There’s a thin line between underground & mainstream. And the internet has further blurred those lines. Many people have raised the question, Can you be an up & coming hip hop star nationwide & not get regular spins on your local radio station? Most say no. King Mez is the answer & the antithesis to that statement. Being recognized by top hip-hop media outlets like MTV, XXL, & The Source, just to name a few and yet there are people in his (& my) home state of North Carolina that have never heard of him before even though he’s toured across the country.
I had a chance to chop it up with King Mez a couple months back. we talked about his upcoming album My Everlasting Zeal, his relationship with 1st & 15th producer Soundtrakk, his buzz, coming up in the NC underground scene & so much more. Even though it was delayed a bit, a relevant artist is a relevant artist as you will see. So sit back & bask in Sir Mezatron’s everlasting zeal.
Most hip-hop fans had never heard of you before the King’s Khrysis EP, How did that project come about?
I met 9th & the whole JAMLA crew through Rapsody. I used to do shows with her group Kooley High when I was in high school. When I got out of high school, I started going to 9th’s studio. One day I was there & wanted to work with Khrysis. He was going through beats and he picked out a beat for a song we did called â€œNightmareâ€. We got a good response off â€œNightmareâ€, so we started recording a full project.
Did you expect for the entire project to get that kind of buzz?
Nah, it did pretty good. It did much better than we expected. It was my first time on a lot of those websites. I plan on putting out my full length album soon, so we’ll see how much has changed since then but yeah, it was my first time on MTV, XXL & The Source.
That kinda leads into my next question, You’ve been named a buzzworthy artist by a lot of major music outlets such as MTV & XXL, how does it feel to wear that distinction?
Honestly, I don’t pay attention to it. It’s just the start of my career so I don’t pay attention to the acclaims & accolades at this point. I just wanna make good music. I appreciate them & I definitely want them to come along but I’m not gonna wear them on my sleeve like â€œThis is what I’ve done.â€
Do you think that if you really paid attention to it, it would add more pressure to what you’re trying to do?
Nah, not so much because I don’t have any pressure. It’s more along the lines of a lot of artist fool themselves early on in their career. I would rather have longevity. Striving to the end, until I stop rapping. I might get to the Grammys & go â€œyeah that’s coolâ€ I thank God for it but I’ve got more that I want to do. Like Kanye West for instance, he’s done it all but he still seems to be hungry for some reason.
He has that mentality like that’s great but I’ve got another album to work on. I’ve got better music inside of me.
The last time I saw you was in Raleigh at the Underground Hip Hop Music & Fashion Expo and you were talking about working with Lupe Fiasco and 1st & 15th. How did you link up with Lupe & his team?
Honestly, I’ve never met Lupe Fiasco. Soundtrakk, who produced â€œKick Pushâ€ for Lupe’s 1st album and most of the production on his 1st & 2nd album, that’s who I’m cool with. I got cool with him through Three Little Diggs. Soundtrakk took a liking to my music. I worked with him [a few times] & he told me he had never been as excited to work with an artist since Lupe, so I was honored by that.
So ya’ll worked on a FEW tracks while you were camped out in his studio?
Oh definitely. I flew to Chicago just to work with him.
Do you think that any of those tracks are gonna make it to your debut album [My Everlasting Zeal]?
Oh definitely. Him & Prolyfic who did â€œPressureâ€ for Lupe & Jay-Z have some of the highlight tracks from my album.
As far as artist are concerned it’s gonna be more singers than anything. I don’t really like to feature a lot of MCs on my projects. Especially for my debut project I wanna let people see that I can rap and stand on my own. I’m not gonna have too many features on it to be honest. I do feel like there will be one or two of a few people that I really like. As far as production goes I’m gonna have Omen, who helped J. Cole produce a lot of his tracks. He’s part of Dreamville. I’m gonna have Khrysis. My man Commissioner Gordan is doing a good amount of production [on there]. He’s done projects with me before. His sound is very much my sound. We created it together.
***Note: Since we did this interview King Mez dropped the lead single off My Everlasting Zeal titled Allure Produced by J. Cole***
Do like to work with new producers that are also trying to come up or would you rather work with established producers?
As long as the music is tough, that’s all that matters to me. My man Commish was unknown but we work together a lot because he’s talented.
So the big name doesn’t matter, it’s all about the music with you?
I’d rather not hear the name. I just wanna know what the music sounds like.
I’ve got a little personal question for you. Rapsody has a song called â€œCrush Grooveâ€ about a guy that she’s close friends with but she wants to take the relationship a little further. You were featured in that video. Was that song directed at you?
Nah, a lot of people ask me that but nah not in real life. We’re just friends. We’re just cool.
I don’t know ya’lls relationship personally but it seemed like it just fit.
It definitely did but it’s not my song. Nah man. We do argue about Jay-Z & Nas in real life tho but other than that nah we don’t date.
Do you plan on signing with a major anytime soon or are you enjoying your freedom of being independent?
I’m enjoying the freedom of being independent. I wanna stay independent as long as I can. I’ve had my first few label calls, conference calls & emails. I’m talking to labels right now but I’m really liking being independent.
I know a lot of them are looking at you. If you were to sign to a major, what camp do you think has the feel of what you’re looking for?
It’s not a particular label that I’d be looking for, it’s the bill. The specific bill for me. Depending on who it’s coming from, it’s what’s on that paperwork. If it fits what I need, then I’m down. If it’s a trustworthy label & if the A&Rs really believe in me, you know, it depends on that situation.
Like if Rick Ross came at you & was like,â€ Join Maybach Music.â€ would that be an option you would take?
