Slidin’ Thru: KRESNT

September 28, 2018

Read the full interview on YoungCalifornia.com!

Welcome to The Lunar Cycle. Being of Afghan descent and immigrating to Vancouver, Canada, Kresnt isn’t here to chase clout or fame, he’s here to prove real hip-hop still exists. Real bars, real freestyles, real lyrics, real stories, real punch lines and real production. Read more…

Coming up on battle rap, real name Ahmed Hilal Dabir is a student of the game. He spends the majority of his time in the studio perfecting his craft, creating meaningful rap music that sounds good and simultaneously caters to this new generation of trap.

Having an opportunity to work with 55x Grammy-nominated engineer/producer Ken Lewis is intimidating to say the least, but Kresnt takes full advantage. Combining his fearlessness, confidence, and work ethic with Ken’s expertise, the two created a hell of a Lunar Phase project.

For those who don’t know, who is KRESNT?
I’m a 23-year-old Afghan, Canadian artist. I’ve been doing this for over 10 years.

Talk about your journey as a rapper.
Since I was 11 or 12, I’ve had the passion of making music and stepping outside of my comfort zone. Because I use this as my outlet. I was an Afghan, immigrant refugee who didn’t have a lot of money and was constantly getting bullied. Everyone being like, “Oh, you’re a terrorist!” I’m looking at the media and everyone is like “You’re a terrorist!” It’s like wait, we have a beautiful heritage. We have a beautiful culture. I just want to represent that, even if my people hate me. They’re like, “Oh, this is so against the norm. Don’t do music.”

So we’re going to continuously keep taking these L’s because nobody stands up? No, I’ll stand up. You guys can all hate me, but this is history right now. For the Afghan music, the same songs from the 1970’s and 1980’s are what’s still relevant. They’re like, “Yo this is poppin’!” It’s like, “No, it’s not.”

How would you describe your sound?
I’ve always been into rap battles and cyphers, so live performance-wise, I always have bars, double entendres, punch lines. Lines that hit you so hard, you’re like “damn.” You think about it 3 days after like “damn, he really said that.” On the production side, shout out to JT, shout out to 40K, my boy Shane, Kamal, Justin, the whole gang. We’re all just trying to push diversity and bring little bits of our culture into the music. We’re not trying to take any cultures or anything, we’re bringing our culture and representing our unheard voice into the North American market. Because we could easily target and be like, “Oh, I want to be the biggest Afghan artist in Afghanistan, I want to be the biggest producer in China, I want to be the best in India,” but we want the whole world. We want the North American market to mess with us.

You’re from Vancouver, how does that play into your life and career?
The thing with Vancouver is it’s a beautiful city, but it’s cold and raining for like 10 months. It sets the mood for me to express my feelings. I’m looking around and it’s not like LA. It’s not as bright as out here. It puts me in the zone to say, “Why don’t I reflect on everything going on?” My music is a mix of bars but delivered in a melodic approach, but still having the core hip-hop lines. With no filler bars. No “this bar doesn’t make any sense, but it’s going to get me clout.” My lyrics are strategic.

How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
It’s very important. The Game, Ice Cube, all these artists that really influenced me growing up, I’m listening and there’s always talking about LA. The music scene here is so lively. I walk around everywhere and I see other artists, it’s amazing because we’re all vibing. Not even on some ego thing. I’m an artist trying to make it, you’re an artist trying to make it, let’s chop it up. I love my city though, shout out to Vancouver. We’re on the come up. Vancouver artists out here killing it. I’m excited for the whole scene to blossom out there.

What’s the inspiration behind your name?
My actual government name is Hilal. It’s a Farsi name and translated, Halal means “crescent.” That’s why when people say “Kresnt,” they’re pretty much saying my government name anyway. It’s just translated to English.

What about The Lunar Cycle?
I love that question. The Lunar Cycle is me. Growing up, I was always on my own planet. I was always in my own mind and my own world. I felt like there’s other people that have a similar attraction to the world that I’m creating, the planet and space vibe. With me making The Lunar Cycle, it’s like, “Hey, I’ve always stood out, always left out of all the groups, I’m just going to make my own planet.”

“In Your Place” is already at over 2 million views on YouTube. Did you foresee it blowing up like this?
We actually made that song 2 and a half years ago. The first time, I sent it to Kamal — that’s my brother who’s an artist as well, fire. It wasn’t even a mixed version. He was blasting it in the gym and the first thing he said to me was, “This is your hit.” I was like “Nah, I don’t think this is the hit.”

