“I feel like 2 Chainz when he had his comeback with Trap-A-Velli,” says Tacoma rapper and producer Khris P. When I get him on the phone on this particular Tuesday afternoon, he’s in go mode: Today he’s made beats, mixed a few tracks, received good news about a big, currently confidential placement, and is now refueling with some Greek food. True to the old saying, on his latest release TRACKBURNERZ VOL. 1, art imitates life: “It’s music to move fast to, going 100 mph and running errands with a lot of charisma,” Khris P says of the lo-fi compilation of recordings from 2018. “The rest of my year's kind of set up—I'm really just having fun right now.”
For an artist that’s held strong in the Greater Seattle Area—a region that’s still finding where it fits into the oversaturated hip-hop landscape—Khris P has emerged as one of Tacoma’s leaders, a local superstar even. The St. Louis native, who’s a carpenter and Bridge Music Project mentor by day, artist by night, has come a long way in the past decade. Far gone are the days where he was one third of the now-defunct ILLFIGHTYOU, a rap group many likened to Odd Future (“‘These guys have their own vibe of that. This could go really crazy.’ It seemed like sky was the limit for these cats,” KEXP’s Larry Mizell Jr. said in February). Originally known for his production, Khris P has since reinvented himself and is at the helm of a creative hub called Post Office Studios with peers Matt Baloogz and DJ QJ. “The goal is really to make sure that [local artists] are comfortable to make the best shit in there,” Khris P tells me, noting that at around the same time the studio opened, he began honing in on his skills as a rapper. Bringing the energy and wordplay of Southern hard-hitters like Lil Wayne, Ludacris, and 2 Chainz into his artistry, it’s important, he says, for rap music to sound “fun as fuck” to him.
TRACKBURNERZ and the preceding KHRISPIANO RONALDO tape both sat in Khris P’s vault for a few years, and his upcoming project What's the Emergency? (which he recorded in Summer 2021 after waking up in a house party) promises the same thing: gems he’s been sitting on that are still fresh, and signal what’s yet to come out of Tacoma’s underground. BRICK asked Khris P about his recording process, his rebirth as a solo artist, and what his city has in store for underground hip-hop at large.
You dropped TRACKBURNERZ, VOL 1 a few months ago—what’s the reception been?
The reception has actually been real cool, different from what I expected. The reach, the coverage - I wasn't expecting nothing like that. It was just me putting shit out. It’s gotten me motivated to just go ahead and keep doing what I'm doing and just keep dropping shit. People are tuning in all over, not just in Seattle. It's starting to feel like I’ve been reborn or something like that right now. Motherfuckers just turning me up. It's cool and weird at the same time.
Is the rebirth you're describing post the ILLFIGHTYOU days?
Yeah. And it's being recognized as just an individual artist, as opposed to part of a group, and also my production getting a lot of looks.
Yeah, for sure. Back then we knew you more as a producer. Now we’re really getting to know Khris P the rapper. When did rapping come into the picture for you?
Rapping came into play from me... Okay, so I'm producing and shit. We started SANDLOTS DUGOUT and everything, and my only focus was producing. I really only wanted to produce, that was my only dream. Cared nothing about rap. I was just like, "Whatever." But I noticed myself getting so much attention as a producer with just posting stuff online or whatever, and at that point I really wanted to be doing more and getting more out there. So I was like, "Well shit, maybe I'll try to rap." You know what I mean? “And that might help bring some more clout to whatever we're doing.” So I do, I did one thing, one or two things. I did a Cooking With Khris P video, and right after that we got a lot of attention. I decided to then rap on a few songs just to help keep the clout going up, keep the momentum going. By that time, I’d only rapped for maybe nine months, you know what I mean? Then that’s when ILLFIGHTYOU started. Glenn and Frank had both encouraged me to keep rapping though, and I did. But even back then with the group, I was barely rapping. In 2018 I decided, I was like, "Okay, I'm just going to rap." I felt like I got something to say, and I could put some heart and some mind into it. In some ways it was just an exercise, me being bored and fed up and just being like "Man, we need to make something happen. Something needs to happen." Because at that point, nothing was really going on for me. I want to say that me rapping was kind of like me having a battery in my back again.
“We opened up this idea where a certain type of rap could be accepted in Seattle. It wasn't just coffee and fucking smoking cigarettes music.”
What’s cool about that is I don’t see you as “a producer who happens to rap." It seems like both skills are pretty well-developed. Tell us more about the evolution of Khris P, from that point to now.
Khris P then was definitely more background focused on producing the team and really shaping a sound and an idea that I wanted to make grand. You know what I mean? To bring something different for the area I was in. So that's what it was. I felt like it was the image that was missing. Back then we were just trying to create a movement. Time passes, heads butt, whatever… Things happen. But now as an individual, I feel like it's more of me. Instead of being in the background, I'm actually now out here like Michelangelo, where you're going to see me. I'm going to put my face out and show exactly what I'm doing. Just being more in people's faces now, you know what I mean? I’m still the same person. I'm just not hiding no more now.
Right—and it’s not like you’re isolated right now either. I know Post Office Studios is the hub you and your crew operate out of. How would you describe the space to those who aren’t familiar?
Post Office Studios is the big tank of me, DJ Q, and Baloogz. And us as producers and DJs, artists, what we do is we invite artists to come down or if they like to book time, whatever. We work with them there and that's where we hope to create and make the next biggest shit, at least for them. Or whatever they're working on. But the goal is really to make sure that they're comfortable to make the best shit in there.
How does a project like TRACKBURNERS come together, now that you’re operating out of there and working with a different crew?
