In the midst of touring for their latest album, God, Girls & Glazed Donuts, Floridian hip hop group The King's Offspring took some time to chat with Jesus Freak Hideout's Scott Fryberger about their new album, deadly adventures and why they like Taylor Swift...
This interview took place in 6/24/12.
Jesus freak Hideout (Scott Fryberger): Why don't we start off with some introductions? You can tell me names, age, role in the group, or whatever you wanna say.
Jonathan Hunte (Espio): My name is Jonathan, also known as Espio - that's my rap name - and I'm 26.
Isaac Folch (Isaac Knox): Issac Knox, and I'm 21 years old.
Justin Cirami (Skuba): Skuba Cirami, and I'm also 21.
Jordan Keyes (Heir Jordan): And this is Heir Jordan, and I'm 22, and beautiful. *laughter*
JFH (Scott): Good to know.
Isaac: He's wearing a bow tie right now. It boosts his confidence.
JFH (Scott): There's nothing wrong with wearing a bow tie.
Jordan: There's nothing wrong with wearing a bow tie. It gives you like eight extra points in everything you do, including basketball.
JFH (Scott): See, it's always a plus. So when did you guys all start rapping and/or beatmaking?
Isaac: I wrote my first rap in the third grade to impress a neighbor that lived behind me that I thought was the coolest kid in the neighborhood. He did a rap for his high school talent show, so I made a rap about Jesus, and I would kind of periodically write songs - some were rap, some were singing - just for fun, as I grew up. But it was about ninth grade that I started really getting serious about it. I met a couple of friends that year that I started my first rap group with. And actually, Skuba introduced me to the program Free-Loops where I made my first beat. That's kinda where I got my first start. So I got serious about it in ninth grade, but I started in third.
Espio: I wrote my first rap when I was in seventh grade. It was in English class, and it was something like "Seventh grade is very hard, you walk a mile to get a yard." I was all about that rap life back then. And then I got serious about it as soon as I met the rest of [The King's Offspring]. I was in my 20s, and I liked poetry, so I thought I would just transition that into over a beat.
Jordan: Well, I wrote my first rap when I was six years old on an acoustic guitar that had three strings in my parents' house. And I think it was about Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, so, you know, I started this ministry a while back. *laughter* And then I met the rest of the guys in the crew in 2008. We started kinda messing around and rapping - I mean, I had been rapping and recording on my computer and letting no one else hear my songs for a couple years before that. But 2008 is when I started rapping in public, and then 2009 is when we formed the group.
Skuba: The first song I ever wrote and recorded over a karaoke machine was to a girl who I very much had a crush on in sixth grade. She happened to be Isaac's neighbor. *laughter* I wasn't saved at the time, and then I became a Christian, and me and Isaac started hanging out again. And ninth grade is when we started taking it serious, and we formed a group, and then we formed another group. And that's this.
JFH (Scott): When you guys officially formed The King's Offspring, how did you decide on what the name of the group would be?
Isaac: We're not really sure how the name popped up... Well, myself and Skuba came from a group called 3MA, which is a little embarrassing, and it's very much not the style that we do anymore, but nevertheless, it happened. So we came from a group called 3MA, and that music was pretty much 100% preaching music. We wanted to say "Jesus" several times every couple of bars, so we could add to the illusion that we were on the right path. So the idea was to have that group, 3MA, and we were gonna try to push that as hard as we could with me, Skuba and another guy. And then this other group, The King's Offspring - which still had a Christian ring to it, but you could also flip it as K.O., like "knock out," so it's kinda two-sided. We were planning on being local and just hitting a lot of clubs and bars, and being able to be Christians and make music in the secular scene. But it's funny, 'cause as we kept trying to push 3MA, it seemed like God was opening more doors for The King's Offspring. So we just went with that, and God's really blessed us in taking that route and making music that genuinely comes from our souls. And because Christ is such a big part of our lives, He shows up naturally, and we don't have to try to put Him into our music.
JFH (Scott): Do you guys have an official mission statement?
Jordan: Not really, but each of our album titles are kind of a part of what we do, as far as what we're about. I mean, the first project we put out was called Trust Us, We're Cool. And that kinda had to do with the fact that none of us were ever really cool.
JFH (Scott): Whaaaaaaat?? *laughter*
Isaac: But we do have a motto.
Jordan: We do have a motto.
Isaac: We kinda adopted what started as one of my life mottos, and it's "When in doubt, do what makes a better story." And that has proved us well, unless you're Jordan. *laughter*
Jordan: That doesn't work for me because it always ends up with me getting hurt. Every time.
Isaac: It's always something that's my idea, and the only person that gets hurt is Jordan. We have a lot of fun, and Jordan gets hurt.
Espio: Sometimes we all almost get hurt.
Jordan: We went hiking in Colorado, and Isaac went off on his lonesome, and then Skuba went to find him. And what happened Skuba?
Skuba: Well, I find Isaac after a little while of walking. Walked about a mile, and it was a very steep climb. And so, on the way back, Heir Jordan and Espio were already on their way down, and me and Issac are coming down and slipping every once in a while and getting back up. And since this was in Colorado, there were a lot of boulders everywhere, and on our way down, I found a boulder that I thought was very big and looked very sturdy that I could jump on and it would be fine. But uh...not so much. I jump on it, and it starts rolling down the hill, and just rolls right into a tree.
Isaac: Scariest thing I've ever watched, but again, perfectly okay. *laughter*
Espio: So I look up, and I hear Justin say "Look out!" and I see this huge boulder hurling toward my head. And I think "Wow, I'm gonna die." So I hide under another boulder as this first boulder flies over my head and into oncoming traffic. *laughter*
Isaac: And that was the first time we almost died! *laughter* That was the first time we almost died on our first national tour. And it's also just an example of "When in doubt, do whatever makes a better story." Making for good stories like that, again, usually being my idea and everybody else getting in danger by it.
JFH (Scott): Seems to work out pretty well for you.
Isaac: It does. I mean, I feel bad about it.
Espio: We all hate you.
Isaac: Yes, I'm universally despised for it. But I don't know why they go along with my ideas. They know the history, they know it's never gonna end up right. It always sounds like a decent idea, or at least something to kill time. But I usually almost kill the rest of the guys. But yeah, it does always work out for me. *applause, Isaac laughs* Now that this is going on the record, something horrible is gonna happen. It serves me right that I'm the super broke on in the group right now. *laughter*
JFH (Scott): I don't really know where to go after that story. *laughter*
Isaac: Not on a boulder in Colorado! *laughter*
JFH (Scott): What was the first song you guys did as The King's Offspring?
Skuba: The first song we ever did together - we weren't even K.O. yet - but the first song we ever wrote, recorded and performed together was for our church youth group for a lock-in. The track was called "Element," and the song was themed around that, and it was some of the greatest music that you will never hear. *laughter* So yeah, that was our first song together, but then as The King's Offspring, our first official song together was one called "Oh Honey," about our bad luck with females.
Jordan: I love my girlfriend.
Skuba: Yeah, Jordan loves his girlfriend, and we love the fact that Jordan has a girlfriend.
Isaac: We think it's cute.
Skuba: It's adorable.
JFH (Scott): Was that song part of Trust Us, We're Cool, or was it left off?
Isaac: Yeah, that was on Trust Us, We're Cool. Also, most likely next time we go on the road, we're gonna be re-recording some of the tracks from Trust Us, We're Cool and putting out an EP of some of the best stuff from the God, Girls & Glazed Donuts album and Trust Us, We're Cool just to keep on the road when we release new projects.
JFH (Scott): And you also did a mixtape of sorts called The Vocal Network, which was like a song-per-week kinda thing. How did you land on that idea?
Jordan: We were walking around one of the parks in our city, and we were just wondering "How do we reach people in our city? How do we communicate?" And of course, the best way for us to communicate is through our music. So, we decided to start a project called The Vocal Network, and basically, we were putting out a song a week, or two songs, or however many songs we made, because we felt like it had been a little bit since we put out Trust Us, We're Cool and we hadn't made any new music. So we just wanted to stay fresh and stay sharp, but also wanted to give away a piece of ourselves to as many people as possible on a regular basis. We started recording a song a week and we also put it out there that we wanted to support everybody else's projects, and kind of talk about the things that they were putting their lives into, whether they be musicians, artists, actors, cooks, whatever. We were trying to communicate with them and get to know what they were doing and support them. We wanted to be supported, but we felt like we couldn't ask for that unless we were being supportive of the people in our network and community. So that's kinda where The Vocal Network came from. And it kinda became practice for us, but also a way for us to put out something new and talk to people that way.
JFH (Scott): And did you set out to do a specific number of tracks? Was it playing it by ear?
Jordan: We said we were gonna do ten weeks of music. We ended up putting out more than ten tracks. I think we put out sixteen or seventeen tracks and some of it was just one person, some of it was K.O., some of it was just two of us, or something we'd been working on in the past and hadn't actually put out there. So we ended up doing it for nine weeks, but put out sixteen or seventeen tracks.
JFH (Scott): And how did you decide which of those tracks would be used for God, Girls & Glazed Donuts?
Jordan: A lot of it was just personal preference, but a lot of that album was clearly heavily sampled, sometimes not even doing a whole lot to the sample except maybe beefing it up with some drums or looping a familiar part. But at the same time, we tried to, with the exception of one song, eliminate anything where we just simply used somebody else's beat without altering it at all, just so there was at least a little bit of originality to the production, at least in the pieces we chose. Probably the one that we did the least to was "Everybody Loves Me," where we just kinda looped an instrumental part, adding the hook in, but we didn't add any drums or anything like that like you would normally do with a sample. But the reason we decided to keep that song anyway is because if we had to imagine what a K.O. single would feel like, something that we'd wanna push toward radio, that's kinda the feel and sound that we would go with. But for the most part, it was just whatever we liked best, and whichever we actually put in the most work, production-wise, to give it kind of a unique sound.
JFH (Scott): Do you guys have other songs that haven't been released yet that use samples that heavily?
Isaac: In addition to working on a few, each of us have been working on some solo mixtapes just for fun. A lot of those are really heavy on sampling. I'm sure we've got a few that we recorded and never put out, but I'd have to check the old library. But I'm almost positive that we have. And I know that, just real quick, Jordan has been working on a side project with a particular artist. I'll let him tell you about that, 'cause that's the next thing we're gonna push.
Jordan: I'm working on a seven-song mixtape/project or something that's all samples of a band called Sleigh Bells. I don't know if you've heard of them, but it's like a mixture of old school punk and some dance music. But I really like the band, and I heard some of their tracks and I just really wanted to rap over it. It's very instrumental anyway, so we didn't really have to do too much to it. But yeah, I'm gonna be rapping over that and then I've got another mixtape coming out that's strictly just random beats, and we're just kinda working through that as it goes. So those will be the next things coming out hopefully.
JFH (Scott): I have heard of Sleigh Bells. I think they played Saturday Night Live a couple months ago.
Jordan: Yeah, they did.
JFH (Scott): Didn't you guys sample one of their songs on The Vocal Network?
Isaac: Oh yeah! Yeah, that song is gonna be on Jordan's project.
JFH (Scott): You guys have been touring a lot lately, and I know you've been playing with Heath McNease. Have you toured with anyone else noteworthy?
Isaac: We haven't necessarily gone on any sort of distant tour with anyone outside of Heath, but we're gonna be touring again with him in September. We've rocked a couple shows recently with RedCloud. (Scott: Nice!) And Pigeon John was a part of some of those shows. We've also done shows with Playdough and Sivion from Deepspace 5, as well as CookBook from L.A. Symphony. So yeah, those have all been pretty great in getting to know some of those guys. And then, I was blessed to be able to - we've all done a little bit of battle rap, myself and Jordan do a lot of it actually, and a few months ago in April, I was blessed to be able to come out to San Bernardino, California and be apart of the Paid Dues Festival, and that actually had an L.A. Symphony concert there. It had all the members back, and Lecrae also performed on the stage.
JFH (Scott): That's some really good experience.
JFH (Scott): So what have you guys been listening to lately?
Skuba: We listen to a lot of different styles of music. As far as hip hop goes, it's very much whoever feels like listening to what that day. Like if we have something different on our iPod or something that we haven't heard in a long time, we'll listen to it. What do we listen to a lot?
Jordan: Carly Rae Jepsen. *laughter*
Skuba: "Call Me Maybe."
Jordan: Yeah, "Call Me Maybe" is on constant rotation.
JFH (Scott): Ugh. *laughter*
Isaac: Actually Espio's kinda been the music director for our car.
Skuba: Yeah, let Espio talk about this one.
Espio: Yeah, well, we were listening to some Ingrid Michaelson. Personally, I'm a fan. If she's listening: I wanna marry you. And we listen to a lot of Lupe Fiasco, and a lot of indie singers. "Oh Honey" was actually sampled from KT Tunstall. She's one of my favorite artists also. It's a good mix of everything from hip hop to indie acoustic to slow jazz. Heavy rock and punk rock. A lot of New Found Glory I've been listening to a lot recently, some old P.O.D., Relient K...whatever sounds good, we'll listen to it.
JFH (Scott): I saw on Twitter earlier that you guys follow Taylor Swift as well. I chuckled a little, but it's respectable.
