K.A.A.N. (an acronym for “Knowledge Above All Nonsense”) never really set out to make music. But after catching a performance by rapper Logic in Baltimore a few years ago, the 24-year-old brickmason started writing. He hasn’t stopped since.
“I feel like [music and masonry] go hand in hand,” writes K.A.A.N — real name Brandon Perry — in an email. “They both teach you a lot about work ethic.”
It must have required a remarkable work ethic for K.A.A.N. to become the emcee he is now: The Columbia, Maryland, rapper has a flow that’s blindingly fast with an equally quick wit. The level of detail in his rhymes can require multiple listens to absorb everything he’s thrown out there.
Influenced by artists such as Tupac, Big Pun, Kurt Cobain, Nas and Kehlani, K.A.A.N. likes to rhyme over ‘90s instrumentals — including TLC, Craig Mack and Lauryn Hill, though he’s also rapped over Drake — and he says he doesn’t relate to party music.
“Songs that artists make for clubs, or to party to, just isn’t for me,” he writes. “I’m not out at clubs… I spend all my free time writing and recording.” Meanwhile, he calls his creative process “extremely vague.”
“I know the vision I have for something when I create,” the rapper writes. “A lot of times, I can’t articulate that to others. It’s, like, sounds, or certain cadences that I’ll have in my head… I have to write it out, and go over it.”
K.A.A.N. doesn’t like to make creative compromises. While making his aptly named Abstract Art project, he decided he didn’t love it, so he threw out four months of work and started again. (He’s since followed up with 1/12/199?).
“I don’t ever want to get too caught up, or stuck on [one] project,” K.A.A.N. writes. But he doesn’t want to rush things, either. He’s more focused on craft. “I’m trying to find a sound,” he adds.
The brickmason’s latest track, “Feels,” sounds unfussed-over. Instead, it’s more of a stream-of-consciousness monologue about his opinions on various topics — mostly his current place in life. Over a series of rapid, complex bars, he channels the style and introspection of Kendrick Lamar.
But while the verses sound dense and cerebral, K.A.A.N. says his lyrics come from the heart.
“On these songs,” the rapper writes, “I’m just talking about my life, past and present; my outlook on things and my emotions.”