Published on April 3rd, 2012 | by Retro19200
Interview: A First Look at Kairo Lavoe
A First Look at Kairo Lavoe and his Logical Progression
Before the end of 2011, I was able to interview a fellow emcee from my area – Kairo Lavoe. In April of 2011, Kairo released his first solo project titled “Darkside of the Man EP.” On his debut project, the former skateboarder and Hip-Hop enthusiast paid homage to his favorite album – Pink Floyd’s “Darkside of The Moon.” Though the reception for this album has been nothing less than uncanny in the Miami Hip-Hop scene, Kairo has not taken the complimentary love to his head. Time and time again he moves with one motive in mind – respect is not given, it is earned. With the first quarter of 2012 underway, Kairo is already working on his next project titled “MIAnimal” and is shooting a video for his upcoming single, “Logical Progression.” Kairo, similar to his titled single, has progressed in more than just his rhyme schemes. Here is a brief interview I did with Kairo back in October of 2011.
RapConQueso: What’s up Kairo? I just noticed I haven’t had the opportunity to properly ask you about your ethnic background….
Kairo: I’m Hispanic. Half Colombian and half Puerto-Rican. Colombian father, Puerto-Rican mother.
RapConQueso: Can you share with us a life changing experience that has stuck with you for majority of your life? Anything that has molded you into becoming the person you are today?
Kairo: Basically family, being around my pops and my moms. It taught me basically, you know he was there but he wasn’t always there to teach me everything I need to know as a man. I just learned how to do a lot of things on my own. I learned a lot of things through friends because they were in the same position. You know, I feel a bunch of my boys don’t even have their pops in their life. So we all kind of brought each other up. So things like that, experiencing life as being the only man in the crib was life changing to me. Because I learned how to do everything through trial and error. That’s what basically was life changing or a life changing experience in my life.
RapConQueso: Are there any experiences that you’ve had with friends, your environment, or certain situations outside of your household that have led you into the position to speak for your generation and your community? Anything you remember vividly?
Kairo: Yea, definitely. You know with the group of friends that I have we all, you know of course being young, we experiment. We’ve experimented with a lot of things. Basically, I actually saw one of my homeboy’s lose his life. He was taking pills, stole a car and he crashed running away from the cops and he was younger than me. That could have been me four years ago in the same position or whatever the case may be. That situation really hit me that day.
The reason why it affected me so much is because I started to sense that I couldn’t take life for granted. I have a lot of homeboys. I have one homeboy in particular who is just really reckless with his lifestyle choices and you know… he won’t listen to anybody until he realizes it himself. So, I try to put out a message for the world to hear, especially those who are close to me. I know a lot of people who are having kids at a very early age, into drugs, robbing people, serving all the time, and not doing a lot with themselves.
So when I see all of that…when I see my environment it motivates me. It motives me to better myself and hopefully put out a message that will get them to listen. Messages for people anywhere in the same position or not even the same position, to just have a little insight on what I’m talking about. To get a sense of exactly what I mean and hopefully it sinks in.
Hopefully people get that message that life is not always about having fun popping this and popping that. Life is also not about being so serious. You have to enjoy life and appreciate it for what it is.
RapConQueso: How important is self-expression to you?
Kairo: Self-expression means everything . When you experience a lot you want to express it. You can’t really bottle things in because it only hurts yourself in the end. So self-expression is everything, whether you paint or you make music. Whether you play an instrument or you just love hearing music. You don’t have to be a musician or artists to feel self-expression. You may observe or listen to an artist and connect with them. Sometimes I hear artists because I don’t know how to express what I feel, and then I hear them express exactly how I felt.
So that’s how you basically connect with them. Using expression is everything; it’s how you survive. You know? It’s like breathing. You breathe in and you can only take in so much. You have to let it out somehow. Whether it’s writing or whether it’s smoking, people always have to let it out somehow. So to me music is everything. Music is a perfect alternative, instead of the evils that there are in society.
The social norms around us are different than they were back in the day. Now there is so many things that we can get into, especially in Miami. In Miami everybody is shallow as fuck you know? It’s really populated and everyone is different. There is so much diversity here, so expression is everything. It defines life pretty much. It makes people live by music, people die by music. It’s everything.
RapConQueso: And just adding on to what you were saying about Miami, some people don’t understand that it’s a melting pot. You have suburbs right near urban areas. People from all different walks of life are seeing the rich and the poor. People have the ambition or will to succeed and obtain an even better situation for themselves. It’s kind of like when Tupac talked about people seeing a door slightly open and seeing other people behind that door eating gourmet foods and living luxurious.
RapConQueso: I guess my next question is how did you conceptualize Darkside of the Man? Could you lead us into your mental state before recording the album?
