“Hip hop is robust and thriving. You just have to pick your poison” says Kadesh Flow as he speaks on the overall response to the current scene. Being both hip hop and jazz’s best kept secret, Desh knows what he’s talking about. While he has solidified a spot in the “nerdcore” crowd, the multitalented artist cannot be boxed in.
Kadesh Flow got his start as a performer at just 11 years old where he began playing trombone and rapping within two weeks of one another. He’s been a force to be reckoned with in the music world since 2011 and a decade later he shows no signs of slowing down. His work as both a solo artist and a member of the Marcus Lewis Big Band is absolutely legendary. I had the pleasure of chatting with Desh just days before his big MAGfest main stage performance. Join us as we chat about his life and the overall state of the current music world.
Thank you as always for joining us Desh. Now we’ve covered a lot of your releases before but for our audience who may not be familiar with your work, what are your first memories with music?
First memories of music? I would say the earliest, and it’s going to sound very traumatic, would be my parents’ divorce. That process started when I was four years old. There was way more music, especially on my dad’s side of things, you know? I first heard Bobby Womack because my dad would play “If You Think You’re Lonely Now Wait Until Tonight” when my mom came home, and it would start an argument. I vividly remember this. As traumatic as that was from an emotional standpoint, it really did affect my understanding of it. As I get older now I understand how much some of those musical moments associated with my parents’ splitting up actually affected how much I began to lean on music therapeutically. I didn’t then, but from a roots standpoint it makes sense. Then also being in the church growing up was also an early memory. Singing in choirs and whatnot. The earliest moment where I was becoming interested in playing music was when my band director played trombone in front of the 5th grade recording class to try to recruit students for 6th grade band. And….it sounded like she was making fart noises with the trombone. I was like, “I wanna make fart noises!” That’s literally why I started playing. This thing I do professionally now, that’s literally why I started doing it.
That’s classic! And I was actually going to ask that. You’re a fantastic lyricist but you also have a knack for bars on the trombone, so I was wondering what one had come first.
Haha, yeah trombone came first by, technically a few months. I started in 6th grade and then like two weeks after that, we were roasting some friends on the back of the bus. We had a parody of “Say My Name” called “Close Your Mouth.” It went, “Close your mouth close your mouth. Your breath smells like onions, sour cream and Funyuns. You need to close your mouth.” There were like, “the R&B remix always has to have a rap on it!” So, I literally wrote my first rap to roast a homie about his breath. That’s how that started. So, two very childish things led to these things that I do for a living now!
Hey man, our earliest influences always come from the strangest things. I love it. Now, you got your start then but let’s flashforward a little bit. I always go back to your song, “About a Dream”. That reoccurring line, “I quit my job and then I hopped on to a plane.” I know that this is a true story, but can you take us back to those early moments where you decided, “this is what I want to do with my life?”
Absolutely! So, I ran away from myself for a while just because I was smart, from a working class family, had great grades, full ride to college, etc. My family saw that I was talented but a lot of the rhetoric around what I should do with my art came from a place that…a lot of my family was working class or poor. Now, I had the opportunity to ascend that if I got a stable job, climbed the corporate ladder, build some equity. Stuff that they didn’t have the opportunity to do necessarily when they were young. Thinking about that and realizing how risky art can be, I ran away from it. Grad school was when I really embraced myself as an artist because I had an epiphany and I couldn’t run away anymore. Then you fast forward a few years after that to my first job post Grad school. Cerner Corporation, great first job, largest healthcare IT firm in the world. Made a huge splash very recently because Oracle just bought it for like 28 billion dollars cash, which is silly! I have a lot of friends who still work there so there are a lot of interesting conversations that still happen. Haha. But, I knew once Cerner hired me that I was really going to go after this. Then when I got to Cerner my first year, around early winter, it’s super gray…I’m in this cube…and a lot of friends and homies are all doing this cool stuff with their art. All these people that I ran with in college, and I’m like “man, what am I doing?!” So, that was when I finally decided that I wasn’t going to run away from myself anymore.
Also, coming to the realization that my relationship with my college ex was fully ending. I have a project that I’ve mentioned to you before that’s been long stewing called “The Last Excuse”. It started here. That was it. My two goals were to make it work with her and to make it work with music, and I’m not going 0 for 2! Ya know? So, a start-up company poached me from Cerner. They had a lot more freedom. Didn’t really have a vacation policy basically. So, I’d be able to tour a lot. A lot of more creative opportunities came from that. It just so happened that when I accepted that offer, Mega Ran hit the NPC Collective (Nerdy People of Color) up and was like, “hey, MAGfest offered me three sets and I want to turn one of them into a showcase. If you have a way to get here, get here. I’ve got a place for you to crash and a badge.” Literally, my last day at Cerner was the day before my flight to DC for my first MAGfest. That’s where that “About a Dream” song came from. And I didn’t do anything the song, right? I wrote it, didn’t do anything with it for a few years. Then when I did “Otaku Moods” I brought it back because at that point I truly was doing music full time. I had actually also quit my financial tech job and hopped on a plane to play a summer convention. So, it all truly came together.
