Interview: Key Nyata
Posted in Interviews
As one of the youngest and most naturally gifted phonk rap-prodigys from SpaceGhostPurrp's Raider Klan, Key Nyata’s light is destined to shine through soon enough from behind the shadow of the 4AD-signed path beater. Yet only 17 years of age, the Seattle native already has an impressive nine years of rapping, along with a good amount of production experience to show for himself. On his recent Two Phonkey mixtape, Key Nyata put his pitch-shifting vision of trippy, progressive (and–to an extent–imagined) nostalgia into full effect, touching on elements from 90s underground Memphis, Houston and Compton, while at the same time sounding more current than the chick on your time dial.
In the process of finishing up his senior year in high school, Key Nyata is currently working with underground heroes Blue Sky Black Death, Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire and Vince Staples, and is wrapping up his fourth, self-made solo project, the Dragon Ball Z-indebted Goku Nyata EP. Fresh off his Seattle guest appearance at the much talked-about SpaceGhostPurrp and Trash Talk tour, we caught up with the young phonkslinger to talk Raider Klan, Two Phonkey and that 90s shit.
How was your show with Trash Talk and Purrp?
That shit was fun as fuck. It was pretty live. Me and Purrp were basically regulating in the fucking moshpit.
How did that come about in the first place?
Just connections. You know Odd Future fuck with us and they wanted to put together a show that nobody would expect. Like heavy punk shit mixed with rap. It’s crazy but it’s a good-ass combination when you get it at a concert, cause people go fucking crazy.
With you being based in Seattle – do you get a chance to catch up with the other Raider Klan members a lot?
Not a lot, but when I do it’s all love. Everybody’s family in Raider Klan.
You guys seem to be bonding over musical backgrounds, too.
Hell yeah, we just fuck with that underground shit. I grew up listening to a lot of Westcoast underground music. When I was around certain people there was a lot of southern music too cause I have southern family, so I would hear both ends of the rap. And of course the early Eastcoast shit too, and Quasimoto and DOOM and niggas like that. But yeah, a lot of my influence comes from the early Westcoast shit. It’s really my favorite music for the most part.
I was really impressed by the “Pitch Black” video because it had such an NWA vibe to it.
Yeah they’re some of my favorite rappers of all time. They just make dope ass music. I love the fucking beats that they use. All the bass and shit. A lot of people don’t know that the Westcoast introduced heavy ass bass to the rap game. The Westcoast and the South pretty much at the same time, they started using all the 808 knocks and shit. Before that it was basically just kicks and snares up on the Eastcoast. And I just love bass.
Even though NWA in particular is more on the late 80s side of things, do you think that the ‘90s are making a comeback right now?
Definitely. I feel like that’s good though. It was the golden era of music. There’s nothing better than that in my perspective. From ‘88 to ‘98, that was the best period.
What do you think is it that attracts people to the Raider Klan?
Probably the whole swagger of it. Everybody has their own sound and swag, but I feel like we as a collective just draw people in cause it’s something they haven’t seen before but it also reminds them of something they heard before or heard about. It’s like a collage of the old and the new.
And it’s also much darker than most of what is out right now. So in a sense it’s also a matter of going against the grain of what is popular. Is that also part of the approach?
Yeah we don’t make fucking mainstream music. That shit is stupid. It all sounds the same to me.
Compared to your previous releases, Two Phonkey seems like a more focused approach, it sounds a bit more cohesive in a sense. Did you approach that any differently?
No, what you’re hearing on that is pretty much just me developing as an artist and solidifying my sound. I mean I definitely put it together so it flowed very well, but I didn’t sit down and piece it together or anything.
Where did you record it?
Just on my little setup at home. That’s also why it’s lo-fi. Niggas think that lo-fi shit is a gimmick but it’s actually just how our music sounds cause we don’t have anything better we can use. It’s hard to get studio time all the time cause I don’t have any money to pay for no studio time. But I can record myself at home, easy. So it is what it is.
What does being phonkey mean to you?
Well phonk is in your soul. It’s all about being true to yourself, knowing about yourself, knowing what’s in your mind and knowing how to express yourself–in a way that some people will get and some people will not get. And phonk rap in itself to me and to phonk rappers–it’s lyrical. Cause the way that phonk rappers rap, it may not be your conventional punchline bar, but if you listen to it and decode it, you’ll be like “damn he just said something.” You might not catch it the first time but if you listen again you’ll start to understand the lyrical code.
Click here to download Two Phonkey for free right now.