There’s probably no-one more brilliantly now than Lakisha ‘Kish’ Robinson: 22 years old, living in New York, a textile designer, artist and songwriter under the alias Kilo Kish. In a short space of time, she’s worked with Childish Gambino, A$AP Rock and Odd Future, appearing on The Internet’s Purple Naked Ladies album and roping in Syd Tha Kyd, Matt and Hal Williams from Odd Future to produce various tracks on her stunning debut EP/mixtape Homeschool. If you’ve not heard ‘Navy’, the lead track from the relase, yet – where have you been? – then you’re missing out on a soulful, claustrophobic-yet-dreamy treat, heavy on elastic bass and jazzy guitar licks. Kish sing-speaks her way through the track in such a smooth and stylistically individual way that it’s pretty impossible to compare her to any other artist out there right now. As she raps/sings: “Do you know how stars taste? / Well you’ll find out one day / Maybe me, maybe not / Stick around / You’ll learn a lot,” it’s impossible not to be drawn into the wonderful, beguiling and beautiful world of Kilo Kish. It draws on the likes of Kendrick Lamar and the nu-soul of Frank Ocean, but it still feels like something truly original.
The rest of Homeschool is just as addictive as ‘Navy’; it feels live, natural, instant and there’s absolutely no doubt that Kish is a complete star in the making. We managed to catch a few words with her recently, despite her incredibly busy schedule, to find out that little bit more about how this young arts student ended up making music.
Hi there, should we call you Kilo, or Kish, or Kilo Kish when we’re talking to you? And is it pronounced ‘Ky-lo’, or ‘Kee-lo’?
It’s ‘Kee-lo’, and it’s best to just call me Kish.
So, everywhere and everyone is going crazy for you at the moment – is it an exciting time in your life, a scary one, or a mixture of both?
It’s pretty exciting to do new things and travel to new places. It’s also nice to work on music projects and try to incorporate all the things that I like. It was kind of scary to perform at first, but now it’s fine.
It’s often the case for someone that makes music to come from a musical household but I understand that wasn’t the case for you – can you tell us a bit about growing up in Orlando and moving to NYC?
Orlando was cool, but kind of boring and I always knew growing up that I wanted to live in NY. So I got into an art school and went there until for some reason between freshman and sophomore year, my financial aid got screwed up. So I chose to just live in NY and try to work and support myself.
What eventually sparked your interest in making music? Was it meeting Smash Simmons?
I was sort of depressed at the time since I enjoy school very much and didn’t really have the motivation to draw or paint. I was working a lot and super exhausted. So I would unwind with Smash at home and it just happened to be that he made music and was always working on something, which sparked my curiosity. Eventually I was saying things here and there and then making my own songs.
Did you play an instrument, or write when you were younger?
I played violin and was in chorus when I was little. I wrote poetry books and short stories which I illustrated, like most kids.
What music were you listening to growing up?
I listened to pop music like the other kids my age: Britney, Xtina, NSYNC*, Spice Girls… the whole gang!
After my year off I was more certain of what area of design I wanted to move into. I took an internship at a brand, Salvor, which hand-prints their own fabrics. They don’t have that major (textile design) at Pratt so I went where they did.
Has fashion always been a part of your life or important to you… or visual art in general maybe?
I’m not sure if I’m the most trendy or fashionably aware person who ever went to design school, but I’ve always appreciated good design and I’ve always wanted to make things. I lack a lot of the patience for some of the areas I was originally interested in, like architecture, but textiles seem to make sense to me and are super interesting.
Did people encourage you to start making music, or did this come about naturally through your interest in art?
I’m always willing to learn how to do something I have no experience in. It’s fun to learn and try things; I think that’s what fuelled it.
What can you tell us about writing your lyrics – what inspires you?
I listen to music and whatever comes to mind I just write it down or try to explain the mood or feeling of the music as best I can through a particular scenario with imagery. I write a lot of lyrics about people, not necessarily romantic relationships, but just qualities I notice in the people around me.
You might not be regarded as an ‘MC’ as such, as your style often comes across as spoken word – how do you view your approach to rapping/singing/poetry?
Personally, I feel like music doesn’t really need labels in our present era. I don’t know if it ever did. I write songs and record them. Sometimes I sing and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it rhymes and at other times it’s just giggling in the background. I feel like my style is always changing.
Is there anything in particular that inspired the Homeschool EP/mixtape? Where does the title come from?
The comfort and process of learning at home
What can you tell us about the KKK collective?
It’s a collective of friends having fun making music together – me, Smash Simmons and Mels McCloud.
Is the name deliberately chosen to wind people up?
In the words of J.Scott (Manager, who started the KKK name with A$AP Yams and Mels McCloud):
“KKK stands for mainly Kool Kats Klub or Kind Kids Kill or whatever… it forces people out their comfort zone. But it’s something that USED TO represent something negative but it’s a collective of 3 letters that in fact sound cool together.”
Are you enjoying playing your music live at shows? What’s the set up?
Yeah, me and my DJ Kitty Cash and special guest friends come out and play things sometimes. It’s fun because me and Cash are best friends, so we just have fun on stage.
What’s next for Kilo Kish?
Winning a Grammy for “Best Recording Package” one day.
‘Navy’ is available now via Blue Rider Music.