Throughout this whole process you were also picked up by trombonist, Marcus Lewis. Let’s talk about that but also what the difference is when writing/recording solo versus writing/recording with Lewis and the rest of that crew (Marcus Lewis Big Band).
The story with Marcus is really wild because so much of my life is really a lot of manifestation and working towards things that I speak or put out there. Like, with Ran I had first heard “Black Materia” and started doing my secret nerdcore raps. I emailed Ran and asked if he hired interns. This was in 2011 and it’s really wild to think about that now. But, with Marcus I moved to Kansas City in late 2013. Maybe 6 months to a year after that I met Ryan Heinlein at a jam session. He’s a prominent trombonist here. He runs a program at Johnson County Community College. Fantastic writer, but he was telling me about the scene like, “You know Janelle Monáe’s trombonist moved here not to long ago.” I was like, “I would love to meet that guy. That would be cool.” Now there’s a really prolific pianist here named Eddie Moore. He’s kind of a tastemaker, a kingmaker. He has a lot of connections to heavy hitters in the greater Jazz world.
For a while he was on the same jazz imprint as Christian Scott and Terrace Martin. He’s very good. We started working together and he loved my energy: the ability to just rock with a band and freestyle. Embracing the improvisational spirit of jazz not only as a rapper but also as a trombonist. Now, Marcus had arranged “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar and was looking for someone who was capable of covering Kendrick technically and with the same amount of energy. Eddie recommended me. I didn’t know this at the time. I just got a call out of the blue like, “Hey, this is Marcus Lewis, is this Kadesh?” I’m like, “you mean like the trombonist, Marcus Lewis?” “Yeah bro!” I’m stunned. Like, wow. It just kind of went from there, you know? That’s how that started. It was a cover and then he was listening to my music. He said, “Hey man, I’ve been listening to a lot of your music and I’d really like to arrange some of your stuff.” Again, stunned…uhh okay! Now we’re writing “Brass & Boujee 2” and that process has been intensely prolonged by the pandemic.
We have basically album two written but it’s so much to piecemeal record a band and be safe. I think we’ve got two songs recorded but it’s just a lot. It’s been hard to write together for that reason, the pandemic. But, the difference between me writing solo and writing with a group is solo I can just spit stuff out. Collaboratively, or commissioned projects, it takes longer to get into the vibe or the spirit of what whoever the lead is is trying to do. So I have to spend a lot of time just getting to that place mentally. Once I start it’s a snap, but getting those first couple bars on something collaboratively or something that’s someone else’s thing is a massive time suck for me sometimes. With “Brass & Boujee”, Marcus, Kemet, and I it’s always a question of who is going to get the first verse written or who is going to get the concept out. Then everything falls in line and it ends up working out. We’ve got some heaters though. Whenever we can get it all together.
That was going to be my next question! A “Brass & Boujee 2”! I’ve told you before, I play the edited version in my classroom (Sixth Grade) all the time for my students.
And that’s the most gratifying part of it. Right before covid hit we were really starting to make a lot of college moves. It was kind of surprising to me because we were doing smaller schools that we had connections with but like the University of Kansas has a jazz program that has a top jazz ensemble that has won multiple DownBeat poll awards. They’re like the best college jazz ensemble in the country. They booked us in November, 2019 to do “Brass & Boujee” with their jazz ensemble. Then the dean of the jazz program who is a legend in jazz academia told the whole conference about this. We knew that this is good. With that you’re smashing a lot of music history and music education into that kinetic product. That’s not necessarily what I was thinking about while we were working on it. So, it’s really cool to hear something like you playing it for your students. It’s hitting kids in a good way.
For sure, for sure! Let’s chat about a scene you’re very much a part of now. Let’s go back about 5 years or so. I was always a nerdy kid so I was always hunting for nerdy music. I think most of us in the “nerdcore fandom” got their start listening to Frontalot, chris, and Lars. That was until TheVerge covered Otaku Gang’s “Life After DeathStar.” I listened to that tape nonstop because that’s what I wanted, true lyricism with a touch of geek. It doesn’t get much more like that than a Biggie/Star Wars mashup record. Of course, this eventually led me to Random (Mega Ran). After listening to him I reached out on Twitter and requested other artist recommendations. He named three people: Richie Branson, Creative Mind Frame, and Kadesh Flow. The sound was different because, not to insult those other artists but early nerdcore almost falls into parody rap.
Oh yeah, that’s a huge conversation in the scene. A huge one.
It’s very, “Look at me, I’m nerdy”. Where today I feel like you or “Fabvl” take inspiration from anime, games, etc. but focus on writing a good song first and foremost. They just so happen to be inspired by “nerdy things”. I’m getting off base here but my question is, what is different about nerdcore now vs nerdcore then?
