Lil Boii Kantu is a rockstar, someone he describes as “an innovator of the new sound.” Hailing from Murrieta but now finding his new home in Los Angeles, the singer, songwriter, and rapper is here to entertain the masses with his explosive energy and unique blend of musical genres. Read more…
Earlier this year, Kantu release his 514 project, with features from AD, Kap G, Wax Motif, and more. Now, he reveals having endless records in the vault, strategically planning his drops while experimenting with new sounds. With his most recent record “Boii,” he prepares fans for the release of his Boii EP, fitting to the name.
Where do you fit in the realm of hip-hop and R&B?
I don’t think I really fit. My sound is either you love it or you hate it. The music that I’m dropping now is music that I made 6 or 7 months ago, so it’s developed and revolutionized a bunch of different times already. I’m just waiting to drop that sound. It’s backwards if that makes sense, but people like it. I guess they see the progression.
Why are you waiting?
I have so much music. I’ve just been making a lot of songs.
You’re from Redondo Beach, how does that play into your life and career?
Not a whole lot honestly, just because I was only in Redondo Beach for maybe 2 months. I moved around a bunch. That’s where I was born, but where I’m actually from is Murrieta, California. That’s what I rep because that’s where I grew up and went to high school. Have you heard of Temecula? It’s like on the way to San Diego.
When did you come to LA?
I want to say 2 years ago, maybe a year and 8 months. I came because Rojas brought me out here. Actually my very first show, I opened for Lil Pump in Bakersfield. Rojas found me there and he was like “yo, I want to chop it up with you after.” I picked him up from the airport, it was the first time he ever came to LA. He was like “bro, I want you to be there for me every time I come to LA, let’s go.” I was like “alright bet.”
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
I dont think it’s super necessary because there’s other areas that music is cultivating, like Chicago, Atlanta, etc. There’s other areas where you can make a really huge impact, but it’s important in the sense that everybody out here is understanding. A lot of people that you can meet and connect with that can change your life. One person could walk by here and see me and be like “you look cool, who are you?”
That’s happened here. People walk by like “I make beats!”
There’s a stigma that you come to LA and everything is handed to you, but you gotta have a plan. You got to really know yourself as an artist. You can’t just copy and paste and then come to LA. I would like to see other areas be the main place, so I can just see diversity and what would brew from another areas.
What was the inspiration behind your name?
That actually comes from a term that was used in the 16th century by the Inkan people. They had a certain dance called Kantu. For them, it was their way of showing love for one another. I’m not a very religious person, but music is my religion. When I figured that out, I was like “Kantu, that’s me.”
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
Honestly when I started doing hip-hop, because I started off playing guitar. I was in bands and all that, I played guitar and piano. I’m very musically inclined. When I started doing rap, it changed for me. I was getting a lot better reactions and everyone wanted to share it. I was like “okay, this is what I should be doing then.” I didn’t really know I could sing and scream, and just be all crazy like that until I started experimenting.
So you started in rock?
Yeah, rock was my first love.
Talk about experimenting with your vocals and what inspired you to go beyond your comfort zone.
What inspired me was an artist named Front Porch Step. He just plays acoustic. I was listening to his songs and singing them in the car. Just singing along to his voice and I started being able to hit those notes. I feel like it really started from me just being goofy with my friends, just screaming and fucking around. It just accumulated after time. I was able to work on it and progress it.
You just released your new single “Boii.” Talk about your mindstate in creating this one.
Honestly, that song was so effortless, it’s annoying. Because sometimes I take a lot of time, and sometimes they just happen. I was collaborating with an artist named Louis Aoda from France. His brother is French Baloo, which is the guy who runs BET in France. He brought him over to the studio like “you guys gotta cook, see whatever happens.” We ended up making a whole tape. I just told him “bro, I’m going to drop this one early. I don’t know when you’re dropping the tape in France, but… “ [laughs] I went in there and the entire time, I was thinking it was going to be for his tape. I was just doing whatever but it ended up being fire.
You dropped your 514 project this year. What is it you want fans to get from your story?
I just want them to see me as a unique individual, and just to really listen to the music. I love 514 because 514 shares a lot of different genres, all mixed in one. A lot of my different albums showcase that as well, but I was like “I’m going to have an EDM song on there,” which I had two EDM songs. “Geneva” is a love song that I have on there. I just wanted to showcase my abilities of being diverse.
You say “I’m the man in my city, feel like Pac.” Talk about putting on for your hometown.
It’s super important. You got to cultivate in all different areas, especially your home city. Let’s say I become super big in my town — look at Drake. Nobody was famous from Canada before he popped off. He popped off and now all these other artists want to be like Drake. They’re all from Canada, the Weeknd and all those labels. So much cultivation happened because of Drake. I have the mindset and I want to do the same for my city.
You’ve got collabs with AD, Wax Motif, Kap G, etc. Talk about who you choose to work with and why.
I love AD, AD’s dope. I love Kap G. Wax Motif is super dope, EDM stuff. I don’t really chose to work with certain artists, it’s just if we end up vibing. If we’re in the same area and we meet, then it just happens organically normally. We’re just like “let’s do it, let’s work.”
I feel like I’ve watched you come up and grow your fanbase organically. Talk about that journey.
It’s been kind of rough honestly, just because the expectation for me to be the fucking best I can be is super high and I don’t necessarily have the resources. It’s kind of a struggle but at the same time, it just makes me want to work harder. It challenges my brain to be an entrepreneur even more, so that I can really achieve these possibilities and achieve my goals.
What can we expect, are you going to drop a project soon?
