Published on September 20th, 2013 | by Daniel Rahe0
Gray Vibes – Khris P Talks About ILLFIGHTYOU
By now, ILLFIGHTYOU should require no introduction in this city. They have the distinction of being one of the few Tacoma musical groups to recently gain any significant national following, and they actually made it look easy.
I have been intrigued by this band of three enormously talented MCs for quite a while, and my interest deepened tenfold when they released their debut full-length album in June. It was a record crammed wall-to-wall with outlandish creativity and addictive beats.
ILLFIGHTYOU is EvergreenOne, UGLY FRANK, and Khris P. I was able to connect with them through our hip hop correspondent, a long-time friend of ILLFIGHTYOU, Andy Hyppa. We weren’t able to speak with the whole group, but we arranged to meet with Khris P, who pulls double duty as one of the three MCs and as producer.
Andy calls him “The Glue.”
EvergreenOne calls him “The Coach.”
Even his verses on ILLFIGHTYOU’s tracks suggest that Khris P is an intense and laser-focused man. His production style is, appropriately, almost freakishly dialed in – the beats are limber, rocking and stretching with the lyrics, bringing life to unlikely hooks. Khris P’s music and attention to detail create the feeling that the words are riding a crackling electric power line directly into your ears.
We met on a Sunday afternoon at Terry’s Office Tavern in the Proctor District. Khris and Andy strolled in late and casual while I nervously re-checked my notes. They weren’t nervous. Andy is a big guy, Finnish, and a really good basketball player I’m told. Khris is not as big as Andy, but he has impressive dreads and exudes friendly confidence.
My anxiety disappeared the second we all shook hands and ordered a round of beer. This was going to be a good chat. I had so many questions about this wonderfully weird, fun, foul eponymous record.
PD: I did some social media research to see what your fans say about ILLFIGHTYOU. Most of what I read could be summarized as, “These dudes are HARD AS FUCK.” I understand you have an aggressive sound, but I don’t think it stops there. When I put your tape on, I want to sit there and listen to it, because the rapping is so solid.
KP: You know, when I’m making music, the key is to grab everyone’s attention. Do you want them to be listening to the lyrics, dancing, vibing to the beat? You have to know what you’re going for, because you need to capture the listener right away.
And yes, to me, it is more than that. This is shit that you have to sit down and listen to, because you’re taking these rappers – these quality-ass rappers, and placing them on top of this certain sound. So we are trying to give you the best of both worlds. If you want to sit down and listen, go ahead, there’s shit to listen to in those verses. If you wanna vibe out and ride around to it, if that’s how it makes you feel, you can do that too.
Lyric-wise you do have to listen. You’ve gotta fucking listen – especially to the other two guys – Frank and EvergreenOne: the way they do what they do, the way they ride the beat.
In a way, it’s kind of a cheat code, using that hard “trap beat.” The audience will focus on that beat and the flow, and it’s easy to miss what’s being said. But you’ve got ‘em. You’re just tricking people, hopefully, into listening.
PD: So, overall, you are comfortable with how ILLFIGHTYOU is being perceived?
KP: I like being thought of as “hard”. Don’t get me wrong. But I know sometimes people aren’t actually listening. People love “Bandaid” and “Threats.” Are they really listening? I wonder sometimes. I want to to ask, “Are you hearing the skill? Are you hearing the wordplay?”
It makes me question what I’m doing, because I want to work on my rapping. Does that mean I need to dumb my shit down? I wonder if people are picking up on what I’m saying and doing. I do a lot of wordplay. I’ll throw out double entendres like a motherfucker.
[Hyppa and I exhorted Khris to never dumb his shit down.]
KP: I love when people say they love “Midnight,” because I know those people are LISTENING. There’s shit actually being said on that one. EvergreenOne, especially, really says something on that one.
People are always telling Frank, “Man, out of that group, you’re the best!” and he’ll always tell them, “You’re not listening then. Maybe I sound cool because I rap longer, but you’re still not listening.”