2018 is when I came back from New York and I was like, "Okay, I'm ready to rap, I'm going to rap." We had just got Post Office Studios, and I just wanted to rap as much as I could to get good at rapping. I was just doing my Lil Wayne shit. And I was just like, "Yo, I want to make as many songs as I can without a doubt," and just, I don't know, get better at what I'm doing so people are like, "Well shit, you are a rapper”—that I can fucking rap and hold my weight with motherfuckers. So doing that, putting those projects together was really just me thinking about all these songs that I done made, how you can put it together in a mixtape type of sense and feeling. There wasn’t really a concept or a project mapped out. It was just like, "Man, you about to get these bars or whatever right now, or this flow - you about to catch it."
So are you saying you recorded that project like a while ago?
Yeah, all of those. The only new song on TRACKBURNERS is, “Nobody Bought This.” That's the only song I made recently, two weeks before we dropped it. But all the songs on there are from 2018, 2019, 2020.
So you're sitting on a lot of music is what you're saying.
Yeah, I'm sitting on hella music.
Because it's all shit that I had made from overtime, stockpiling. KHRISPIANO RONALDO, that's also old shit that I was sitting on. And that's what I've been doing maybe for the past year. Through this coming summer I’ll be putting out all the shit I’ve been sitting on. What's the Emergency? which I made with my producer Gary, is going to be the next project that I'm releasing, but I actually have ideas for this one. So it'll be a little more put together than a standard issue mixtape.
“I want to say that me rapping was kind of like me having a battery in my back again.”
How would you describe what's been happening in Tacoma and as it extends into the greater Seattle area as a whole? The scene is seeing the most activity it has in a while, perhaps ever, and I kind of want to know what your perspective is as an artist that's in the middle of it all.
I think what happened is the stuff we did with SANDLOTS DUGOUT and ILLFIGHTYOU helped kick a door down. It opened up this idea where a certain type of rap could be accepted or a certain sound could be accepted in Seattle. It wasn't just coffee and fucking smoking cigarettes music, you know what I'm saying? We helped open the door a little more to the street shit. That wasn’t getting the light. But it's getting the light now because blogs are starting to cover motherfuckers out here, which is cool. But we think that with us being a part of a movement and bringing some of that type of light over here was important, especially to Tacoma—because it already had this reputation as this edgy place you didn't want to fuck with or whatever, this bad news place. And then we got some looks because Macklemore happened to be big on a national level at the same time. I don't want to take credit for it, but that helped open those kinds of doors. Collectives like :30 started coming out—that shit sounded like Hoodrich Pablo Juan but in the Pacific Northwest. Street shit. TM88 tapped in with SheedBe who was one of the rappers in that collective. Yeah. Shit like that.
What is the “Seattle sound” when it comes to hip hop—how would you describe it?
I think it's still trying to figure itself out to be honest. I don't think there's an answer to that question yet. Because there's motherfuckers still trying to figure out what they want to do exactly. Or how they’re trying to at least experiment—we’ve got dudes like Highway blowing up right now which is cool. He’s been doing his thing for a while now and finally getting noticed. Shoutout Highway. But yeah, I don't know if it's a specific sound right now, especially for a rap. Only because we don't have anybody really leading it. If we do got somebody leading it, everybody's not doing that specific thing. You know what I mean?
Yeah. I mean it feels like a double-edged sword in the sense that it can be whatever people want it to be. But like you said, there isn't quite a leader there. But as one of the artists that really stands out to me right now, I find it really interesting that you grew up in St. Louis. How'd you find your way to Tacoma?
Music-wise, I'm really kind of self-taught for the most part. I got a drum machine from my mama and a keyboard from my dad when I was 13 for Christmas. And then I just learned how to make beats from there till I got Fruity Loops from my uncle at 15. So in St. Louis, I was making beats and shit from then, working with motherfuckers like my cousins and shit, and my brother, that's who I started making beats with. And I was on a drum line out there, I was a section leader on a drum line and I didn't want to go to school, so my dad was just like, “Whatever,” you know what I mean? He wasn't tripping. But my mama had convinced me to move out this way [to Tacoma] because of the Art Institute. So she convinced me to do that. I moved up here when I was 18, fresh out of high school. I enrolled in the audio engineering program, started meeting people, making beats, selling beats online—I gave one of my first beats to Lil B. I was meeting people locally, on MySpace, making connections until ILLFIGHTYOU happened. And then shit just kind of blew up from there.
When TRACKBURNERS came out you told me that you and DJ Q are like Future and Esco. Tell me a bit about those Southern influences.
My five favorite rappers are Nas, Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Future, and 2 Chainz. Luda definitely shaped a lot of ideas to me growing up.
Being from St. Louis and mostly Southern rappers in that list, what was your reasoning behind staying in Tacoma over maybe going back to St. Louis?
My family was always pushing me to leave St. Louis. And it's really not too much going on there, sadly. And it's really dangerous out there. Real dangerous. I was like "Why not water what you got?" Water your garden that you've been working on. That’s why I stayed in Tacoma.
What inspires or motivates you to continue rapping and continue making music, especially in a city that’s still figuring itself out musically?
The answer to that question is part of my reasoning right there, why I stayed out here. Why don’t I at least try to give this motherfucker some identity, some kind of face and sound, something that motherfuckers can follow. Get us some coverage out here in a real way on what's going on. And I feel like that’s starting to happen, you know what I mean? That’s what motivates me.
Do you see yourself remaining independent?
A label would probably hate me. I've thought about that a lot. I'm playing a crazy game where the music I make isn't exactly regional sounding. I’m doing my own thing. A label would probably result in too much headbutting. There’s no way but independent right now. Highway shined by being different. How I’m operating… the type of music I make is different from some of the other stuff coming out of Seattle. I’m turning Khris P into just everything that I hope for at this point.