I think more people are readily embracing being nerds and rapping about the things they consume as well as hip hop themes and integrating those two things than they were 20 years ago. Even listening to some of the older heads in nerdcore like the MC Frontalots, Lars, Schaffer, Ran always did this, but those others in their newer stuff you hear them more comfortable bringing more and more pop culture and life stuff into what they’re talking about. This versus just rapping about the quirky things in life and scifi nerdom. You know? Now, people are just themselves and are okay with having an “industry sound”. And, a lot of people in the industry are nerds. Honestly, for the past decade A&Rs have been trying to get nerdcore rappers with a lot of potential and flip them. However, nobody trusts them. Even somebody like Fabvl or DPS (DaddyPhatSnaps) who have a lot of industry potential don’t want to do something like that because there is so much history with A&Rs not knowing what to do with the thing they think is cool once they get you signed. People crashing and burning. So there’s just a lot with that that I’ve been privy to in the shadows. That process is also really cool because there’s this gigantic Mega Ran tree, right? Definitely Richie and I are in it. But, when you look at the nerdcore YouTube rap scene that has evolved into the anime rap scene there’s a lot of people influenced by Ran but I’d say just under that you could put someone like Dan Bull out of the UK. I think Dan Bull is the YouTube nerd rap GOAT. He just walks in and destroys cyphers. He just destroys everything in his own way. He just doesn’t care and he’s amazing. Him and JT Machinima. Then there’s this wave in the US where there’s Richie, there’s VI Seconds (formerly Shizzy VI), who out of all of us did the most complete job of saying, “Hey I’m a huge weeb but I’ll dominate.” He was dominating Team Backpack cyphers. Doing these records with indie rap stars but also doing these anime raps. Also, ShoFu. There’s NoneLikeJoshua, who I will always respect for jumping in the way he’s jumped in and pulling people in the way he’s pulled people in. His work ethic is incredible, personal things aside. To a smaller extent, me. There’s been this tree thing happening where pretty much what you’re seeing on the YouTube/Anime rap world is coming from one of those branches. Or a combination of those. You know, I was able to jump back in with a little bit of a splash in part because of not being able to play. Thinking that I’m not playing a lot so let me jump back into content again, content raps. A lot of the big players were aware of me for whatever reason. A couple of them featured me and it kind of gave me a headstart. I think it’s just people not being afraid to have an industry sound but also talk about what they want to talk about. That’s not exclusive to nerdcore but I think nerdcore is probably the biggest example of that right now.
For sure, and I want to thank you for introducing me to that world. If you just google “Nerdcore” you still get those old names and diving into this world of YouTube/Anime rap has broadened this world immensely. I hear a song by you or Fabvl or DPS and unless I’m looking at the video then I don’t always know it’s even inspired by a certain thing. I dabble in anime but there’s so much content out there that it’s hard for me to focus on one show. I like that, not that the content itself is taking a backseat, but the fact that “hey these dudes are nerds like me but they’re also making great music.” If that makes sense?
Yeah! It’s super cool. I think one of the things I forgot to mention that Richie had tweeted about is that one of the most powerful things about the current nerdcore wave is that a lot of people are showing that you can do whatever you feel like doing as an artist and make it a sustainable career. You know? You don’t necessarily have to be like uber wealthy. I really appreciate seeing what Rustage, Fabvl, DPS, GameBoyJones, NoneLikeJoshua, all these people that are the biggest players in the field are doing. Then just below that your Breeton Boi, Ham Sandwich, Dizzy Eight, Cam Steady, these people are eating off of what they’re doing! Before seeing people like them have hundreds of thousands of subscribers or Shwabadi doing an angry gamers rap and it making money, it wasn’t that easy of a concept to digest. It’s powerful to me to see how they’re holding it down in that regard. There’s been riffs between like OG Nerdcore and YouTube Nerdcore that I genuinely don’t care about because I’ve been in both worlds over time. But there are conversations that I used to have with people that I don’t have anymore. People who I’m on prestigious leadership boards with: lawyers, doctors, etc. I’ve had to be calm because some of those people just can’t believe that I’m making a living not only doing music full time but talking about the things that I talk about. They’re just incredulous. Obviously, and it’s in my lyrical content, I’ve definitely been broke and have eaten dirt. I’ve had stuff not work out but like, I’m doing well now.
That conversation isn’t as much of a conversation now because people can look and just google to see these people doing B-List celebrity numbers. It legitimizes the scene. It makes that conversation easier to have with teacher or mom/dad or something like that. The conversation now is talking to those who want to be YouTube successful. Just saying, “hey, this isn’t the only way you can make money off of your art. There are other avenues.” Or to DIY Nerdcore, “hey, this isn’t just gimmicky. These people are putting a lot into what they’re doing. There is a lot of work going into this. You don’t have to build a massive touring presence to build a career off of what you want to do.” There’s a lot of different options that you have as a creative who wants to talk about your fandoms and the things that inspire you. I think the options there are all really beautiful.
