Interview: Krept & Konan
Karl "Konan" Wilson spoke to The Wrap Up about the haunting song ‘My Story’. The former member of the South London Gipset crew – a gang formed in the area’s Gipsy Hill – wondered if he’d been the real target. “It was a huge weight on me,” he says. “I didn’t know what to think.” For most 21-year-olds, his story would prove to be an impossible trauma to recover from. But for Konan, an aspiring rapper on the brink of a record deal with partner Casyo "Krept" Johnson, it was a wake-up call.
“It made me hungry. It made me want to make things happen with music more than ever. You can go any time so you got to do something positive now,” he explains. A little over two years later, the ordeal that threatened to ruin his life now sits as a footnote on one of the most remarkable musical success stories of 2013.
Without any radio promotion, without label intervention, with zero marketing costs, Krept and Konan broke into the Official UK Album Chart top 20 with their latest mixtape, ‘Young Kingz,’ released on 2 September. It’s success they’re still getting their heads around. “We didn’t expect any of this,” laughs Krept. “The way people listen to music these days, the economy and things, people don’t buy as much music, so the fact people went out their way to buy it and get us in the charts is crazy. The main thing we worried about was, would people like it?”
The huge buzz around the record, which collides rap, trap and grime, suggests he had nothing to worry about. Professor Green and Tinie Tempah are among the Brit-hop heavyweights to have confessed their love for ‘Young Kingz’ – but the pair are still waiting on certain shout-outs.
“We’ve covered Watch the Throne and Drake, putting our own British twist on things. That was part of how we got out there. But nah, we haven’t heard from them whether they liked it or not,” says Konan. “Drake’s our dream collaboration. We listen to him day in, day out.” “We’d take a verse from Jay Z too though,” chips in Krept.
They did have one brush with Jay Z once – or rather what seemed to be his legal team. After meeting as teenagers, joining forces and selling 2000 copies of their first mixtape, ‘Tsunami’ (downloaded illegally a further 60,000 times), their YouTube cover of ‘Otis’ racked up 5m views in five days, before legal bods had it swiftly removed. Since then, their profile has been rising and rising. What is it they think is attracting listeners?
“You can listen to it anywhere,” suggests Krept. “Dancing on a table. At home chillin’. Driving in your car…” “I think we mix cultures,” says Konan. “We do take US sounds, influences from US artists, but we combine them with our own accent, our own style. Their whole thing over there is to be more slick, more polished. We’re not about that, but it’s what we match ourselves up to. Can you listen to our track after a Kanye track? Does it stand up? We want to be able to go blow to blow with artists like him.”
After achieving a Number 19 finish in the albums chart with ‘Young Kingz’ as well as a MOBO awards nod for ‘Best Newcomer’ with no promotion, are they tempted to go big with the next release: a label deal, a promo blitz, a radio campaign?
“Whatever we do it’ll still be 100% DIY,” says Konan. “But it’s our dream. We gotta do what we gotta do to take this as far as it’ll go.”
“Whatever we do next,” Krept pipes up, “we’re gonna make sure it’s massive.”
Words: Al Horner (@Al_Horner)