Interview: Krept and Konan

Rowan Faife

The UK's hottest hip hop duo open up about mental health, honing their craft and proving the doubters wrong. 

Reader's Digest: When did you start work on Revenge is Sweet?

Konan: I'd say about 10 months ago. It's a long process, man. Originally we had something like 30, 35 songs, and then out of those we only kept one and started again. 

I'm a perfectionist. There's no bar [on the album] that I haven't changed. I hear them and think, No, man. I can see something else. I would be changing songs all night if we weren't releasing this week!

 

krept and konan album cover for revenge is sweet

 

RD: Which rappers originally inspired your writing style? 

Konan: Lil Wayne, Lloyd Banks, Dipset, Fabolous, So Solid, DMX, Wiley and Dizzee Rascal. Eminem.

Krept: Eminem. Yeah, Eminem, 100 per cent, the Slim Shady LP. Missy Elliot and Busta Rhymes in terms of creativity.

Konan: Singers too, like my dad [ska, rocksteady and reggae singer Delroy Wilson]. Dancehall or reggae, bashment. Vybz Cartel, Beanie Man, Bounty Killer, Sean Paul, Buju Banton, Ninjaman… All of that man.

 

RD: When you first linked up, did you discuss making punchlines and wordplay your USP, or did it happen organically?

Konan: It just kind of gravitated to that. It's never been a conscious thing. As I said, I was listening to bare [Lil] Wayne and Dipset and Lloyd Banks…

When I was sent to Jamaica when I was young, about 14, the only CD I had was the new Lloyd Banks album. I got it from HMV. That influenced me, thinking, Wow, how's he coming up with these lines?

And then [Lil] Wayne was hitting with [his mixtape] No Ceilings and every line was hitting me. I felt funny saying a line that didn't hit. 
 

"I think that's art in itself. Dumbing it down, but making it commercially appealing"

 

RD: Do you find yourselves at a point now where you're so sick of people missing half of the meanings in your lyrics, that you start laying them out as clearly as possible to make sure the majority get it?

Konan: Yes and no. You know there was a stage where we were going blind with it on every single line, and people would just wouldn't get it. I'd think, bro, I'm saying mad things and you're not getting it.

Krept: They'd always highlight the baitest one. 

Konan: They'd highlight the baitest one and you're like, that's not the bar you're meant to rate!  That's the crossover to the finish, that's not even the goal! So it gets annoying, and then you dumb it down. 

Krept: There are so many levels to the punchline thing, man. If you listen to most of Konan's punchlines, you don't know he's punching because he says it so casually. There's that form, which is like the elite form, where you think I'm just saying something normally, but it's definitely not normal. And then there are the ones where you're just saying something blatant so that everyone can catch it. And they're the ones that you immediately apply to the songs because you know they're probably going to be the biggest ones.

A lot of girls, for example, they don't give a damn about punchlines. So when we said, "you last 10 seconds man, you a Snapchat", on "Freak of the Week", it's not a punchline where I'd be like yo, this is a bar, but the girls would appreciate it. But we know when a record's for that [mass appeal] and we know when it's a record for the real listeners. 

Konan: We've been doing this for so long, that we know the real, real levels. There are the homonyms, there's the similes, the metaphors, the entendre. And we apply it all. But a lot of people don't realise we do it when we want to do it, and then we don't so that you can understand, because otherwise you'll just miss it, and then it's just a waste of time. 

Krept: I think that's art in itself. Dumbing it down, but making it commercially appealing. 

 

Krept and Konan posing in suits

 

RD: The gender split of your fanbase feels almost 50/50. Are you conscious of appealing to everyone when you make the music?

Konan: You know, when we first came in—we’ve been here for a minute—it was aimed at the mandem like… mandem, mandem, mandem, mandem. But we thought, you know what? We’re neglecting the girls. The girls like the shows as well. Let’s give them some vibes. We want our fanbase to be for everyone. So, we’ll give [something for] everyone.

We listen to everything, too. We don’t just listen to rap. We listen to R&B, dance, afrobeat etc. So, we just do what we like, and if it brings in the fans, it brings in the fans.

 

RD:  Are there any lines on songs you've released that you would erase if you could?

Konan: I think everything I've said was for a purpose. It all serves a purpose. 

Krept: Yeah, I feel like that as well. I don't think I'd take any back… I'd rather take back a song than a bar.

There are bars that I don't expect people to jump and shout about, but they've been done purposely because the people that do jump and shout about it are the people who are bulk listeners. Whereas people that intricately listen to bars, I didn't make that bar for them. So they might mistake and think I'm trying to go in, but I'm not. Do you know what I'm saying? If you know us, you know we can. Sometimes it's just about making moments in lyrics.

Konan: Oh my days, someone came up to me the other day and said, "I was in this video, this is embarrassing". And I was like, "Oh s**t, that's still on YouTube? We need to take it down!"

 

"We thought, 'You know what? We’re neglecting the girls. The girls like the shows as well. Let’s give them some vibes.' We want our fanbase to be for everyone"

 

RD: In the comments section of almost every one of your songs on YouTube, people are explaining the bars to each other…

Krept: We're so smooth with our lyricism, a lot of people don't know we're doing it. Sometimes we're not trying to be in your faces with it. 

