Kevin Gates is never tired of reading; the saying “never judge a book by its cover” is prevalent in the life of the Baton Rouge MC. While most rappers look to their life and surroundings for inspiration, Gates uses literature to broaden his horizons and thinking. Last year, he shared with XXL his reading list that included Robert Greene's The 48 Laws Of Power and Sun Tzu's Art Of War, where he admitted that he was a bookworm. “I know with my physical appearance that I don’t look like the typical reader,” he told us. “I’m in Barnes & Noble all the time and you can look at people that look like they are supposed to be in there. I am in there, pants sagging, hat backwards.”

To catch up with Gates, we had him stop by during his promotional run for his latest mixtape By Any Means to give us some new recommendations. From self-help to romance books, Gates schools us on the authors he likes right now. —Tzvi Twersky & Eric Diep

XXL: We get a ton of fan mail from people in prison. As someone who’s spent a significant amount of time locked up, does that surprise you at all?
Kevin Gates: It really don’t surprise me. Most of the individuals that are avid readers don’t exist in this society; they exist in that realm, in the incarcerated realm. Truth be told, those are some of the most intelligent individuals you are ever going to sit down with, so it don’t surprise me.

What about you—what did you read when you were inside? What do you read now?
I’m re-reading The Master Key System, by Charles F. Haanel.

So I assume you liked it the first time around?
No, I ran through it. It was a good read, so I was excited about trying to hurry up and get to the end of it. I ran through it, so I didn’t really get to the process at all. I’m just re-reading. When I have time, I touch it.

Have you always been an avid reader?
Since I was a child.

Do you think that’s helped you develop as a rapper and as a person?
I believe my word usage is different because of it. When I encountered a word I didn’t know, I’d underline it, go look it up and then add it to my word bank. So I believe I have more range as a writer because I read. But does it make me better? No. I feel like art is an expression of one’s individual creativity. I know a lot of people that just know a million words but can’t express it in art.

What are some of your favorite books and what books have influenced you?
I don’t believe any books have influenced me, but I’m a fan of Nicholas Sparks and I’m also a fan of Anne Rice. Other than that, I like non-fiction based on betterment. I’ve been into meditation lately, not because I want to be a Buddhist monk or be a karate kid. I used to box, and being an athlete I know how important breath is physically, so I was like, How much more important is it mentally? That’s what made me start reading about meditation.

Do you think your time as a boxer has played into your rapping at all, just in terms of breath control when you’re recording or when you’re on stage?
I don’t know. When you box, everything becomes second nature, becomes reflex. So it was natural, and me rapping is a natural act, too. So I can’t really say, because I’ve done both I can’t compare and contrast the two.


What movies do you watch?
I really like mobster movies. I like gangster films. I don’t go no favorites, but I just love mafia movies.

Why do you think that is?
I just love the inner workings of the mafia. Most of them be rats, though, but I still like it.

You think they’re fiction or non-fiction?
I don’t know. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been involved in organized crime, to know the inner workings of it. I wouldn’t know if that spectrum of it is reality or not. But if it is, I wouldn’t want to be a part of it because most of them be rats.

In terms of music, are you into fiction or non-fiction?
Sometimes I like to be entertained, I like to hear a lie every now and then. I like being entertained. Some people be having platinum helicopters and things of that nature, know what I’m saying? I’m just saying, you know you might turn your helicopter sideways and edge the front of your yard with it. Who knows, you might turn it upside down and use it as a weed eater. I like to be entertained. But for the most part, I like listening to music that’s authentic. I like listening to music I can relate to, by individuals that live basically the same lives and have the same type of upbringing that I have.

Going back to books, why is Nicolas Sparks one of your favorite authors?
It’s simplistic, it’s believable, and I’m an individual who appreciates the simple things. He makes a lot of romance novels; he gives a lot of depictions of people truly being in love, and I’m in love with that. Other than that, I like Anne Rice. I like vampire novels, probably just 'cause of where I’m from. Like, Transylvania, Romania, is the vampire capital of the world, and New Orleans, LA, is the vampire capital of the United States.

What book kind of drew you in?
I liked The Notebook. That’s my favorite one. The book better than the movie. I’ve read that book 30 times.

Why do you like it so much?
It gives a true depiction of two people that are in love. I love being in love, you can’t purchase “in love.” You can love someone, you can be with somebody and love that person to death, but I’m talking about “in love.” That fire, like, I don’t want nobody talking to this person; I don’t want nobody looking at this person; I want to be with this person every chance I get; every moment I get, I’ma drive however far to see this person when I’m free. This person might not be looked at by the rest of the world as the person you should be with, and you might not be looked at as the person she should be with, but you all love each other. That’s beautiful, passion and excitement. Life is depressing when you’re not with that person. That’s why I love the book, cause I can relate.

Is James Redfield another person that you like?
He alright. I’m not saying nothing negative, but I’ve only read one thing. I read the Celestine Prophecy, and that was really a good book. It’ll change your life.

Previously: Kevin Gates Stakes His Claim As A Rising Talent On ‘By Any Means’ Mixtape
Kevin Gates Gives XXL His First Interview Since Being Released From Prison
Kevin Gates Explains Why He Didn’t Sign To Cash Money

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