Yeah! I think that’s amazing. Richie also included that it’s inspiring to see that kids are looking at you guys as an inspiration. It’s also important that as a teacher or as adults that we listen to those conversations. I hear all the time, “kids don’t want to be doctors anymore, they just wanna be influencers or youtubers.” Have that conversation. Talk to the kids, figure out their interests. I didn’t grow up always wanting to be a teacher. I loved acting. I did theatre all throughout high school. Then I started substituting and it opened my eyes to loving what I was doing. Realizing that 90% of teaching is acting or entertaining the students. You’ve gotta get your information across but you also have to hold their attention. So, I’m able to do the thing that I love while making money at it and still do community theatre to keep my craft alive. It’s about having those different avenues to sustain your passion. We’ve got those different options and you’ve gotta find that option that best suits you. Don’t quit your passion and I think everyone needs to be open to those conversations.
That’s really powerful that you said that. One, it was really cool to find out that you did community theatre on a personal level because when people are always passionate about someone else’s art I’m always thinking that there’s gotta be something this person does. It’s just so rare. I don’t find a lot of people who are passionate about other people’s art who don’t do some kind of art. In my experience it’s not super common. It’s really cool because on a personal level it made me feel more connected, knowing you grind at something at that level. Obviously I respect you as a teacher because that’s probably the most important job in the country. I also think you’re shining a light on the absurdity of generational maturity and the things people say when their generation becomes one of the more mature generations. The people who are like, “kids don’t want to be doctors or lawyers, they just want to be influencers now” their parents were saying “these kids don’t want to be doctors or lawyers, they want to be basketball or football players.” Before that generation being a professional athlete may have made you popular but you weren’t necessarily going to be rich unless you were cream of the crop. Where now if you make it to the professional part of the sport you are at least rich in some kind of way at least for a certain time if you don’t blow your money. There’s always something like that.
I think those statements are absurd because kids don’t want to be doctors or lawyers anyway. That’s something that comes later. Maybe when they’re in high school, what kind of life they want to live, and if they want to make a lot of money. But kids want to emulate what they see, and you just don’t see a lot of doctors or lawyers and view them in “cool” positions. You just don’t. So it’s kind of wild that people even lament that and ignore the process that they and their friends went through. Like you said, you weren’t thinking about being a teacher, you were thinking about being an actor. I was the opposite. I was ready to be a computer programmer. When I was 5, I wanted to be an actor and then when I was like 10 or 12 I thought I was going to do characters for video games. Then I got into computer science, engineering, something like that. Then I stopped running away. But, people evolve differently as kids.
Looking at the scene, it’s really important to me that scenes like what you see in the nerdcore scene, both the DIY side of it and the rap as content side of it, is that it shows that if you rap it’s not like “Billboard Top 10, Grammy Nominee or Bust!” You know? You can build a very good sustainable career as an independent artist who is not a household name and be in your own lane, make your own money. The only difference is that you’re building a ladder for yourself. There’s no ladder you’re climbing that you didn’t already build or that you aren’t actively building. There are a lot of sustainable options to being a performing artist, especially in hip hop. You don’t have to be an industry plant or product or whatever. I understand what people are saying when they say lack of lyricism or hip hop has died but that’s not true. It’s just where you’re looking. Hip hop is robust and thriving. You just have to pick your poison. I’m just really excited. It’s humbling to me and cool to being able to pivot. Jump back into the content side of things and be in a smaller standpoint. I feel like I have a lot to prove and a lot to build. There’s this community of people where it doesn’t matter how big or small you are. Are you dope and are you cool? That’s it. Climb the way you climb. There’s a lot of beauty in that. Everything has it’s negatives but there’s beauty in them.
For sure, for sure. Bringing it back to nerdcore as a whole, I named a few of the OG artists earlier. They all have two things in common: they’re all white and they’re all men. When did the change happen? The genre is as diverse as it’s ever been. I would say one of the driving forces behind that is you guys with the NPC Collective.
You know he’s not the only one, but Mega Ran is probably the biggest factor in that on any side of the nerd rap space. Mega Ran and, more indirectly, Lupe Fiasco. But Ran was just so huge because he pulled so many of us in. Threw people onto things. That representation thing, you don’t even think about it. I was aware of nerdcore. I was aware of chris, Front, and Lars specifically for a couple of years before I heard of Ran. I missed “Forever Famicom” when it first came out. I first heard Ran on “Black Materia”. Oh my god! Then seeing a brother doing what he was doing, I had all these secret nerd raps that I didn’t do anything with. I was like, “nobody wants to hear me do this.” Because, I’m not a nerdy looking white guy…literally that’s what I thought in college. Seeing him was eye opening. Then meeting Richie on YouTube solidified that. I think you have to give Mega Ran a lot of credit there.
Then as far as women of color you have to give Sammus a lot of credit because she’s definitely not the first but she’s a game changer. I don’t remember what happened first but when she dropped “Another M” and then Mega Ran and Open Mike Eagle took her on tour I started seeing a lot more women of color rapping about their fandom and nerd side. I had seen a lot of women of color rapping and there is still a lot of problems with the way men handle that. But seeing more women of color rap about their nerd side was again, eye opening to me. You have to give those two, Sammus and Mega Ran, the most credit. A lot has happened in the past decade. I know there are people who are inspired by me or inspired by other people in the collective. It’s just wild to look at. Playing conventions, and then as we go back to those conventions they’re getting more and more colorful. People coming up to us like, “we weren’t going to put this out but then we heard about you” or whatever. That’s really beautiful. We’re all climbing still. We’re all trying to get to that next spot. No matter how big you are, everything is still a fight. You know? It’s so enriching to know that you helped this person decide to be more themselves and pursue this aspect of themselves.
