If you haven’t heard of Lil Kari, prepare to fall in love. The definition of a “Down South Baby,” the rising star serves as the next hottest artist to come out of Pompano Beach County, Florida, living out his dreams at only 18 years old. Arriving on the scene with a fresh new sound to the rap game — influenced directly by his peers from Kodak Black to Rod Wave — Kari flexes his talents and versatility with each release.
In describing himself, Kari states, “I’m taking on different things, letting people know my experiences, different flows, triple entendres, cadences. Really a new sound from Florida, but also taking on what’s already been established from the people before me.”
Kari has had one hell of a year, with his current single “Down South Baby” gaining traction daily and he even had numerous tracks synced on ESPN, with “The City” becoming one of theme songs for the NBA draft. Gaining notoriety on TikTok as well, Kari is here to swoon audiences all around the world with his catchy sound, loveable personality, and heartfelt lyrics.
AllHipHop: You’re from Pompano Beach County, what was that like growing up?
Lil Kari : It was the same as any other place, any other hood. We different in our way because we all have our own different style. Growing up just working, coming with that mindset of kill or be killed. Gotta maintain, gotta gain, some people by any means necessary. Really establishing myself because I was always able to work as a youngin’, getting it any type of way I could. Whether that be working at Norman’s Photoland or working with the church, doing different things to get money. Selling candy, that’s how I grew up.
AllHipHop: Biggest influences growing up?
Lil Kari : I listen to a lot of artists growing up honestly. I’m really an old soul so I listen to a lot of old rappers. Not even just rap music, but New Edition. I’m really into them. Isley Brothers, DMX of course, Run-DMC, Biggie Smalls, Tupac obviously. West Coast rap was definitely hard growing up. Ice Cube, everybody setting their milestone. As far as new age rappers, I really was into Kodak back in middle school, blasting that on the way most def. Kodak Black from elementary going into middle school.
AllHipHop: What’s your favorite Kodak song?
Lil Kari : That’s hard, there’s a lot. Yak comes with it boy. It’s so many Yak songs that slide, I don’t even know. I could say the best album, a body of work. Probably Lil B.I.G. Pac. If not that, then his Institution album or Project Baby. It’s a lot, it’s so much. Dying to Live: “Testimony,” “From The Cradle”… that boy Yak be coming with the heat for sure.
AllHipHop: I feel like Florida has been having a moment in the rap game.
Lil Kari : Definitely, we coming real hard. Florida definitely has some stuff coming, we’re coming like Atlanta. We’re the new Atlanta. We’re becoming the mecca for this.
AllHipHop: How’d it feel hearing yourself back?
Lil Kari : Hearing myself back, “hold on, that boy slides!” When I first heard me on the track, I said “okay, that b#### hard low key.” Everybody in the studio said “damn!”, because I had freestyled it off the head. I didn’t expect to rap when I went there, this isn’t my session. They said “boy you slide!” That b#### definitely became pressure.
AllHipHop: What was the inspiration behind your name?
Lil Kari : From my actual name, I just put lil in front of it, KarI is a variation of my first name.
AllHipHop: Why are you the “DOWN SOUTH BABY”?
Lil Kari : “Down South Baby” is one of them records! It’s good. You can hear it in the song, it’s going crazy. It’s showcasing down South and where I’m from. It gives people a different perspective. Most of my music, you’ll hear perspective. I tell a lot of stories in my music. When I’m telling people about my life, what I go through on a day to day basis, what I went through on my down South experience, it’s different types of perspective you’ll hear. It’s doing real good, I’m getting a lot of feedback. A lot of people are messing with it down here in Florida.
AllHipHop: Bring us back to when you shot the video.
Lil Kari : It was a good day, but certain stuff doesn’t go the way you want it to go. All in all, the video was lit. We definitely made it happen, it came together the way it’s supposed to. There’s always going to be hiccups, but definitely lit.
AllHipHop: Was that all your family in there?
Lil Kari : Not all of them, but my grandmother, my cousins, and my little sister.
AllHipHop: Highlight from shooting that day?
Lil Kari : The best one in that video was when we went to the park. We went to Oswald Park, from park to park shooting content. Everybody was showing love, people came out for me. All in different cars that came out, everybody that came into the video, but the best part is when we went into the park.
AllHipHop: What’s Rod Wave’s influence on you and your art?
Lil Kari : Rod Wave is a big influence as far as Florida period. Rod Wave grew a melodic sound that a lot of people didn’t hear from Florida artists. He really paved the way for melodic rap, he made a lot of people want to do that. Rod Wave’s gonna make that sad music, that pain music you’re going to feel. That’s why I say “I get in my feelings, Rod Wave is what I’m playing.” That’s really what we on.
He definitely was an influence as far as melodic rapping. I was always a melodic rapper, but he’s the one that brought it to light out here. He’s definitely a big influence in every album. I get that comparison a lot with him and Kodak, but I’m trying to be in my own lane. I respect it though.
AllHipHop: That’s a compliment!
Lil Kari : Yeah it’s a compliment but when you’re an artist, you want to be your own person. I respect their craft, they definitely know what they’re doing.
AllHipHop: How’d it feel to land your song on ESPN?
