A couple of weeks ago, I was trawling Soundcloud when I was abruptly paralyzed by something—a track with the fairly clumsy name of “Concealed the outro (fuck em rmx),” the last stop on a mixtape called (somewhat clumsily as well) Abstract Art, on the page of an essentially unknown rapper calling himself K.A.A.N.
The track was phenomenal. The beat is slow and skittery and hard, snapping a Route 94/Jess Glynne sample into a heavy 2/2 back-and-forth sway, and over it, this guy’s flow is crazy, a relentless and barely controlled tumble splitting the beat into sixteenth notes and running nonstop through the entire song. It’s careful writing, but the words come so fast you miss everything on the first 10 tries—you just hear the syllables paving the track forward via percussion, the switch-and-flip emphasis like a tiny skyline going for miles.
Where does he breathe? What is even happening???? The technical virtuosity in this track far outpaces the 1,150 followers or so K.A.A.N. had on Twitter. I started listening to the rest of his music, and the track above is easily the best one—the sample providing the warmth that rounds out the freneticism and makes everything cohere. But K.A.A.N.’s flow on everything else is still insane, like on this Aaliyah bootleg, and this first track from his mixtape:
So I did what any respectable lady would do—slid into K.A.A.N.’s DMs to find out the deal.
K.A.A.N.’s name is Brandon Perry. He’s a 24-year-old guy who’s lived in Maryland for his whole life and does masonry and caulking work for a contracting company as a day job. He’s been writing music for three years, recording for two; after his first attempt at recording music he immediately took a break to focus back on his writing, because “the songs I had wrote before I started focusing on writing were just average, and had no real substance to them. To me they sounded like everything else I’d heard from other unknown artists, and I wanted and still want a way to differentiate myself.”
When he was 10, he bought everything Tupac had ever done. “Tupac was the only artist where I could literally feel the music,” he wrote. “It’s difficult to describe, but when I first found his music I would be stuck. I was just hooked. I wanted to catch every word, mannerism, voice inflections. I just wanted to really understand his music as a whole.” K.A.A.N. listed a slew of other artists he’d obsessed over, too: Nas, Eminem, Das EFX, EPMD, Big Pun, Wu-Tang, and older R&B acts too, like Etta James, Smokey Robinson, Earth Wind and Fire. “But I like all music honestly,” he added. “I’ll play an Iggy and the Stooges record, or a Nirvana record, and then put on Adele.” (Adele’s “Skyfall” is sampled on Abstract Art.)
I asked him how he wrote, the way he felt about writing:
I like the expressionistic part of music. Like how you can say the craziest thoughts, feelings, and emotions inside of you, put it in over instruments, put it out—and then you find there are people that feel exactly the same as you do. I spend all of my free time writing or recording. I work best when I’m just left alone, so I’m always isolated with out any real human interaction, so its cool that I can be cut off from the world, but still be able to express my self and the way I feel.
Abstract Art took K.A.A.N. eight months, working with his engineer/producer ORBT and a few other friends who produce and make beats. He had 17 songs after four months, and then scrapped many of them, rewriting and remaking the tracks to be more personal. (He succeeded: the best ones, like that track up top, have Kendrick Lamar moments—so directly vulnerable and commanding that they feel channeled.) He’s been making (also slightly clumsy, but real as hell) videos for some of the mixtape tracks, showing him kicking around quarries and railroad tracks, rolling blunts, looking for something.
“I’m passionate about my music,” K.A.A.N. told me, “but I mainly do it for my sanity. Music is the only therapy and release I have, so I treat it as such. I’m still very unknown and obscure and I don’t have any plans for the future other than continuing to make honest music and shooting videos. If any of it reaches people, awesome, but it seems to me that people mostly just want stuff to party to, and that’s not the energy I’m putting out.”
K.A.A.N. stands for “knowledge above all nonsense,” and you can check out his music here.
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