Ran was definitely the one who embraced that nerdcore name. Like, you brought up Lupe Fiasco and I’ll even throw early Childish Gambino into this, these were considered “alternative rap”. It wasn’t called nerdcore, even though we’re talking about the same stuff. I think Ran was like, I’m making nerdcore…whatever. Mega Ran put me onto deeper nerdcore. That led me to you all with the NPC collective. Your and my past conversations led to me listening to those other artists. It’s an amazing world and it’s so cool to see how diverse it’s become from being a very niche thing by a specific type of person. It’s awesome to see.
Dude, it really is. It’s really surreal thinking about this now. Everything I’m about to tell you happened 10 years ago, 2011. Mega Ran dropped “Black Materia”. I did a Skyrim rap. Richie did the Old Republic mixtape where he flipped the Star Wars Old Republic soundtrack into a rap tape and I did an Old Republic rap. That’s how we met, we commented on each other’s stuff. That’s 2011. There’s definitely a lot of stuff that happened before that, but just thinking about how the NPC came together. Richie and Ran kind of knew each other between 2011 and 2012. Then Nerdapolooza happened. Creative Mind Frame was there. Eye-Q was there. Sammus was there. Xavier Woods was there. That’s how the NPC happened. I couldn’t go to that because I had just started at Cerner and I couldn’t get off for it. But, it’s really wild to think about. Also, that same year VI Seconds dropped a bunch of viral anime raps. Shofu dropped a bunch of viral anime raps. NoneLikeJoshua went viral rapping over DJ Ephixa’s “ZeldaStep” mixtape. 2011 was absolutely crazy. I’ve been reflecting on this because it’s the end of the year, and this time of the year is just so traumatic that I didn’t really think about that until like a month ago. This is a decade. 2011 was massive for nerdcore in general. “Forever Famicom” is iconic but I think “Black Materia” was the thing was like……hey this black nerdcore rapper just got top 10 on iTunes with a Final Fantasy XII rap album. Top 10 iTunes rap album! It’s really surreal to think about now. Every one of those things ended up having a lot of impact down the road. It’s just really cool man.
Agreed man. And thinking back… like Richie Branson went out with mc chris in like 2012 and that whole debacle happened. It’s cool to see how far everything has come from then.
It is and I think about a lot of us now, everybody I just mentioned and a lot of people who are rising now, and old nerdcore. There were peaks. Like Adam WarRock peaked for example. It’s not like these guys aren’t doing well. Front is doing well. Lars is doing well. Ran is still climbing though, he hasn’t peaked. All of us are in that regard. All of us are still climbing. You know? There are conversations happening right now that are silly. I think indirectly we might have learned a lot about waves, and not attaching ourselves fully to one particular wave. Finding the best way to be ourselves honestly and opportunistically, consistently. Just paying attention to what’s going on and finding a way to continue to climb. Find a way to continue to grow and learn from one another. Everybody is still rising. Emman (Creative Mind Frame) is not trying to be a full time musician but he has such a mindset a trying to be excellent at everything he does. He’s growing in the streaming world.
He blows my mind. Between the Rocket League streaming, the American Ninja Warrior stuff. I will give Creative Mind Frame as much credit as I can give because that dude gives 100% to whatever he is trying to accomplish. He does it.
To everything! And Eye-Q has basically set a new standard for the convergence of hip hop culture and Japanese culture and what a convention can do with that. That was Eye-Q. People were not doing what people are starting to talk about doing now before he was doing it. Nobody had the audacity to say, “hey I know the people who worked on this soundtrack, worked with these producers, and us” and actually present it to a convention. Say, “we know you aren’t necessarily servicing your hip hop demographic and we know you don’t necessarily know how to do that, but we can do it for you.” You know, there’s just so much happening right now. I don’t know where it’s going to go, but it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful thing. I think it’s all relevant to the conversation on MAG (MAGfest). MAG has become a very inclusive space. It’s kind of like this nerd cookout situation that kicks off the year. It’s been a jump off point for a lot of us in a lot of different ways. I think it all smashes together a little bit.
That’s the thing, this year you are booked on mainstage, Friday night. I’ve seen you perform in the Jamspace, the MAGfast stage, and so many other places. I’ve seen you rock it solo, with the Chocobros, with Ran and Murdock. What’s the difference between playing the Jamspace versus playing the mainstage?
