|Pictured above: Kogan Dumb is on a boat.|
Lamar Kendrick, aka Kogan Dumb, has been hinting at a release for a about a month now, releasing a track here and there that shows off his solo rhyming chops. But this isn’t his first rodeo. A member of the hip-hop group Bird Zoo, Kendrick has been part of the local hip-hop scene for years now, and his music ages well with time. In celebration of the Mussolini EP, the self-produced solo effort that Kendrick dropped today, we sat down and typed questions at the man about his name and namesake, the best things to drink, and what super power is worth having.
Never Nervous: Where did the name Kogan Dumb come from? Tell us about your alias, and how it came to be.
Lamar Kendrick: My name came to me during a period in my life where I was smoking a lot of weed. I was listening to the Madvillainy album by MF Doom and Madlib. There is a 2 part instrumental track on there called Eye/Supervillain Theme. Well in the transition between the 2 beats the music stops and a voice says something that sounds like it’s saying “KOGAN DUMB.” My first thought was, who the hell is Kogan Dumb because I love that name. So I did my research, and I came to find out that it was a sample from an old Ice-T song called “COLD GET DUMB.” So after that I felt the name spoke to different periods of my life. From dumb mistakes I have made, to just a simple ode to the 90s. And ever since I ran with it.
NN: You have to know that you have the most un-Googleable name in hip-hop. Has that had any effect on your public persona? Have you ever gotten any wrongly directed feedback?
LK: Yes I know. It really hasn’t had an effect on my personal life. Except it does break the ice as a conversation starter when people find out what my name is. If Kendrick Lamar was a bad rapper I would feel like my name sucks, but in my eyes he’s one of the best ever. I think it’s cool, I love it!
NN: How did you get hooked up with the Bird Zoo folks? Give us some backstory on that.
LK: Well first, it was Me and Jasun K. I basically am best friends with Jasun’s younger brother so our connection was just bound to happen. Our group used to be called Triple B ( Broken Bottle Brigade ) and we also were in a trio called The Inn Crowd. We released a project under both names, but I felt the names didn’t match the music we were making. So I came up with the name Bird Zoo, and we agreed it just felt right. I worked with our DJ, iNSPiREME, for 6 months at a local pizzeria before I even knew he was a DJ. So I told him our goals, gave him our music and he was all for joining us. Our drummer, Kevin Scott, I went to high school with him, but we didn’t hang out outside of school a whole lot. One day I saw a video he put on youtube with him playing the drums with another band and I thought it was so dope. I actually ran into him on the street shortly after seeing that video, and told him how much I loved what he was doing musically. He then told me he was looking for a hip hop act to make music with. So he was willing to be a part of Bird Zoo as well. Our Guitarist TinyForest was the last to join. One day I simply put on Facebook I was looking for a producer, and someone directed me to one of my old classmates younger brother. Which was TinyForest. I messaged him about his music, and he was cool about us rapping over his beats. Once I found out he played the guitar I asked him to officially be apart of Bird Zoo and the rest is history.
NN: What is your writing process like? Do you just emcee, or do you have any hand in the production? What makes you select the beats that you use?
LK: My writing process is something I try not to force. When I get deep into my writing I try to pull material from my whole life. A constant thought I always have while writing is stay original and abstract. If lyrics start to hit me out of nowhere I try to put them in my phone that moment so I don’t forget them. But for some reason I do my best thinking while driving around. So sometimes I’ll grab a bunch of random instrumentals I like, jump in the car and ride around until verses start to hit me. I also produce some of my own music too. The beats I normally produce or go for have a core impact on me with in the first 30 seconds of hearing them. If rhymes start to pop in my head with in that time I know I’m heading in the right direction.
NN: What makes for a good beat?
LK: It has to have a good rhythm to it. But that changes for me depending on my mood. Sometimes I’m into beats that have tons of samples. Lately I have been more into the live instrument sounds. But sometimes I want heavy bass beats with no samples. So if I can nod my head to it or maybe come up with a rhyme or 2 then it’s a good beat in my book.
NN: How would you describe your own music to people not in the know?
LK: I would say my music is abstract, full of my life, and made for people that can think outside of the box. My music is an artsy view into my life and how I see the world around me.
NN: In a lot of ways, hip-hop is the most vocal heavy form of pop music out there, given just how much of the genre is comprised of telling a story, and putting a message out there. What makes for a good story? How much responsibility does a performer have to put out a good message, if at all?
LK: I believe all aspects of the genre is telling a story. Not all is done in a sense of going from point A to B. Not all is done in past tense. Some tell stories of what they want and what they dream to have. Some tell stories of the present. Or people like myself that can tell multiple stories in an unconventional sense in one song. At the same time there is always a message going out there. A good story is in the details that are normally overlooked but always present. Once you can capture the visuals of those overlooked details and explain them to others I feel is where the skill of story telling is. I feel not only do performers have the responsibility of putting a good message out, but so does the average person. If you want thinkers and artistic people around you, then that’s the message you spread. If you want hustlers and drug dealers, around that’s the message you spread. It’s up to the people to be responsible for the messages they choose to receive.
NN: I wonder often how a bigger group like Wu-Tang organizes any kind of central thesis to their tracks lyrically, since there are like 47 of them. How does writing lyrics change if you share those duties with other people, or even just one other person?
LK: The thought of another person jumping on the song with you is always there, when it’s the plan to do so. But unless the plan is to write verses that match in sound or wording then the plan is normally the same. Just write what you feel, roll the dice, and hopefully the end result is what you envisioned. If not change the needed elements, whether it be the instrumental or the verses. I feel this process happens better naturally when the people on the song share common views on music. It helps to keep things consistent.
NN: How would you identify the difference between Bird Zoo and your solo stuff? How do you draw that distinction in your mind?
LK: My solo music is becoming more personal. I don’t have to explain myself creatively to other people. But I also don’t close myself off from my bandmates. Because where I’m going as a solo artist determines how I will be in the group. When it comes to Bird Zoo our ideas are shared and talked about. The new Bird Zoo sound we are working on includes things that every member can be identified by. We explore new things together, and the process is a lot more unpredictable. When I write solo songs I focus on myself and how the subjects matter to me. With the group I try to come up with ideas that I know will excite them all. Kogan Dumb is just one person expressing personal thoughts. Bird Zoo is 5 people expressing how they feel, through the instrumentals they make and verses.
NN: Is there a Louisville hip-hop sound? If so, how would you describe it?
LK: At this point I don’t believe there is one solid sound that if you hear it the first thing that comes to mind is “ Hey that’s the Louisville sound.“ From where we sit on the map I love the influences that we have. From down south, midwest, and east coast. If you could blend all of that up then maybe you could get close to understanding our sound. But I do like the things I’m hearing in our city. It seems that people have realized they can be themselves and make genuine music from the heart. And thats all you can really ask of people, just make what’s true to you.
NN: If you could change anything about the world, what would it be and why?
LK: That’s a huge question. My answer maybe a bit corny but this is what I feel. I believe in the name Yahweh (God) and I believe that he created the Devil. I wish God would reveal himself in a manor to where everyone had an answer to his mystery. I feel people would be on a straight path of life with so many questions answered. Give people an understanding of the world they live in and pray with that new found knowledge we all would aim for better things that aren’t physical.
NN: You can have one superpower. What would it be and why?
LK: Simply to fly. It could save time on travel. No more buying gas, cars, or plane tickets. Would be a great way to see the world.
You can listen to the Mussolini EP in it’s entirety below: