Kur Bounces Back From His Personal Lows: “The Hot Sh*t Is Coming”
With Philadelphia being touted as the City of Brotherly Love for decades, it may be a bit redundant and cliche at this point, but when you juxtapose that slogan with dark undertones that certain parts of the city can bring, challenging that notion becomes more understandable. However, the concrete jungle that is Philly has spawned some of the more respected and renowned lyricists that rap has had the luxury of witnessing, including legends like Black Thought and Beanie Sigel. The city has also produced a promising crop of superstars and rookies, with Meek Mill and Lil Uzi Vert serving as evidence that the future of Philly is in good hands.
Philly native Kur is primed to walk in the footsteps of his predecessors and help restore the feeling that the city's rap exports brought to listeners with their gripping testimonials and recollections. After building his name locally, Kur would initially come to prominence in 2014, after Meek Mill gave the up-and-comer invaluable shine by mentioning him and his music in a tweet on Twitter. This lead to rap fans to inquire about who this relative unknown was and look into whether his skills were worthy of the cosign.
What those who have done their due diligence have come to find out is that Kur is in fact the real deal and possesses the chops to become a force in his own right, which he has proved via mixtape releases. He's also proved his skills with his collaborative project alongside Harlem rapper and 2016 XXL Freshman Dave East, which further boosted his profile and proved he's capable of hanging with the best in his bracket.
Using 2016 to lay down the foundation before his rise to the big time, Kur has wasted no time in moving forward this year, unleashing his 180 mixtape in May. The project, featuring songs like "What It Do" and "Come Back," is an appetizer to hold fans over before he comes with the heavy artillery on his debut album.
XXL sat down with Kur to get the scoop on his 180 mixtape, trials and tribulations, personal growth and what he has in store next.
XXL: You just released your 180 mixtape a few weeks ago. What has the reception and feedback been like thus far?
Kur: It’s better than I expected. The music that I had, I didn’t really like what was on there, so I was trying to get out of that space, for real. You can ask my engineer. All them tracks on there, I was trying to delete and redo over. So I’m glad I’m out of that space, but the energy and love I’m getting from it is crazy. We did so many numbers, so it was cool. For something I didn’t like it was cool.
What didn't you like about the tape?
I don’t know, I just be thinking certain shit can be better, you see what I’m saying? So I’m more on that time. My engineer was like, "Nah, that’s cool, you said that for a reason so do it like that," and I’m like, "Nah, I ain’t feeling it." For example, the first track “Come Back,” I hated that. I didn’t think that that was that hot, you see what I’m saying? And my engineer like, "Yo, that’s hot bro," and I was like, "Nah, delete. I think I can start it over from scratch."
So probably four weeks before the tape came out, I was trying to restart the whole tape, like all the beats. I liked the beats, I was just trying to do the whole lyrics over on all of it, you see what I’m saying? So once everybody was like, "You gotta put out this tape, it’s hot, you just been sitting on it"—’cause I had been sitting on this music for months. The music they hearing now, I had already been recorded, I was just trying to put it in order. I was bullshitting, missing ad-libs on this and missing ad-libs on that—so once I got everything in order, I’m like, you know what, it’s green. It’s ready to go. We ain’t even plan it out like that, for example, if it was today, I was like yo, tomorrow I’ma drop it. Everything I already mixed, tomorrow, I’ma drop it. I just did it like that.
What was the inspiration behind the title of the tape?
I had a conversation with somebody and they was like, "Well, if you make a 360 turn, it bring you all the way back to where you was at, right?" So they saying the 180, it just changes your whole [perspective] and that’s how I went off of it. And I think the fifth track on there, “What Do It Do,” when I had wrote that, the end bars did it. I started taking Adderall recently, right, so that put me in a whole ’nother zone and had my shit focused.
So the end of “What Do It Do,” the fifth track, I was like, "I did a 180, now I’m popping." After that, I was like, damn, that’s it right there. That just made me think of it. I’m not gonna make it seem like I had the title off of the rip ’cause I didn’t have it from the rip, you know what I mean? I had got into the music and then caught the title while I was writing and while I was going. So at that point, I was like, yeah, that’s what it is. It just popped up. That’s where I got it from.
What was your mission or focus going into this project and do you feel you accomplished that?