So I’m viewing this as an opportunity to test how much I’ve refined my solo rap set. This is an hour. I’ve done hour rap sets before but most of the time when you do a hip hop show it’s like 20-30 minutes max. I think that’s the biggest difference from an artistic stand point. I thought about trying to pull together this huge band because there are enough connections, but I really want to enjoy the space for myself this time. That’s the thing I’m most excited about. I revel in the opportunity to share things with certain people. I know that the show is going to be a little depleted because of covid, the squad isn’t going to be there to hype it up anyway. However, it’s a really good opportunity for me to engage and refine as a solo act or on mainstage likely with a bigger crowd. That’s really it though. I’ve played trombone during Ran’s mainstage sets. Guested on Eye-Q’s set last MAGfest. I’ve been a part of some really beautiful mainstage moments on MAGfest but this one is mine. I also want to take this time because I don’t think it’s going to be very long before I’m able to bring the bands I want to events like this. Then it’s a whole different thing. The way I’ve been able to grow in Kansas City, there are some world class people who have played on albums with legends and they want to play with me! Me! It’s very very silly when we’re together. It’s completely ridiculous and I’m really excited to bring that to different stages around the US in the near future. So, I’m kind of viewing this as like a timestamp. We’ll see.
I’m looking forward to it. In the past it’s been amazing watching you grow when playing in a showcase or with other people. But, this one is Kadesh Flow, mainstage. Let’s get it. I’m really looking forward to it. Now, we always like to work in some fun questions. What are you playing right now?
Umm, replaying The Witcher III because of season 2 dropped. And…because…I’m working on a Witcher tribute album. I don’t know what that’s going to happen but I’m definitely working on one. It’s not like I’m doing a lot of projects currently where I’m only working on it and it’s going to be done at a certain time. I’m just letting it come the way it comes. There’s just so many different opportunities right now. The lanes are wide open, man. Not just me but the people I’m around, and not just in the nerdcore world. Everything has a lot of runway room right now. I have to think about everything a lot more than I was even sixth months ago or a year ago. But, I also just started Disco Elysium.
That one has been on my backlog for awhile now.
You know I haven’t seen a lot of things get 10/10s from multiple outlets. Already I really like it but I haven’t really jumped into it because I need to…it seems to be more of a dry humor mystery, low action role playing game. I play a lot of my games at night and I need to not play that late at night or I’ll fall asleep playing it. I have to carve out time. I’m also about to pick the Borderlands 3 campaign back up. I’ve basically spent the last 3 years trying to catch up on really good RPGs that I missed or got behind on. I got rid of my system in grad school and didn’t pick up another one until 2016. I’m finally, for the most part caught up. Those are the three for the most part I’m playing. What about you? I know you’re interviewing me, but what are you playing?
I just started Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and as I’m sitting here I’ve got the Alan Wake Remaster updating and Death Stranding updating on the PS5. But the two games I’m playing are the Pokémon Brilliant Diamond remake and Spider-Man: Miles Morales. My backlog of games is insane. When I get home gaming feels like work. I have a problem. Hahaha. To bring it back to music, on “Room Service 2” you’ve got that line, “hours spent on tik tok and Instagram.” I get it man. I’ll sit there and I don’t feel like doing anything else. When people are like, what’s your goals for 2022, I respond with, “this is gonna sound real lame but catch up on video games, books I haven’t read.” I’ll sit down and think I’m going to read, but then I’ll pick up the phone and start scrolling. So that is my goal is to put my phone down more. Start immersing myself in the content I enjoy.
That’s really funny that you say that because one of the things from Q4 I was trying to concentrate on was when I say I’m going to relax and spend time with myself, then spend a bunch of time on social media, I don’t feel rested. Depending on that context of playing video games, it’s a cool down for me. Which is why I play a lot of times late at night. A lot of times I’ll play a show and be wired because of all the energy. So, I’ll get home at like 1am and play video games for like 2-3 hours. My backlog is mostly because I’m trying to catch up on so much anime. The anime stuff though is work because it’s more like research at this point. I don’t do a lot of VGM rap, until this Witcher thing. I’m just playing video games to chill. I’m not trying to get through games, I’m just chilling out. It’s funny now because my big mental health question over the last year is what can I do to enjoy myself that I haven’t found a way to turn into work. I teeter totter on the line with video games.
I get it man. I’ve even admitted to my students, I have an addiction. It’s my phone. I want to delete them all but I think certain things are so essential to stay connected with the worlds I enjoy. Even with watching stuff, example being anime. Dude, I would love to get back into watching anime. But, every time I sit down to watch something what’s the first thing I do? Pick up the phone to scroll. And nothing’s changed! I’m scrolling through the same shit I just got done scrolling through 10 minutes ago. I don’t know what it is. Some days I feel like I need to just toss it altogether. I need to get back to the things I enjoy. That was one of the things I talked about while being in therapy. I want to get back to enjoying the things that I used to enjoy. I was a huge gamer, a huge comic reader, I love reading novels. I got to the point where I didn’t do those things anymore. I would just sit down and scroll. I would constantly buy these things and never get to it. That’s one of my big things, I just need to put down the phone and stay off social media.