Kairo: I wanted to deliver a concept. I started to put into effect that I am an artist and I am going to try to put myself out there. After I put that into effect, I put in my head I want to make something out of myself doing music. Music is something that I love. When I was thinking of how to approach my first project, I was actually hearing Darkside of the Moon by Pink Floyd. At that time, I was going through a lot. I had financial problems, relationship problems, which led to excess consumption and things of that nature. It was a bunch of thoughts running through my head and while hearing that album every song spoke to me. The music told me what message my mind was depicting from the sound. Everything was piecing together.
Then I came to an agreement with myself that I have my conscious telling me one thing and then I have my subconscious telling me another. It’s like I have a dark side and everyone has… you know that voice. So I came up with Darkside of the Man.
You have your heart telling you what you want but then you have your mind telling you otherwise. It was just so many different concepts and I tried to piece the whole EP into a sequence where it sounds like one full-length track. The sequence I had in my head is similar to how Kanye West did My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy; it felt like one big movie. I mean obviously it doesn’t have the same production that Kanye would, but it doesn’t matter. It still meant something to me and it was appreciated by a lot of people. The respect I’ve received from this project has been awesome.
I mean, yeah man it went from those development stages to me writing and recording. I was pouring everything I knew and everything I felt into a paper and trying to structure it. The recording process was more feeling. I actually had a chance to release. You know it’s different. You can write it but when you spit it, it’s like you’re actually releasing it from yourself. You are taking it out of you. It’s taken out of your system. When I was recording it I was releasing whatever was inside of me.
The whole mind-state of that project was self-explanatory and so was the title (Darkside of the Man). It was a state of mind that I felt I was in at the time. Going through a lot of shit, that’s how I reflected and how I expressed myself.
RapConQueso: A few weeks ago I was talking to Ayentee of the Just-This Crew who produced the album. He was saying that you had a big say so on what samples he used and how you wanted the album to sound. Some artists don’t have that foresight early in their career to know what they want their album to sound like, especially leading into their first album.
RapConQueso: Would you share with us the direction you had in mind for the sound of your album? I believe the sound of your album, sonically, resonated extremely well with what you just finished telling us you were feeling at the time.
Kairo: Well, yea the sound has to connect to what you are feeling. I felt certain parts of each sample stood out to me and said something to me. There were certain sounds that I felt would fit the mood of a concept and those sounds I chopped up with Ayentee during the mixing and production stages. When that process was finished, the next step was how I would go about saying what I felt (vocally). How am I going to go about saying it? How am I going to make this stand out from the ordinary? Because there is ordinary structuring.
You know you got your hook you got your bridge then you got your verse then you got another hook, a bridge, a verse. I tried to mix it all up. I didn’t really try to follow the standard rap mixtape structure. Whatever stood out to me, whatever sound I wanted on each track I reached out to Ayentee so that we can blueprint the feel of an album. Also, I was open to his input because I am not production savvy. When it came to doing what I wanted, how I wanted it to sound that’s the input I put in.
At the end of the day we gave one another ideas. There was actually a beat I had no intentions of doing and no input in producing. It was track 2, What’s Good. That was an overnight beat that Ayentee produced. I was there when he sampled it. I asked him if he can sample a certain record and I was looking forward to seeing what he came up with. I came back the next day and it was a monstrosity of a beat. I couldn’t believe he flipped that record like that.
We connected in that project in that sense. During the process of the album, we found out that we had great chemistry while working together. That’s why we are working together for our next project, which is a collaboration tape. It was real easy to work with him. Whatever I felt on certain sounds going along with the storyline that I had in mind.
Also he is an emcee but he has done production a lot longer than I… I haven’t done production. I just gave him certain direction for samples that’s stood out to me. That’s how it went down.
RapConQueso: Do you typically write to a beat? Or do you write and reflect on what you’re going through then find a beat that fits the mood.
Kairo: There are days where I just write. I just feel like writing I have to get something off my chest. If I find a beat and it flows to it, I’ll restructure it somehow to flow to that certain sound. It doesn’t even have to be hip-hop. I could hear a rock song or ambient music, drum-bass, jazz, blues whatever it may be. If that song catches my attention and I feel what the person is saying, I’ll go to Ayentee or a producer I’m working with at the time and I’ll ask them to chop it up. I’ll add a little bit of input and insight as to what I’m looking for and from there I just write to it. Whatever I felt stood out to me, the vibe, I’m going to write to it. There are certain sounds that give me certain ideas on how to approach music.
RapConQueso: As far as emcee prowess, I believe one of your strengths is illustrating your lyrics. I noticed you pride yourself in having a unique delivery. You tend to change your level of emotion throughout a track to focus on the different undertones in your records. In doing so it sounds more conversational than it does you just per say rapping. This also compliments the wittiness in your lyrics, as you use a lot of wordplay, metaphors, and entendres.