Yeah, I feel like I accomplished that. I got more than what I expected, basically. I know my shit gonna snap. I know my shit gonna go, but I ain’t expect it to go like that. But being that I didn’t drop in five months—’cause the last shit I dropped before that was in January, I had dropped a freestyle “Menace to Society." I had dropped that. Before that, I didn’t drop nothing. People are used to me dropping like, boom, boom, boom. So when it was a wait, [people] was like, "Damn, I know he probably cooking up something crazy," you know what I mean?
You released a visual for a song off the tape titled "Come Back," which was inspired by the movie The Warriors. Is that one of your favorite movies?
Yeah, I watch The Warriors a lot. It was inspired by The Warriors, but I was more on the time of trying to step away from my hood vids. And it’s nothing [negative] like that, but I’m saying, like, my neighborhood vids shot in my neighborhood, you know what I mean? So I was trying to step away from that. And then you gotta think, in that vid, I actually fell and that fall was real. I really sprained my ankle, that wasn’t supposed to be in that.
I just told ’em like, "I aint fall for no reason. Put that shit in there, bro. My shit hurt." So at that point, [the director] had told me, "Yo, would it be hard if you’re getting chased and you jump, land and you run away?" That was supposed to be the plan. When I fell, the shit was higher than I thought it was and I really sprained my shit. So I’m like, damn, he got that part. So I’m like, "You know what? Keep that part and we gonna start from me on the ground."
So me on the ground, my ankle was fucked up. I just told him like, "Yo, we gonna start on the ground and I woke up," you know what I mean? So from that point on, I was like, it gotta be different from the neighborhood shit that I be on. It ain’t nothing wrong with that; I’m gonna cater to the streets, but I’m saying that it’s more than the papi store, hood, Chinese store vids, whatever.
So I just got out of that and was like, what can I do? And I was like, I can have a situation where it’s like The Warriors, the comeback. We’re trying to make it back home. That was the whole point of the vid—to get back home from these muthafuckas, whoever chasing us. Me and my man split up. It was kinda like The Warriors, you know what I mean? So I just took a little bit. I ain’t really go too hard, but I took a little bit from it.
Have you ever had any situations similar to that of The Warriors where you had to make it back to home homebase under duress while living in Philly?
Yeah, I probably can’t remember the exact moment, but I know for sure I ain’t get that moment from nowhere. It was more than a movie, you know what I’m saying? I know it was more than a movie.
What are some other films that have influenced your artistry or have impacted you in a big way?
I would say The Warriors is one, for sure. I don’t know, for some reason, I’m weird. I like movies like Castaway and shit like that. I like weird ass movies that it’s a muthafucka stranded and they’re trying to figure it out, you know what I mean? I like shit like that so I don’t got no specific movie. I just be watching all types of shit. So It can go from Training Day to Good Burger. It’s up and down with me. I go off my mood, for real for real.
Speaking of your hometown, what section of Philly are you from and how would you say that section sets itself apart from other neighborhoods in Philly?
I’m from uptown. That shit's kinda different though because it’s like….my part’s really different, for real and I’m not just saying this ’cause I’m from there, but it’s different parts of uptown that say, "Yeah we’re uptown, but you might meet a muthafucka tomorrow and he be like, "I’m from Philly, I’m from uptown." They might not say the part that I’m from, but they’re still from uptown.
So I just feel like our shit is different. We really don’t vibe with a lot of muthafuckas like that. Ain’t nothing wrong with it, we just kinda in-house, so everything is in-house. And this is something that I’m breaking out of because I came in the game like, fuck everybody, it’s in-house, and then I realized it can’t be that way. But everybody I hang with, in-house, it’s nothing wrong with nobody, but we’d just rather be around each other, you see what I’m saying?
How would you describe the aesthetic and the vibe of the neighborhood?
I don’t know, it’s just regular hood shit. Like I just feel like our bids is one of a kind, our jokes and shit, I done hung with different type muthafuckas and I done been around people when they bid and I just feel like our jokes bring me back home. You know how you go somewhere else and then realize home is really home, you know what I mean? You don’t appreciate home until you go somewhere else or you don’t appreciate your niggas bids until you’re hanging with other muthafuckas and then they can’t bid, you know what I mean?
So I think that’s what the vibe is like, authentic, and you can’t really put a name or a price on it because you can’t find it anywhere, you know what I mean? I’ve been around and I don’t find them bids, you know what I mean? And it be hard ’cause I be trying to tell myself, damn, I’m not gonna go out my way. I’ma just fall back. It’s hot up there. And you miss them bids ’cause you ain’t found ’em nowhere, it don’t matter who you hang with. That’s just from the heart, that’s just home.
