For 19-year-old Chicago-born rapper Nuworld Kayo, the greatest moments come from patience. His breakthrough project “Southside Blue Hearts,” which dropped last year, was the product of months of writer’s block, personal struggles and having to take a break from music altogether. But the wait was well worth it as the EP landed him a spot on Lyrical Lemonade’s Top 50 Chicago Projects of 2017 and a Cole Bennett-directed video for his track “Like That.”
Kayo has already dropped 2 tracks in 2018, both of which were produced by THRD. The two have been keeping busy working on Kayo’s album, a project he says is his best work yet. Although it may be a little while until listeners get to hear the full body of work he’s been putting together, Kayo plans on dropping more singles and an EP before this year is over. In this interview, he details the new album and also breaks down the vision for his multi-faceted Nuworld crew. Read the full Q&A below:
Where did you grow up?
My upbringing was actually super diverse. I moved like 14 times in my life, my main place, though, was always the Southside. Regardless of the places I moved, I went to school on 73rd and Stony Island, and I went to school there all my life. I moved mainly around the Southside, but I also lived deep in the suburbs for some time and I lived in St. Louis for like five years. I’ve been around.
Why did you decide to move to Florida recently?
Chicago was definitely great because that’s my home, but for the place that I was at in my life it wasn’t working for me. The energy was just not right for me. So I decided to make the move and it’s been going good since.
What have you been up to since dropping “Southside Blue Hearts” last year?
Honestly, after that I took a mental break from the music because I needed to. But as of recent, I’ve been doing one song a month. That was originally gonna be for all of 2018 but I’m thinking about (you actually are the first person to hear this) releasing the rest of the songs on one EP that will drop in June.
You mentioned in the past that making “Southside Blue Hearts” was a long process. How did it feel to finally get that project out?
Honestly, it was one of the best feelings ever. It felt super good because it was a lot of shit that went into that. There’s like three versions of that project actually. I had major writer’s block and I could not get it right. Once I got over that and could finally drop the project it was a great feeling.
What allowed you to overcome that writer’s block?
The main thing that I do is just pull away from the music. There were multiple periods where I took breaks from writing music while making the project. I would also avoid listening to my own music or music that sounded like me. Nothing hip-hop or rap, I would pull 1000% away from my creations or anything near it. You always need a break.
What was it like working with Cole Bennett on the video for your song “Like That”?
That was a dream come true actually. I reached out but it was just on some ‘let me shoot my shot’ type shit. I don’t know how, but he was actually a fan of my music. So, he ended up just doing it. After the shooting was done, we actually ended up talking for a long ass time just about stuff that has nothing to do with music. He’s super great and we vibed really well. That was a great experience; I’m glad that we got to do that.
How long did shooting take?
The whole video took literally one hour, if that. It was super quick. We both had the same vibe, because the concept was just us randomly being at the park and deciding to shoot the video. We wanted it to look kind of impromptu. So I just texted him one random morning and said ‘yo, let’s go to Hyde Park and do the whole thing.’ We went there and just did that shit.
What’s your process like in the studio?
Honestly, it all depends. If I’m writing in a studio as I’m recording it, I do like 5000 takes. I’ll write down like two lines, then I’ll spit those two lines and just freestyle four more lines. Then I’ll write some more stuff and layer that take onto what I already have.
The two songs you dropped this year, “NY” and “Crown”, are both produced by THRD. How did those songs come together?
I was sitting on them for like 5 months. I finished them in like 10 minutes, but I just didn’t release them. They just sat on my hard drive waiting to be released.
What was making “Crown” like? What was on your mind when you recorded it?
It wasn’t so much something that I wanted to get out, but the last 10 songs I made in the studio were “commercial songs.” They all had hooks and were super singy and all that shit. It was starting to kind of piss me off, because my base has always been battle rap type shit. I started to feel like I had lost myself in the journey of trying to reach a higher platform. So I just told THRD to throw me some super simple shit that I could just rap for however long over. He gave me that beat, and we did it in like 10 minutes.
Have you been working with THRD on all of your new material?
I’ve worked with a few different producers. But my album which is coming 2019, he’s 100% producing it. There’s no title for it yet, but the concept is done. The skeleton of it is done, we just haven’t all the way finished it yet.
Some artists are reluctant to stick with one producer for an entire project. What was it about THRD that allowed you guys to work well together?
The energy was just super organic. It didn’t have to be forced whatsoever. It’s funny because he’s been making beats for a long time, and the first beat that I used from him was back when I just snatched his shit off of Soundcloud and did not pay him for it. Then he actually heard it and liked it. He knew that I was young, and he’s actually like 6 years older than me, so he didn’t really trip. So he just kind of took me under his wing and started just working with me. From there, we just had this really dope chemistry.
How has his production style affected the way that you work?
We definitely go hand-in-hand and are a great duo. To me, the problem with just using beats off of YouTube or something is that you just get trapped in a certain pocket and a certain sound because they all have the same sound. With his style, it just differs. His new beat tape sounds nothing like our album. Something about his beats just bring out a different type of verse from me every time. He’s definitely in my top 10 [producers], easily.
How long have you been working on the album?
We probably started working like early December or late November. Then, we kinda stopped around Christmas time, and then in January we picked it back up and full-fledged decided we were making the album. One day we looked up and we had like 20 songs and 10 good ones that we knew were gonna be on the album.
What could listeners expect to hear on the album?
It’s definitely a really new sound for me. That’s all I can say without giving away too much, but it’s definitely the most quality project that I’ve ever done.
Why have you decided to wait on dropping the album until 2019?
It’s more so because for years I’ve dropped music with no real reason to drop it. … This project is hands down the greatest thing I’ve ever done. I just can’t stand to see myself drop it and it only do 1000-2000 streams. I want this shit to be huge, like people have to hear this music. I’m so happy for this shit to be done, but I want it to reach hella people. I’m definitely willing to be patient and wait until it’s at that point to where I can reach those people.
How do you see yourself getting to that point and building your fanbase?
Drop music. That’s the ironic part about it. This is why I’m dropping loosies right now and also putting in a lot of money behind my music. A lot of people don’t understand the idea of investing both time and money into your craft. Just really taking my time with this shit and really trying to make something–this cannot be rushed whatsoever.
What do you think differentiates you from other rappers coming out of Chicago right now?
I feel like the city is starting to gravitate towards a certain sound. Unfortunately, we’re at this point right now where it’s easier to get on with that certain sound. You have people who don’t really do this rapping shit and just wanna get rich off it who sort of clog the market with that sound. And then you have people who really do love rapping but they take the easy route and just do some shit that can go viral. I think what makes me and my guys different is that we’re definitely willing to stay true to ourselves. We have the patience to wait until our time comes. And it’s not just us; Femdot, IsaiahG, Ausar there’s hella people on that same shit.
Could you explain how your NuWorld crew came together?
In short, those are my brothers. One of them actually is my big brother and his name’s Elijah Leflore. Then there’s my cousin Flood who just released an EP this month, his brother Bel-Air, and D.Roe, who makes videos. We started out all as rappers, but now it’s like a full blown corporation. It’s honestly a team of young guys that want to change everything about the current music landscape. The best way to relate it is with Hov or P Diddy, just really wanting to transcend past music and create some legendary shit.