“I won’t caress your ego, I’ll only snuff your pride,” Kari Faux languidly raps in her video for “Fantasy,” as a camera pans across a sink full of dirty dishes. “I’ll probably leave you empty if our bodies do collide.”
It’s a characteristic of Faux to be understated and perhaps a little bit cynical beneath her vast charisma, sweet and biting with an easy flow and smart musicality. Born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, the 23-year-old relocated to Los Angeles last year, culminating in this year’s excellent album Lost en Los Angeles, a collection that doesn’t adhere to trends and showcases her playfulness; “Fantasy,” released today, spans a 360-view of an apartment over what might be a series of heartbroken days, as she retroactively warns a lover: “I’m no man’s fantasy. I never plan to be. Didn’t come with a set of instructions so you don’t know how to handle me.” The apartment gets more trashed as the camera pans, until Faux wakes up to a giant cello destroying the city. “Even the strongest/calmest people,” Faux says of the video, “must battle their inner demons.”
Lost en Los Angeles is full of self-exploration and existential questioning in the form of fly car-funk, the kind that makes New Yorkers question our self-presumed coastal superiority and, moreso, wish to hell we could drive. Sparked by Faux’s move after a gradual rise to prominence—in part spurred by collaborations with Childish Gambino, who featured her on his 2014 mixtape STN MTN/Kauai—she explores in part the disorientation that comes from relocating, a topic prominent enough to her that she launched a series of interviews with fellow LA transplants in what seems like an earnest attempt to navigate her own feelings. “I felt really out of place,” she told Jezebel of her move, “and I was questioning myself and was like, Yeah. I’m lost. Being on Los Angeles for a year felt more like a college experience than college did.”
It’s this type of earnestness, paired with her laid back approach to rapping, that makes Faux’s music so easy to sink into. Her flow’s hypnotic, stylistically Southern and un-urgent, and carries further power because of that. So when she raps about her friends looking like the Cosa Nostra (“This Right Here”) she doesn’t sound like she thinks you need convincing, but when she halfheartedly sings that she’s drawn to you (“Law of Attraction”) you’re not sure if she totally believes it. That kind of confidence, the kind where you can tell it’s about her and not anyone else, is a satisfying quality in a person and even more satisfying in music.
One day in Spring, Faux came to Jezebel’s offices with her producer, Malik Flint aka BLACKPARTY, in tow. She was funny, snappy and sweet, with the same easygoing vibe she exhibits on her songs. We crammed into a phone room with a couch and talked about Lost en Los Angeles and life philosophy. Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
JEZEBEL: So, how did Lost en Los Angeles develop?
Kari Faux: I feel like “Supplier” was the first song that came along, Malik made the instrumental for it and I just started singing the hook. That came to me before the album was gonna be called Lost en Los Angeles, and then other songs, like “Nothing to Lose”—even though it’s a head-nodding song, it’s still very depressed, I feel like. All those songs came about based on how I felt about myself and how I felt about certain situations.
There are some depressing moments in it, but throughout all of it you also sound so confident. Where do you get your confidence?
Honestly, because it’s really vulnerable and I haven’t given myself a chance to be vulnerable in my music—and I’m a really vulnerable person. In real life I cry all the time, and I express my feelings all the time, so it was like, why don’t I put this in my music? Why don’t I just go in and do it without being afraid of people going, Oh, she’s just a crybaby, or she’s depressed, or she’s this or she’s that.
So I just threw that out the window and I feel like we’ve had conversations [points to Malik] where I’m just like, “Yeah, I guess I feel insecure” and he’s like, “But that’s confidence, being able to say I feel insecure sometimes.” So it’s just being comfortable with feeling the way that you feel when you feel it, and being honest with yourself. Because I mean we all feel the same way, some people just choose not to acknowledge or even speak on it.
I feel like I find my confidence in being okay with myself no matter how fucked up I may feel.
Was that something you learned in the process of making it?
Yeah, I’ve grown up a lot during this whole process, just being around the people that I’ve been around and letting them know that it’s okay to be how you are. Because, growing up in Little Rock, you had to be tough. If you’re not tough people are gonna pick on you or talk about you, so I’ve always had to be super, super tough and not necessarily show my emotions. Now I’m like yeah, I’m okay. I’m almost teaching other people, my friends or my family, it’s okay to feel the way that you feel, it’s okay to talk.
It’s almost like a womanhood thing.
