Words + Photography: Caleb Femi

You really can’t call yourself a fan of UK drill if you don’t know the work of K-Trap, one of the leading artists within the scene. His trap house-influenced tracks continue to rack up hits daily, and his recent body of work—The Last Whip mixtape—has received high praise right across the board. From the streets to editors of magazines, this rapper is a strong contender for next to blow, and is now in position to take things to the next level.

The masked man and I meet on a Friday night in South London, the place he calls home, in a makeshift studio. He holds a calm but assertive presence, sitting in a blacked-out Smooth Gangster tracksuit and holding a cup of Wray & Red Bull—but he only takes a sip, as he tells me he’s trying to cut down on the alcohol intake. We immediately begin talking about music, and I get the impression that K-Trap has meticulously planned out his path—he’s not just another YouTube rapper doing it for fame in the hood. Quite the opposite: this driller takes great pride in his work, an artist architecting his own successes and one whose journey has only just begun.

“I just want people to think I’m a sick artist...”

Ab-libs are a huge part of music these days and you have some of the best in the UK drill scene. Do you prepare them before hitting the studio, or is it all off the dome?

I just jump in! I don’t write them—I’ve never done that. An ad-lib, to me, is another explanation to what is being said in my music, vouching for the lyrics. I don’t do ad-libs thinking it’s gonna catch on with listeners, I just do them and see what happens. On “Paper Plans”, everyone says that the ‘course I do’ ad-lib is their favourite. That’s the one people tell me they like the most.

There’s often a tradition in drill music of various artists using the same instrumentals. How do you feel about that in the quest to set your own lane?

I know what you mean. For me, I don’t really like drill beats anymore because, when I hear drill beats, I can only spit a certain way and that’s not the way I wanna spit. So I’m tryna get different beats that are kinda like drill, but I can spit on them in different ways. You see the drill beats that everyone raps on? Man can only talk the same old madness on them. It’s too limiting.

The last twelve months have been good to you, musically. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you in that time?

My headline show. That was nuts! It was proper mad. It went smooth; from the set-up to the different types of people in the crowd, there was no problems. The crowd was crazy, man. Their energy... Like, I knew they fuck with me but they were fully on volts [laughs]. From the start to the end, it was all just mad.

Yes, the staging was creative. From the lighting to the dancers on-stage, it reminded me a little bit of Kanye West’s shows, how theatrical they are. So is that what we can expect from future K-Trap shows?

Of course. I want my shows to get bigger and better. Me and my management team had bare plans, we wanted to do even bigger things for the headline show, but obviously you gotta take time before you can fully do what you have in your head. But the shows are only gonna get crazier. Being a drill artist doesn’t mean your performances can’t be creative. That’s just me as a person, anyway.

Let’s talk about your fans. The fact that you wear a mask means that your everyday fan won’t know what you really look like. I guess that’s what you wanted, though?

Nah! Listen: the other day, I went to one fashion show in Harvey Nics and there was somebody that worked there and two other people who knew who I was. And this was without the mask! I didn’t expect that in that type of environment.

How do you feel about people being able to spot you without the bally?

It doesn’t bother me… I mean, it can get annoying, but for someone to be able to spot me without my mask means they fuck with me, so I can’t really wrong them for that. It’s all love.

Since we’re on the subject of masks, a lot of other artists have their reasons for wearing balaclavasbut what’s your reason?

I had my own personal reasons why I had to wear a bally but now the circumstances have changed, but I just carried on running with it. Regardless of my initial reasons for wearing the mask, I wore it because I wasn’t sure if I was gonna take music seriously, innit, so I didn’t wanna bait out my face and then just stop rapping.

So, what’s changed since then?

Well, now I do want to rap, and I do take it seriously, but obviously people seem to like the bally so I just wear it now for the sake of it... I’m not gonna lie, though: in some ways, I do feel like it limits me. I might be wrong, but I feel like there are certain positions or opportunities I could have been given if I didn’t have a bally on—but I might be wrong. The good thing about wearing the mask before was that it made you stand out but, now, everyone has a mask so it’s not the same anymore. But I do like the fact that when I off the mask, I am me. And when I put it on, I am K-Trap. A lot of artists don’t really have that luxury.

Thinking about your music career then, how long will be wearing the mask?

