Kay the Aquanaut
What is your earliest memory of local hip hop in Saskatoon, any funny stories?
Well, there are actually a lot of faint memories that are blurred together from those days. My first actual memory of local hip hop would probably be a few late night rap sessions in the park behind my old elementary school. Yeah, just a few kids trying to be all ill and whatnot, smoking cigarettes and rapping about being rappers. My most vivid and I guess most influential memory was watching a classic Saskatoon battle that took place on a Broadway sidewalk in like ’94. It was basically a clash of the two heavyweight crews at the time, On the one-side it was Isosceles along with Chaddy and Bjorn (Chad and B. were probably the sickest Saskatoon M.C.’s I can remember) vs the 52nd Parallel (which included Epic, J-soul and others). Both crews were highly influential to me; it was basically like watching a street fight between your uncles at a family reunion. Regardless of what the outcome was you just knew it was one of those special nights, the type of night that when you get home and are lying in bed all you can really think about is…“That might have been the sickest shit ever!” As a result, I rehearsed my battle techniques for about a month straight following that, it was on and I knew that I would have to step my game up. As far as funny stories go, there are too many…I have some hilarious memories from early shows and tours. But, what happens on tour stays on tour right? All that I will say is the “HipHopBear”… only for those in the know.
Who were the Submerged M.Seas and how did that all get started?
We were a local crew who came to be around 1993 or 94 I believe. It was me, Vizion and Devotea…or formerly KayAquatic, Y-Ty, and DJ Drool. We basically did our part to hold down the scene for quite a few years, circa ’94 to 2000. The beginning of the crew was actually quite natural considering the small-town nature of our surroundings. I had started listening to hip hop when I was fairly young (9 or 10), bumping old school dubs that my oldest brother was bringing home from high school… NWA, Run Dmc, TooShort etc. I recall my brother telling me to make sure that nobody else finds out or hears that I am listening to rap or else…, on some modern terrorism shit. I’m not sure if he was worried about getting into trouble or if it was just a cruel experiment, regardless I made sure to keep it on the low for a while. A couple of years later a few more of my friends began to talk about hip hop on a regular basis, and the next thing I knew I was basically in a crew at the age of 13 and was rapping every night. Just a good ‘ole’ fashioned story of some friends coming together to make music.
What prompted the name change from KayAquatic to Kay the Aquanaut?
The name change was actually a result of me just one day coming to the conclusion that I was no longer feeling “KayAquatic”. I don’t want to say that it was some type of maturing process, but I did feel that “KayAquatic” was more of an elementary name. Not to say that “Kay the Aquanaut” is on the same level as Gandhi or Grandpa or something but I really just felt more comfortable with the latter title. “KayAquatic” is for sale on e-bay right now, I think it’s going for almost $275 now. Seriously though, a lot of people I stay in contact with would call me “ k” back in the day. My older brother was known basically as J.P. around these parts, and the K.P. (my initials) set the path. Plus, being a Russian Aquanaut was always the childhood dream for many kids in Saskatchewan. Either way man, I still get 4 out of 10 people calling me the Astronaut…I guess it’s because my shit is out of this world maybe?
How did you first meet Factor?
I can’t actually remember the first time that we met, but I do recall that I was introduced to him by my homie Justin (devotea). I knew that he was a D.J., baller, and aspiring producer so I figured that we had some things in common. For the first couple of years it was basically just a “what up?”, and a hand slap type of thing at shows. It was really pretty funny from what I remember about the first time I went to record at his studio. I balled over to his house in the luxurious North-End of the city and really didn’t know what to think. As I walked inside I found his Mom on some Martha Stewart type shit in the kitchen, like a mother you would see in a re-run of an 80’s sitcom. Needless to say, the plot thickened.
Haha, everyone knows Factor’s mom is the illest!
When I actually made it downstairs it was there where I found Factor in the studio, kicking it like a pimp would, with a lovely lady. I didn’t realize at the time that this was his longtime girlfriend but it definitely made an impression on me. I remember thinking afterwards… if this is how the hip hop cats do it on the North-Side then I have definitely been missing out. Haha, he will probably hate on this but the truth sometimes hurts. He pimped hard then and he is pimping much harder now. Despite all the hoopla surrounding that actual experience it was when the recording started that I knew we shared the same intensity and need to do this music thing. There is a very chilled vibe when we work together.
How would you compare your new album Spinning Blue Planet to your previous releases?
It is obvious to me that this is the most complete album that I have put out. It is hard to say that this is the best release, but it is definitely my favourite. Factor and I took quite a different approach to recording this album in comparison to our previous projects. It was a lot more uniform and natural. We would just hook up at around 9 or 10 pm, do the damn thing and produce, record, and mix two or three tracks a night. Finish up our sessions at around 4 or 5 am, take care of our daily routines and then do the same thing the next night. By the time that we had recorded all the tracks there were a few that I didn’t even really remember recording. I think that is how I knew that these were the right tracks, it was complete creativity. Spinning Blue Planet is a very truthful expression of where I am in life right now; a lot of things have change for me since 2004. Both Factor and I are at a high point musically and I’d say that we captured a large slice of our capabilities with this release. Also, the features on the project are basically a lot of my favourite m.c.’s, both past and present, The artwork is amazing, and I am having a lot of fun performing these tracks live. Whether you have heard me before or not doesn’t matter, I feel that this is the first big step for me towards bringing the Grey Cup back home to Saskatchewan. And by Grey Cup I mean an awareness that hip hop in Saskatchewan isn’t something to be fronted on. I can style too.
