Eating beef tacos at the Mexican roadside joint Cactus in Hollywood, Kilo Kish tells me she thinks New York has become stale. When the young Lakisha Kimberly Robinson moved from Orlando to Brooklyn to study Fine Art at the Pratt Institute, the ‘gentrification’ of the area had only just started. Since then, she explains, everything and everyone seems to have spread out across New York, away from the city’s centralised areas. “You just don’t get the scenes you used to”, she told me, adding: “Honestly, it’s quite boring.”
If she sounds cocky then let me assure you, she isn’t. Although she’s been labelled a ‘female rapper’ neither Kish, pronounced keesh, nor her music fit that stereotype. The pint-sized artist is wearing no make-up and wearing loose-fitting jeans for our meeting, where she comes across as shy, softly spoken and overwhelmingly down to earth. She defines her music as ‘spacey conversational rhyme’ over soft melodies, sitting halfway between the spoken word and rap. When Kish discusses New York, she is merely voicing an honest opinion shared by so many of the creatives who have recently upped sticks and moved to Los Angeles.
It is, however, surprising to hear the view come out of her mouth, considering how much success she has seen in the Big Apple. After leaving Pratt in 2009, Kish fell into music accidentally when her roommate – the rapper Smash Simmons – needed a female voice on a track. From there, Kish began to write “little songs”, doing parodies of rappers like Lil Wayne and Lil B. These soon garnered the attention of the Odd Future Wolf Gang, who flew Kish to L.A. to record. Her first experience of L.A.? “I hated it”, she explains, and so she continued to work on the East Coast.
The next few years saw Kish move from strength to strength; her first gig at the Standard boasted guests such as Mos Def and Theophilus London, and in 2013 she released the K+ mixtape featuring Earl Sweatshirt, Childish Gambino and A$AP Ferg. Her retro- inspired look, her crowd, and her background design made her an unintentional It Girl on the New York fashion scene. So far she has featured in Vogue, been the face of H&M and nailed a recent collaboration with Maison Kitsuné.
Kish is now preparing for her first full-length album. Although the boyfriend she moved to L.A. with is no longer a reason to stay, there was no question where she would make the record: “The music scene here is better,” she says. “I don’t know how I got anything done in New York. Here, people are more willing to try stuff, it is a much more laid-back approach.” While she misses New York, she reminds herself that it’s only been a few months: “You have to give cities a fair chance. It’s one of the biggest cities in America. And I don’t like quitting cities.” -Emily Ames