People focus on Frank when there’s just as much going on with EvergreenOne.
I mean, I don’t care. I don’t care about my rapping as much as I care about the production and beats.
PD: So, let’s talk about the beats and music then. Your debut has a decidedly murky, almost dark, sinister sound to it. Is that what you were going for?
KP: A lot of the sound of that tape came from me trying to interpret what the other guys wanted. For instance, I knew Frank’s background. I knew the shit Frank liked to get on. I knew the sound he liked to fuck with. He’s always been into, not necessarily dark vibes, but what I see as “gray vibes.” Washington is a gray place. Overcast. That’s how I’ve always seen it.
EvergreenOne wanted to pursue a more aggressive sound, too – a darker sound than what was on the tracks from earlier in his career. He wanted the music to match the stuff he is talking about. On his old shit, he was talking about the same things, just on a different sort of beat.
So, really, that dark sound on the album came from those two. Most of the stuff I do on my own is more, you know, uplifting. That dark shit came from those two, and I tried to work with that – to really understand them.
We’re in Washington, and people are into that darkness. So I wanted to figure out how to do it in my own kind of way.
“Bandaid” has that “trap” sound – that’s geared toward me. That’s the kind of beat I like to work with. “92” has a more West Coast feel. That was laid out with Frank in mind. The darker hip hop sound you hear in “Gertrude” is an EvergreenOne sound.
PD: So, from there, you arrange the verses the three of you have done to best fit the song you’ve all decided to build?
KP: Yeah, that’s basically it. There’s a little bit of a pattern to it because we know how each other work.
Frank just likes to rap. He has his moments where he has a message and he’s going for it, but with this project, he’s here to just rap his ass off. So we give him free reign.
With EvergreenOne, I know we can decide, “Hey you’ll do 16 bars here,” and he’ll knock that out. You give him a beat, and he’s all over it.
“Batcave,” for example… that’s just where we let those two rap all the way through. On stuff like that, we let Frank go last because he’ll just keep going and going. He may not have a message at those times, but he’s going for it. It’s crazy.
Frank’s verses are like a marathon you’re interested in listening to, and you hang on to hear what he’s gonna say next. It’s tight because you’re just listening to this guy kick over, kick over and kick over.
PD: How did you guys choose the name ILLFIGHTYOU?
KP: It’s a name, it’s just a name. That’s it. But I’ve already seen a couple people ask on Twitter, “I wonder if the dudes in ILLFIGHTYOU can really fight?” If we get the chance to see, we’ll see. It’s just a name. We’re just trying to rap.
We were trying to come up with a name for almost 6 months. We made the song “92” first. I went to put it up on iTunes, and I thought, “I’m not gonna put this up with our three names on it. We need to come up with a name for all of us.”
So, I told the other guys, “We need a name.”
Right away, we went on this roll of sending names around by text message. RAD PITT was one idea. We thought that was kind of cool. Then EvergreenOne said, “Let’s call the tape “ILLFIGHTYOU.”
A week passes. Frank’s brother calls me. He met some dude in a bar who told him a story about EvergreenOne and his buddy going to a party years ago, like, back in high school. It turned out it was a set-up, and they got beat up pretty bad. The two of them got out, but they started thinking, “Fuck that. We’re going back.” So they ran back into the house, throwing punches, trying to find the guys who jumped them, yelling, “Who wants it?”
And I guess this story went around quite a bit.
After I heard that, I told EvergreenOne, “I just heard the story about you at the party. We have to call the group ILLFIGHTYOU.” Everything kept pointing to that.
But when people ask us how we got that name, we just make shit up. It takes too fucking long to explain.
[At this point in the conversation, Andy announced that he had received a text message from Glenn (aka EvergreenOne)]
KP: What’s he up to?
AH: Nothing. He just wants me drop by and hang out. I told him and Frank to come bomb the interview, but got no response. Frank has only texted me once today, which usually means he’s at his mom’s place.