How would you describe your childhood growing up in Philly and how would you say it molded you into the man you are today?
I’ma say not my childhood molded me ’cause I was in a weird space for a long time, but in high school, I had a point in time where I was doing alright, so my trials and tribulations—it happened when I was younger—got better and then graduated. That’s where I kinda took my fall at. I didn’t wanna go to the military, my dad was on my ass, so I was like, I’m moving out. So reality hit me when I moved out. Everything was all or nothing at that point. I had to figure that shit out, if you get what I’m saying?
What are some of the trials and tribulations you've had to overcome in your life and career?
I was in the middle class, so I was living with my dad and stepmom in high school. When I moved out and didn’t wanna do what they said, I moved back with my mom, ’cause I used to live with my mom when I was younger. So me moving out when I’m 18, I’m thinking that shit is still set up how it was when I was younger ’cause this is my mom. To find out when I go back that everything is fucked up and it’s not.
So I had too much pride to go back to my dad house so I said, "Fuck that. I’ma figure it out," and that’s where shit got real rough at. Because I lived a fucked up life from birth to 11, maybe, and then after that I lived a middle class life ’cause my mom was locked up and I moved with my dad. When I moved with my dad, I wouldn’t say he was strict, but you couldn’t really bring anything in the house, you know what I mean? So at that point, I'm like, I’m gonna play by his rules to a certain extent and then I’m gonna move out.
Rapping isn’t something I always really wanted to do. That’s just something that I figured out. So at the end of high school, I went back up my way. I was sneaking up my way ’cause my pop didn’t want me up there. He thought it was so bad. So I’m sneaking up my way. I spit for my man and he was like, "Damn, yo, you hard" and right there it led to me being like, Damn, you know what? I can start this.
So at that point, I was like [to my dad], "Yeah, you know what? I’m out. I’ma holla at you." He took my phone and all that type shit. I was like, "Yeah, it’s cool," and when I moved out, I had to figure it out. I had to get a phone, I left with no health insurance, no ID, no nothing. I had to start all over. The crib didn’t have no electric, I was like, fuck TV, I’m back around my way. At that moment, you gotta think reality didn’t really hit me. Them trials didn’t hit me. Well, I graduated high school 2012, right, that summertime, that was the best time of my life ’cause I’m back around my way, back with niggas I grew up with. It’s a wrap.
When wintertime came, that’s when it hit me ’cause everything was shut off. Niggas ain’t outside as much. You calling a nigga, he like, "It’s cold as fuck outside. I ain’t coming outside," and you like, "Whoa, I gotta chill in the crib?" In the summertime, it was different. You had niggas staying out ’til 4 in the morning, it was nice out. You could chill on the step, you ain’t gotta go in the crib. See you don’t gotta see roaches, you ain’t gotta see all of that.
When it got cold, that’s when the problem would come in at ’cause niggas ain’t coming outside as much. Niggas don’t want you at their crib. They’re chilling, they’re with their family and all types of shit. Niggas not available as much so now you on your "Damn, did I make the right decision? Is this right?" You start to lose hope. You’re cold, you’re sleeping in your jacket. So that’s where my trials and tribulations came in.
I even had a job that summer working at a coffee shop or some shit, but it was to the point where it was like I can’t have one foot in and one foot out. It’s either you’re gonna be all the way in or all the way out. Being as though shit that I was rapping—’cause I wasn’t rapping like a Big Sean or a Bryson Tiller—I was saying some street shit and it wasn’t like I was lying. It was just that, damn, you can’t work at no coffee shop, bro. It wasn’t the fact that I was lying, it was that I still had to eat.
So once I figured that out, I was like, fuck that. I lost that job, I’m like, alright, now I’m really all-in. Somewhat in, not to say I was some big-time drug dealer, ’cause I was really, like, peanuts, for real, you know what I mean? I had to get through and make that work. I had to make the peanuts work.
So how did all of that translate into you becoming a rapper?
Those trials and tribulations made me think, You know what? I can start saying shot-out ass shit about myself though, so I won’t come at nobody else. I’ma start saying shit that I know that’s shot-out, you know what I mean? And people was always saying, "Yo, y’all niggas shot-out." So I started saying, "Y'all think I’m shot-out, I’ma start saying shot-out stuff," and I started off by myself.