Two years go by and we’re like “Yo, we’re still rocking with that. Let’s get it.” We shot the video and then in a month, it hit a million. All of a sudden, our subscribers went from 12,000 to 70,000 now. Our content is rolling. We dropped another video called “D.Y.D” (Dress You Down) and the main female lead is actually Bianca Anchieta, this superstar Brazilian model who was seen with The Weeknd and all that. It’s only been two months and already over 300,000 views.

How was it shooting the visual?
It was super chill. She just rocked with the music. It wasn’t even on some Hollywood, “Oh. I’m a superstar.” It’s like, “Yo, it doesn’t matter that you’re up and coming. Your music is fire.”

You just released your project The Lunar Phase. Talk about the creative process and how long it took you.
The Lunar Phase was a compilation of two or three tracks that I made a long time ago, and the other tracks we made recently. We also had input from Ken Lewis. He’s one of the executive producers, alongside Kamal and 40K. The sound of that is just melodic bars. If you listen to it, you’re just like, “Oh wow, this is such a crazy flow. But wait, did he really just start using punch lines? He’s singing them and rapping them, but these are hip-hop core bars.” It’s like I can rap you the same bars I sing, and you’re like, “That should be on Sway.”

Can you talk about linking with Ken Lewis? Who has 55 Grammy nominations, that’s unheard of.
That was one of those things where I believed in my craft so much that I just reached out to him on Facebook. I found him on Facebook.

No way.
Shout out Facebook. At the end of the day, we’re all human. If I send you a message, it just depends on the person’s schedule, the person’s personality. For me personally, I get tons of DMs a day, and I respond to them all. Obviously to an extent. I’ll respond to all of them that are supporting the music and everything. I hit up Ken on some “hey, I love your music.” I didn’t hit him on some “wanna send me your beats?” None of that. I just hit him up like “hey, I’m a big fan of your music. I would love to one day work with you.” We’re talking and talking and he’s like, “send me your music.”

I sent him a track we didn’t even have mixed and he was like, “I’ll mix that for you.” I was like, “We don’t really have the funds for that.” He’s like, “Don’t even worry about it at all.” And then the second time, he’s like “You’re from Vancouver right? If you’re ever in Jersey, come up.” This is why I say I took the risk because I believe in myself so much, I didn’t even have my ticket and I was like “I’ma be there next weekend.” He was like “really? Come pull up.” So I went and quickly got my flight, pulled my whole team. I was like, “Good thing he said yes.” [laughs]

As soon as we linked up, we had two 14-hour sessions. We wanted more too, so we just kept going in. We made new tracks. He worked on some new mixing of some singles that I’m dropping. I got some crazy big features dropping. One is with Dirty Radio.

What’s the dynamic in the studio with him?
Its super, super, super professional, but at the same time, chill. Because he’s worked with all the artists that are deemed the greatest in our eyes. He understands I came all the way from Vancouver to his studio where all these other talented artists recorded. There’s plaques everywhere. I’m recording and looking up, there’s like 10 Kanye plaques. Platinum, Diamond, Platinum, Diamond. All those awards and everything, it just inspired me. I just went in, went in, went in. I didn’t even get really that tired. I was going in for 10 to 12 hours. He loved the drive so much, he’s like “let’s do this again.”

He was even like, “What are you guys doing?” We were staying in an Airbnb and he’s like, “Oh word, do ya’ll need equipment?” And let us borrow his equipment. Like really dope, expensive equipment. He’s like, “I just fuck with ya’ll consistently working.” We would pull all nighters working in our Airbnb. Then in the morning, probably get like an hour nap, and then go to him and work. Then back to our Airbnb and work. We’re just always staying sharp. He’ll play a beat and I’m freestyling and freestyling, and boom, the song’s done. If he says it’s gonna be a hit, I know it’s gonna be a hit.

Nessly’s the homie. He’s the lone US feature right?
Until the big ones. [laughs] Or even bigger ones. I fuck with Nessly heavy. Nessly is a super chill guy. I’m on social media, and he was just killing it and killing it. I hit him up like “hey, I really rock with your music.” He’s like “oh word, send me some of yours.” I sent him a track that I actually had the first and second verse done, but then I was like, “You know what, let’s take out the first verse and leave the hook and sent it to him.” He killed that verse. I really like the fact that he just does him.

