospitalized for a few weeks due to succumbing to severe depressive disorders from all of this.
And imagine trying to hold up being in a relationship through it all. It got so tough I called it quits after a while.
Then the bills piled so high i filed for Chapter 7. Imagine waking up and getting calls from three or four different bill collectors daily for MONTHS.
So all those struggles created the angst that I could ONLY turn to music to get me through. There are books full of songs and diary entries and poems I would write. Executive Realness was only scratching the surface.
But that’s where it came from. And I make mentions of them in songs from that project. Especially “Nothing Ever (Stays the Same)” and “Smilin’ (Don’t Let Me Stop)“.
I can’t even tell you how much I admire your honesty and ability to remain positive through all of those struggles.
The part that humbles me is that there a people out there going through so much worse, but I can definitely still empathize with them as far as going through the struggle is concerned.
While I hate to take a complete 180 turn, I noticed some pictures of an underwear-clad, glow in the dark gentleman on your Facebook page…
Oh yeah? Underwear clad gents, glow in the dark. Hmm… A boy has to unwind from these hardships some kinda way, don’tcha think?
HA! I imagined they had something to do with the #musicvideoshoot hashtag, but maybe you were just “claiming you’re a photographer and nothing weird”.
WOW! Somebody was doing their homework! Well, yes, the underwear-clad ladies and gents were there to help me give some trippy visuals for the “Super-Trippy” video that I shot earlier this month.
Ooh! When do you think the video will be out?
Hopefully in December. Before the holidays.
I look forward to seeing it! Well, thank you so much for taking a moment to speak with us. To wrap it all up, what’s the best way for fans (and new fans) to keep track of your work?
You can follow me through my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and SoundCloud accounts. My videos are on YouTube as well.
Executive Realness is out now on iTunes, Spotify and Bandcamp!
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