When K.A.A.N. raps, he sounds like he’s releasing the valve on a pressure cooker.
There are a lot of confessions, rants and proclamations gurgling inside the mind of the 25-year-old Maryland lyricist. When he sets them loose, they fly with blazing velocity. After listening to K.A.A.N.’s newest project, Eclectic Audio, it’s easy to wonder whether the 25-year-old — real name Brandon Perry — has figured out a way to survive without oxygen.
But for now, Perry doesn’t feel that fortunate. He’s still living at his parents’ house in Howard County, working various jobs. He used to work at Target. When we spoke in January, he had a gig cleaning cars. Before that, he labored as a brick mason for six years until he was laid off. He dropped out of community college, he says, because he couldn’t afford tuition, and he refers to a lonely childhood, spent mostly indoors under the watch of a protective father.
Now K.A.A.N. devotes most of his time to music, publishing new tracks and videos at an impressive rate. But he’s as self-critical as he is prolific. Perry says once he drops new music, he never listens to it again. If he did, he’d wind up deleting it.
Ahead of K.A.A.N.’s show tonight at DC9, he talked to Bandwidth about his machine gun-like cadence, his introverted personality and why he considers some mainstream artists — such as Future — dishonest.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Bandwidth: You write in a pretty raw, emotional style. Can you talk about that?
K.A.A.N.: Right now, I feel like [my music] has to be personal… because I want to build a real fan base, and the only way I can do that — without a backing — it’s gotta be relatable. So I’ve gotta try and tell the truth at all times just so that people can relate to it. I’m not gonna make music like this forever. I don’t intend to make super personal records for the rest of my career, if I’m blessed enough to have one.
So it’s not just about expression, it’s also about strategy.
It’s 100 percent a strategy. I mean, it started as expressing myself and getting it out, but what I had on my chest, I got it off my chest.
“If I didn’t rap fast, would anybody listen?” — K.A.A.N.
In a piece you wrote for the website Random Nerds, you refer to having communication issues. What did you mean by that?
I’m just not really a people person. I can’t really hold conversations, honestly. I’m not thinking about anything else other than music. People are talking, but I’m not really listening. A clock’s going off. I’m 25, I’m about to be 30. I’m just not trying to be in this position forever. So my mind is 100 percent on music at all times.
How does it feel to get attention for the work that you do?
I don’t wanna sound ungrateful — ’cause I still remember when I would post stuff [online] and nobody played it — but I stopped looking at comments and paying attention to all that stuff a while ago. It’s not really realistic when it’s on the Internet. It’s more like, “Yo, you’re the greatest of all time,” or, “Yo, this is the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” You can’t really get a realistic perspective of yourself and where you’re at buying into that stuff.
You don’t really seem to court media attention, either.
100 percent. I can honestly say there’s nobody behind me. I have no money behind me, I don’t have a manager that has connects, I’m literally just throwing songs out and it’s been that way. The more and more I’m finding out about a lot of these [rappers], in my opinion, they’re ho-ing themselves out to get blogs, retweets and placements on these websites, and they’ll have people behind them. Some of the bills these guys get on — do your research, and it’s like, “Wow, OK that’s how [you booked that show]. You got a publicist, you have a booking agent. But you don’t talk about that.”
What do you like most about the music you make now?
Honestly, I don’t listen to any of it. I don’t listen to one single word of it. I’m super analytical. I would take it all down. I did that once. … I listened to one song and I couldn’t — I took it off the Internet in like, 30 minutes. I was like, “This is terrible, just turn it off.”
You sound like an incredibly harsh critic of yourself.
Yeah. There’s nothing anyone’s written about me or said about me that I haven’t thought times 10 about myself.
Did you answer my question?
What was the question? [Laughs]
What do you like most about the music that you make?
I think I like the honesty the most. … Obviously the song structure needs to be stepped up. But I think the best thing I have going for me right now is the honesty — that I will say things on a song that nobody else will say.
Are you afraid that you won’t get better if you’re not relentlessly self-critical?
Yeah, definitely. It’s very easy to become complacent. Last year I was trying to put out a song a week, this year I wanna put out three, four songs every seven to 11 days. I don’t feel like you can to that by [saying to yourself], “Yeah, you know what I am? I am this good. I’m dope.” I wouldn’t be trying to work as hard as I am.
You rap super fast on most of your tracks. Have you thought about slowing it down, doing a different kind of style?
I mean, right now, I don’t have anybody behind me. I don’t have a label. So if I didn’t rap fast, would anybody listen? I’m in a position where I have to show my skill set. I have to show I can rap my ass off.
So your next project, you’ll release it, then never listen to it again.
That’s exactly what’ll happen.
You’re so self-conscious.
[Laughs] Yeah, I guess. But it’s crazy — a lot of these kids don’t listen to anything. Their musical outlook and palate is so weak! They can’t name one song off Nevermind from Nirvana. They can’t name one album from Jimi Hendrix’s catalog. The only album they can name from The Beatles is like, Sgt. Pepper, which is super weak. They don’t know who Eddie Vedder is. I just don’t really feel a huge connection to this generation, for real. I feel like an old man.
Warning: explicit lyrics.
Anything else we should talk about? I didn’t really have a list of questions here — I just treated this like a freestyle interview.
That opens it up to conversation. A lot of these [writers], they already have a preconceived notion and they formulate their questions off that. But especially nowadays, you can’t just go off the music. You’ve gotta actually talk to the person.
Like, Future did an interview where he’s talking about he don’t even do no drugs. [Laughs] Like, what the f**k is that? You really can’t go off the music nowadays. You just don’t know. People are so dumb, and they’re so trained to just accept what’s given to them, they don’t even hold any of these artists accountable. I will never be able to support something that somebody says is a blatant lie. How can you still wanna dance to that? It’s fake.
But you said earlier that you have a strategy, too. You seem aware that you are also selling yourself.
You’re definitely right about that, it’s a strategy. But it’s a strategy to be honest. It’s not stuff I haven’t been through. It’s not like I’m gonna [break out] and be like, “Yeah, I was living in a mansion the whole time, I had money the whole time. I never worked a day in my life.” That’ll never be a thing. Nothing wrong with having a strategy or a plan, but I’m just all about honesty. It’s gotta be honest, or what’s the point?
K.A.A.N. plays DC9 tonight with Jay IDK, Cicero and others. Tickets are still available.