What do you want fans to get from your story?
I love the idea of pushing myself to follow my dreams throughout the whole thing. I don’t look at myself having a disadvantage. It’s like “oh, you’re an Afghan immigrant.” So? I’m going to use that to my advantage. I’m not going to take anything for granted. Every single thing that we end up doing is a milestone. We might not throw the biggest party celebrating it, but we’re out at Genius, we’re out at Viacom, we were with Ken Lewis, etc. 100% independent, just because people see the talent and want to rock with us.

You rap, sing, write, and produce. Talk about your recording process and keeps you inspired to do it all.
And I freestyle. [laughs] What keeps me inspired, I want to always be involved in all my music 100%. While JT, 40K and Malachi are producing, at the end of the day, I have to be on this track. I can’t just be like “send me a beat and we’ll get it done.” I like to be in the studio, set the vibe, start humming, start spitting some bars, changing the arrangements. Because sometimes, I hear this song done in my head and it’s not there yet. We are going to push it continuously until we get the final product. I want to be the greatest. I’m not doing this like “oh, this is a hobby, this is just a phase, this is just for fun.” Maybe people could have thought that 10 years ago, but I’m really putting in the time. The drive never stops.

3 things you need in the studio?
I need water, green tea, and some loud. [laughs] Some chronic.

You like that Cali weed?
I mess with the Cali weed out here, but Vancouver got some crazy loud. Whenever you pull up, you already know we got you on deck.

Talk about the album listening that sold out in your city. How does your fanbase there compare to the States?
We had an album listening and a video premiere, that’s why I knew that “In Your Place” had all the characteristics to blow up. Just independently, we did a 150 to 200 people sold-out private listening party. Then I had an after party show at this downtown club in Vancouver. 400 to 450 people sold out, lined up and everything. It was the city being like, “We’ve had a lot of talent, but they always come and go.” The talent has blown up, and then they’ve left the city. They didn’t represent the city to the fullest.

That’s, of course, from where I am looking at it. I love the city so much to the point that everything I do is for myself and the city. We want to be represented in the light of we have a dope music scene here. And like everything in life, it takes time. We can’t just overnight become the next Atlanta, become the next Toronto, or the next LA, or New York, but we can be the first Vancouver.

How is your fan base there compared to The States?
A lot of my fans are LA, Houston, New York, Brazil is very huge because of that video we did with Bianca Anchieta. Blowing up to the point where I’m getting Brazilian love, Brazilian comments, DMs like “Come to Brazil for a tour.” I’m like, “Hell yeah, I’m down to come to Brazil for a tour!”

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
I would be the head marketer of any big company, because I really study this. I finished my business degree at one of the top universities in Canada. I got my major in Marketing, and my minor in Entrepreneurship. I got my communication skills, so it’s more than just the music. I understand the business.

What are your goals? Are you wanting to get signed?
Pretty much, I want to rock with the same people. Me and 40K have been working continuously over the last five years. Continuously trying to push our culture. With the label thing, until it’s really something we require 100%, I want to just focus on the independent grind. Because it’s already working so well, it’s going to pop off. I’m confident.

What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
The best encounter was when I dropped “In Your Place.” It was only a month in and it was over a million. I went to the food court at the mall in my city and there was a table of kids maybe 12 years old yelling “In your place! In your place!” Banging on the table. My friend was beside me like “yo, is that for you?” I’m like “who else would it be for?” They’re like “can we take some pictures?” I was like “yo, this is really happening. This is real life.” I’m so used to making the music and being in the studio in the basement, I don’t step outside to see how the world perceives it.

Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
I gotta go with Drake. I love Drake so much. He’s really dope. Eminem is in there. Chamillionaire. Low key, he’s slept-on. I mess with him heavy.

He’s doing some crazy shit on the business side.
He’s one of those artists where it’s like the music was already fire, but he knew the music wasn’t the only thing. You got to venture out and go put all your eggs in other baskets. He’s killing it. Shout out to Nancy too. She’s a real one.

Dream collab?
Definitely Eminem. That’s my favorite artist growing up. He helped me cope with a lot. I had depression, etc. I was going through school and everyone was bullying me and all this stuff. He’s the greatest rapper of all time in my eyes. If he’s feeling the same struggles as I am and he’s powering through it, and he can do it? I can do it too. It just motivated me to do that and continuously grind.

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