With Bay Area in his blood, Koran Streets arrives as one of the most raw, authentic voices in hip-hop. At the young age of 13, the Berkeley native was involved in a freak accident where his dreads caught on fire, leaving severe burns over 28% of his body. Bouncing back from a six-month coma, over 20 skin graft surgeries and six finger amputations, Streets embodies a man of strength, resilience, courage, and determination. Read more…
With no major label push, Koran’s debut album, You.Know.I.Got.It (The Album), was appointed #28 in Rolling Stone’s 40 Best Rap Albums of 2016. Not only did this give fans a bird’s eye view of the trials and tribulations he faced and overcame, it turn giving them the same hope and encouragement he had to give himself along the way.
Now, he’s back with a new project titled Late 20s, highlighting growth and maturity as he celebrates 27 years of life.
For those who don’t know, who is Koran Streets?
Koran Streets, just like the Muslim Bible. Streets for the ‘s’ not the ‘z’. [laughs] They gonna give me that Ebonics.
How would you describe your sound?
Raw, real, to the point. I don’t really have a lot of punchlines. My sound is soulful street shit. That’s my sound to the T.
You’re from South Berkeley, how does that play into your life and career?
A lot. That’s where I get a lot of my neighborhood stories from. That’s where I started getting in trouble at. That’s where I started doing crime at, so in that aspect. But you are where you’re at, not where you grew up. My music is shaped by everywhere I go.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
I feel like that’s what every artist needs to do at some point. It don’t matter what you’re doing out here. What my dude told me that was dope was, “No matter where you at, they’re gonna wanna know what you’re doing back home.” So all the exposure and all this shit out here is dope, but I got a lot of work to do back home. I feel like this is setting it up.
What do you feel like you have to do back home?
Just plant my feet more. Get more people in touch with the music and hearing it. Getting more people familiar with my sound sonically, and just putting the face with the sounds.
What is your presence like back home?
I’m out there ten toes down. I’m fucking superstar. It ain’t too many people who don’t know me in the Bay Area in some shape, form, or fashion. I’m a face. I’m a big dog out there.
I was reading your story and shocked at everything you’ve been through. How has music been a form of therapy for you?
My music is representation of where I’m at that point in life. You can literally go back and track it. That’s how I get it out. That’s my release. I got five brothers and two sisters, but I’m a really introverted person. I’m the most socially introverted person you could know. And I deal with a lot of shit, so that’s my release: music. I turn to it.
Your new album Late 20s is out now. what is it you aim to achieve on this project?
A lot. Grow my fanbase more. Get more people familiar with the music. I would like to make the Rolling Stone list again. I think that’s dope. It’s like a personal alley-oop. That’s kind of my mark of it being better than my last album, because I feel like my last album was hella, hella dope. I want people to know me, know the real me. I want people to listen to it and then see me, and be like, “I know that n*gga!” Like, “I know you, I heard that one song you did.” I just want people to grow with me, and grow with the rap.
“The Preface” visual is so powerful. A recurring theme seems to be your work ethic, what keeps you going?
Aw man, the fact that I never had shit and I’m trying to get something. I ain’t got my momma a house yet. That’s what it’s all about to me. Just promises that I made to myself to succeed and the people who I’ve been blessed to implement in what I got going on now, I owe it to them. I gotta cash in and not in the form of money, but in the form of a height of success that helps everybody out. However that comes.
How many times have you wanted to quit?
Not too many, I’ma keep it lit. I’m in love with the journey, with the struggle. The ups and downs. The trials and tribulations. That’s where I get my stories from. It was just last year, I didn’t have no money to go to the studio — I’m on Rolling Stone, sleeping on the fucking floor still. And no, that never made me want to quit. This is my life. This shit is in me, it’s not on me. And I still got shit to do. I got a lot of shit to do.
What is your take on the music industry?
It’s so different because I’ve been a student of the game for a long time, studying and watching from the outside, and wanting to be in it. I’ve been rapping ever since I was nine years old. What I wanted at a young age was probably a lot different from what I want now. I used to want a record deal, like “I want a deal!”
I used to. I still do! Shit, fuck yeah. Sign me. Please come get me. Please come get me out the hood. If anybody’s listening, sign Streets. Come and get me out the hood! Fuck that. [laughs]
But I still got shit to do. That’s it. I used to feel like to make to the music industry, you get a deal and you made it. It’s not set up like that no more. I want to reach a point of success with music that I’m able to for one, buy my momma house. Give my momma a sense of security that I’ve always promised to get her. I see n*ggas spending $250K to $500K on a chain.
Come on man. I got a big ass family, my momma had seven kids. I grew up broke, struggling, sleeping on the fucking floor. If I can get to that point where I have a dispensable amount of money — I can go spend $250,000 on some shit and it don’t hurt me, and that’s what this industry is providing — for one, that’s not my main focus. I wanna tell my story. I wanna help other people through their story who’s possibly been through something that I’ve been through. And if I can make money in the motherfucking progress, I’m all for it.
Your original love and passion is hip-hop, so how did you get into acting?
Well my original love and passion was basketball, that’s what I did before anything. I thought I was going to the NBA — still a fool with that ball! Any n*gga that wanna get me on the court, come fuck with me. It was that, and then it was music. But I was acting ever since I was seven years old. My mother runs the only African American theater in Northern California called the Lower Bottom Playaz. Been doing that ever since 1990. Just me being a little rascal — she got hella kids, she needed some actors. She’s like, “I got some kids! Here, come with me.”
That’s how that went about. I’ve always loved acting because that’s what my momma did, that’s what she taught. That’s been one of her passions. But I never really chased it, I chased music. It just so happens that it took off before the music, and I’m good at it! I’m hella hella good. I love acting.
Having the accomplishments you had in that realm, did you ever consider going that route full-time?
No. [shakes head] Not that it fell in my lap but I’ve been acting for a long time — seriously acting on stage and getting paychecks. Fun fact: Koran Streets is one of the only two actors in the world to do all of August Wilson’s work in chronological order. You can go look this up. But no, it just kind of came about and I ran with it and I understood what it was. I understood that I could get some notoriety off of it if I just stand on it, but I always wanted to push the music. I wanted that music to pop, so I feel like I’m in a space where I need the music to catch up a little bit. Which is dope, I ain’t going to lie.
Favorite song to perform in a set?
I ain’t performed nothing off the new album. But off the old album, I would say “Ima Thug.” Everybody love that.
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
I just went to some backyard shit right before I drove in here to LA. This little scruffy dude, I could tell he was drunk. “Koran Streets! Bruh, you don’t know this n*gga!?” He was doing my little dance. He was like, “Bro, you inspired me to start rapping again. I was gonna stop rapping bruh, and I heard that shit you was coming with…” He was like, “You made me rap again!”
Like I said, I’m an introverted person. I don’t go out unless it’s about some money or unless I’m supposed to be there. But every time I do, I be getting that type of love. Right then and there, it kind of just made me feel the effect of my music. Not just only in the city, but it touches people. I’d say to date right now, that was one of the realest shit. That shit kind of fucked me up.
3 things you need in the studio?
Weed, water, good energy.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
What about someone recent?
Besides me? Quando Rando, Yungeen Ace, Bossman JD. It’s a lot.
Koran Streets and Makaveli! Someone alive? I’d say Nas.