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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week - Hot Karl
Monday, August 21, 2006

The first time I heard Hot Karl’s The Great Escape I was hooked. The album's opening song, “Let’s Talk,” which features Karl and 3rd Bass great MC Serch having an argument in rhyme over the art of Hip-Hop vs. potential commercial success, was on repeat before I could even get to the rest of the CD. Born and raised in Calabasas, CA, Karl now lives in LA and in addition to his music he co-owns an art gallery and has a book about the toys of the 80’s coming out in 2007 on Abrams called “Products of the 80's.” He’s recorded with DJ Clue, Fabolous, The Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, 9th Wonder, Redman, Sugar Ray, Mya, DJ Lethal, MC Serch and She Wants Revenge and performed live on bills with Snoop Dogg, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Kool Moe Dee, ToTo and Ray Parker Jr. (not a joke), Sugar Ray, Jurassic 5, Living Legends, Phife Dawg and Gerardo (again, not a joke). Karl, whose real name is Jensen-Gerard Karp, became Hot Karl as a youth when Ice-T heard about him destroying (also referred to as “shitting on”) MCs at a show. This would mark the start of a wild journey for Hot Karl. “I was the all-time LA Radio Roll Call champion turned Interscope golden boy turned Interscope whipping boy turned Indy rapper.” Recently Karl sat down with me to talk about that journey, his thoughts on Hip-Hop in the suburbs, and how pro-wrestler Viscera once made his day.

Adam Bernard: You released The Great Escape last year. Are you happy with the way it's been received so far?
Hot Karl: I know this isn't cliché, but I didn't really expect much response from The Great Escape. I know everyone lies and says yes to this question, even when they don't believe what they're saying, but having a past at the world's largest record label/car dealership, Interscope, allowed me to enter into an Independent label situation with realistic expectations. "The Great Escape" was for my well-being. Going through four years of political bullshit, retarded A&R's and some of the oddest situations I've ever been in, had to end with me putting out an album, me being on the same shelves as X-Clan and Mellow Man Ace and The Gravediggaz CD's where when I was younger. I just wanted to dent the Hip-Hop pop culture, no matter how small the impact was. I just wanted all the work and sweat to culminate in something as just walking away wouldn't feel very nice. BBE/Headless Heroes was nice enough to let me accomplish this. But it wasn't like they bought the Sean John ad building on Sunset or took out ads on the back of horse carriages in Central Park. We released an Indy record, with little to no promotion, and had a lot of fun doing it. So, am I happy with the reception? I'm more immune to it at this point. But I am happy with the results.

Adam Bernard: As you mentioned, you were previously been signed to Interscope and had an album completed with them. What are some of the songs on The Great Escape that would have never seen the light of day had it been on Interscope?
Hot Karl: I'm not sure what Interscope would've allowed from The Great Escape. I know they would've HATED “Butterface,” that's the kind of shit that used to make my A&R cringe. He also thought Nelly's Country Grammar was the best Hip-Hop album ever made, so it never really meant anything. But that woulda been squashed for sure. I think "Back/Forth" actually would've been the single at Interscope, which shows how fucking lame they were with my project. Ali Dee and I made that song as a total goof. It was a bet that I could make a Miami bass track in 15 minutes in-between other songs we actually liked making. That's "Back/Forth." And Gudrun, who raps on the song, isn't a rapper at all, she's an Improv actress who used to sing in the Trilambs, so obviously Interscope would've gotten Trina instead. There was no such thing as grassroots or developing with my project. I think everyone involved with HK at Interscope were so new to the big budget business that they just went ballistic and it came back to bite us in the ass. They all have went on to A&R HUGE projects, so I assume now we all would've done things differently, which is sort of where Great Escape comes in for me.

Adam Bernard: Content-wise the album is unique. While the suburbs are still blasting music about getting shot and dealing drugs your work focuses more on the actual reality of the suburbs. Do you think that upper-middle class kids are ready to start blasting music about the issues in their own community?
Hot Karl: No. The outstanding popularity of Young Joc and Jeezy and Chamillionaire is just proving that Hip-Hop is escapism for white kids. That's where I got the title for my album. I always said I was the great escape in irony because I'm just re-telling what their lives are actually like, but these kids are engulfed in hood tales and song about crack sales now. It's actually worse than ever. I LOVE THE CLIPSE, but how many dudes can we let get away with the same raps and subject matter as them. Hip-Hop was such an amazing art form back in the day because we had so many options. We had street rappers, educators, party dance dudes, comedians. We had different albums for different moods. Now it's one guy rapping about his cars, his street cred, his drug pushing and money. That's why I tip my hat to dudes doing different shit like Ghostface, Cage, Cee-Lo, RA the Rugged Man, Louis Logic and Pharrell. I don't agree with all their tracks or whatever, but they at least sound different. But no, white kids do not wanna hear about themselves. They want to get out of it, live a more exciting life and right now Hip-Hop is doing that. I always compare it to Grand Theft Auto on PS2. It's like believe me, kids will pick that game over a game about their high school any day. It’s just escapism.

Adam Bernard: In addition to music you also own an art gallery. When did you become interested in art and what kind of art do you showcase?
Hot Karl: When I got rich through Interscope and the EMI pub deal, albeit a very short time of "being rich," I didn't want to just spend cash on DVD's and bullshit, I knew I wanted to open a business. After talking it over with a partner we opened an affordable, youth based art gallery. We had figured kids like us had been buying movie posters for too long. We wanted to offer an alternative and we scouted for like-minded artists. We just hustled and grinded until we were part of the art scene, and at time creating trends within the LA aspect of it. That's how Gallery 1988 was born. It's named after the year YO! MTV Raps debuted. You can check it out at www.gallery1988.com. We do graphic design based character work usually. It's all part of a very big movement in LA right now, so we've been pretty lucky with some talented artists.

Adam Bernard: Finally, I know you're also a huge pro-wrestling fan. Any favorite moments or matches you'd care to share?
Hot Karl: I am a huge wrestling fan and was lucky enough to find myself working with the McMahons in a creative context this year, which was a dream come true. I have so many memories from that, but I think I'd rather focus on when I was just a fan. I went to Wrestlemania 2000 in LA and had a sign that said "Viscera is fat" then a second sign that said, "That's not just a sign. It's true, Viscera is fat." So his music hit and he made his way down the aisle. He stopped at my signs, stared, yelled, grabbed them and ripped them up. He then threw them back at me as hard as he could. My first reaction was to be scared, but a few seconds passed and I started jumping up and down in happiness. Good times. This year I loved when Edge became champ from the Money in the Bank contract. The turn of someone who is actually a pretty great babyface in real life, Paul Heyman, was also great. Past favorites are always Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Jimmy Superfly Snuka, Andre vs. Hogan, nWo and the first ECW One Night Stand.

Websites: hotkizzle.com, hotkarl.com, gallery1988.com

MySpace: myspace.com/hotkarlmusic


posted by Adam Bernard @ 8:47 AM  
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