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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 - Kats
Monday, November 26, 2007

If Kats were to write a memoir it might be titled From Russia With Rhymes. Born in Moscow, Kats didn’t move to the US until he was 12 years old. After attending high school in Albany, New York, he headed even further upstate for college, spending his dormitory days at Syracuse University. Kats’ interest in rapping started during his freshman year in college and now, over eleven years later, he’s two full length albums deep into his career with Kats The Musical (2006) and Almost Fameless (2007), and he’s readying his third release, Katskills, for January of 2008. Now residing in Brooklyn, Kats sat down with me this week to discuss what it means to be an MC in New York City, the definition of being almost fameless, and what he hopes will someday happen during one of his concerts at The Pussycat Lounge.

Adam Bernard: You live in Brooklyn, NY. Do you feel any added pressure being an MC where it all started? How does being in BK affect you as an artist?
Kats: I moved to NYC in 2000, right after college, and have lived in Brooklyn for about six years, so I'm not actually from here, but I think being an MC from New York in general is added pressure, it isn't limited to Brooklyn. Most of my favorite rappers of all time are from New York and I don't think I'm alone in that, so I think when people know you're coming from Brooklyn, or from New York, they expect you to be solid and lyrical. You don't really have an excuse not to be, it's not like you don't know what good shit is supposed to sound like, you're in New York! I won't even get into all the greatest-of-all-time rappers who came from here, all you have to do is go to a Hip-Hop show in NYC, chances are you are going to see at least one dope emcee at whatever underground show you find, so I guess that's added pressure. Your living environment also directly impacts your art. If you're an emcee, and if you like the type of hip-hop I like, that gritty, East Coast-Ready to Die-Reasonable Doubt-Illmatic-Enter the 36 Chambers-Moment of Truth type of music, then Brooklyn is the place! It almost seems like Hip-Hop is the only logical choice when it comes to making music, the only possible outlet. Brooklyn just brings it out of you.

Adam Bernard: Unlike a lot of artists today, who seem to make an effort to sound like their rap idols, whenever someone puts on a Kats song they instantly know it’s you. Where did you develop your distinct style? Who were your favorite rappers growing up and how have you made sure to not sound exactly like them?
Kats: Style is a funny thing. I mean, I don't really have a "style" so much, it's just me. I study what rappers do and I've taken bits and pieces from a couple of lyricists, but more technical things than style. Like I wrote out and studied Big Pun's lyrics a lot of times to see the way he crafted his lines, the rhyme scheme, and I definitely try to do some of what he did technically, I mean, with the writing process, but my lyrics always stay true to who I am. I also studied the way B.I.G. and Jay-Z use the least amount of words to say so much with their metaphors and wordplay, or even how they flip the most common phrases and clichés and make them sound profound. I'd be stupid to try to mimic either of their styles, that would be ridiculous, but I can certainly learn the craft from them then use what learned to express the things I want to say. I’ve looked at the way Big L and Eminem structure their flow and the way Wu-Tang use imagery and more obscure, atypical references in their rhymes, but I am too much of a fan and critic myself to just jack someone's style. I just make sure to always stay true to who I am when I write.

Adam Bernard: The title of your latest album is Almost Fameless. How do you feel that title is representative of who, or what, you are?
Kats: My DJ, SmutVillain, thought of the title. We were on a road trip and he randomly suggested that we call the tour the Almost Fameless Tour, unlike the Almost Famous Tour in that movie. He most likely wanted to use it himself actually, but I stole it and released my album as soon as possible to make it official. It is a perfect title as far as my career goes. I am nowhere close being famous, so I am not almost famous, but a few people have heard the name and might have heard a song here or there. That makes me not completely fameless, just almost fameless.

Adam Bernard: What are some of the positive and negative qualities of being almost fameless?
Kats: Well, almost fameless might be even more depressing than completely fameless. When you're almost fameless you have some flashes and delusions of grandeur; you do a show, it goes great, you're a star, but then you have to go back to work on Monday. It makes me want to cry just thinking of it. The positive is it’s a great scene! When people are almost fameless they are usually more easy-going, supportive, etc. For the most part everyone is just doing what they enjoy. When you’re almost famous you’re all fighting to get on. It can get cut-throat and serious real quick. I’m all for it getting serious, but there’s a real comfort in being almost fameless.

Adam Bernard: I know you also have a crew. Who are they and how does your work differ when you’re with them?
Kats: Well actually, their work differs… it gets good. Just kidding. SmutVillain has been my DJ from the get-go. He's a really dope DJ and he's produced some of the best Kats songs over the years. I also work with another producer, Andy B. This dude is a beast. He's done some really incredible tracks, including “Kats the Musical,” which is my favorite beat ever! This past year I've also collaborated with a rapper by the name of FolkLore. He's good and he brings a lot of energy to the live shows. We've recorded a lot of great songs in the past year, too. You can check out a bunch in a few months when I release my new album.

Adam Bernard: I saw you rock a show at the performance space part of The Pussycat Lounge. What’s it like performing at a strip club? Is it hard to get female fans to come to a spot called The Pussycat Lounge?
Kats: My female fans are generally women of low moral fiber anyway, so coming to a spot called The Pussycat Lounge isn’t much of an issue. The strip club is actually downstairs and the performance space is upstairs, though it doesn't matter because the name is still what it is. I love performing there. It's a great venue. I keep thinking the strippers from downstairs will just come up and start dancing on stage upstairs when they hear how great I am. It hasn't happened yet, though.

Related Links

MySpace: myspace.com/katsthemusical


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:49 AM  
  • At 12:14 PM, Blogger Brian said…

    Kats is the only head I've seen in NYC make the Pussycat Lounge into a respectable(ish) venue. And the title track "Kats the Musical" is addictive as hell

  • At 2:13 PM, Blogger Allison said…

    Besides work, Kats is the only reason I ever go to Manhattan--to see him at the Pussycat Lounge or wherever else he is. He'll blow your mind and make you dance.

  • At 2:17 PM, Blogger Jesse said…

    This dude's got mad strategery. Don't mess with Kats unless you want to get made fun of on tracks. That's real.

  • At 3:24 PM, Blogger Eric said…

    I have to listen to Kats the Musical at least once a day. Granted, that's just a condition of my parole, but that tune is damn catchy. And Smut Villain's remix is equally sick. But seriously, Kats scares me. I've seen him slap a dude.

  • At 3:38 PM, Blogger bobby america said…

    i heart kats

  • At 9:18 PM, Blogger Andrew said…

    Almost Famless is cutts. Classic. Eagerly waiting on the next one to drop! Holla!

  • At 12:03 PM, Blogger Samantha said…

    I randomly saw this guy at the Pussycat Lounge and was instantly impressed. He has got serious presence up there. I bought his album and got a chance to listen to the lyrics of songs more closely. Kats is a lyrical mastermind. He is funny and clever and unlike any other hip hop artist I have heard in along time. Also, his original beats are sick. I don't know how he found that producer, Andy B, but that kid knows how to twist a beat. Kats is killa!

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