Yeah, I’m Britney Spears, not a girl, not yet a woman. I’m on the mountain in a fucking, like, fringe outfit and I’m just like I’m not a girl... I’m not a woman! I’m just trying to figure it out.
What was disorienting about moving to LA from Little Rock?
I have a lot of alone time in LA, so it made me question myself a lot more. Cause in Little Rock, you know everybody, you can go hang with your friends, you kind of block out all of the shit you have to sort out with yourself because you’re basically ignoring it, just having fun. But when I moved to LA I had a lot of time to reflect on myself because I didn’t have a lot of friends, I wasn’t going out every weekend, and it’s very isolated because people live in the Valley, people live downtown, so you may not see your friends for like a whole two months, even though you all live in the same general vicinity. It’s outward, it’s inward, I’m just disoriented.
So what’s the process of translating that, do you write to music?
I would just write how I feel about stuff and figure out how I was going to say it later, and then sometimes Malik would make instrumentals and I would just already have an idea of where it was gonna go. I’d have an idea for a song and it would be like “Lil Jon ‘Saltshaker’ Ying Yang Twins” and he’ll go and make his version, or he’ll make something and I’ll be like, all right, shift this, we’ll just give each other feedback.
I’ve always wanted to make very different sounding stuff, but we didn’t have the resources so everything we’d make would sound very electronic because it was coming from the computer, and now we have instruments and he self-taught himself a bunch of instruments. He’s showcasing his skills on there and it’s a world that I wasn’t ever aware of—having musicians come in and play, or music theory. Now I wanna learn how to play instruments, but I wanna know what I’m doing. I need to know the technical stuff.
On the intro, you talk about reading more books and drinking more water; it sounds like a meditation almost.
Yeah, cause I need to meditate more. I just think so many things that I need to breathe and focus. My friend says he uses that to meditate and it’s cool.
But the album is also really funny at times, are you a funny person?
Yeah, I’m goofy! Very goofy. Look, so you have to be funny if you’re not like, stylish and like the most attractive person. Growing up, boys used to tease me all the time. There was this one kid named Ernest—rest in peace, Ernest, since he died—but we used to go to the Boys and Girls Club and he used always just go in on me all the time, and one day we were standing in line for the concessions stand and I was like, “Shut the fuck up Ernest, you look like a fuckin’ turtle,” and everybody was like Ohhhhhhh shit! Cause Ernest fucked with everybody, talked shit about everybody, so when I did that everybody was cheering me on.
I was like, Oh, this is all I have to do? Just like, be funny and y’all will leave me alone? Okay cool, that’s what I’m gonna do!
Why were people picking on you!
Cause I like, was super tall, taller than all the boys, I was super-skinny. My mom, she didn’t buy me namebrand clothes, I had to wear like secondhand. You know when you’re a kid and everybody’s got the new everything and I was just like ugh, I guess. I would beg my mom, she’d be like, “Do you got jewelry money? Do you got Nike money?” I’d be like, ugh, all right, they’re gonna pick on me at school. But I just learned how to maneuver and not take any shit, like “I’m tired of y’all talking about me!”
That’s another good growing up, womanhood skill. Especially with dudes, like you talk about on “Lie to My Face.”
That song is literally for like every dude that I’ve ever talked to or pursued because they’re always lying, like what are you lying about? I don’t understand, just don’t lie. It’s not that deep. And then like, you’ll catch them in a lie and they’re just like, “Uh... well, uh, I didn’t wanna hurt your feelings.” Well now my feelings are more hurt because you just lied! What do you mean! Either way it goes, you’re just like cheap.
Are dudes worse in LA than they were in Little Rock?
Kari: I don’t really talk to dudes in LA, I just feel like—and not even just LA, just guys in general if you do stuff and they do stuff, they always feel like they have to prove that they’re doing more than you. Or kinda stunt on you a little bit, and I’m like, okay, I see you’re doing stuff! I fux with you! You don’t have to stunt on me every chance you get!
Classic stuff. So what do you hope for most with this? How did you evolve your sound? Because you have a really unique way of rapping.
I just wanna keep working on music and reaching more people. And yeah, I don’t know how to explain anything that I do, I just do it. There’s no mystical, deep explanation, I just do it, cause it feels good. Even when people ask what type of music I do, I say I guess it’s rap? If you wanna call it rap, sure? You can call it whatever you want, but I just call it music.
Lost en Los Angeles is out now on Wolf & Rothstein.
Photo by D’Andre Cooksey