Isaac: Uh...you could say respect is what we have for her. I uh...I've seen Taylor Swift in concert. *laughter* But uh, we're a fan of her more than we're a fan of her music.
Jordan: We think she's attractive! *laughter*
Isaac: Jordan just screamed out "We think she's attractive!" Put that right next to the "I love my girlfriend" quote. *laughter*
Espio: Sample that.
Isaac: But yeah, we're fans.
JFH (Scott): No shame in that. Now with you guys being on tour, I'm sure it can get pretty hard trying to keep up with church and your faith. How do you guys decide what to do about church when you're on tour? There's not a home church everywhere you go.
Isaac: You're absolutely right. It's tough on the road sometimes. But we try to make sure that every day we take some time to get together and just read the Bible together and pray together and all that stuff. Right now, we're reading through the Book of 1 Samuel, so we're kinda doing that as a group just to make sure we keep ourselves connected. And then of course every Sunday, we try to find out some good local churches. And it's great when we're on tour with Heath, 'cause he actually does worship for churches, so we just go to whatever church he's playing at. But right now, out here in California, we just hit up all our friends for what churches they recommend, and then try a new one each week.
JFH (Scott): How have you guys been growing lately?
Espio: Well personally, I've realized that God's been showing us that, no matter what, He's taken us this far and He's gonna keep providing for us. Even if we have two dollars in our bank account, it's in God's hands, and it's so good to trust Him. Miles away from our friends and family and everything that we're comfortable with and used to, God is here with us, and He's showing us, and that's been most encouraging to me, personally.
Jordan: For me, I feel like it's been crazy, like Espio just said, just basically throwing ourselves out there on that faith that God's got us. If you ask anybody in the group, I'm a really big worrier.
Skuba: Whaaaaaaat?? *laughter*
Jordan: I get stressed out really easily. But it's amazing to just figure out that, no matter how much I worry or think about it or try to make things work, that there's a plan that's already been laid out for it, and I just gotta rely on God for that one.
Skuba: For me, I've been kinda growing and understanding that, like Jordan said, God has a plan for everything in our lives. But like Espio said, it's not completely being away from everybody. It's just like God says, "I'm always here for you, I got you no matter what you're going through, and you can handle anything." And He's been proving that time and time again, and He hasn't let us down so far.
Isaac: "Walk by faith and not by sight" never meant more than it does now. It's giving up every comfort we had and just saying "God, what do You got for us?" and believing that we're exactly where He's called us. And especially when you're in entertainment, it almost never comes as fast as you want it to, as fast as you think it should. It's never as easy as you think it should be, and we just gotta be believing and not let any of those doubts or anything get into our head. Those lies that make us believe that what we're doing isn't the right thing. We just need to know that we're where God's called us, and if we're not, then we're listening to what God says. We're not just going on our own ideas. So, we're learning to trust even more than we ever did.
JFH (Scott): Well, I don't really have anything else written in my little notebook, and my brain doesn't work too well.
Espio: Welcome to the club. You wanna join K.O.? *laughter*
JFH (Scott): Can I just stand in the back and not do anything?
Skuba: Nah, that's what I do.
Isaac: That's why he gets paid the big bucks! *laughter*
JFH (Scott): Since I don't have anything else, is there anything that you guys would like to add?
Isaac: Well, definitely look out for Jordan's Sleigh Bells mixtape. Keep downloading God, Girls & Glazed Donuts. We're actually all working on a few new group projects that all sound significantly different from each other, so we got a little something for everybody coming. What we're hoping to do before that to keep people connected with us and to meet all of us individually, in addition to Jordan's Sleigh Bells mixtape, all four of us are going to be putting out mixtapes and solo projects to help promote what we're doing and keep music coming. I know Espio is doing a lot of artwork, so if you need art design stuff, hit us up to get ahold of Espio. If you need beats, you can hit me up, and all kinds of stuff. That's pretty much what we have to plug.
Espio: If you need hugs, get with any of us.
Isaac: Yeah, we're all pretty darn good with hugs.
Jordan: If you need insightful/pretentious musings, follow me on Tumblr.
Skuba: If you want an occasional Facebook update, follow me.
Isaac: The urge to follow Skuba is undeniable. The occasional Facebook update.
JFH (Scott): Alright guys, well I just want to say thanks for talking with me.
Isaac: Thank you very much. If you need anything, give us a shout.
Espio: If you wanna bring us donuts...
Jordan: Yeah that's what we'll put out there: Bring us donuts! And uh, Jesus Freak Hideout is the place to be. K.O.!
The King's Offspring's album God, Girls & Glazed Donuts is available now!