Klashnekoff is one of the realest MCs to come out of UK shores, and is set to take the world by storm with the release of his groundbreaking new album, Lionheart: Tussle With The Beast. Its been a long time coming, and sees K-Lash progressing from his earlier work, 2004s Sagas of Klashnekoff, the mixtape Focus Mode and last years The Foundation, released with his crew Terra Firma. We sat down with the notoriously elusive MC from Hackney, East London, to hear about his views on the world, the state of the UK Hip-Hop scene and why maintaining sanity is such a struggle right about now
AllHipHop.com: With the current crisis climate of increased gun crime in London, youve been criticised for taking your name from a Russian gun. How would you respond to your critics?
Klashnekoff: I call myself Klashnekoff because the environment Im coming from is kinda rugged, and the way I look at it, kids over here dont need to pick up a kalashnekov like you see on the news, they can pick up my CD instead and bust lyrical shots. At the end of the day, it doesnt matter what you call yourself, its about your actions. Tony Blair, George Bush- they sound like lovely names dont they? They wear nice suits but what the f**k are they doing? So to my critics, f**k you!
AllHipHop.com: You have a lyric that says can you relate to/living in this system that hates you/ and rapes you/ and strips you of dignity? Would you describe yourself as a victim of the system?
Klashnekoff: I was a victim of it, no doubt. I dont call myself Klashnekoff for nothing. There was a lot of stuff that I was going through growing up, a lot of stress. I had my moments where Id switch and bring knives to school and whip them out on teachers. Some f**ked up s**t, I aint gonna lie, I was a troubled young youth. The truth of it is, my mom used to beat me loads she was going through her own stresses. And so they put me in a boarding school that was like the last place you could go before jail. They threw all the gang members in there, all the kids that had been abused, all the kids with temper problems. And they left us with teachers that didnt give a f**k. It was run like a jail and the teachers used to beat us, I myself was thrown about a couple of times. But as far as the system goes, f**k the system, Im creating my own system, straight up and down. You cant function in the system- it will get you assimilated quickly and turn you into a happy shopper. Why do you think they made The Matrix? Theyre telling you to your f**king face.
AllHipHop.com: How did you get through all these hard times in your life?
Klashnekoff: Because I had the music I was always determined and passionate, so I got out of it. I love it so much, doing it is the s**t, its the closest thing youll get to sex or the high of marijuana, do you understand what Im saying? And when Im in a creative element and surrounded by creative people, with no outside influences, just the organic growth of music, its the most beautiful thing in the f**king world. I love it all day long.
AllHipHop.com: How do you stay so focused on it with all of lifes stresses, as well as the hardships you faced early on?
Klashnekoff: I aint f**king focused all the time, thats the truth. Life is a big humongous dutty knuckle punching you everyday. But the bottom line is you being able to enjoy that pain. Its not the problem its how a person deals with the problem. Also, music is my only option. Man used to work in Burberry, doing labouring, demolition, electrician jobs, and I did that because I didnt have to think about the job, I could just do what I was doing and get to the studio in the evening. I fall off every other day sometimes and think f**k this s**t but you just gotta keep on going.
AllHipHop.com: Do you ever suffer from self-doubts?
Klashnekoff: Thats what Im saying, yeah, of course I get self-doubts; I have bare [lots of] doubts but I dont think theyre real doubts, theyre doubts I conjure up for myself. Insecurities about certain things- and when you go and do those things, its like nothing, but youre sitting there building up a picture in your head- like what are people thinking? Theres loads of fears that can come for you but the bottom line is, at the core of me, I know what time it is, I know I can do it. Ive got the talent but its just the business ethic that I really need to get down to a T.
AllHipHop.com: Is that something you struggle with quite a bit?
Klashnekoff: Yeah definitely. Because over here in England no one dont teach you, we dont have any Roc-A-Fella or any big labels or any Jay Zs to show us the way. Were learning literally from trial and error and so Im still learning as I go along and Im making a hell of a lot of mistakes but its all about learning.
AllHipHop.com: Who influences you more, American rappers or UK rappers?
Klashnekoff: Good question. It used to be American, all day long. Ras Kass, Killah Priest, MF Doom, RZA, Wu-Tang now its Terra Firma [Klashnekoffs crew] and people like Smasher, Devlin, Ghetto, from over here. There are still a few American rappers I listen to. Right now Im pumping Nas and Jay Zs albums like its a religious prayer or something, cause theyre the only ones who are keeping the Hip-Hop that I love alive. There are a few more, dead prez, Saigon Im a Saigon fanatic- to me hes one of the truest people out there, Papoose too.
AllHipHop.com: Why do you think the UK scene is lagging so far behind the US?
Klashnekoff: There aint no infrastructure over here, there aint no labels who overstand the culture and overstand the music and where to put it and how to maximise it. They need to stop signing people for two singles and one album. These record companies are trying to bang out s**t like crack in a f**king factory, its all about figures and digits as opposed to talent. They need to start developing artists, start with pure talent and build around it.
AllHipHop.com: Your album is very political. Would you consider yourself to be a political individual?
Klashnekoff: Im just me, Im just passionate about a lot of stuff, man. I dont see it as a political album, no way. I dont f**k with politics, I just deal with reality. Man, I just express myself, express whats in my heart and express what Im passionate about and write what I feel.
AllHipHop.com: On your album you call your mothers ex the charming snake. How important do you think it is to have a positive male role model?
Klashnekoff: Its imperative. I have two sons and I always try and instil in them to be true to themselves, whatever that means. Hopefully I can help them realise their potential. One thing I always instil in my children is compassion. So many youths out there try and act tough, its like a protection mechanism- theres vultures out there and they dont wanna get eaten- so they wanna look like theyre a vulture as well.
AllHipHop.com: In your album title, what does the beast refer to, is it metaphorical?
Klashnekoff: Lifes a struggle, its a tussle. To maintain sanity is a f**king struggle right now. What the f**k is going on when theres people starving in 2007? When you can f**king fly man to the moon and do all types of s**t but you cant feed a common person? How can I explain that to my child? It dont make no sense.
AllHipHop.com: Your song The Revolution expresses an urgent need for change. What do you feel people need to change in order to move forward?
Klashnekoff: They need to turn their TVs off and get with real people, interacting again. Turn your Playstations off! All these contraptions are put there to take us away from life- the planet is our true religion, thats what I believe.