The West Coast has certainly seen a big resurgence in Hip-Hop over the past few years. Now, L.A. native Kid Ink wants his story to be heard and his star to rise. Having released his third mixtape, Wheels Up, in October, the 24 year-old producer turned rapper has amassed over 25 million hits on YouTube and already worked with the likes of Meek Mill, Nipsey Hussle, 2 Chainz, Travis Porter, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Tha Bizness, and more.
AllHipHop.com recently got to speak to Kid Ink right before the holidays about his background, the response to his recent mixtape, Wheels Up, what he's got planned for 2012, and much more:
AllHipHop.com: What’s going on, Kid?
Kid Ink: Just chilling, man, just chilling out in Cali right now.
AllHipHop.com: First off, I want to congratulate you on being one of XXL’s nominees for their 2012 “Freshman Class.”
Kid Ink: Thank you so much.
AllHipHop.com: How does it feel to get that recognition and be going up against some of your boys?
Kid Ink: It’s definitely appreciated and a blessing. It’s something that we tried to work for, The Alumni, and we pushed it this far and definitely made our goals. So we’re looking forward to seeing what happens, making the cover, and big things in 2012. As far as a lot of the other candidates on there, it’s good ‘cause I get to see a couple of people that I’ve come up with, a couple friends like Casey Veggies and Los. These are people that I’ve worked with before, and it’s good to just see us all working again.
AllHipHop.com: So for those that may not be familiar with Kid Ink, tell the readers a little bit about yourself and speak on your transition from producing to rapping.
Kid Ink: Well, when I first started doing music around 16, I started in production and I used to make beats for a lot of my friends and people around me. One of the dudes that I grew up with was Nipsey Hussle, and he ended up landing a deal off of one of the records I produced. He brought me to New York and Sony and introduced me to different people and started building relationships. From there, I just got in different studios and got with different writers and worked as a producer and then sitting around laying on beats, and just testing the waters and writing hooks. I moved into writing my own stuff and just having more time on my hands. I guess with my image it was easier to move as an artist than it was as a producer behind the scenes.
AllHipHop.com: Have you left producing totally behind?
Kid Ink: I haven’t necessarily left it behind more than I’ve just been focusing on me as an artist, being confident and making sure that’s all together and 100 percent. I feel like production, for me, was always easier, and it just came natural and being an artist is more work, but I haven’t lost the feel for it.
AllHipHop.com: Is that why none of your own production wound up on your latest project, Wheels Up?
Kid Ink: Exactly. I feel like when you do music over your own production sometimes you put a little more thought into it, and you over think it more than when your going in over other people’s production and just let that inspire you in different ways.
AllHipHop.com: Are you producing in any capacity right now for other artists, or is 100 percent of your focus on further developing yourself?
Kid Ink: You know, when I was younger I made so many records that I have a whole catalog of production that people go through and take stuff out, but I haven’t necessarily been sitting down and working on five beats a day...I feel like for the independent album, it’s the best time to work and get that money.
AllHipHop.com: So, how was the response been in the three months since Wheels Up was released? What have the fans been telling you?
Kid Ink: I feel like the response to Wheels Up has been one of the better responses from my mixtapes. A lot of people that I guess I didn’t reach from the first two, I did with this one, and then still have my loyal fans that rock with me. At this point, we’re shooting a lot of videos and every time we drop another one, it kind of brings life back to those records and the mixtape. So everything is still rolling with Wheels Up; we’re still moving.
AllHipHop.com: You have a lot of different sounding kind of tracks on the mixtape. Is there a personal favorite among the them?
Kid Ink: I think one of my favorite records is probably “Never Change,” which I’m supposed to be shooting a video for this week.
AllHipHop.com: Why “Never Change”?
Kid Ink: That’s one of my favorite records because, not just the vibe but because the content is probably one of my most personal records where I actually tried to give people a little more insight into Kid Ink.
AllHipHop.com: I got you. Now switching gears a little, tell me how you first hooked up with DJ Ill Will?
Kid Ink: I reached out to him back when I first started focusing on being an artist and I reached out to him just to get a mixtape collaboration going and to see what we could do and what we could work out. Just off the strength and love of him hearing the music, he rocked with me and hosted the mixtape. It did its numbers and everything, and then we ended up meeting at a video shoot for an artist that we were both cool with and chopped it up, and pretty much talked about me not really being in a situation and a free agent - and him focusing on his team he was trying to put together, and we were on the same page and it just went from there.
AllHipHop.com: Now I know you’re from the West Coast but your parents are from the East, so which one do you affiliate yourself with more?
Kid Ink: I mean, I feel like I definitely affiliate myself with the West Coast; I can’t really run from where I was born and how I was raised. At this point too, I feel like the West Coast has such a strong presence right now in Hip-Hop that I just want to help and be a part of it. As far as when I was younger, I had a lot more East Coast influences just from my parents being around and being into the stuff that they were into, and they weren’t necessarily raised on the West Coast.
AllHipHop.com: Who were some of those musical influences when you were growing up?
Kid Ink: I think my first Hip-Hop artist that was just like my favorite artist and someone that I looked up to was probably Mase.
Kid Ink: From Mase it went to Diddy and Biggie, who is the best rapper to ever do it. From there, it went to Jay-Z and DMX; that was a lot of the stuff that I was listening to as a kid, but at the same time, my friends around me had their Tupac and Snoop on, so I got the best of both worlds.
AllHipHop.com: How you would explain the intense work ethic of artists from the West?
Kid Ink: I guess out here on the West Coast, a lot of things come and go and in a lot of different areas like the South or the East Coast, it’s easier to push music in the streets and just push a project. In L.A., it just comes and goes, and you’ve got to just keep working and working, ‘cause the second you stop working somebody is going to take your spot and you become not relevant. It’s all about the hunger though, and ‘cause the presence wasn’t there for so long, everyone started recognizing what they needed to do.
AllHipHop.com: So, other than riding high on the success of Wheels Up, what else are you working on right now?
Kid Ink: Right now, the main focus is trying to get a single going by the top of the year so we can try and put together an independent album that’ll hopefully be out sometime around spring.
AllHipHop.com: Well, I’m looking forward to checking that out. Lastly, I have to ask about something that’s been making its rounds on the Internet for awhile, and you must always be getting asked, are you or are you not related to Chris Brown?
Kid Ink: [Laughter] I am not. It’s something I’ve been getting since high school.
AllHipHop.com: Well, you just cleared the air officially so hopefully you won’t get asked that question ever again.
Kid Ink: For sure [laughter].
AllHipHop.com: It was a pleasure talking to you, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you have in store for next year. Oh, and best of luck on getting that XXL Freshman Class cover.
Kid Ink: Thank you, man, I appreciate it.
Download "Kid Ink - Wheel's Up" Now!
Follow Kid Ink on Twitter: @Kid_Ink