Kayer is an artist who represents the true school to the fullest. His music represents positivity through hip-hop and his roots lie in ciphers and expression through graffiti. He made a name for himself as part of the Forgotten Dialect crew, and later through Sub-Level Epidemic, and has more recently worked with heavyweights such as P.E.A.C.E. and Spoon (of Iodine), both of whom were featured on his last LP, Rewind-A-Decade. With a new project on the horizon, Kayer took some time to break down his history and discuss his plans for the future.
Could you talk about your earliest experiences with hip-hop and what inspired you to start rapping?
My earliest hip-hop memories go back to being a kid in Baltimore, Maryland. In the late 80s, I got to run with my older cousin and neighbourhood friends. We used to hang at the basketball court, which was taken over with skate ramps, and the breakers always kept a cipher going. It was around 1992 when I started paying attention to graffiti. Also, around the same time, I wrote my first rap just for fun. In this time period, I lived with my father who really struggled with drugs, so by 1993 they sent me to live with my mom in Oregon. The Northwest was a big change from Baltimore, but I quickly linked up with the hip-hop heads and skaters of Portland. There is a bunch of early names but eventually we formed the AOM Crew (Army of Minds) and it was those dudes I started writing raps and freestyling with. By 1995 I was real dedicated to writing songs and painting graff. I used to hang with writers from the O.G. Portland crews SMS, OFA, KFS, HOD, DWA, and the list goes on. Those cats were all supporters of my music back when I got started.
As far as my influences, some of the first hip-hop tapes I bought were Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim, Slick Rick and the list goes on. After that, it became everything Native Tongues and west coast crews like Hieroglyphics, Freestyle Fellowship and Pharcyde.
Can you break down some history regarding the Forgotten Dialect era and your first album with DJ Void?
Forgotten Dialect was most active in the mid to late 90s. There was about 8-10 of us over the years. The earliest recordings were with my high school homies Chilly Chaze, John Soriano (Fidel Maestro), Chris Riser (Itrans) and myself, known as Kaera One back then. We started using the name Forgotten Dialect around 1996 when we met our producer, 8:35. He helped us get our sound to the next level. Around the same time we began to perform locally and added more heads to the collective. We were one of the only Northwest crews slanging on ATAK in that time period and painting freights was also giving us fame out of state. I wrote a song titled "End to End Poetry" that was circulating with a few graff flicks, in magazines. Writers really dug that I represented both elements. I had people contacting us from all over to buy that tape. It definitely paved the way for me as an artist. During that era DJ Void and DJ Wicked were known as the Audio Orphanz. They were makin' noise with dope scratch routines and heads were juiced to hear Void on my album, which was his first release also. 8:35, Relentless (Bloodmoney) and Zroe Aom also contributed a lot to that project. Shout out to the whole crew and anyone involved with our music back then. Special shout to King Tim 33 1/3 and Deena B, who really helped us out and still got my back in the Portland scene.
You guys had some mixtapes as well. Are those going to be made available at some point?
At some point I would like to. We just need the right engineer that's interested in battling out the files for us. I will definitely be making a 20th anniversary re-release of the Kaera One & DJ Void tape that comes with a graff 'zine. That is one of my personal goals. Another chapter was the Criaturas Sin Casa/Creatures Without a Home tapes, which featured our brothers from Denver, Ideal Ideaologies (Mane Rok, Theme, DJ Awhat) and Wayzout of Future Reference. I actually spent most of the year 2000 living in Denver before I left to Central America. That was my first hiatus from the whole scene but I was actually still making music the whole time. It was also when I started writing songs in Spanish to communicate better in ciphers. I continue to visit Costa Rica every year. It's kind of a half life I been living for a long time now. I am constantly going through those old songs and still perform them as well.
You were part of the whole Sub-Level Epidemic thing and worked with guys like Maleko and Kegs One. Can you talk about that era?
I showed up to California in 2002 and connected with Kegs One (Shane Nesbitt). The label owner had already been selling my tapes at Below the Surface since the 90s. I had just missed a couple great years of Sub-Level Epidemic. They were in full effect with partner label La2thebay around this time, but I’m definitely thankful I got to be part of the O.G. 7” collection. It's truly a work of art - you can check it out on Discogs - along with all the other great titles. That was pretty much '02-'05 for me. I recorded and performed a lot with my Sub-Level brothers Maleko, Spexxx, Optimus, Cosiner and Self Advocate. Those were great times, opening local shows, sometimes for famous heads. Those shows really helped me get a spot in the Bay Area scene. As an artist collective we never intended to let go but grown up life had kinda stopped us from meeting up around 2006 or so. Kegs now is busy being a successful barber and has no time for music but I’m actually working with Deeskee on bringing back the label. There is some leftover wax to sell. We are planning to launch some updated sites once our next releases are ready. He is also going to be hosting the La2thebay Show on 2Mex’s Hologram Radio which will be playing Sub-Level Epidemic stuff as well.