KP: Yeah, he’s for sure at his mom’s place.
AH: It’s funny we’re talking about this, because Frank’s mom didn’t really think he was a rapper until just the other day when she saw the poster for the Snoop Dogg show with ILLFIGHTYOU opening.
KP: Yeah! She would say, “You’re lyin’! You’re not really a rapper, Frank.” She’s from the Virgin Islands, and she has this way about her. It’s hella funny. Whenever she’s talking to him she sounds pissed off. “What are you doing? Get up here and clean yourself!” She’s going to the Snoop Dogg show, by the way.
[The conversation briefly digressed to the topic of a talented Foss High School basketball player from the Virgin Islands, who once said something years ago to Andy regarding smoking in Bible papers.]
AH: OK, OK, let’s get back on topic.
PD: There’s a lot of change going on in rap and hip hop right now – a lot of very smart, weird stuff. A lot of strangely humorous stuff. ILLFIGHTYOU definitely seems “of the moment” in that way. How do you think you fit in to the larger movements in hip hop now?
KP: We are all about kicking it freestyle and being in the moment.
AH: ILLFIGHTYOU doesn’t think twice.
KP: Say I’ve known you forever, and we can really talk. I’m a real straight-faced kind of guy, so I like to fuck with people and talk shit about them, just to see what I can get out of them. Then, I might crack a joke or crack a smile so you know I’m just playing with you. Then you don’t worry about it. I think we do something like that in our music sometimes.
We have shit to say, though. So, with our writing, we’re coming at things from a regular person’s perspective, but with some nihilism.
Nihilism. Everybody’s saying, “I don’t give a fuck,” these days, but everything they do suggests that they actually do give a fuck. They care what people think. But we say, “If you’re gonna say you don’t care, back that shit up. Make some art that shows you don’t care.” EvergreenOne and Frank, they really don’t give a fuck. They just want to rap.
So we’re all about actually not giving a fuck. Be free.
We knew we didn’t want to be gimmicky. We look at a lot of shit and think, “That’s corny.” So we thought, “We will just be ourselves.” We don’t even know what “our shit” is. Glenn’s lyrics might draw the Oddfuture comparisons. Take Frank’s lyrics and you might think, “Well, that’s just a street dude.”
Sometimes, when you really don’t care, it comes down to ignorance. Ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is money. Ignorance is key. Everyone can relate to ignorance. If you can’t pull that off, you can’t hold people’s interest.
PD: So, what is coming next from ILLFIGHTYOU? How have your experiences so far shaped your plans as a group?
KP: This experience has really highlighted that I like to have themes. On the first tape, the cover is a collage. Glenn wanted that. In my mind, that made sense thematically, because the music on the tape is a collage too. That tape is not about anything. It’s a collage of shit-talking. So with the next tape, finding a theme was a little tricky because we don’t know where our audience is going to go. We’re still going to have an aggressive sound, but I think this time, the new stuff is going to be more thought-out.
[Khris described the premise for the next record, and it’s a damn good idea, but you’re going to have to wait to find out.]
I think when you are working in a group like this, themes make a lot of sense because it keeps everyone on the same track. And I think about that when I am listening to rap with multiple artists, or even just one person. Because someone can be rapping really well, but where is it going? How is it related? I think people want to hear you say something.
PD: Where do you think you fit in the world of Tacoma hip hop?
I’ve never been Tacoma hip hop. The only connection ILLFIGHTYOU has to that scene is through EvergreenOne, but Tacoma was really not a factor in how any of us approach this project.
Instead of focusing on this small scene, I would research national-level writers and reviewers when I was first trying to make beats. I would follow writers from Vice and Fader, and do anything I could to connect with those guys and listen to the stuff that they found interesting. Those influences, the constant stream of them, would filter into the music I would make. I am constantly looking outside of my immediate surroundings.
I want my shit to sound worldly.