Bars, schemes and sharing knowledge are some of the things that modern Hip Hop lacks and if you’re a sucker for all those aspects of Hip Hop music, you have no need to despair because there are individuals out there that are spearheading and defying popular culture by staying true to themselves. One can argue that ‘staying true to yourself’ is a loose phrase in the Hip Hop context considering how open Hip Hop has been in terms of expression. As the culture evolves and changes, there has been an increase in the disconnection between the old generation and the new generation and the root cause of the disconnection sits in how participants in Hip Hop nowadays are choosing to do things.
With the rift between the old and the new generation, there are proponents within the culture who attempt to mend the disconnection and provide work that can possibly satisfy the old and the new generation. A strong voice is needed to break down the barriers which are causing the disconnect and Lo Kee Dot may be the one individual who has a voice strong enough to bring about change.
We had a chance to speak with Lo Kee Dot, the Toronto based MC about his music, his upbringing, influences and his love for skateboarding. Peep the conversation below.
Lo Kee Dot: The name is Lo Kee Dot is just a name for social media because somehow lo kee is already taken so I added The Dot just to represent my city, Toronto.
Tell us a little about your upbringing and how it shaped the artist that you are or is continually shaping the one you’re becoming?
Lo Kee Dot: I was Born in the Democratic Republic Of Congo, home original man, the sun people, Bantu for real. So ya there are traces of African pride elements in my art. I think good art has something to say about the environment that produces it, so i usually rap about the world around me, what’s going on and what I see on the daily. Also i mean growing up in the Congo maybe i got exposed to a world that most people will never understand so i try paint pictures with my words for all to see.
We know that you’re also quite passionate about skateboarding, tell us more about that? Skateboarding has a certain aesthetic and its shear power to influence culture is quite evident in society, especially in music and unfortunately popular culture. How do you marry making music and skateboarding?
Lo Kee Dot: Personally skateboarding has always gone along with music. Even as a kid playing Tony Hawk’s pro skater and being introduced to new music, musicians and genres through a video game was cool. I mean a kid could buy a skate video just cause he likes skating but end up a hip hop head because of the music selection in the video game. Ultimately i think globalization and cross media ownership has a lot to do with how these cultures spread. More recently we have seen famous musicians and celebrities rocking thrasher t shirts just to ride a wave they think they can be a part of, so ya thats kinda whack. For me I was a skateboarder before I ever even considered doing art/music. I can’t imagine trying to join a culture or pretend to be part of it just because it’s the cool or fashionable/trendy thing to do now cause when we was coming up society was hating on us as skaters or even worse black skaters on the streets of Jozi where I lived and skated for years. Shout out VEG crew and Soweto Skate Society I see they still keeping the culture alive.
Talk us through the music scene in Canada, are people receptive of the style of music that you make?
Lo Kee Dot: The music scene in Canada in growing still. I mean there is enough money out here for mans to be eating off of lyrics. I Am currently an independent artist, part of a rap duo group called Asiatic Buddha Gang with King Chino. Ya the people are mad receptive nah mean they always tryna find out where to cop the tape but we haven’t pressed any yet so ya the streets demand that. It’s gonna take some time for the industry to give us the proper credits and respect that we deserve but we ain’t too worried about that cause Asiatic Buddha Gang stay getting money and respect wherever we go ya nah mean. Especially at the shows, the people love the live shows, they come out and show mad love and to that we say Peace God.
What are you trying to achieve with your music, particularly with the messages that you choose to include in your music?
Lo Kee Dot: I just wanna make good music that is true to the art form. Music that people can feel. Music they can feel because they ain’t got no choice but to feel it and they ain’t just pretending to feel it cause that’s the trendy thing to do. I wanna create music that reaches the youth in that part of the brain where they parents can’t reach them, the school teachers can’t and they just tryna make sense of the world cause that was me listening to my favorite artists. Like Listening to Dead Prez as a kid, they put a lot of world issues into a context that made sense to me. More sense than any library or four year university degree could ever make to me, and that’s real.
In a recent clip that you shared through Asiatics Facebook page, you said “Randburg taxi rank, y’all niggas wasn’t there” which is interesting because Randburg is an area in Johannesburg? That line hit home, mind telling us how you experienced Jo’burg in your time in South Africa?
Lo Kee Dot: Man Jozi is my home. I grew up right by the Randburg taxi rank and we used to go street skating in that area and just being the wild kids we were meant to be. That line was actually freestyled and just came to me so I expressed it honestly. It’s like trying to convey the energy and spirit that lives around that taxi rank area, it’s more of a feeling than something you can describe with words. I personally like how chaotic that area could get while at the same time you could meet the most interesting and genuine people you will ever come across. That randburg taxi rank line is connected to the line before it where i say dear hunter flinch I can smell the fear, randburg taxi rank yall niggas wasn’t there. I vividly remember how sometimes the rank was a place where if you didn’t belong people could smell it on you (the Tsotsi’s were pro at this). Hence the line i can smell the fear, y’all niggas wasn’t there, my niggas never scared boy. Cause we really wasnt scared, ever, never show fear, especially in the jungle with the animals. I will always have love for Jozi.
2016 is almost over, do you think that you’ve met all your music goals? How does 2017 look to you? Can we expect a solo project from you or something from your group, the Asiatics?
Lo Kee Dot: Ya as a group Asiatic Buddha Gang has surpassed the goals we set for 2016, we recorded more material than we planned to, we did more collaborations and have a buzz on the city streets. 2017 is the take over years yall can expect a project out in hard copy, some Asiatic Buddha Gang merch and more shows across Canada the U.S and anywhere the fans want it. We really wanna hit up London, Tokyo and South Africa. Yes you can expect all that a group project, a solo tape and more collaborations with select artist.
What are some of the challenges that you face when it comes to getting people to listen to your music because you take a stance which entails talking about being black and proud and going against some of the messages pushed out by popular culture?
Lo Kee Dot: Asiatic Buddha Gang we set trends they follow. So ya I mean you gone see people mention black lives cause that shits popular now or every time an innocent black youth gets gunned down we might hear something from the mainstream but that’s mostly artists who are faking the funk and creating content to follow trends but what we do is different. When I get in the booth or when King Chino makes a beat first and foremost we focus on the musicality after all we do make music and not documentaries. I have songs that are recorded and unreleased because we as a group are not sure about the level of musicality, if it’s at the level we require our art to be before we release it. Asiatics Buddha Gang we bring you that musicality and the message that is true to the art form of hip hop. Like I said I rap about what’s happening in the world around me so if all I see is a black struggle then that’s what I’m gonna rap about. I have no issues with trying to get people to listen to my music because my style of music is not for everyone. The people that fuck with it, already know what the fuck it is.(shout out you know what the fuck it is krew) I mean I usually don’t even tell people I do this music thing although I should, we could all use some shameless self promotion. Hip Hop is black music so you think that the message of the black struggle would be more prominent in this genre but most mainstream artists are owned by labels that do not care about the true essence of the culture, they just see dollar sign and coons that they can exploit to get that 100k a year and a white picket fence somewhere in a gated community. Crazy how the exploitation of hip hop culture almost mirrors the exploitation of black people all over the world. Cause here we have something created by black people but somehow black people are profiting the least from the culture Just like the congo has the greatest raw mineral deposit of Coltan but the children of the Congo still starve to death as they slave away at these mines that the Europeans set up. Just like Hip Hop is the raw mineral that came from a history of jazz and blues in America we have White owned record labels and distribution companies than exploit the raw material or cultural commodity known as hip hop. Different game same exploitation tactics perpetrated on the black conscious.
When it comes to music and skateboarding, who are your biggest influences?
Lo Kee Dot: In Music, Rakim, Elzhi, Roc Marciano, Ka, King Chino, Khamca, Dead Prez, Big L, B.I.G, Pac, Lauryn Hill, Nas, Conway and Westside Gun. In skateboarding I am mostly influenced by the people I get to skate with, the squad, you know who you are, but for the sake of name drops let’s go with Wade Desarmo.
We’re currently living in a digital age which entails the heavy usage of technology and this also has an influence on how artists these days create music and how people consume music? Are you embracing the digital, if you are how does it simply your life as a rapper?
Lo Kee Dot: I embrace the digital age but it’s like a double edge sword. All technological advances come with a down side so ya we live in an age where it has never been easier to make music and disseminate it. That is a good and bad thing because not everyone should be making music but with how easily accessible the technology is we have a new artist everyday who thinks they are next up but they wrong cause Asiatic Buddha Gang, we next for real and we gonna take over the city and they can’t stop it. I mean Also We live in that instant gratification generation where people wanna make music fast, fans wanna hear it fast and artists wanna get rich quick. My music takes time and ages like wine while they shit just get thrown out with last season’s trends. I want Longevity like De La Soul.
Given a chance, where would you ideally want to perform in Africa or the rest of the world?
Lo Kee Dot: I wanna Perform In Jozi, you know sell out the Coca Cola dome, then Cape Town cause hip hop Lives there and always has and always will, for the rest of the world we wanna do Tokyo Japan and London in 2017.
How important is collaboration to you?
Lo Kee Dot: Collaboration is important, but I feel like ideally the artists collaborating have to connect on a level where they both understand what is happening and what they are trying to achieve. The styles have to match and the chemistry has to marry the melody and you will have one harmonious experience. Personally I charge money to collaborate with other artist unless the project is mutually beneficial or in the interests of the Asiatic Buddha Gang.
In closing, where can people find you on the internet? Where can people find your music? Any last words that you would love to share to your fans and potential fans that will be reading this?
Asiatic Buddha Gang
King Chino (producer)
Follow Lo Kee Dot on social media and most importantly on Soundcloud so you can get updated on new releases and projects.