You’re one of the hypest performers around, how important do you think it is for rappers to rehearse their live shows?
I make sure to rap for 2 or 3 hours a night, in front of the mirror with my shirt off, building up the ego. Haha, but honestly yeah I think it is very important. People are always quick to front on live hip hop performances, and for the most part they are justified in that. If you take a look at the live show of someone like 50, that shit is terrible in my opinion and he is selling discs like they were bottled water. For me, there is a lot of emphasis put on the live element. If I am going to be charging someone money to come watch me then the least I could do is perform my tracks without botching lines in every set. And if I do botch a line I can style through it, hence the live nature of the show. I have respect for and m.c. that can hold down their live performance regardless if they are rehearsing or not, to each his own. All I know is that I enjoy the music that I make and want it to be appreciated by the audience. The best way to achieve that is by really understanding the tracks that you’ve written and just letting yourself go with the emotion behind them.
Besides the hometown, what is your favourite city to rock a show in?
Let’s start with the worst how about? Haha… nah, that is a tough question. Umm… there is a few I guess. I think the best experiences that I can remember off the top of my mind would either be London, Ontario or Kamloops, B.C. I just remember the atmosphere at both places being off the hook. It’s nice to have people coming out and really showing love for the art. It seems that getting hype in some cities is illegal or something, or maybe I just need to incorporate a few dance moves to break the ice. Lean wit it, Rock wit it… Lean Back, Lean Back… that sort of thing. On the real though, I get the same vibe in a lot of cities when I’m at shows. It really just depends on the vibe of any given night with hip hop, one city could be amazing one show and completely stale the next; with the exception of Chetwynd B.C… always be sure to hide your mics!
Do you have any tour plans in support of the new album?
There is nothing set in stone as of yet. We are definitely planning on hitting the road hard with this album but it is tough sometimes to get organized. There have been a few stories I’ve heard from this summer about acts in Canada, especially hip hop acts, that have been having trouble booking venues’ for tours. That is a serious problem, at least in my city, which has been very noticeable lately. Not to mention any names but one club promoter in Saskatoon who runs the booking for few spots told me, on the low, that there has been a push of late to stop booking rap shows in this city. I can’t really figure out what the motive is? I say fuck it, motivation sometimes needs a catalyst and if it has to be wack promotion that does it then I’m just going to use it. Anyways, to make a long answer short, we will be hitting the road on tour, venues or not, either late in 07 or early 2008. I’ll keep you posted on the dates, venues and mall food courts if need be.
I know you’ve spent some time in the Ukraine a while back; do you have any other major travel plans coming up?
Yeah man, it is a fairly typical response for most North Americans I know, but there’s something about it. I just feel that our culture can sometimes put the blinders on people, kind of out of the loop so to speak. It just really feels like the natural course for my life. I went to Ukraine in 2004, right after I finished recording my 4th project “Waist Deep In Concrete”, to study language and politics. The time spent there was very heavy and honestly did put a twist in my perspective. Not to say that my life changed a whole lot, or that I became worldly or some shit, but just my views on my own life changed. Also, it is an eye-opening experience to just throw one’s self out of our comfort zone. You can really learn a lot about yourself when you are alone in a different country, especially a country that is caught in the heat of social and political struggle. I was there when the “Orange Revolution” was popping off and as I said before it was a heavy experience, but that is all I can really say about it… shh… the KGB may still be listening in. As far as future plans, well I’m planning to hit Asia for a year or two after this summer. Finish up my education and see what kind of international turmoil I can get myself into, you know.
You collaborated with other emcees on the Metropolis Now album last year; any more plans on the group front or do you prefer going solo for dolo?
You know what; I actually love to be a part of group projects. It is always tight to hear a gang of m.c.’s come together for one common expression. It must be all the nationalism I’ve been studying or something, but it is the truth. It is always nice to be a part of something that is bigger than one’s self. The Metropolis Now project turned out to be very solid in my opinion. There are a few tracks that have gained some recognition throughout a number of countries. Actually, recently there has been talk of a new Metropolis Now project to be in the works sometime in the next year or two. It is likely that there will be another member added to the group as well…so grab your Wizzard hat people. But groups are only as ill as all the members make it, commitment is always an issue. In the end, I have always considered myself to be a solo m.c. I mean, there are a lot of idea’s and concepts that I like to express spontaneously and I find that sometimes within the confines of a group there isn’t that immediate free flow of creativity. Really, I just want the music to be an expression of my own experiences. I enjoy spontaneity; I’m not into forcing things.
Yeah, definitely. Big shout out to ugsmag and yourself noyzer. You are always holding down the underground scene. A lot of people I have met in this music thing have already come and gone so it is a tribute to you for supporting the cause. Of course, shouts to all Side Road, FishBowl, Joe Dub, Subtitle, Akuma, Matre, Epic, 50 Fingers. I don’t know if I want to turn this into an album insert or some shit but I feel that I probably should because the album basically has none. I’ll just end it with a random… what up Natalie? That should be enough for the time being haha. There is a lot more but I’ll save you all the hassle. Make sure you check out my new album Spinning Blue Planet and keep your eyes peeled for upcoming shows, hopefully in your city. For booking and ordering information hit me up at myspace.com/kidastros or sideroadrecords.com. The album will be available online and at your local hip hop locations across Canada and elsewhere. Stay tuned and keep supporting the underground!