King Fantastic talks about the origins of electro-infused beach bum gangster rap
Those who think L.A.'s recent proliferation of Day-Glo T-shirts and skinny jeans signifies the death of West Coast gangsta rap might want to introduce themselves to King Fantastic's gritty squall of bass and attitude.
The partnership consists of rapper Killer Reese One of hip-hop group Bleu Collar and producer Troublemaker of electro outfit Rad Omen. Eclectic and menacing, the group's big beat vitriol was born in Venice Beach and Playa del Rey in 2010, perhaps a surprise to those used to name checking Compton, Oakland and Long Beach in their hip-hop history discussions. But if the tracks from their 2010 debut, "Finger Snaps and Gun Claps," or their forthcoming EP, "Death of Summer," tell us anything, it's that King Fantastic proudly represents its ZIP Code.
Since blasting its way onto the underground hip-hop circuit last year, King Fantastic has specialized in sweat-soaked performances and remixes using a myriad of artists -- Bassnectar, the Bird and the Bee and Linkin Park among them. Last weekend, the duo rolled into San Bernardino for this year's electro-inspired Audiotistic festival in San Bernardino. Pop & Hiss caught up with the group prior to Audiotistic to talk about the origin of the music it succinctly describes as "Westcoastsynthesizerbeachbumgangstermusic."
Before King Fantastic, one of you was known primarily for underground rap (Reese), the other for electro-based music (Troublemaker). Even though it incorporates both genres, your music has a distinct gangsta rap feel to it. Was that something you both wanted from the beginning?
Troublemaker: When I heard Reese rap for the first time, I knew he would sound good over the music that I was making. There’s rappers that I entertained the thought of working with, but they could never see where I was coming from. The scene I came out of was more drum and bass and underground hip-hop, which Reese was also a part of with Bleu Collar. We’re also influenced by Ice-T and DJ Quik, who have synth music in their tracks. We had an understanding of where each other came from and saw that our ideas could work together.
Killer Reese One: At the time we started the group, I wasn’t even gonna do music anymore, because it had gotten so boring, and you start to get trapped in the same old scene. Then I listened to Troublemaker’s stuff, and it sounds like gangsta rap. You might call it drum and bass or whatever, but it sounds like Ice-T to me. I’m not a real bluesy type of rapper; my beats have to come a lot harder. Troublemaker’s beats are super bass-heavy and gangster without even a word recorded on it.
Do you think having a rap sound coming out of Venice, not particularly known for gangsta rap, has any effect on your sound?
KRO: My family is from Compton, but where I became me is on the Westside. My experiences are black male experiences, no matter what part of the city you’re from. The reason why I do it like that is because I have lived both sides. I have been to college. I’ve also been to prison. I played sports and went to private school for a long time too. You can put a smile on your face on the other side of town sometimes, but those in the true ghetto that never get out of it can’t afford to put a smile on their face.
TM: You can also hear it on our record. There’s definitely two sides to the equation both musically and in what Reese is rapping about. We got songs like “Bonfire Sessions,” “Hollyrock Jam Session” and “Appreciation,” but then you also have “Lost Art of Killing,” “Why? Where? What” and “Stop … Playing.” So you can see Reese on both sides.
As far as the remix projects you do, including Linkin Park and Bassnectar, how do you choose certain projects or song you want to put your signature on?
KRO: All of the remixes besides Bird and the Bee, Troublemaker introduced. I didn’t know … about Bassnectar before he played it for me. I didn’t know … about the Glitch Mob before Troublemaker played it. And on each one, I thought the songs were screaming to get rapped on.
TM: On the Linkin Park remix, the band actually hit us up. They were putting together a bunch of remixes for their record that just came out. Mike Shinoda just asked if we would be down and of course I’m a fan of them. In a previous group, I had remixed them when they did their “Reanimation” record several years ago. Mike basically asked us because he’s a big fan of Reese and that song “Stop …Playing,” in particular. As far as the other stuff, it’s all just music we like.
What does it feel like to get on such a major electro-based festival like Audiotistic where your style of music seems to really stand out on the bill?
TM: I wouldn’t say our goal was just to play Audiotisitic, but for the kind of music I make and the music Reese raps to, those two things translate so well in this environment. We don’t need to be on a bunch of hip-hop shows with five other MCs at the Roxy. We need to be blasting people’s faces off. Anybody who’s seen us knows that the bass comes hard, the aggression and the look is what the show is all about.
KRO: We’re there to rock. That’s the one part of this that I really love. I’m an entertainer. So If I go on that stage, I don’t want one person in that audience thinking that they can do what I can do. When I’m, spilling out onstage I want you to know that the reason why I got paid to do it is because other people can’t do it.
-- Nate Jackson
Photo: King Fantastic is Troublemaker, left, and Killer Reese One. Credit: Heath Grout