Lil Kari : It feels good man, that’s really one of the big significant factors that played into me moving as an artist. Shout out to them boys at ESPN. It’s definitely a good feeling especially since I’ve been working so much. When you finally see the pay off and where it goes, it definitely gives you a good feeling at the end of the day. I’m actually moving and progressing a little bit!
AllHipHop: What was your reaction?
Lil Kari : To hear it in real time, wow. I was in the studio when I first heard “Stressin,” it was on the drive. When I heard it, dang that’s crazy! That’s me. This ain’t no TV show that’s local or nothing, it’s the real deal. It’s national TV. I was shocked like “wow that’s crazy,” we moving forreal. It definitely was an eye-opener to keep going.
AllHipHop: How much of a role does TikTok play in your career?
Lil Kari : TiktTok’s definitely a big factor, it makes me who I am. I first started out on TikTok doing pranks and reactions, now I had to transition into music as well. TikTok’s definitely a good factor for me and my audience and I definitely appreciate all the supporters who make everything possible as far as the people who tune in to what I got going on. TikTok’s definitely a big factor because it helped me move at a greater pace than a lot of other people when I gained an audience. Gaining notoriety with things I was doing, people said ”oh okay, he’s funny.” They start seeing I have music, they said “let me check him out just because he’s funny or his content.”
That’s when you translate into “oh okay, this joint raw!” It just so happened when I did “Down South Baby,” I had put a snippet on TikTok. The snippet got 100K views and almost 20K on instagram. I said “okay, they want this.” This was back in April before I even dropped the song, 2 months before I dropped it. When I finally came with the record, it was June 22nd I dropped the music video. I started promoting. I did different things with my mama, getting her reaction got a million views. It started driving the streams up. The music video was going at a constant pace because it was already high demand going with the song. That’s why I dropped it, so dropping the music video was only up from there. The video has passed 114K views on Youtube after a month.
AllHipHop: How does your mom feel?
Lil Kari : She feels good. We’ve been working so much, doing different trips. She definitely sees it. She likes the pay out, she’s here for a ride. I was featured in King Cid’s talent show video in Broward, he’s a Youtuber down here. Shout out my boy King Cid, he’s always showing love.
AllHipHop: How was that whole experience?
Lil Kari : It was good, the experience is dope. King Cid and his people always come with good energy. I had performed at one of his events a while back, he hit me up for the talent show so I said “cool.” It was all g. Everybody was showing love, people were definitely tuning in. Definitely a fun experience so y’all go watch that. It’s a talent show he did at Broward, we all went crazy. It definitely was a dope experience to be in.
AllHipHop: How’d you find your way to Steve Rifkind’s new label, Spring Sound?
Lil Kari : Steve found me through Alex, his son. Alex heard my music about a year ago now, through my uncle. My uncle sent him one of my songs. He didn’t even tell him he’s my uncle because my uncle used to train Alex in basketball. He knew Alex was into music so he sent it to him. Alex said “who is this?” He said “that’s my nephew.” They set up a call with me and we talked, it was up from there. That’s when I met Alex’s dad when I went to LA, we had talked it out. He’s telling me about the label he might start, he wants to continue because of his dad. That’s how I got introduced to everybody. Me and Steve have been locked in ever since, making music. He signed me to the label and here we are.
AllHipHop: What’d it mean performing for Master P?
Lil Kari : It was dope man, that boy Master P showed mad love. Me and P had a one to one conversation before I even performed for him. Talking about all different kinds of stuff: NFTs and cryptocurrency. He’s definitely knowledgeable, he definitely showed love. Shout out to P, it was a dope experience. It was fun. It’s in the moment, you can’t recreate stuff like that. It taught me a lot, he definitely taught me a few things I didn’t know. P one of the biggest people in the industry period, when it comes to music, just a businessman. To be able to pick his brain was unmatched.
AllHipHop: You graduated college already?
Lil Kari : Yeah, before I graduated high school. I’ve always been ahead academically. When I was in middle school, I was doing high school classes. When I went to this school and did this program, I was doing college while I was doing high school. I graduated with my Associates then 2 weeks later, I got my diploma for high school.
AllHipHop: You’re heading to Florida A&M University in the fall on a full academic scholarship. What are you studying?
Lil Kari : I’m planning to study Business. I’m going to FAMU in the fall. I plan on studying Business, doing a minor in Marketing and Sports Agency.
AllHipHop: Being only 18, what do you like to do for fun?
Lil Kari : Me personally, I like to chill. I like to vibe, I like to make moves. I never like to feel I’m in the same place. Personally, kick it with my dawgs. Rap obviously when I’m doing it, but I be chillin’. Go out with my dawgs, get money and have a good time.
AllHipHop: What are those convos with Tory Lanez?
Lil Kari : I had met Tory at Yak’s birthday party, we’re chopping it up. I was telling him about my music. Tory had checked me out, he’s telling me he likes the music. Tory’s real solid too, he’s definitely showing love. When I got to conversing with him and he’s telling me about everything, he’s telling me “keep it going, stay consistent, and you’re bound to make something shake.” He’s telling me the music was there, you gotta stay consistent and make sure they feel you on each track. That’s what I’ve been doing. Tory was definitely spitting game and knowledge, definitely some good conversation between me and him.
AllHipHop: What can we expect next?
Lil Kari : Next I should be having a record out called “Glock in the Party.” Stay tuned for that, you guys can follow me on @likari_36 everywhere.