Yeah, and that’s hard in and of itself. That being said, we all have to give ourselves a little grace too. There’s also a reality that we have to work so hard to make a difference right now. To make any amount of money and make impact we have to do a lot more than our parents’ generation or their parents’ generation. In any aspect, whatsoever. Even my friends whose parents are working musicians in the 80’s and 90’s were making the rates that a lot of people are making now but it was in the 80’s and 90’s. You know? The biggest challenge for millennials and zoomers right now, from a self-healing mental health standpoint, is to really try to looking at things holistically when we’re trying to improve any aspects of our lives. Think about the fact that we’re in a territory where we are so conditioned to do more to get way less in a lot of senses. So, I totally get it. Just try to be good to yourself. Which is also a challenge because it’s like one existential crisis after another currently.
That’s the thing, there is so much happening in an instant and you can miss out on a lot leaving any media outlet. I think it’s hard but I think with all things you’ve got to find a healthy balance.
Honestly, this has been the most successful year I’ve had as an artist and it’s been the most growth I’ve experienced as an adult. Q4 2020 to now. One of the things that was really pivotal for that is to pull away from information. I tried to stay really informed on everything because I could handle it. For example, there are black people who are like, “it’s not my job to educate you, white person, on this thing.” I respect that because you have to protect your energy but I am a person who has the constitution to do that. I don’t mind going back and forth, unless you’re being ridiculous. I don’t really mind white people who lean more conservative or who don’t get it pushing back on me on certain things because I could walk you through the whole process. I’m good at it. I’m good at dealing with political stuff. I’m fine with being wrong. I’ll definitely push back if I don’t think I’m wrong but I’m always learning. I’m always second checking. I’m always checking up on my stuff. But, I’ve been immensely more productive and growing just taking a step back. But then I have to deal with handling my guilt for being less informed. Feeling like maybe I should be more informed. Maybe it’s selfish for me and privileged for me to not be paying as much attention because now I can afford to do so. In reality, I have to maximize where I am. I have to maximize my growth process. Sometimes you have to shut it all off. From a bottom line we all have to choose ourselves first.
One of the hardest and most important lessons I’ve had to learn in the last year or so is that you’re more effective, compassionate, and able to do more for other people when you figure out how to choose yourself first and be healthy. But choosing yourself and being healthy is its own process. A lot of us are just now doing that because we were forced to by a global pandemic combined with a very politically toxic situation happening at the same time. That’s just where we are. To bring it back, I’m really excited to see everyone at MAGFest. Being in the anime rap community, honestly the overall music scene and the Kansas City music scene…the music scene here is silly from a talent standpoint. I got a homie who just wrapped up a project with Dr. Dre. Literally. People on albums, people getting off a tour with some A-lister and then coming to a little jam session with like 30-40 people attending. I’m allowing myself to walk in a lot of gratitude from all of those things and actually act in that gratitude. So, my motivation right now and my excitement to grow isn’t coming from a place of pressure. I’m so grateful to be in these communities and scenes, and have these colleagues because they motivate me. When I do feel down and out I feel like I’m disrespecting some of the homies by giving half effort and not giving my all because I know that they’re going hard. I’m feeling motivated because I’m grateful to be moving in this direction with these people who are moving in this direction. I think that’s really powerful. It kind of encompasses the whole process.
That’s what’s important. Being motivated by the wins and the wins that are happening around you. So let’s wrap this up. I’ve got two more for you. I know you’ve been constantly grinding. You’ve accomplished and grown so much over the past decade. What has been your creative milestone so far?
Wow, I’d say three. In whatever order. The “Brass & Boujee” album. One, because it’s never happened before. Having rappers with original music, a jazz orchestra, and it not be some tribute thing. Having it be an all-inclusive original thing, it’s literally never happened before. I’m hearing rumors that there’s a really phenomenal saxophonist and rapper who goes by Butcher Brown, he has a big band album. He plays with absolute monsters. I look forward to hearing. But, up until this point we were the only ones who’ve done it. First time charting Billboard. Working with Marcus which is a dream. There are so many people in that band who have DONE SOME STUFF! No slouches, these are the best players in this city. That’s crazy and what that led to. Like opening for Janelle Monáe. Playing at the different universities. That’s one.
Two, honestly, is “Room Service 2”. “Room Service 2” is a culmination of me questioning whether I could be in my head and produce something that’s really dope. I’ve done it before, but I never would’ve imagined ten years ago that I would’ve made something that sounds like “Room Service 2” and it be mostly me. Be coherent, but also emotional, but also catchy. The only thing I regret about it was that I needed to get it out because it was cathartic. I just put it out. Relative to that, it’s doing fine numbers wise. It’s been on the radio stations here and stuff. That’s cool. But, it would’ve been nice to put some steam behind it. However, I love where it is in that this was a therapeutic album for me and it came out like that. There’s a lot of stuff that I’m really happy about but it just feels good to be able to do that and bring in Atlas, Bill Beats, Andrew the Only, etc.