RapConQueso: When I hear DSOTM I feel you are showing your schizophrenia. Not that you are skitzo, but you really illustrated the tension between the heart and the mind.
Kairo: As a songwriter and with songwriting, a lot of times you have to be melodic with your voice to match a certain sound. You can’t just be… Well, you can be monotone. Guru did it. If Guru can do it anybody can do it, but me as an artist I like to switch my pitch depending on how I’m feeling with what I’m writing. In one instance is the track Up & Down. The concept was you have ups & downs.
The concept was I have my downs, but soon it was you know what? What I need to do is just get out of this mind state. I need to get away from that state of mind and be positive and stand my ground. Make sure I do everything I need to do in order to succeed and overcome any obstacles that come in my way, regardless of any hurdles.
So when it comes to writing like that and switching delivery, it comes to how I feel. If I feel like I want to switch or I need to, I’m going to. And so far it’s probably distinguished me from different artists down here, I don’t know about around the world, but especially down here (Miami). I’m not your typical. You know everybody is different. I’ve learned that from a lot of artists. Originality comes from observing different artists and applying what you’ve learned to your own art. You know? But still being your own person.
RapConQueso: Is it safe to say originality stems from being open-minded to different forms of arts and music genres?
Kairo: Definitely. If you are stuck on only one criterion you’re not going to be open-minded. You need to read a lot or hear different sounds. The more variety you receive the more you do different things. Experiment through trial and error. You learn from it and it teaches you a lot about yourself. It teaches you what you like, what you don’t like and it benefits your personality. I feel it’s helped me a lot and it’s helped a lot of other artists. There are a lot of other artists who do that, who experiment. I intake all these influences and just adapt it to my own self and soul, and release what I learned through my own sound.
It really helps me out having certain core influences. For instance, my father being a big salsa fan. He loves salsa. He has 1,000 of vinyls. I hear the music and the stories behind a lot of the music and it’s just such a unique influence for me. Being open-minded and having unique influences change your mind and allow you to adapt, be diverse, and be more abstract.
Some people are just stuck on Hip Hop. A lot of people don’t have influences like that. A lot of people just are stuck here one certain artist or one certain genre and they you know…. don’t get me wrong a lot of people have become successful like that. I just feel like the more open minded you are the better your music is going to turn out.
RapConQueso: Darkside of the Man, at least for the audience, it’s a stepping-stone. It’s what the people see as your first project. Have you seen any type of growth, as a person or artists, from DSOTM up until this point?
Kairo: Well definitely there has been a lot of growth since Darkside of the Man. I don’t like to say that I’ve gone through this and that, because I’m no one to say I’ve gone through more than anybody. I haven’t. There are people who have it worse. But you know, certain ways you take experiences can help you grow as a person. And I feel since then, it’s been almost a year and I’ve grown. I’ve learned from my experiences. And there has been a definite growth in my writing, my techniques, and even the way I go about approaching things in life.
The music that I have planned for my next tape it is a lot more open-minded. Like we were saying, but this time around it will be more open-minded than before. I feel like Darkside of the Man was obviously my first stepping stone, but to me it was like me pretty much being elementary school. It was my first underground amateur project. Now this one is going to be like me being in middle school. I’m like getting there. I haven’t graduated yet. So, I see this as another stepping-stone and it’s definitely going to show a lot of progression. Logical progression.
RapConQueso: Funny you mentioned logical progression. Could you discuss the idea behind your up-and-coming record logical progression and the energy? I know only certain people have heard the record but to me it was like that great comeback record. Like Drake’s I’m on One, Roc Boys for Jay-Z, or Power for Kanye. To me it’s a great. A great song announcing that the king is back and I’ve been progressing. The delivery is raw. The beat is crazy. The emotions draw the listeners in. It really feels like Kairo on steroids.
Kairo Lavoe – Logical Progression Music Video Directed by Dante Luna
RapConQueso: So, if you can just tell us the idea behind logical progression and did you get to the point where you felt this was going to be the single or were you just flowing?
Kairo: The idea of the song came about when I realized I had certain habits that weren’t benefiting me in anyway. I was realizing certain things about myself. I came to the point where I felt I had to stand up, be a man, and set my mark. In Spanish there’s a saying that indicate that a person should “leave their mark or fingerprint.” I locked into that. I realized certain habits I had and I came to the point where I needed to stand up for what I believe in. I have to progress.
