Across the expansive list of names across UK drill, it is the relentless force of K-Trap that remains untouched. As the scene cements itself into wider recognition, it’s completely valid to coin the genre as, partially, the Gipsy Hill rapper’s own.
2017 paints a very different landscape for what was, at the time, the emerging sounds of drill. Hindered by censorship and the knock-on effects of Form 696, it’s the likes of ‘K-Trap Presents The Last Whip Mixtape’ that managed to push past its obstacles, building a following regardless of the stakes. Perhaps it’s this same energy, this same hunger that upkeeps the rhymer at the top of his game, tightening his grasp with new project ‘The Last Whip II’.
It’s a bold move, having dipped into the more accessible mechanics of debut album ‘Street Side Effects,’ an outward claim to the once masked rapper’s success. Yet, Devonte Perkins is quick to brush off the influence of numbers and figures, commanding his path from a newly independent stance. Now making his return, the 26-year old presents himself all the more polished and refined in his grit and lyrical mastery. Sharing a tracklist with day-dot collaborators, namely Headie One, S Loud and Youngs Teflon, ‘The Last Whip II’ is an ode to the underground, unafraid to strip things all the way back.
Clash sat down with K-Trap to discuss the unveiling of his identity, stretching his creative process through collaborative projects and the evolution of his distinctively crafted flows.
How did you develop your own flow and style?
K-Trap: I feel like it just come naturally. When I make music, I just touch on subjects that I proper know, situations and real life. It’s always gonna come out raw, very detailed and I’ll make you be able to picture it.
And how did it feel to transition from the more underground work? Tell us about taking off your mask…
It wasn’t comfortable, wearing that mask. Like I’ve always said, when I first started doing music I didn’t picture myself doing this interview. Not saying that I couldn’t get there, but it just wasn’t really believable as anyone that has been following music. When I did first start doing music, I wasn’t even sure of having a music career so I didn’t want to put my face out there. Then I got to a stage where I’m having meetings, going into buildings, it’s actually getting serious. It’s crazy because everyone wears a mask now but I was thinking: how are people going to take me serious? How much are you going to secure certain bags and get in certain rooms with a black balaclava? When I took it off, a lot of weight came off my back but loads more weight came back on for taking off. It was bittersweet, but we’re here now and I don’t regret it.
Yourself and Blade Brown’s ‘Joints’ mixtape brought together two different generations of UK rap. What did you take away from the process of working together?
I feel like there’s probably more that I took from it that I don’t know how to describe. Me and Blade got that chemistry and that relationship. To us, it just felt like light work but to everyone else it must have seemed big, obviously the old school, the new school come together. What I took from that is it’s not easy. It’s not easy working with another artist, we’re different flows, different stages of our life, different ages, different genres of music. Blade doesn’t do drill, I wasn’t doing rap so much. He done some drill, I done some rap. So it was challenging, but it was good. Especially how we done it fully independent, we actually uploaded it ourselves, done everything ourselves. I feel like it encouraged other people to work with other artists and whatnot.
People often say that I remind them of Blade or even how detailed I am with the raps and just how I carry myself too, we’ve got similar stuff. So, naturally I took to Blade.
You and Headie One recently teased the potential for a joint project. If you were to merge forces, what kind of project do you think would come out of your time spent together in the studio?
Me and Headie together, it would be silly. People know that me and Headie are the two people that have been there from the jump. I feel like we started our careers at the same time, we featured on both of each other’s projects and we’ve been holding up drill for a moment. To come together to make a project, it would be crazy.
And how does it feel to return, following up ‘The Last Whip’ from a new stance in your career?
I feel like it’s good, man. I feel like it’s the reincarnation, it makes ‘The Last Whip’ run further, longer. You can’t forget it.
Do you think you approached it differently to, for example, ‘Street Side Effects’?
Yeah definitely, of course. Yeah, I was at a stage in my career where all the technical stuff got a hold of me and changed how I think and how I was making music. I approached ‘The Last Whip II’ like I approached ‘The Last Whip’. And when I say that, that approach is just doing whatever I want to, I’m not thinking I need to make this song for this or that.
I feel like it was always in the back of my head to have a ‘The Last Whip II’. In the early stages of making the project, I just felt how I felt when I was making ‘The Last Whip’. There’s a few artists on ‘The Last Whip II’ that featured on ‘The Last Whip’ so it just made sense.
And how do you navigate between yourself as an artist, K trap, and yourself as the individual or do you consider them to be one in the same?
No, I don’t feel it’s the same because… it’s hard to explain but people that listen to K-Trap or watch K-Trap, there’s only a few things that they will see and be like cool, I know how K-Trap is. The majority of the people haven’t got a clue of what type of person I am or who they think I am, is the complete opposite.
Do you think it’s important to keep that distance?
Yeah, I feel like it goes both ways. Sometimes your career gets very busy where every breath, every second of your life feels like you’re a musician. So sometimes it might get hard because I’m a laid back person, I like to chill, I’ll go out and stuff but if I wasn’t doing music, I most probably wouldn’t as much. It’s good to have a break from what you do, I feel that sometimes the music takes over everything so you’re just in your rapper bag day to day.
And you shifted your releases to Thousand8 Records. What made you want to steer away from the influence of major labels?
Having my own label was definitely part of the plan. Obviously I’ve signed a deal before, I know what it’s like. I’m not anti-labels, but if I was to ever sign again, I want to know that there’s W’s under my label, that there’s credentials, there’s a catalogue. That’s the main thing.
Is it just going to be your own work released under the label?
No, there will be singles, projects from other artists, slowly but surely. I’m at the stage where I’m still building my own career, so I wouldn’t want to take on anyone else’s and not give them my full 100.
And so to someone just starting out, what advice would you give in regards to finding confidence in your own forms of expression?
Don’t get lost in seeing what’s in season. As much as there’s a lot of people that do that and become successful, I feel like look at yourself, your reflection and what’s really going on around you, and what you can express and break down the best. Go down that road because people will gravitate towards you and actually want to listen to your story and understand you more than just being somebody else.
And you are one of the few voices who have openly spoken about the tragic news surrounding Chris Kaba across social media. How important do you feel it is for people like yourself to speak up on these issues?
We’re at a stage where a lot of people might be scared or be very cautious to speak on something like that situation. But the more everyone does it, the more people feel comfortable to do it. Once everyone comes together I feel that it will be better, justice will come quicker or the message will get across to whoever it needs to get across.
And how do you feel about the current state of UK rap?
I feel like UK Rap, it is what it is. I don’t really have much to say about it and I don’t really think about changing it. I just worry about my journey, my legacy, what I stand for and my stamp in the game.
‘The Last Whip II’ is out now.
Words: Ana Lamond