The third one is playing trombone on Jidenna’s last album, “85 to Africa”. Just because I hadn’t had a major label opportunity before and to be able to do something on a really important album. That’s a really important album and I don’t know if people will ever talk about how significant it is. If it does happen it will probably be way later. This dude literally had smash hits on his first album and was set up to propel himself into A-list super stardom as a musician, and did not do it in the name of making an album that highlights pan-Africanism and the various aspects of the African diaspora which is not mainstream at all. He did it and his team was cool with it. His A&R, who is also the A&R for like Britney Spears and J-Lo, was cool with that! Didn’t try to steer him out of it. Let him do what he wanted to do. Even in doing that he still kept himself relevant from an A-list standpoint while dealing with all these things he deals with on that album. I just think it’s really cool I got to play on that. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple of years. That’s definitely not the last thing I’m going to be on. But, when it happened…how it happened was crazy. “Brass & Boujee” happens, we open for Janelle Monáe…there are A&Rs just parking in Kansas City looking at the scene who had just revealed themselves to me. I had been in jam sessions with these people with no idea who they are. Turns out they’re an A&R or their cousin is an A&R. People start pulling me into meetings speaking game. Obviously, I’m not in the place where they’re trying to pick me up and sign me or I would be in a different place right now, but just being in those positions was crazy. I literally walked into that studio and they knew stuff about me already. One of Jidenna’s guys looked at me like, “hey bro, you want some French toast?” I just got here, like what?! Do I say yes? I can’t play this situation cool. Those three things for sure, I could ramble all day.
Last one, it’s the obvious question. In today’s insane climate, what advice can you give creators going into 2022?
That’s a great question. Two things. Choose yourself and your art always. That sounds really simple, but actually getting to the point where you do that is a massive journey. Choosing yourself and your art first doesn’t mean being an egomaniac. It means putting yourself in the best position to be wholesome and healthy across the board. The second thing I’d say is to strive to always be consistent but also consistently elevating. Because being consistent isn’t really helpful if you’re not doing the things you really need to be doing. People say consistency is key and trust the process. That’s true but the process could be toxic and the consistency could be unhealthy. Things that aren’t productive or that aren’t going to move you forward. Which is why I say consistency is good, but making sure you’re consistently elevating is really important. I see a lot of people beat their heads against a wall trying to do a thing because other people have done it, and it works for other people. Really, it’s all about what works for you.
For example, with me I have literally never in any aspect of my life been successful by just hitting “the stuff” over and over again. I’ve always had to do things my way and bounce off of things. So, in school I was a smart kid and made good grades, but it wasn’t because I was “good” in class or studied. You know? I talked too much. I got “needs improvement” on how much I talk for the entirety of elementary school. Then I finally figured out that I can learn from my creativity, and piggy back. Then the teachers would just have to deal with it. They already knew I was smart. I would be drawing during class the entire time but I would integrate what I was learning into the characters. I started integrating what I was learning into my raps. So, I’d write raps about the stuff I was learning just so I could learn it better. I was kind of a class clown but I never got in trouble for it because I made such good grades. That’s a whole problematic thing. Haha.
Going to music, building in Kansas City for example. I moved here, I’m a transplant. I started doing things. Yeah, I was originally cool but then people started seeing me on these dope stages internationally with people like Mega Ran. That makes me cooler here, in Kansas City. Then I start doing even doper stuff in my city which looks cooler to those thinking about booking me nationally. Then I do something nationally that’s a bit bigger than the last national thing. Which leads to things like opening for Janelle Monáe. It’s like a big web, right? That all wouldn’t have happened had I not started by putting the raps up on YouTube. Even without consistently doing that past 2013. People start talking: “Oh, IGN wrote about him. Kotaku wrote about him. So, he’s dope enough to book for this thing.” As for me, it’s not likely that I’m just going to build on my YouTube credits now and just have hundreds of thousands of subscribers from just uploading that content. It’s the main thing I’m doing currently but everything for me is a bounce around. One door opens another door and then I go back to the last door and open a bigger door. I can do something in a bigger way because I did this thing over here. That’s my thing, and recognizing that. That’s how I grow. So, I have to have recognition of what I’m doing. But, different things work for different people. The consistent elevation thing is having recognition of where you are and what works for you. Then finding the best way to maximize that. Your process is your own, it’s not anybody else’s process. It’s really important to not only recognize that for your growth, but understanding that comparison is the thief of joy. You see way too many people get hung up because they’re not succeeding doing the same thing that this other person succeeded at doing. Not understanding that their process is probably different from that person’s process. That’s the most important thing.
That is a perfect place to wrap this up. Thank you again for joining me Desh. I can’t wait to be able to hang in person again and hear what’s next.
Thanks for taking the time Dylan!
You can learn more about Kadesh Flow via their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The newest record “Room Service 2” is available on all your favorite streaming services. Support Kadesh Flow by purchasing merch and music through bandcamp.
Obsessed with all things horror, video games, comics and vinyl, Dylan has been surrounded by all things geek culture since birth. Along with writing for Icon Versus Icon he’s also the co-host for the year long Christmas podcast, “Christmas 365”.
“No wimps. No False Metal.”