Kilo Kish has always been special. Born as Lakisha Robinson, the brilliance of her mind was recognized early on as a child in the classroom. During the '90s, she was put on the academic fast track when she was enrolled in her elementary school's Gifted & Talented program – often referred as "TAG" – and before she knew it she was spending half of her days with the grade above hers because her level of intelligence was so accelerated.
"I've unpacked this after years later, but it's like I didn't really feel necessarily connected to the students in my class," she says. "I felt like I was having this singular learning experience by myself 'cause I was the only doing it for five years. It was very jumping into different spaces and being more of an observer into someone else's classroom. That's what it felt like to me."
Kish describes her younger self as a shy person who spent most of her time by herself, but it's clear that she was also fiercely independent. She was just a regular kid, but her hunger to learn more drove her into the creative realm. Kish wasn't raised in a creative household – her mother was on disability and her dad worked in computer sales – but she stayed busy with an assortment of extracurricular activities on her schedule like ballet and soccer. But once she figured out how to make things, a new path took shape. Kish was gaining all of the tools to do things herself with the resources at her disposal, and in a way, she was being conditioned as an individual.
"I always see myself as an individual, which is interesting now because you'll get a lot of questions about race or being a woman in the industry... These are topics that come up now in 2018," she says. "It's weird 'cause it doesn't really cross my mind that much within the work that I make on my own, 'cause I've always – since the beginning – seen myself as individual. It's not really the first thing I see when I look at myself. I've always been different, so it doesn't feel any different to additionally be black or a woman."
For Kish, it's an unnatural concept to break down, when she's felt like her weirdness has been the one thing that always made her stand out above everything else. "It's a strange place to be in as well because I felt within my career, I have pushed against all kinds of boxes. In a time where it wasn't about activism, I've done shoots and had my hair like it is now in cornrows and had people be like, 'Well, can we have your big, curly hair? It's so much more fun.' That's equally wrong... I'm always pushing against what you expect people to be like," she says. "It always seems as if I'm not necessarily agreeing, but I'm actually agreeing more by really pushing hard against the things that we're saying we care about."
In terms of Kish's taste in music, her palette can be credited to her exposure to the internet and social media. Having access to chat rooms and pre-streaming platforms like MySpace and AOL Music introduced her to a wide variety of music styles that she wouldn't have come across in her own home. She recalls discovering artists like Björk in these spaces, "I think that's like our generation, we may sing in genres because we had this wider lens," she adds.
Kish would go on to study textile design at Pratt Institute before switching to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). Throughout this period in her life, Kish tried on a variety of hats, from salon receptionist to waitress at La Esquina and Miss Lily's. During those downtown days, Kish also began making music, and she hasn't stopped since she graduated in 2012.
With her earlier projects Homeschool and K+, Kish's intention was to learn how to collaborate with different people and "meet more artists and find out what music was really about." From the start, she has always made an active effort to sonically explore and "find my way as an artist," but she doesn't believe that she got there until 2016 with Reflections in Real Time. As her music identity slowly began to come into view, so did her place with the performance art space. Last year, Kish put on her debut art exhibition Real — Safe at the HVW8 gallery in Los Angeles.
"I focus when I can on whatever the concept is, I just go with that. If it's a higher art concept, then I do gallery stuff with it," she says. "Otherwise I'll do music when I can, it really depends on whatever it is... I just choose whatever piques my fancy honestly. I don't really have a method for it."
Kish's newly released Mothe EP is an extension of her latest stage of creative growth, a sonic exploration of the subconscious that makes you feel like life is a never-ending video game. For all the details on that piece of work, revisit our track by track breakdown. Scroll down to learn even more about the next chapter of Kilo Kish.
Mothe is out, how have you felt about how it's been received so far?
It's been great so far. I was expecting a lot more... I didn't know if people would like it because it's a little bit different, the music palette. I haven't heard anything negative yet on my feed. Also, I'm more shocked. I'm just like, "Oh, weird. Then I could have gone crazier." I really thought "Oh, this might be like a bit much for people," at least, people that have heard my music before. I'm really happy with it. We just shot a video yesterday and I'm so excited for that one to be out 'cause it's really, I think, gonna be my favorite video that I made so far. I'm really excited to get it edited.
What's next after that? Are you already working on a new project or album?
I have the title of what I'm gonna call it, but I haven't started working on it yet. We started buying the gear for it and being like, "OK, this is the mic I want to use, these are some of the petals that we want to use." [We're] starting to round out the sound of it, but we really have to just get in a room and be loud 'cause I made all my other projects in my house pretty much. I want a space that's pretty empty so we can plug in amps and be really, really loud, and make it like an open air space. I'm waiting 'til the right time to get that done.
How did the title come to you for this next one?
I just am in my house and then I'll be thinking about it in the shower or wherever, "What am I gonna do? What's my next mix gonna be called?"
Then something just came to you?
Yeah, and I'll just be saying that to myself. Sometimes I go to bed like, "What's my next installation gonna be?" I just put it out there, and then randomly I'll be making food and be like, "That's the name." I just ask the question and then I wait. I don't rush an answer, I just wait, then it pops up.
Sometimes I get really fixated on certain words after seeing or hearing them a few times. I have this ongoing note and I'll jot down words that I want to use for something.
Yeah, those are always great 'cause then they're really clues downloading to your brain.
You've worked with a lot of different brands in the past. I wanted to know if you have anything in the works that's coming down the pipeline?