Konan: But sometimes we are.

Krept: Yeah. So we differentiate between "Krept and Konan for a purpose", "punchline Krept and Konan", "I don’t want you to get this Krept and Konan" and "over your heads Krept and Konan".

Konan: Even in a new song like G Love, I say, "She saw me lipsing my new ting. Luckily I got a calm ex," because I’m talking about a calm ex, but then a Carmex.

My bredrin goes to me, "Konan, what are you talking about?" 

I’m like, "A calm ex, bro, like a calm girl." 

He’s like, "Oh, I thought you meant Carmex as in the lip balm." I’m saying, yeah, both. It’s like an entendre. I thought it would be obvious. It's not even that crazy, but for a commercial record, you still have to explain it to people. 

 

RD: In Morley's Freestyle and on the new track Goat Level, it felt like you were trying to remind people that no matter what kind of music you make, you can still spit bars…

Krept: Not even… with Morley's, it wasn't that deep. I did that one mad quick after we’d done the album and was like let's just put this out, for content. And it was just to talk about the tour and the album.

I wasn’t thinking, yo, this is what I’m doing to let you know, because I’m taking the piss throughout the whole thing. If you listen to it, it's comedy

Konan: On Goat Level you can hear the aggression. Krept comes in saying, "Don't compare me to these rappers." Then I come in saying, "I don't see no challenge."

We're letting you know and setting the tone. We'll take off ya heads if needs be, basically.

 

RD: In the title track for the new album, Revenge is Sweet, every single line is directed at those who have overlooked you. Why did you choose to acknowledge them, rather than ignoring them?

Konan: We always choose to be the bigger person and not address things, but sometimes you've just got to get it off your chest, man.

We’re not really the people to go and start wanting to clash everyone and argue online etc, so I felt like we just needed to vent. You're going to know it's about you and you're going to feel it in your chest. 

Krept: There's no wordplay for wordplay's sake. Everything I'm saying about dead rappers coming for the throne is how I feel. 

 

RD: Do you feel better after recording it?

Krept: It's not even about feeling better! Because I still feel the same towards everyone… [he laughs]

Konan: I don't feel better about it. I just want it out there. This is just a warning shot. I feel like Revenge is Sweet is a warning shot. If we really want to launch full-scale attacks and go Jon Snow on everyone, we can.

 

"Revenge is Sweet is a warning shot"

 

RD: Are there any artists you'd love to team up against in a rap battle?

Krept: I'm itching for someone to say something. I ain't following rules—I'm going to destroy you. 

Konan: I don’t think anyone would really want smoke like that. Everyone talks like they would but they don't. I promise you. A lot of artists are wary of us…

Krept: It would have to be worth it, I wouldn't do it for someone to get a come up off me, or to resurrect someone or something like that. 

Konan: And another thing about it as well… people don't understand it's Krept and Konan right? So there's two of us, and both of us can bar individually. I don't think anybody wants that smoke. 

Krept: You've got to deal with two people. It's long bruv. What I do know is that whoever you think is the best, if you told them to put up their house, all their money, that we'd go 64 bars each, you, Krept and Konan, they wouldn’t put their f*****g money on it.

 

krept and konan posing

 

RD: The title of the new album, Revenge is Sweet, is obviously quite provocative. Who are you looking to get revenge on?

Konan: It's just revenge on all the d*******s who chat rubbish and all the doubters… negativity in general. And our revenge is just the success of putting out music.

Krept: Ten years later, we're still here putting out music, still got people loving our music, still doing shows. So all of this is the revenge. That's the aim. 

 

RD: What are your favourite lines from the album?

Konan: A lot of lines on "Goat Level", I like a lot of them in there. The "Bellerin" line gets me every time. And the line when I say, "My wrist sparkling with all the steel / Yeah we made a little drink off that water deal" because it's very real. 

 

RD: This album offers multiple genres, touches on multiple topics and sheds light on multiple sides of your personality. What's the lasting impression you want the album to have?

Krept: For me personally, it's the mental health side of things. That's why we ended [the album] with the Ramz speech and "Broski". Even though the album has bangers, the reality of this is that we just need to look after our mental health, regardless of everything else. 

Going through all the stuff that we're going through with revenge on the internet and doubters and haters… it does affect your mental health. It felt like we needed to end on that point because at the end of the day, everything going on in our lives is good, but if your health and head aren't right, then nothing else matters really. You can't really function. 

We just wanted to highlight that, and just let everybody know that they should talk to someone. Don't let it all get bottled up, regardless of the subject or the problem that's bothering you. Make sure you talk to someone and don't suffer on your own.

 

Krept & Konan’s album Revenge Is Sweet is out now

About the interviewer: Rowan Faife is a rapper, YouTuber and events promoter. He worked as a consultant and lyric writer for the BBC-backed film, VS. He's currently the host and coordinator for the Don't Flop 11th Birthday Tour. He tweets at @twitteurgh