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, but I feel like when the time comes, it comes. It has to happen naturally.

Your new mixtape, The Last Whip, is currently doing the rounds. First of all, why did you title it that?

The Last Whip was made for the streets. I didn’t feel like it would get the recognition that it did. Not that I thought it was gonna be rubbish, but I just didn’t think it would be as wide-reaching. People who haven’t lived the life I live, they listen to it and know all the words. But the name is aimed at people who are around the shit that I’m around so, obviously, it’s a if-you-know-you-know type of thing... The last whip, innit! [Laughs].

Do you know how solid the mixtape is though?

To be honest, for me, The Last Whip is like 65% of what I feel like I can give people. I think it was good for its time; being at the start of my music career, it’s a good mixtape to show my potential.

What’s your favourite track on the tape?

Hmm... I like a lot of tunes on there: “Just Cos I Rap”, “Flying Straight”, “Stay Down”. I like those songs a lot, but I like all the songs on there.

“I’ve voted before but, for me, I don’t see things getting any better...”

Let’s talk about the song “Diamonds” you did with Yxng Bane. Not many people saw that coming.

Me and Bane had something coming, but we didn’t want to put a date or time for when it would come out. With “Diamonds”, he sent me the tune one day and said he could hear me on it—so I jumped on it. That was a long time ago; we actually left the tune alone for a while. But Bane is different: a lot of things he said, I initially didn’t agree with, but later it all made sense. I wasn’t sure about the video but he strongly liked it, and it turns out he was right about it. I got a lot of recognition from a different set of people because of that song.

On tracks like “Check Dis” and “Spartans”, you’re featuring with the likes of 67, Harlem Spartans, Youngs Tef, Mischief and others. How competitive does it get when it comes to delivering the best verse?

The way “Check Dis” got made, how jumpy it is and how everyone’s excited, is exactly how it was made. One minute, this guy thinks of something, then the next minute I’ll think of something. It was different from any song I’ve made. I was in the studio with Tef, Dimzy and Monkey, then a few weeks later I heard the rest of the people on it. Of course there’s competitiveness, but whether it’s the biggest star or someone who’s not that known, I always wanna have the best verse to present myself properly. But with these tracks, I knew I had to pattern things differently.

Which artists bring that out of you? Mischief?

Yeah, with Mischief, we’re completely different but we work so well. Put it this way: when Mischief writes, he puts in things that he knows I’m not gonna say and vice versa. So our verses complement each other.

Who else?

LD. Me and LD don’t have a lot of songs out, but we have a lot of recorded songs. We’re a bit similar so it’s a bit competitive, but in a fun way. Also, with Headie One, he’s another person who makes me really think when I write because, again, I think we’re similar in the depth and detail we go into. Even on “No Convo”, I thought he killed it.

You also have the legendary Blade Brown on the tape. How did you find that process, and was there that competitive edge with him as well?

You see Blade? Blade is Blade. He is sick! He ain’t gotta say a lot, he ain’t got to use this flow or that flow, he just lays down some mad bars and, because it’s Blade, it’s all believable. He could say he has half a mill in a duffle bag and people will say it’s true just because it’s Blade.

The stories you tell in your songs are so vivid. You talk about your life and things you’ve seen like someone documenting, but not necessarily glorifying it. But the majority of your peers are accused of glorifying the roads.

Me, as an artist, I tell stories with accurate details. When I rap, I feel like I’m just talking out loud to people who’ve grown up like me, like a conversation. I don’t try to make it something it’s not. It just is what it is.

On a quick side-note, do you vote in general elections?

Yeah, but I don’t think my vote does anything. I’ve voted before but, for me, I don’t see things getting any better.

Recently, people have been talking about UK drill videos being uncreative and similar in their aesthetics. What’s your opinion on that?

I feel like a lot of rappers go to an area or block—where they’re not even respected—and do their video and leave. I don’t even care about all that; I’m tryna do bigger and better videos away from the blocks, because I’m not even on the blocks no more.

So what’s the future for K-Trap looking like?

Not even on a cocky thing, but I feel like I can pattern up anything: any beat, or work with any artist. As K-Trap, I don’t want to limit myself to any one genre—drill, trap, whatever, I just want people to think I’m a sick artist regardless.

Posted on January 16, 2018