I do actually. Like most of my projects, it's very connected to many mediums. I'm working on a brand, but it's way more than a brand... I can't really explain it fully. We're going to be debuting at ComplexCon. I've been working on a lot of things over the past couple of years, but I think for me, fashion has always been like a lifestyle thing. It's never been the first priority for me. I went to school for design, but then I also saw myself painting and making patterns from scratch for a bigger design house, or just screen printing. I'm fine with like a tactile job that I can just sit down, put my head down, and do it.
I never really foresaw myself having my own line or anything like that. Now that I'm in a position to, I think clothes are secondary to an overall vibe of a person or an overall lifestyle. I want to create spaces that are more lifestyle-based where the clothing is secondary. I'll follow Vogue for things that I might want to pull for myself for red carpets or whatever else. But for me, I feel like my style remains the same. It's pretty much just jeans and a black shirt every day.
I want to be able to get up and not worry about what I'm going to put on. I can't wait to be that way someday... But then there's always something flashy that'll get my eye, and then a year later I'm like, "What was I thinking?"
Why did I need that? Yeah... It's all mood based. Some of those things where it's like you just do it. Sometimes I want to wear a big, frilly dress. Then sometimes I don't. It's really dependent on the mood, at least for Kilo Kish stuff. I'm only referring outside, but for that, sometimes I do dress up more 'cause it's music based and people are expecting something more than just jeans and a T-shirt.
Yeah, it's like you perform for them.
Yeah, exactly. I do that for that. Also, it helps me to get into a specific mood for the performance. Besides, I just want to do whatever.
You've collaborated with so many artists. My personal favorites on the list are Vince Staples and Childish Gambino. What are your relationships like with them now?
Well, Vince I see a lot more because we have the same manager, we collaborate more often, and we both are always in LA. He's like a little brother. We're not that different in age, but we're so similar in terms of our rebelliousness and wanting to be outside the box and trying new things, and openness to trying new things. Also just our cynicism, we're really similar in that way. He says a lot worse than I would say, but we usually are thinking along the same lines.
Speaking your truth.
Yeah, he's such a troll though. It's more funny. I'm just like, "Oh my God, I don't get people. Let me dissect it in my mind." He's like, "Let me make a joke of it." He's much more laidback than me. Donald [Glover] is also very similar in some ways, very calculated, very thinking about the big picture and thinking about what's next. Always what's next, not ever worrying about now, but worrying about what's after that. I don't really hang out with him that much anymore 'cause obviously so much stuff is going on, but we did hang out a lot when we were both living in LA.
Taurus to Taurus, how do you go about sustaining your own personal growth?
I just work on it constantly. It's something I do. It's like I don't know, some people are like, "I'm together." I think I'm too self-aware to not continue to work on it. It's like I know there are places that I need to be better at – there's things that I need to do, ways to communicate that work more efficiently. The more teams you work on and things like that, the more you learn where your flaws are. How you could have said something better or done something better. For me, I'm so critical in general, I think my discernment with my own work is super high, so I'm always trying to suss out the parts of myself that are not necessarily up to peak or up to par. I really do just work on it. If I am doing a live show, I'll go take singing lessons, or I'll go try and learn guitar. I am always trying to be a better artist and creative in general, and know how to explain things better.
It becomes easier to explain things the more that you learn about it and hear from different peoples' perspectives about things. It's an ongoing process and it's never gonna stop. Even people that are super professionals, they never stop. It's like, why would I think that I'm fine the way I am? I also think each time you want to open things up to a broader audience and compete on a different level, then you have to create work that is constantly surpassing the last thing that you made. For whatever reason, it might not be the most successful project or it may not be the most streamed project, but in terms of getting to that place where you really are locking in to what you originally planned in your mind and actually seeing it out to fruition, that's what I'm trying to get to. The place where budgets align, projects align, collaborators align, I'm in the right mind state, and I'm in the right place to really deliver that.
I'm finally realizing it's okay to not have everything figured out. It really hit me last year when I realized that I completed my five year plan that I created for myself going into college, but never planned for what's next. You can't always go through life with a plan though, sometimes you have to go with the flow.
You can't plan for serendipitous things that happen or great opportunities. I couldn't have planned for doing music. That ended up taking my whole life in a whole different direction, then opened it up to so many projects that I wouldn't probably be able to do yet. I'd probably still be working under someone at some design place hoping to get a different position. I would have never been able to foresee this happening. Creativity is taking chances and trying to execute the things that you really want to do. If you really want to write a book then just write a book. You don't need to wait 'til you're 35 to write a book, you don't need to wait 'til you're like 22 to write a book... You can write one when you're 19 or whenever. Who knows where it could go? It's really just people taking chances that makes things work.
If you could go back in time and speak to a younger version of yourself, what's one piece of advice that you could give to you?
Trust your gut, trust your instinct. 'Cause everything that you don't want to do, you're never gonna want to do it. It's one of those things that's like when something doesn't feel right, then it's just not for you. It doesn't mean that it's wrong for everyone, it's not something that you're meant to do. Go toward the things that you want to do and be comfortable letting go of the things that don't fit with you. Don't beat yourself up over the fact that it doesn't fit with you 'cause that's just wasting time. It's better to push forward into the things that you really do enjoy and love, and make a space there as opposed to trying to fit into everyone's box that they think you're supposed to fit in... You'll find a way to the things that you're supposed to be doing.