After months of preparation, panic, and patience, I am so thankful to have Hip-Hop’s-go-to-girl, Lili K., as the cover of the The Isis Nicole Magazine! I don’t know if any of you remember my first interview with her back in Feb 2012 (read here to refresh your memory), but she has come a long way since. Her voice is the first thing you hear on Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap mixtape, and even more recently, she has made her debut on the Hollywood LAInnanetape by Vic Mensa.
Lili K is a refined concoction of sorts. A little bit of Jazz and spritz of soul, hence a new age vintage product of rare Milwaukee finds tired of that 'good for a white girl' shit. Yes, steezy bitches DO exist in the midwest! And Lili K has got the voice to prove it (ahem, she opened for DWELE…). But forreals, as someone always drawn to the gems who standout on campus, it only made sense to squeeze in an interview, so when Lili K agreed my eyes lit up! Check out our discussion on music, nails, and inspirations after the jump.
So way back when, like at a ‘Big mouth’ open mic series, I was introduced to you. Everyone’s reaction was like, ‘damn this white girl can sing!’. Is that the usual reaction still, or have they dropped the white girl shit?! (Laughs) “Damn this white girl can sing” has been people’s description of me my whole life. Part of me loves it, part of me hates it. Like, people never expect me to sound how I do, and I love the looks on their faces when I open my mouth, but I really wish race didn’t have to be a part of establishing who is and isn’t cold. So yea, the white girl shit is still the typical reaction… that’s just how it is I guess.
When and why did you start to take your interest in music serious? Singing is just what I do. I love it, it makes me happy… so I knew it would always be a focal point in my life. But once people started to react to my voice… that’s when I realized that I could actually make a living out of it. I started writing original material when I was 10, recorded and released my first song when I was 15 (laughs), it was sooo R&B! After that, I started singing plenty Hip-Hop hooks and doing gigs with Jazz combos. So I’ve been recording and writing for about five years, but it wasn’t until I moved to Chicago when I was 18 that I really started to polish my sound of this Jazz/Soul/Hip-Hop fusion and seriously pursue a career in music.
How would you describe your style, voice and fashion included? Man, I’m all over the place. Jazzy and vintage are the main components, but just like I throw some Hip-Hop in my music, I’ll throw a pair of Jordans on with a vintage sweater; or my Timbs with a blazer. I’ll wear my hair curly one day, bun on top of my head the next, or a random head wrap if I just don’t feel like doing my hair at all. And on top of all of that, I have all these tattoos and piercings that just throw people off… like “Wait, she’s not a rock singer?” All of these different fashion elements translate perfectly to my sound as well; a little Jazz, a little Latin, some Soul, some Hip-Hop, bits of Electro. It all comes together cohesively though.
You have a nice voice by the way, smooth and lovely! Are there any routines that help get you inspired to be all jazzy? Thanks lady! Routines? (Laughs) I don’t know. I memorize Ella Fitzgerald and John Coltrane solos. I sometimes pretend my voice is a trumpet, I listen to Hip-Hop and steal rhythmic ideas from Andre 3000 and Q-Tip, I listen to Stevie Wonder and and try to copy his runs… those are things I do vocally. Just being around people I love also inspires me. If I’m relaxed and chillin with people who put me in a good mood, my voice sounds better. If I’m all stressed and shit trying to record a happy song, I’m just gonna sound like a liar. I don’t really know if those are routines… but they’re things I always do, (laughs) Oh! And tea, I drink PLENTY tea with honey.
Speaking of routines, let’s talk nails! When did you get into nail art? To be honest, fairly recently. I was one of the girls who started getting fake nails after I got my first job. Those fat, square cut, long, french manicured, swirly Asian designed nails. Then I stopped because I realized the fakes were ruining my nails, and started only getting random manicures. I did Biggest Mouth at Columbia last year in the Spring, so of course, I had to get my nails done. When I did, I just remembered how much I missed keeping nice nails, so I decided to keep them up from that point on. I’ve been really into nail art and have been growing out my natural nails since then.
I know that Spifster is the visionary behind your manicures! How did you two end up meeting up?
GIRL! Spifster is ridiculous. We had a couple mutual friends who kept telling us about one another. So we finally used Twitter to get our beautiful friendship (cheesy, yet oh so true) poppin. I was getting my nails done by another nail artist at the time, and she’s very talented, but Spif is a little bit more my style. After she did them once, I was addicted.
You had this heartbreak nails I reblogged on Nail Porn. Seeing that particular design while listening to ‘Refreshing’ it’s so hard not to ask, is romance a subject your all too familiar with?
THAT PICTURE OF ME IS HILARIOUS. WHY DID I EVER PUT THAT UP?! I really just got those nails to match the album artwork for A Prelude To Hello. I had a release party for it on my birthday, so I just wanted to match my project. I mean, we’re all familiar with love. We’ve loved hard, we’ve been heartbroken, we’ve moved on… I just write about it. I’m a big fan of concept albums, which is what 'A Prelude To Hello' is. It's the story of the end of one relationship, the recovery, and the beginning of a new relationship. Nothing on the EP was actually about any one person in particular, I just looked back and recalled the emotions that I was feeling at those points in my past relationships. If somebody had recently broken my heart, I'm sure the EP would have had an angrier tone to it, as oppose to the optimistic one that it had, (laughs).
What’s been your favorite design this far?
The Love Riot Nails that Spif did for me! Ahhh, they were amazing (Video, Photo, Photo2). Saturday Youth (Chicago based record label) has a concert and party series called The Love Riot, so I got my nails done for the one that I performed at. I just went to the salon and told Spif “The name of the show is The Love Riot, give me some nails to match that.” And clearly, she’s a genius.
Why do you think that there is this crazy buzz around nails, especially in Chicago? Nails are just a huge trend right now, I don’t know when or how that happened, but I’m glad it did. We’re lucky to have amazing nail artists here, so a lot of attention is put on nail art in our city, it’s something we can pride ourselves in. I also really think Tumblr has a lot to do with it. People copy everything off Tumblr; style, music, and now, nails. You know this! But I’m cool with the whole nail aspect of Tumblr, because I think it’s a beautiful thing when a lady keeps her nails done.
Any nail trends you wish to see leave? Square nails, like the SUPER square nails. Subtle, more natural looking ones don’t bother me. I prefer rounded, very natural cut. I’m cool with the pointy nails too. But the square cut ones just remind me of high school prom. Ugh.
Maybe you can create a song about nails! Ehh, I’m not too sure about that one, (laughs). Maybe I’ll throw a nail reference in a song soon. If I do, you’ll get a shout out for the idea!
3 closing words of encouragement using your lyrics only Only 3 words!? Hmm… “Refresh my soul.”