It’s the truth, it’s fucked up, but it’s the truth and I know niggas gonna feel it ’cause it’s like, "Damn, that happened to me, but that nigga was brave enough to say it." So I was really on that time, and then something clicked in my head. I think this was around the time Drake dropped Nothing Was the Same. I said, "You know what, I like this beat. I’m gonna start saying things in the songs about bitches I used to fuck in Philly. That’s what I’ma start doing."
The first one I did, everybody was like, "Yo, who the fuck is this?" Only ’cause I was saying popular bitches names so they was trying to figure out how the fuck did I used to talk to ’em. So I started putting two and two together and was like, Damn, they fuck with that, and I dropped the second part and then the third and once the attention was on me, I stopped and showed y’all what I came here to do.
That was my whole plan. I didn’t make songs about bitches all day, that just got me the attention I needed and then I showed y’all I could do other shit. Then I started rapping, then I started singing and they was like, "That sound a little alright, bro." I wasn’t afraid to try shit. That’s where I kinda won at ’cause I don’t really give a fuck if niggas don’t really feel it 100 percent. Even if I feel it 80, I’ma just drop it. It’s a singing joint? What’s the worst that could happen? I know that shit don’t sound horrible. Then after that, keep going at it and your start to catch that shit and then you’re green after that.
Being from Philly, the city prides itself on producing gritty lyricists like Black Thought, Beanie Sigel, State Property and others. What are your earliest memories of some of your personal hometown heroes and in what ways have they influenced you?
I probably remember I was like 9 and my mom had hit me up and I was like, "I’m sleep, I’m sleep," and the next morning, she was like, "I went to go see Cassidy yesterday. I was in the whole house with him, I was with him, I would’ve took you," and I was just so upset at that point ’cause I thought that was my moment and missed it, you see what I’m saying? And then she’d be like, "I was down north [Philly] and I saw Freeway," and that used to be my whole thing, they was people I really like fucked with when I was young-young.
I was into the 50 Cents and the Beanie Sigels, but then when I got out of it and got into my teens, I started to get J. Cole-ish, The Come Up and Drake, Comeback Season, all that shit, I started to get in that. I kinda faded away from that and started getting into the Kendrick Section 80’s, I started to get into that kind of shit.
What would you say sets you apart from other artists and on top of that, what is your ultimate motivation in life—both as a man and an artist?
At first, I didn’t know that answer, but now, I think that dropping this tape showed me a lot when I go back around my way, I’m like, Damn, this is what it’s really about. It’s bigger than me. I’m trying to keep the light on this. When I‘m gone and all this shit is over with, I’m trying to keep the light on that this shit hard, we going off. That right there means everything.
Philly also has the spotlight on it, with rappers like Meek Mill and Lil Uzi Vert in the national spotlight. How does it feel to be in that next class of spitters and to have your city being a major force in hip-hop?
I mean, hell yeah, I’m green. I wanna see muthafuckas win so whoever it is, I don’t give a fuck what niggas doing, if he hot to me, we green, I’m putting him on a record and we going off. I feel it’s enough money so I ain’t on no shit. I wanna see everybody win, it feel good. I done came up with Uzi, I done had problems with [PnB] Rock, squashed it. We done got over our hump, you see what I’m saying? So everything is a growing process where I wanna see niggas win. I’m at that point right now. I don’t have no problem with anybody, I’m green. I’m in a happy space, a nigga ready to drop more hot music. I’m just going off.
You and Meek Mill have been rocking together for a few years. What's the root of your relationship with him and does it extend beyond music?
He’s a good guy. People might think that we’re closer than what we really are, but we’re really not. We just cool, you know what I mean? So anything that he do, I appreciate it, it be love. He drop some shit, I check it out, I drop some shit, he check it out. So it’s all love, you know what I mean? It’s green.
Another rapper you have close ties to is Dave East, with whom you released your Born Broke, Die Rich project.
I fuck with Dave East. I fuck with Dave East hard. Even if it ain’t on no music shit, we’ll smoke one and chill. I I fuck with cuzzo hard.
How long have you known East and what sparked your creative partnership?
He said, "I wanna come down and do some joint with you." This was probably a year ago. He drove down from New York. I had the stu, we had did a song called “1,000 Pillz.” I’m playing the beats, I put the hook on there, he like, "Yo, I fuck with this joint." I’m like, "Alright, I do a verse, you do a verse." Knocked that out and we put it out. I go up to do the vid with him, something happened with the vid, whatever, but when I was about to sign my deal, the day I signed my deal, he said, "Come to the stu, I wanna do a tape, we can do a EP, we knock it out in a day."
