listen to keith charles spacebar's debut album exclusively here
Keith Charles Spacebar and Awful Records are putting their skewed outsider take to Atlanta's rap sound.
KeithCharles Spacebar is about to drop his new mixtape, We're All A Little Trifflin. If you don't know KCSB, chances are you don't know Awful Records, and if you don't know Awful it's time to have a quiet word with yourself. The Atlanta hip hop collective are the hip hop's new punks, a family of rappers and producers who have proved adept at distilling the sound of weird sex, suicide blues and pitch black humour into 3 minute bombs of rhyme and bass. Informally led by Father - who broke out last year with the Makonnen featuring club killer Wrist - Awful are resolutely independent, selling their wares through Bandcamp (often at fuck-you high prices), and maintaining complete control over every aspect of their output. KeithCharles is a case in point. Often considered the crew's most likely to follow Father into international success, KCSB doesn't just write his own beats and raps; he directs the psychedelic video clips that accompany them, working with an aesthetic that has reached from woozing, candy pastel visuals, to scratchy animation to dislocating frame flicker to subversions of the classic rap troupes of sex and violence. His new project is We're All A Little Triflin' and it's all fans would want, a sea of throbbing 808 kicks, washes of synthetic bliss, and languid raps that lurch through sex, desperation, depression and belief.
We spoke to KeithCharles via email just after he performed in Tokyo. The only stipulation was no questions about his new mixtape, which we're premiering today. So we had no choice but to come up with some other questions.
To a Westerner, Japan can offer some serious culture shock. When I was there I saw a man dressed as a yeti. He had these huge yeti hands, and was covered in synthetic hair. His job was to stand outside a sex shop and try to beckon people in with these extremely large hands. I didn't understand. How are you finding Tokyo?
Oh my god! I love Tokyo! I'm in Shibuya and all the girls are super kawaii. People are in tune with the culture. We performed last night at Harlem and they had a half pipe and the kids we're going off. My only culture shock experience is that I didn't know we had this many legit fans out here, the reach of the internet is crazy. I love being born when I was, haha. We went to the sex shop, it was fun. I just wanted to see Shibari, hopefully I get to see that tonight.
Have you bought any Manga while you're there?
Today is the day we get to go shopping and just live, it's been work up to this point. I'm looking forward to buying hella Gundams, the ones you build. I'm gonna buy the Attack on Titan series and a few gifts for Awful and my girlfriend.
And have you had the opportunity to stay in a Love Hotel? If you haven't, you should, they're fucking amazing and often quite beautiful.
Ahhhhh no I haven't I'll ask our people about that, I want to go to a cuddle club just for the fuck of it and see what that's like.
Do you ever find yourself walking around imagining yourself to be in a videogame? Basically, do you ever live out the S.T.A.C.Y video?
Only the first few times when I went to New York, and the first time I went to LA. Touring the US, I realised I'm country as fuck. My first experiences of like New York and Los Angeles was on Grand Theft Auto. I listen to Sean Price's Rising to the Top every time I'm in NY now, looking for 8ball's Bomb shop. So I guess I feel like I'm in GTA, that's really bad.
What's better, the moment when you realise that you really desire someone, or the moment when you get them?
It's def when you get them because instant gratification has tried to ruin my life. Learn from your mistakes.
I've been told you don't want to answer questions about the current project. Seeing as we're premiering it, I guess people can just listen and make up their own minds, but it's still unusual for an artist not to want to put some sort of context on their work. What do you think you lose from discussing it?
I haven't spoke much on it because it wasn't finished. The worst thing music can be is presumptuous. This album is about my life from the ages of 19 to 22. I spent my time doing fuck ass jobs and I hate doing things I don't wanna do, so I would always get fired. I was practically homeless and I got by relying on my brothers and coming up off girls that just fucked with me. I lived at their spots, they cooked for me, washed and folded my clothes cause I hate folding. I got love for them all. When I got arrested, all of them pitched in and bailed me out, them and the legendary rapper Kosher Beets. This is what this album is about. Its just the way I internalise things. When I work on something as big as this, it's usually all in retrospect, me reflecting. I can't wait to start working cause up till now I've been living.
Awful are often described in the press as outsiders or misfits - is that realistic or just lazy journalists assuming that all ATL rappers are cut from the same cloth?
Point Blank. We don't give a fuck. We love our fans, we love the internet, I think some publications are used to the old way of doing things, press releases and all that bullshit. We have met writers and they've become friends. I love Lauren Nostro, Alex Russell, Matt Trammell, Duncan and other writers who actually are personable and give a fuck, thank you as well
You've produced tracks in 3/4 time - I'm guessing you've got some proper musical training, is that right?
3/4 is easy. I've learned most of my music theory from YouTube. I was learning piano when I was around nine and quit around the time when my grandmother passed. I was first chair cello in middle school but also quit that when my grandfather died, and I've never made that connection until now. WOW. Sorry if thats emo. Pisces boys for life. Shout out to Slug Christ, his album drops in a week or so too.
Father told me he was a fan of electro acts like Uffie and Justice growing up, does the same apply for you? Is there any other shit going into your sound that would surprise the world?
Atlanta's underground is alive and well, experimental wave, step, wonk, strut, garage. And its mostly black kids too. It's to me the same wave that inspired the Atlanta Bass of the late 80s early 90s. I'm very inspired by that. I'm a minimalist. I dont think anything would really come as a surprise especially if people check my back catalogue. I love Black Flag, Henry Rollins, circa 82.
I understand if you don't wanna engage with this, but have you got any thoughts on Baltimore?
I will not speak on that here. Black people. People of colour everywhere. We are human, we fucking matter. We have been treated less than for ever. This is what sick and tired looks like.
What is the best question I could have asked you?
The best question you could have asked me is "How much would you like me to Paypal you right now."
Text Ian McQuaid
Photography Eric Guzman