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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 - Señor Kaos
Monday, February 09, 2009

The stereotypes of southern rappers are that of excessive jewelry, loud lyrics, and general shouting about nothing. Thankfully, Atlanta emcee Señor Kaos represents none of the above. Maybe it’s because he was literally born into Hip-Hop with his father being a DJ, B-Boy and emcee in the early 80's. Maybe it’s because he cut his teeth in street ciphers where skill was of the utmost importance. Maybe it’s because he hasn’t spent his entire life in the south. Whatever the reason, Señor Kaos is a part of the subsection of southern Hip-Hop that is the complete opposite of what people assume the genre to be and his brilliant new mix-CD, Swagger is Nothing, Talent is Everything, is a testament to that. This week I caught up with Señor Kaos to find out more about both him and his music, some of the misconceptions outsiders have about the southern Hip-Hop scene, and the very unique collaboration he’d love to see happen.

Adam Bernard: I was actually a little surprised when I heard you were from Atlanta. Your sound and style aren’t what most people would consider to be “southern Hip-Hop.” Have you always been this way, or did you make a conscious decision to buck the current southern rap trends? (pun intended)
Señor Kaos: Since my father was a Hip Hop DJ way back in the day I was raised on The Treacherous Three, Cold Crush Brothers, and later on De La Soul, Lord Finesse, Chubb Rock, Public Enemy, Ice Cube and Big Daddy Kane, so that's who I identify with. Saying that, Public Enemy didn't sound like Chubb Rock and Big Daddy Kane didn't sound like De La Soul. Everyone had their own unique style, so I would never want to follow the typical southern Hip-Hop trends. Why sound like somebody else, when you can sound like yourself?

Adam Bernard: What kind of misconceptions are there about the southern Hip-Hop scene?
Señor Kaos: A lot of people hear the southern stuff on the radio from major labels, but they haven't been exposed to the raw Hip-Hop the city has to offer, so they don't know it exists. There are plenty of people born and raised in Atlanta who don't have the typical "southern accent" and there's plenty of music that sounds more like Mos Def than T.I., believe it or not. I think the BIGGEST misconception, though, is the idea that southern emcees can't really rhyme. I think Andre 3000 and Bun B tear that theory apart.

Adam Bernard: How has your hometown crowd responded to your work?
Señor Kaos: It's been 50/50. I get a lot of love from the real Hip-Hop heads for being a staple in the Atlanta Hip-Hop community, and that's not just because of my music. For the past ten years I've been very involved in the community from the ATL Hip-Hop Coalition to promoting tons of Hip-Hop events and parties in the city. But there are also a lot of people in Atlanta who could care less because I don't sound like the "typical" down south emcee. I think with any hometown, people don't really respect you until they see you have a buzz in other markets. For me getting my music played in Japan, London and New York has done a lot. One of the cons of being in Atlanta, is that everybody thinks they’re a rapper! There's only a small amount of actual fans because everybody thinks they’re a rapper, or producer, or DJ. We need more fans and less artists.

Adam Bernard:
Your latest mix-CD is titled Swagger is Nothing, Talent is Everything. What inspired both the title and the album?
Señor Kaos: Swagger Is Nothing, Talent Is Everything was inspired by the overuse of the word swagger in Hip-Hop music in the past year. Everybody thinks being an emcee is about your "style," which it very much is, but it's also about your content, wordplay and general talent. I was having a conversation with someone who said Hip-Hop nowadays is 90% swagger and 10% talent. I thought that was a shame. My response is "I don't care about swagger, I care about the music," and that's what spawned the title.

Adam Bernard: Then isn't the phrase "Talent is Everything" technically your swag?
Señor Kaos: When you have natural confidence, you don't need swag! Swagger is really just something people use to impress others. If it's natural people will be impressed by your aura without you feeling like you have to put on a show at all times.

Adam Bernard: Let’s get into your music. How do you go about crafting songs that are intelligent, but don't necessarily beat anyone over the head with a message?
Señor Kaos: Well, first I consider myself to be intelligent. I cannot dumb my music down to the point where it doesn't reflect who I really am. When you're a kid, other kids think it's cool to be "dumb." Everybody wants to be the class clown. If you appear to be too smart, kids label you as a nerd or what not. So the task has always been trying to find the mix of being cool enough, but also having a message involved in the music, as well. On Swagger Is Nothing Talent Is Everything I have a song called "Girls Rock Too." The song has a strong message about women's achievements in history, but it also has a bouncy enough beat where the DJ can play it in the club. On the song "For The Cream" I'm speaking on gentrification and the evils that people do to make money and on the song "Rain" I'm talking about how the weather patterns are affecting people’s way of life, but it's all done in a way to make the listener feel like they're not in a college class. KRS-One said it best years ago it's Edutainment, Education + Entertainment.

Adam Bernard: I'd be remiss if we didn't talk about your name. How did you become Señor Kaos?
Señor Kaos: Awwww, great question. I've been waiting on someone to ask me that one for a while. Being an only child I developed the name Kaos, but there was somebody else in the neighborhood already named Kaos, so people would call me Kid Kaos, because I was younger. I turned the “Kid” into an acronym when I started emceeing at 13, so it meant Keen Imperial Dialect, which basically meant being sharp with your words. So I was known as Keen Imperial Dialect Kaos or just Kid Kaos for short. Around 2006 DJ Sucio Smash in New York started calling me Señor Kaos, and it stuck. Also at the time I felt there were too many "young" names in Hip-Hop. You have Lil’ Wayne, Lil’ Kim, Gillie The Kid, Willie The Kid, Young Dro, Young Jeezy, Young Joc, Young this and that. I wanted to stand out, and I don't feel like I necessarily make music for kids. I'm grown, you know. So once Sucio gave me the name Señor Kaos I ran with it. I hope I don't start a trend with emcees calling themselves Señor, though, that would upset me.

Adam Bernard: Finally, would Señor Kaos ever consider working with Butters' character Professor Chaos of South Park fame to take over the world… or at least the music industry?
Señor Kaos: {laughs} Yes, sir! I'm definitely down to work with Professor Chaos. The industry is shady and needs to be taken over.

Related Links

Website: senorkaos.com
Blog: thekaoseffect.com
Twitter: twitter.com/senorkaos


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:37 AM  
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