As the cliche goes, there are two sides to every coin, and rarely is that more evident than when talking to Baton Rouge’s next great hope, Kevin Gates. The rapper often refers to his life as a movie, with him just playing a part in a larger screenplay. But just as the coin, there are at least two sides to Kevin Gates: one, the painfully emotional storyteller who bares his soul in his music, spinning street tales with a force and melodic power that others could only dream of; the other, the heavily-guarded, overly-suspicious man who can’t stand the sight of a tape recorder and can’t seem to stay out of trouble.
Indeed, Gates the man ran into trouble again just recently, getting locked up on a probation violation for four months right at the same time Gates the rapper was flying high off a year that saw him receive critical acclaim for his monstrous Luca Brasi Story mixtape and his leaner, but no less powerful, Stranger Than Fiction indie album. It was a road block that’s led to some uncertainty about his future, both his ability to tour and his ability to stay out of the pen.
In the beginning of March, Gates got out earlier than expected—not unlike another fellow Baton Rouge rapper, Lil Boosie—and immediately set to work promoting his next mixtape, By Any Means, out March 18. And while in Austin for SXSW, Gates sat down with XXL for his first post-prison interview, discussing his latest brush with the law, the release of Lil Boosie, his new mixtape and why there may be more than just two sides to Kevin Gates after all. Make ‘em believe. —Dan Rys (@danrys)
XXL: Weren’t you scheduled to perform at Pitchfork’s showcase just now?
Kevin Gates: [Shakes head] I wasn’t there. I didn’t perform. We got stopped on the highway. Police ripped the cars up.
God damn. Well congrats on your newfound freedom. What happened that you got put back in jail?
I’m on supervised release, and I guess I violated my stipulations.
Was that frustrating to have to go back in?
[Shakes head] That’s my home away from home. I mean, I’m not gonna say it’s my home away from home, but it’s not an unfamiliar environment for me. It was frustrating being away from music. That’s the only thing I love. The only frustrating thing about jail is that I can’t make music.
What was your reaction when you knew you had to go back in?
There wasn’t no reaction. Just, let’s get it. Let’s do it. That’s how I am about every situation in life: let’s do it. It’s gonna be what it’s gonna be anyway, let’s do it.
Has getting out put any restrictions on you, in terms of travel or anything like that?
I wouldn’t know until we cross that bridge. I can tour, because it’s work. It’s no different than me working offshore, or being a welder. I work 90 days on and 90 days off, or I worked one month on and one month off, it’s no different than that. It’s just working.
I know that Atlantic supported you a lot when you went back in.
Yeah, they did. That’s my team, that’s my family. I really don’t pay attention to the outside world when I’m incarcerated, because being in prison is like being in a different world. So I don’t pay attention to what’s going on outside of jail, because it’s all beyond my control. So I’m very appreciative toward the people that were there [outside of prison], but I don’t have any expectations for my life at all.
Is it weird to live in that duality then? Two separate worlds going on at once?
No. I adapt and I adjust to whatever environment I’m in.
What was the first thing you did when you got back out?
Studio. Music. Nothing in particular, just music.
Do you feel like you had built up a lot of momentum before you’d gone back inside?
I never pay attention to it. I’m never on Twitter, I’m never on Instagram. And that’s not by choice, it’s just that those things never really interested me. I might post a picture here and there, but that ain’t really been my focus. My only focus has been March 18, By Any Means, my new project coming out.
How long have you been working on that?
It was a collection of songs that I already had. We didn’t expect for me to be home this early, or this soon. This is the fastest I’ve ever came home, really. I did half of my time instead of the rest of the time that I had. It wasn’t an aggravated charge, it was just a violation of a stipulation of my supervised release. My supervision.
What’s some of the best stuff you got on the new tape?
I like “Posed To Be In Love.” I like “Arm And Hammer,” too. I don’t know; there’s certain days I gravitate towards certain songs. It’s like mood music, really—it depends on what mood you’re in.
Who were you working with?
There’s a lot of different artists on that mixtape, but I didn’t specifically say, “I’m gonna work with this artist on this song.” It’s just when a song is coming up, I’ll be like, “Hey, you like this? See if so-and-so likes this.” And we’ll go from there. I don’t believe in forcing anything when it comes to music. It’s supposed to be natural, it’s supposed to be second nature. It’s supposed to be nostalgic when you feel that beat.
I was talking to [Atlanta producer] Dun Deal the other day, and he said he did “Stop Lyin’” with you off the new tape.
That’s my dude. We developed a chemistry, just from working together. Me and different engineers, we’ve developed a chemistry where without even talking, they know what I expect, and I know what they expect.