Let me see the paperwork first. You know.
True. You’ve got the new album [My Everlasting Zeal] coming out. Other than that, what’s next for you?
There’s this project [My Everlasting Zeal] that’s coming out [May 15th]. I’ve got a lot of big press things as far as television, magazines & fashion collaborations. So after this project, I’m gonna just continue to build the buzz. And continue to build relationships. And if a label comes around with the right choices, then I would sign but I really like being independent. So it would have to be a perfect situation like that for me to sign.
I’ve seen you in a couple of print ads for fashion lines & things of that nature. Is your next step to possibly go into modeling or appear on a few TV shows?
I would want that, to be honest with you. If somebody gave me a call– I’m really into fashion. I’ve got sponsorships with Stussy & I’ve worked with 10 Deep. I was in their clothing line’s look book. These are corporations. Like world renowned corporations. I’m just thankful to be a part of that. I’m real big on sneakers & clothes. I would probably end up doing something along the lines of that in my career.
I heard you were a real big sneaker head.
Man I’m telling you. You don’t understand. [laughs]
[laughs] If you had to guess, how many sneakers do you own?
I don’t know to be honest with you. I can probably go in there and count ’em. It’s nothing too crazy. I’ll probably say around 50 or 60 [pair].
And how many of them are Jordans?
Like the majority of them.
All of them. [laughs] I like Penny Hardaways, Foamposites, Charles Barkleys, you know. Retro basketball real heavy.
What’s your all time favorite shoe?
The Barkley 94s is the most comfortable sneaker. I can’t even explain. I love Js. I like Js more than I like anything else but that one particular shoe, the Barkley 94s, would have to be my favorite sneaker. I have a few pairs of the 11s and Aqua VIIIs. I like those. But the most comfortable & the most stylish & the most complete shoe to me would have to be the Barkley 94s on so many levels.
I chopped it up with Thee Tom Hardy for a little bit that last time he came to Greensboro a couple months back. You & him have a real close relationship. How did you two meet?
That’s my mans right there, outside of a lot of people in the music industry period and not just North Carolina. Tom is my man. He just text me a second ago. We’re probably going to kick it tomorrow. We just go kick it outside of music. That’s my dude.
Do ya’ll have any plans to do a joint project or EP together?
No, not right now. Maybe when we both reach a certain level we’ll do something like that. We recently spoke about something like that & we decided when we reached a certain level we would do something like that. We have a bunch of songs under the wraps that people haven’t heard.
Ya’ll both have styles that I think would kind of mesh together. They’re not synonymous, they’re more of a contrast & I think that would work well together.
Yeah. Numerous people have told us that we should form a group. That’s why people hit us for collabs together. Like â€œWe’re gonna use both of ya’ll on this songâ€ or something like that.
Yeah I have seen that on a few people’s songs. It would be them & then featuring you & Tom.
It’s happened like that on numerous occasions.
Is that planned?
It just happens like that sometimes. It’s planned by the people that hit us up for collabs but me & him on a track, we just click. Subject matter and everything, we just click.
Ok this is a question about the North Carolina underground music scene. From your experience coming from the NC underground music scene, what was the hardest thing you had to deal with trying to be heard?
People already expecting what I’m going to sound like. Like boom bap samples & things of that nature. My new album really goes away from that. My new album is like a grown up version of King’s Khrysis. Way more musical, real instruments it’s way different. It’s a progression. It’s like the direction [King’s Khrysis] was headed in.
Is it different sonically as well?
No not really sonically. If you play King’s Khrysis & you play my new album, it’s got the same feel. You know how King’s Khrysis was like dark with drum breaks & all that? My new album is exactly like that. It’s really dark but these [songs] are better composed. I brought people in to play instruments on certain parts. We used a bunch of singers so it’s real harmonic on certain parts. It’s 15 tracks, you don’t want people to get bored. So we used different types of sounds and they all blend; they all mesh. I used a lot of dusty drums or drum breaks, which is hard to explain if you don’t do music yourself. I continued the same type of vibe from King’s Khrysis but when you come along & hear it, it’s better sound quality. We used more expensive equipment, mixed & mastered. It actually sounds like album quality. Like something you would go to the store and buy.
Let’s talk about your song writing process. When you 1st hear a beat, how do you attack it? Do you go with the full song, like here’s the hook [etc.] or do you have a book of rhymes & start spittin’ out of it. What do you go thru when you’re putting together a song?
It’s just the feel of it. When the beat comes on, it’s just how I feel. If it compels me to start the hook, I’ll start the hook. If it compels me to write the verse, I’ll write the verse. It depends. If I feel the beat, I’ll just start rappin’. I don’t know. Sometimes I’ll just go in the booth and start recording without writing for a little while. I won’t do it the whole time but the 1st few bars so I’ll have something to start with and then the rest I’ll write.
You’ve built a buzz mostly on the internet but the mainstream radio play hasn’t really come about, does that bother you or is that not the direction you’re going with things?
Not as much because my fans don’t listen to the radio to be honest. I do get spins on Sirius Satellite & XM Radio. With that being said I’m more comfortable with having that, which is nationwide, rather than some local radio station. NC radio shows me love sometimes on k97.5.
Yeah with Nikki Nicole.
Yeah & I’ve been on Hot 97 in New York before so I’m not really worried about any other radio station other than that and XM radio.
Ahhh man. It got a little deeper than I expected. Half these questions I asked you, I didn’t even have planned. [laughs] Do you have any last words or shout outs?
Nah man. I just wanna thank God for every opportunity he presents.