The actual hook states this is logical progression, and the beat has a vocal sample at the end that says, “Can you hear me?” So that vocal sample keeps coming back to keep people in check. To make sure people are listening to what I’m telling them. Are you listening to the logical progression behind the song from the beginning and to the middle? And in the middle, after that two bar hook, I state, “Do you listen up before you talk down?” I’m saying, before you go and state your opinions are you listening to the people around you? Are you listening to yourself? Are you noticing things that you are doing?
And basically the third part is stating I know what I have to do now and I have a team behind me. And it’s only going to go up and progress. So it’s like a logical progression for me realizing what happened to me dropping to standing my ground and pushing forward. I’m also telling myself that my team and I are going to do it and we’re going to better ourselves.
And hopefully that message hits people. Because like I said, a lot of people I know are stuck in the same old shit all the time. Because everyone has that hat, everybody has that dirt they do. But hopefully it clicks and they get the message. We all get the message that we have to progress logically and do the right thing. You know what I’m saying? And of course everyone has their dirt. But as long as your doing well and you’re progressing yourself you know nothing can stop you. That’s the whole concept.
RapConQueso: What energy do you want the fans to have? What do you want them to take from it?
Kairo: I have this bridge that was for this 4 bar verse that I repeat on Logical Progression and it’s at the ending of the track. “You got legs then make moves, you got a wallet then paid dues, you work hard you may lose but the fact you took it that far you stayed true.” And it’s basically saying you know there are people who don’t have legs. There are people who don’t have the ability to do what certain people can. So if you have legs make moves to do what you have to do.
If you have a wallet… certain people don’t have a wallet, certain people don’t have jobs. Certain people have no certain income… but you do. So whatever the case may be, legal or illegal, do something right with it. Work hard, because a lot of people can’t even get a job. Some people you know they got whatever they need and they don’t want to work or better themselves.
If you have energy in you, or you’re just healthy, you have to use it. Work hard, because later on it’ll pay off. And if it doesn’t, at least you know you worked hard. You made the moves and you made and made the money you did and you did right with it. That’s what it is saying logically progress. Progress from where you started at. Where I started at from the track. My bad habits, messing around and then going to where I’m going to do right with the remaining time I have in my life… and I’m going to take this music far as I can. I’m going to work hard at it and pay my dues and it doesn’t turn out good for everybody but it’s what I love doing.
That’s the direction I took the track and the video is going to say a lot. It’s going to be a storyline to the video and it’s going to show the progression. Another thing, the wordplay and the lyrics, I felt were a higher step than what I was spitting on DSOTM. So, I logically progressed in my rhyme. So the whole track, I structured it so it can show progression and a story from what I’ve done before up until now.
RapConQueso: How crucial is the relationship between the local scene and the local community standing behind you and in retrospect do you feel at times it can be detrimental and almost suicidal… doing more harm than good?
From left to right: KnowName [L.A.C.], Dropz [JTC], Kairo [MIAnimals]. Kairo performs at a local venue with a few South Florida emcees.
RapConQueso: How do you feel about the local scene and the importance of receiving love and also showing love when it’s do?
Kairo: Well personally, I’m a real courteous person. So if someone shows love, I’m going to show love back. The local scene is crucial to be involved in it, because people have to know you and you have to expose yourself. First step is the local scene… local emcees, artists, producers, reporters, journalists, photographers…everybody.
The local scene… the good thing about it is everyone is on the grind, and that will lead to the next situation…but everybody is on the grind so everyone is willing to help out. All the local artists in the scene rock shows together, we’re each others fam.
We promote each other, we supporting each other. So the local scene is real important and you get a lot of inspiration from it. You see the hunger in a lot of other people, maybe they are hungrier than you are and you see that and it’s like they want it and so do I. So it’s much respect and I respect a lot of local artists, whether they are in the scene or just at the crib doing there own thing.
You still learn from people. So I give much respect to the local scene and to a lot of local artists but also it can be cut throat because like I said before everyone is on the grind. And some people don’t have that open-mindedness to understand that everyone is trying to eat. So people try to cut people off and that’s inevitable. And I try not to see it as a negative thing. Everyone is just on the grind. You are going to have people that love you and people that hate you and that is just the catch that comes with being an artists trying to be successful. Not everyone is going to like you.
As far as the local scene, I figure it has more pros than cons but it also has cons. You know depending on certain circumstances I guess. I mean it all depends how you approach people how people approach you. You know, creative differences. People might not like your style you know but I just feel at the local level, or at least on the amateur or freshman level it’s pointless to hate on each other because it’s not going to benefit nobody.
If someone doesn’t like me or doesn’t like what I say… I don’t pay it any mind, because I’m on my grind. I don’t really care. I don’t throw shots at people. So there’s always going to be differences. There are more pros than cons, but there are always cons.
* Kairo is expecting to drop his sophomore release titled MIAnimal on April 20th, 2012.