The search for LGBTQ hip-hop artists started in our own backyard. Atlanta transplants Nor and IQ comprise the duo KIN4LIFE who are gearing up for performances in Dominican Republic over Labor Day, a brand-new video for just released single “It’s Over Now” and a planned Atlanta Pride performance in October. KIN4LIFE opened up about their “musical sisterhood”, their unexpected influences and what it’s like to be female emcees in a male dominated game in this exclusive David Atlanta interview.
You started in New York but currently rock it out in Atlanta, can you tell our readers a little bit about your musical journey?
KIN4LIFE is comprised of 2 females from Mount Vernon, NY with a common dream. We started making music collectively in 1999 and haven’t looked back since. Music connected our friendship turned sisterhood. It has allowed us to affect so many people just as much as it has affected our lives. We both write, produce, emcee, and sing so it’s only right that we put all those elements together to create the KIN4LIFE sound. Our music and movement speaks from the perspectives of struggle and fun; creating a certain balance in content that enlightens and inspires the listener.
What are y’all up to currently?
We are in the midst of pushing our new single “It’s Over Now”. We shot the video in RED ONE cinematography with director Dorian G. Stone. Look out for it in film fests over the next few months. We are also doing shows and appearances with InfernoDR in the Dominican Republic for the 3rd year in a row Labor Day Weekend. You can check out more about that at InfernoDRWomen.com.
We’re also definitely in the process of recording more music for our new album Money Brings Trouble while reading scripts for more indie films.
In late 2010 KIN4LIFE released “Lone Ranger,” in support of LGBTQ youth. While the opening reminds me of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” can you share what inspired you to write this track?
We wanted to be a voice for the forgotten. The media is a funny machine. When a topic is hot, it becomes fad like. Everyone wants to be involved until something juicier comes along. We forget that young people are still committing suicide and nothing is being done to prevent it when the next celebrity is busting bottles on somebody’s chin. We tend to lose focus very easily.
We wanted to make sure that we created something that could resonate a lifetime. A record that speaks directly to the victims to give them hope for the future. Lone Ranger is a letter from KIN4LIFE to anyone who has ever felt so low that they wanted to end it all, or run away, or just give up. We are offering understanding and hope to these people who are often forgotten.
We have received numerous letters from young people who were contemplating suicide but decided against it after stumbling upon the Lone Ranger record. This is our version of “We Are The World” incorporating vocals from Tora Torres, Nefertiti, and LGBTQ activists Studology 101. We put a certain energy and concern into creating this track that will continue to save lives and affect people throughout the world.
We are often asked about the Nirvana influenced intro. We are 80s babies and grew up in the 90s when alternative music and the grunge scene was at its peak. That is part of our musical influence. If you listen to the line that intros the first verse, “Jeremy’s Spoken, its not over, you don’t have to pull that gun from the holster.” That line pays homage to Pearl Jam and their classic hit “Jeremy”. You remember when music videos actually had a message and artistic value.
Who are KIN4LIFE’s influences (past and present)?
Nor: My mother has always been my biggest influence. She will always get all the credit when the question pops up. She taught me how to rhyme, how to think outside the box and to be a strong woman. She made something out of nothing. My mother came from poverty and abuse and managed to raise two beautiful, successful, functional individuals. Without Ma dukes I wouldn’t be NOR, wouldn’t be KIN4LIFE.
IQ: My biggest influence has just been the diverse sound I grew up around. My grandmother played soul music all day on Sundays. My mother played classic R&B all weekend. I went to a diverse elementary school and I was getting exposed to bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Oasis. But at the end of the day my biggest hip-hop influence will always be the Notorious B.I.G.
Is mainstream success a goal for KIN4LIFE?
To me there is no such thing as mainstream anymore. Mainstream is busy chasing after us Indie guys (laughs). They oughta be aspiring to find KIN4LIFE. At the end of the day as long as we die with a mic in our hand, We Gucci!
In a genre that has been blasted as anti-gay and even anti-woman, what’s it like being out female hip-hop artists?
It’s liberating being able to do and say what you want when you create. Why should we have to hide who we are to make some insecure creep feel comfy? It’s really no big deal. Our records are dope period. Besides, people forget we are gay because they are so busy feeling the flow and tracks.
Is there danger in being labeled an out hip-hop group? In other words, do you feel there are some who don’t take your music seriously because you’re out?
Really and truly it’s dangerous just being a female emcee period, never mind being gay. The minute you say you rap no one takes you serious if you ain’t got a penis in between your legs. For all the anti-gay people in hip hop they sure do love adoring men. ‘Hey Hip-Hop LET SOME LADIES IN!’
Do artists like Jay-Z who has come out in support of marriage equality and the recent coming out of Frank Ocean make things better?
It definitely helps but by no means does it solve the issues. It’s bigger than just hip hop we need to start supporting within our community period. As black folk, we have to learn to be more accepting to homosexuality. The dialogue must take place and we have to start loving ourselves and our people the right way. Homosexuality is not a choice, it’s genetic!
After watching the 2006 documentary Pick up the Mic,I think there is a distinction between those who want to be known for more than their sexuality, do you think the two are inextricably linked?
If you are the type of artist who wants to be apart of the so-called mainstream then talk of sexuality comes with the territory. The industry is obsessed with peoples’ sexual preference. Who haven’t they labeled gay? It’s like turbulence, once you get through the bullshit you’re good. Just make good music and it will set you apart regardless.
Looks like you guys will have an October Pride performance, what should people expect from a KIN4LIFE show?
Energy, confidence, dancing, fun, maybe even a boob or two. Who knows things get crazy! We put our all into our live show, we make sure we treat every venue like Madison Square Garden.
KIN4LIFE uses social media quite a bit- including KIN4LIFETV on YouTube. Has this helped you keep in touch and/or attract new fans?
Oh most definitely, the internet has always been a very large part of our movement, connecting us with fans worldwide. We recently found out that we have a growing fan base in Saudi Arabia. Without the internet, those people would not be able to connect to us and vice versa.
You can stay up-to-date with KIN4LIFE at the following sites: