Hailing from Queens, New York, Kepstar is bringing something undeniably fresh to the table. Kepstar started rapping young -- he began spitting rhymes at 11. Now, with several releases already under his belt, he’s finally found his style and voice on Shades Of Grey, his most recent mixtape. Hosted by Clinton Sparks, it’s a lyrical and emotional tour de force, with impressive features from Termanology and Joe Budden. The rapper spoke to Yo! Raps about his biggest Hip-Hop inspirations, his future plans, and why he thinks that emotion and realness are vital considerations when laying down a quality track. All in all, Kepstar is an artist that is well worth keeping your eye on.
First of all, how did the name Kepstar come about?
Well. I had the name Kep before I was even making music. It was really just a "tag" or whatever. When I started making music, I had some terrible names and they all sounded too gimmicky, it just wasn't me. So I changed it to Kep because it’s what people called me anyway and just added, "star" to it, seemed like a cool idea at the time.
You got into writing rhymes young. What was it that appealed to you about Hip-Hop at that age?
To be honest, I don't think it was necessarily Hip-Hop that was so appealing. I was just intrigued by how people were able to express themselves and I knew I wanted to do the same. Eminem is probably the reason I am doing this today because he had a way of showing his emotions and the way he did it, that shit was appealing.
Can you describe your style for us?
Raw and uncut… just kidding. I honestly can't describe it because I've tried to so many times and I can never pin point it. Ultimately, I just give the person my CD and tell them to listen. I'm honest and I am very emotional. I'm not ashamed to put my feelings out there. One of the craziest comparisons I've gotten was Asher Roth mixed with Mike Posner. I guess I can see it [laughs].
Do you think coming from Queens has had any effect on your music?
Yeah, I have a really competitive side that definitely shows in a lot of my songs and I credit that to being from Queens. I think New York in general is just a real competitive place because everybody is trying to be somebody over here. As far as a musical connection and having such a strong legacy here in Queens and the people who came before me and all of that, I don't think that has an effect on my music at all, to be honest. I appreciate and respect it though but I don't believe it has any effect on me.
Which artists have inspired you the most and why?
Like I mentioned before, Eminem is one of the main reasons I started doing this. With him it wasn't about the nice cars, the girls and all the glitz and glamour. He was real and I can relate to him the most out of everybody else at the time. I'm inspired by a lot of artist that are out now as well.
What would you say has been the most important lesson that you’ve learned as far as creating quality tracks goes?
One of the things I've noticed is that you just have to be honest and truthful. If people don't believe you, they aren't going to listen. That violence, drug dealing shit isn't cool anymore. If that’s the life you truly live then by all means talk about it, but there are so many rappers -- even the ones that I've personally come across -- that are just lying about everything. Whether it’s deals they have on the table or guns they aren't shooting, get a life and stop creating traffic for real artists.
How important is sounding completely individual and original to you?
It's very important to be original but no matter what, people are going to make their comparisons. I can't lie, I definitely have songs that are influenced by other artists… I think that’s normal. Overall though I believe I have my own style and sound that I can bring to the table.
How would you say the Shades Of Gray mixtape compares to and differs from your earlier releases?
I am a lot more comfortable with who I am now and I think it shows. Shades Of Gray is much more mature and polished than my previous work. I was still trying to find myself early on, still trying to find that comfort. If you ask me I think my previous work is weak [laughs]. But hey, we all gotta start somewhere.
How did the Clinton Sparks hosting come about for the mixtape?
While working with J. Cardim, I met Termanology, which by the way are two of the most down to earth people that you can just hang out with and talk shit, really cool people, man. But yeah, I met Term and we spoke a little and he said he can make it happen. I think Term and Cardim took a liking to my attitude. I think they saw that I was very serious about this, and saw that I was hungry, and so they helped me out. Definitely a big help and I'm very appreciative. Leading up to the moment I actually got the record back from Clinton, I didn't think it was going to happen just cause I've seen things fall apart at the last second so many times. I got the final mix from Clinton like 48 hours before the release. He's a busy guy [laughs].
What projects are you working on now? Is an album in the pipeline?
I'm working on something right now I got one song for. I can’t give any details but it’s being produced by K-Quick -- he's a 1/4 of the production team called Grand Staff… super talented. I actually recorded Shades Of Gray at his studio and we hit it off and decided to work on a little something for 2012.
Out of all the people you’ve worked with, who would you say has taught you the most?
I've taken little things from each individual that I have worked with. Everything that I've learned has made me what I am today. I would have to say I learned the most working with Mel Supreme, another young talented Queens representative. I spent the most time working with him I recorded my first two projects with him and I developed my sound during that 3 year period. I think K-Quick has taught me a lot though as far as polishing my sound, and gaining confidence, and making me comfortable with who I am as an artist and what I do best. He has definitely made me want to be better so I always try to bring my A+ game when I’m working with him.
What has been the biggest accomplishment in your career so far?
Shades Of Gray is easily my biggest accomplishment. Just the process of making the project and finding myself, meeting the people I've met and becoming a better artist. This whole project was me, I didn't have anybody in my ear. I was in the studio till 5 a.m. with K, going to work at 7 a.m. and doing it all over again. I haven't had that one defining moment in my career yet, so that’s the best answer I can give.
Which current rappers are you feeling at the moment?
Drake, Big Sean, Mac Miller, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, MGK, J. Cole, Wale, D-Pryde. You know just the whole youth movement that’s going on in Hip-Hop is really good for world [laughs]. Oh and The Weeknd, I would love to work with him.
You’ve got some big names featuring on this mixtape. Which artists would you ideally like to collaborate with in the future?
Yeah, I got pretty lucky [laughs]. I would love to work with everyone I named above, but of course the Eminems and Jay-Zs of the game. Kanye to me is a genius. I wanna work with The-Dream, I think he's amazing and Bruno Mars is one of my favorite writers. I don't know there are so many people I wanna work with!
What would be your ultimate aspiration for the future?
I want to be great. I want to be the greatest that I can be and have everything I dreamed about. I want to be that guy who comes on stage and the audience is screaming and going crazy. I live for that moment man, I really do. A lot of people do this music thing for the wrong reason, but if you know me then you know I’m extremely passionate about what I do.
In the end, let the people know where they can find you online.
They can find me on www.reverbnation.com/kepstar, youtube.com/kepstarvideo and follow me on twitter @kepstar.
- By Fiona Guest