So I’m like, "Alright, that’s a bet. Let’s do it." So right after I signed, I went right to the stu to meet him. People don’t even know that that tape, we did in a day-and-a-half. That wasn’t like no tape that we put together. I don’t like that tape, I haven’t listened to it since it came out, this is nothing against him or nothing against me. I feel like I could’ve did better. I only had a day-and-a-half to do the tape, you know what I mean? It was just pressure and that was cool for me, though, ’cause it just gave me a chance to see what I could do under pressure. So it wasn’t trash, I just felt I could’ve did more. Lets say if we had three weeks, imagine a tape with three weeks, ’cause that was just a day-and-a-half.
How would you describe the chemistry between y'all two and how y'all are able to mesh on tracks so well?
I feel like we in the same lane, kinda. We ain’t too far apart. And we was just out in L.A. and the chemistry was crazy. He had a joint and the majority of his records are my vibe or a vibe I can get in. So I feel like any record he play for me, I can get on that, bro, because we ain't too far apart. I can jump in it if I want, you know what I mean?
Do you foresee the two of you ever doing a major collaborative album down the line?
Hell yeah. We’re putting together a new tape right now, a part two. I’m not sure if it’s gonna be the same name, but it’s a part two of a Dave East and Kur joint. Whenever we get in the stu, we’re knocking out tracks for it and we not gonna do a day-and-a-half this time. So this is gonna be tracks gradually happening and then we’ll put it together, we’re gonna do it like that this time.
When can fans expect that?
This year. This year, that shit’s coming out. If you don’t do it while you feel it, next year you might not feel like doing it or y’all might be in a different space at the time.
Much of your music deals with the adversities of life and coping with the trials and tribulations we face. What made you want to focus on that end of the spectrum?
I just feel like what’s real is always gonna be there, you know what I mean? And then it’s like a nigga ain’t have any of that. It wasn’t like I just had all these cars and I’m just not saying I have Ferrarris. A nigga didn’t have that so I was just telling you how it was. All you can do is accept it or say, "Fuck outta here," you know what I mean? That’s how it was. I didn’t overexaggerate it.
It was a shock to people because people wasn’t saying it exactly how it was or people was sugarcoating it and I just gave my shit to the grit. Y’all gonna hear it. My whole thing when I’m writing, when I'm playing this shit, I want people's moms to be like, "Well, what the fuck did he go through?" or "Why did he say that?" I want people’s heads to turn. So that’s always been my thing. And then I kinda lost myself from doing that, but I’m back on it. I strayed from doing it, now I’m back doing it.
Having established yourself as one of the more buzzworthy artists in your city, what are some of your plans for 2017 and beyond and what can the fans expect?
I got some tour dates in the works. I’ma do five more vids for this tape, 180, then that’s out the way. I got an EP that’s already done. I’m not worried about that, though. I got another free tape called The Bounce Back, from 180. Then I’m gonna work on the album in like August. So that’s my plan. My whole thing is, the hot shit is coming. I do know that. I don’t know about nothing else, but I do know it’s coming and I ain’t even playing with it like before. I feel like these last five months, I done had some low-ass times, but now I done bounced back. This tape showed me, nah cuzzo, you still got it. Just when I thought I lost it, you see what I’m saying?
Being from a city like Philadelphia, where tomorrow isn't promised, how does it feel to be pursuing your passions and living out your dreams in live time?
I don’t think certain shit hit me yet. I think certain shit will hit me late. Like I don’t be catching stuff while it happen. For example, let’s use the [BET] Awards, when I did the cypher. I don’t think about that ’til now, but when I was there, everything was numb and strange. It didn’t feel like that was going on, but now I think about it like, Damn, I was on there.
So I don’t think about moments until I got time to really smoke one and think, Damn, you know what, a nigga really did come a long way, but while it’s going on, like right now, at this moment, I probably won’t think about this moment until a week later, I’ll be like, Damn, I was at XXL. That’s how I am. It hasn’t kicked in, certain shit just hasn’t hit me yet.
Are there any other artists that you're looking to work with in the future?
Anybody that’s hot or as long as it's chemistry. I want the shit to make sense and to mean something and for you to really feel what you’re saying on there and me really feel what I’m saying and then it’s green.
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