I’m actually going to drop the Boii EP, and I have another project with DJ Flippp on the way too. We’ve just been cooking up like crazy. We have hella records. Then I have another project too, which is kind of like a secret project. I don’t know if I can talk much about it, but I’m introducing a whole new sound on that project.
What’s a new sound have you not done yet?
You’re going to have to wait and see! It’s going to be crazy. A lot of people like it, it’s definitely an interesting direction. It’s going to be very fresh.
Talk about working with LouieKnows on your “Big Wavy” visual.
I love Louie. That fool is super dope. I love his energy. I love his work ethic. Definitely motivating guy, just an awesome dude to work with. Personally, I feel like our energy together… We gotta get back in that studio again and make some crazy stuff happen. I love Louie, that’s the homie.
What is your take on the music industry?
My honest opinion is that it can be kind of rough. I love it and hate it at the same time. It’s not like anything else, it’s just hard to explain. I love the fact that you can be yourself and create something from nothing. Literally make it and be able to freakin’ support your whole family. But the downsides is that sometimes, it’s not a very happy or very good place to be in.
What were you doing beforehand?
I worked as a prevention specialist for opioid drugs. I worked at a drug rehab center. Before that, I was selling insurance. I went to SXSW and I was just missing way too much work before of music stuff. They weren’t having it.
What are some goals for yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
I just want to be able to be absolutely free. Be super free (which I am now) but I would just love to get this giant bag already. I’m just waiting so I can do whatever the fuck I want, but you gotta work hard for everything.
Does that mean you’re meeting with labels?
Oh yeah, I’ve met with a bunch of labels, but I want it to be in my favor 100%. I want it to be everything that I want.
You hear all these horror stories of major labels not letting the artist release music…
You see this everywhere. Artists are talking crap about their label, blah blah blah. I think of Lil Wayne, he’s always saying “fuck Birdman.”
What did you do with your first check?
I don’t think I did anything crazy with it, I probably bought regular clothes. I take care of my little sister too sometimes.
Do you live at home?
I have my own place, but my mom stays over in Murrieta. I go there and see my little sister all the time, but I still have yet to get a giant, giant check.
Does little sister know what you do?
Yeah, she tells all her friends about me. It’s hilarious. She’s 7 so she’s in second grade. She talks about me all the time. She’s my biggest fan. She tells all her friends “my brother’s famous.” I always tell her “babe, I’m not that famous.” [laughs]
How important is social media for your career?
Pretty important actually nowadays. Social media is one of the biggest facilitators for the labels, for anybody. They look at your social media. Even employers (if you’re not in this career) will go and look at your social media.
How often are you on it?
Nonstop actually. Some days, I’m on there all-day long, just looking at everything. Lurking, but in a good business way, just seeing what’s going on.
What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
I wake up at like 1pm, drive around, listen to music.
Adrian (manager): More like 4pm.
[laughs] Because I’ll be up at the studio or editing videos. I’ve been editing vlogs lately. I’ve been researching a lot about dropshipping. Basically, you buy a product for very cheap and you sell it for a lot. I probably go to the studio, see who’s at what studio. Lately, I’ve been hanging out with DJ Flippp a lot. He’s a producer, he’s worked with a lot of big artists. You’ve definitely heard his tag” “DJ Flippp, make that money flip!” He’s a super chill dude, takes care of his family at the crib. There’s a studio so I’m always just there drinking, smoking, playing video games, making music. It’s got to be fun, that’s what I learned about him. We literally just organically have fun and the vibe gets created that way.
How did you guys meet?
I’ve known about him for years. The fact that I even hang out with him is even kind of weird. I was hearing his beats 3 to 4 years ago ‘cause he worked a lot with Famous Dex (when Dex was super crackin’). I was like “man, this guy’s beats go crazy.” I was hearing them everywhere. We met at 2190 in downtown LA. Supreme Patty was there picking up.
3 things you need in the studio?
Great acoustics, beer, and lights.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
I’d probably be helping Native Americans. When my music gets bigger, I want to start doing that because so many reservations. I was in prevention so I know about opioids and all the different types of drugs. It’s super rampant in reservations. I’m not Native American, my baby mama is Native American so her mom helps out. She has her own non-profit organization. If I wasn’t doing any of this, I would drop all that and just be with them, taking care and going out.
Favorite song to perform in a set?
Either “Ride Away” or “Big Shit.” It’s just rage, people go crazy.
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
In Colorado, there were these 3 fans who came up to me. The show was in a bar, they were all getting me drinks and wanted to know about me and my life. When I was performing the songs, they were about to cry. It was real love. I’d never been to Colorado in my entire life so I go out there and it was just eye opening. I know it sounds super generic, every artist had done that already but to me, I was like “damn.” It felt really good.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Probably Lil Tracy. I love Lil Tracy.
Avenged Sevenfold. They’re a rock band. That would be legendary, oh my god. Growing up and even now, those dudes are so talented. It blows my mind. I listen to their music and just get lost. I turn into a whole different person when I listen to their music. Because I play guitar too, so I really hear the music when I hear guitar riffs. I hear the legatos and all the different harmonies that they’re playing. He’s such a good guitarist so along with their musicianship together as a band, we would make amazing music together.
Any advice that you have for any aspiring Lil Boii Kantu?
Shout out to my boys. I see a lot of them out there too, there’s a lot of them. Keep going, keep trying to develop your sound. Keep working. Don’t let anybody tear you down. There’s literally nothing that anybody can say that will be able to change your whole mindset. Go with your gut feelings, and what you want to do and what you think is right. Because at the end of the day that’s all that matters. If you have the will, you’ll make that dream come true.