After that, you started working with some of the guys people heard on Rewind-A-Decade, like DJ Icewater, Vinroc, P.E.A.C.E. and Spoon (of Iodine). Can you talk about how you hooked up with those guys?
I was originally connected with Cosiner and DJ Icewater ran a studio known as the Corner Store Studios in Oakland back in the day. I started out in 2004 recording Sub-Level songs over there and working on a solo project as well. Both those dudes had some history with Freestyle Fellowship in the 90s. They also had been friends with Vinroc for years already. Triple Threat DJs was performing a lot around that time, so I definitely felt blessed to be workin' with DJ Vinroc and I still work with him. Not many heads remember Cosiner helped organize Tags of the Times 3, which is when him and Omid were starting to get Spoon (of Iodine) on more recordings. They tried to hook Spoon up with other MCs to work with but it just never worked out. Eventually Cosiner shared my music with Spoon and he really liked my sound. I remember our first session. We made “Supposed to Be My Familia” which was a track about betrayal. All those old songs were for Spoon’s album. Unfortunately they got left unfinished but we still re-visit the concepts when we get together and write. A year later, Spoon introduced me to P.E.A.C.E. when he realized we were living close by each other in East Oakland. I had some great times hangin' with P.E.A.C.E. He is the freestyle king, hands down. He really challenges me as a lyricist every time we get together. Eddie K (Gurp City) is another friend from that era who really inspires me also.
|Kayer & Spoon (of Iodine)|
Can you talk about your experiences working with Spoon? What you learned from him, as an artist?
T-Spoon is a really good friend over all these years. As a mentor, he always reminds me that no matter what happens in hip-hop that it’s important we never give up and represent the old school. We both work hard for a living and come from graffiti backgrounds. A lot of cats know him as Maniak, part of the original U.T.I. Crew and his knowledge goes back to some of the earliest hip-hop on the west coast. It’s cool to hear all the stories and history about Freestyle Fellowship and MC Aces during the 1980s, from his perspective. The stories of him with Aceyalone and Myka 9 in high school, always going the extra mile to build on patterns and vocabulary. Sometimes he shows me some of the old school song writing formulas they used and other ones he has never even released and it's truly amazing. One of my favorite things about Spoon’s music is that he never makes a song unless the concept is going to make you think and hits you hard. And he won’t just work with anybody, so it's real special the times he comes around.
Around that time, you were also recording a solo album that never came out. Why wasn't that project released?
It was around '07, '08. I wanted to finally release all my music from the 2000s but life just held me back. I got in a lot of trouble with a house me and my wife tried to buy which left us super broke. Then my first son was born in 2009 and that's when everything musical went into boxes. It was just a reality, going to work non-stop to survive and learning how to be a dad at the same time. So, yeah, I had to take a break but I still kept in touch with my peoples over those years.
How did the Rewind-A-Decade project come about?
So, after a 5 year break, when my second son was born, I finally snapped out of the hiatus. I felt it was important to finish what I started, not just for me but for my family. So I opened the files and got going again. Rewind-A-Decade is basically all the music I dreamed of putting out a decade before. Some of those tracks go back to 2003. I got stuck with most of those versions but I originally promised myself it would come out on wax. I figured it would be a good way to comeback. I didn’t even touch a button on the net until it was finished. It definitely helped me get the right shows I needed last year. I rocked about 12 gigs with DJ Fossil. Performing those songs has given me good momentum but I’m definitely exited to drop something new this year and do more shows.
Do you have any future projects you'd like to give people a heads up on?
Yeah, I been working hard on my next release Permanent Knock. It should drop around springtime 2017 and will be available on vinyl. It’s all songs I made over the last couple years with DJ Icewater, Vinroc and Ian Mckee, with guest appearances by Myka 9, Spoon (of Iodine) and Maleko. Cover art by Skill One U.T.I. is a great bonus. I'm already booking the shows that will be going down over the summer. Another project coming is an EP re-release of Sub-Level Epidemic tracks recorded 2002-2004, which will be available on Discogs and Bandcamp for the fans.
Any last words or shouts out?
Thank you Alex, Jack and everyone at Bring That Beat Back for giving me an opportunity to talk. Shout out to my wife and kids - they are reason I’m still here - all the crews I been down with for years, all my fans and anybody that has been part of Kayer Hip-Hop, past to present. Much respect and peace!