Kevin Gates dropped his latest mixtape, The Luca Brasi Story, a month ago. Since then, it's racked up critical raves and press lines spanning the spectrum from XXL to Pitchfork.
But Kevin Gates didn't come out of nowhere. In his native Baton Rouge, the rapper's already a massive hip-hop hero. He's been recording for several years, building a fan base through a slow-and-steady slow burn, which has included a high-profile collaboration with fellow Baton Rouge resident Lil Boosie, and more than a few mixtape releases. "All or Nuthin' had a lot of pain on it, a lot of true stories on there," he says about his 2009 tape, which also happens to be his favorite.
Since that time, he's done a few years inside. When released in 2011, his career started up again with renewed focus. With Lil Wayne's Young Money managing his career and a recently-inked deal with Atlantic, it looks like he'll be making some major moves in 2013.
Complex recently sat down with the rapper to find out what's behind the tracks, and the guy who made them. In an effort to answer what the music doesn't, we ask: Who is Kevin Gates?
As told to David Drake (@somanyshrimp)
Growing Up in Baton Rouge
Kevin Gates: "Nobody ever taught me anything about no songs. People have been telling me what they think. If what you think is so good, how come you not getting paid to think? You not getting paid to think so I don’t care what you think. I know what sounds good to me, what I like to ride and listen too. If the world appreciates that then great, if not then okay, I’m still going to have a great time listening to my music in my vehicle.
"I never made music for nobody else. Somebody accidentally heard my music and told me I had what it took. I never made music for nobody else. I made music for me.
I never made music for nobody else. I made music for me.
"I was always interested in [Jamaican] culture, and I know some Jamaicans. So, how that happened, they taught me about the culture and I really observed them a lot, and ate with them and all that. They taught me about Rastafarianism and they always had Reggae music playing. I’m not just saying I gravitated towards [Jamaican music] from that, but i went through a stage where that was all I listening to at one time.
"The guy that I know, I won’t say his name, but he lives not too far from a Greyhound station, and I used to hustle up and down that strip. Me and him met, got acquainted, met his family. And that’s how it went. I like Peter Tosh, Bob Marley of course. All of Capleton, Sizzla, Frisco Kid, Buju Banton. Anything that was really popping at the time I was fucking with. Lady Saw.
"Right now, they have nobody to compare [my music] to. So, if they’re comparing it to [Future], he’s making money right now, so he’s a good person to be compared to. I do listen to him. "
His Songwriting Process
Kevin Gates: "I don’t really have a writing process any more. I don’t know, If I was to tell you [how I come up with my material], I’d be lying. Every song came different. I was walking one day, just walking, put a song together and just knocked it out. I’ve sat down and wrote to beats, and went and knocked it out. It’s different. It depends on how I hear it and how it comes across to me.
"I don’t 'try.' That’s one thing about my music. In being honest, you don’t have to try. If I try, I’m trying to do it, it’s not going to—whatever flows well together, thats what I do. I look at it like a painting. I might paint something on a blank piece of paper, then I might come back later and add something to it, or I might come back and throw it away. Whatever I decide to do with it.
"When I first got out of jail, I was trying. I was trying because everyone was “man, when you going to come with the new.” I don’t like anything that I did when I first got out of jail. I lived a little while, then I went back at it. My grandfather used to tell me, “stop trying.” Everything should come effortlessly. If it’s not coming effortlessly, then you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
"I don’t know what [writer’s block] is.
"I don’t know what [writer’s block] is. I don’t even believe that exists for me because my mind is always working and thinking. I believe it can happen to someone who tries. People just trying to make up things everyday. I don’t have to try. I could rap about one of my homeboys, and write a novel. I could rap about my daddy and write a novel. So, all the individuals, I already know these guys, the things that I’m rapping about in my songs, so how could I get writers block? I stay in the streets. That’s where my raw material comes from, being in the streets. Which is going to come to come to a point in time where it’s not going to really be safe for me to do that, but I’m going to still do it.
"[With production,] I go off how I feel. It depends on how the music makes me feel.
"They got a dude named Big J. I think he changed his name to Go Grizzly or something. I got a nice little relationship with him. Got another producer named Lil Ken, another one named Guss [Make My Beats], another one named B-Real, another one named EQ. I really like their music. And Mouse on the Track. I didn’t just start working with those individuals this year. Guss, EQ, Mouse, B-Real, Lil Ken. I came up working with those individuals."