K. Sparks is a New York resident MC and producer who believes in putting in the work, he was a finalist in the DJ Green Lantern Freestyle competition, has his own production and song writing company Double Up Entertainment and has been nominated for a mixtape award in the UK. Check out what he had to say to our reporter Alex Humphrey when he caught up with K. Sparks recently.
Where were you born and how did your upbringing influence your lyrics?
K. Sparks: I was born in Queens New York. My parents have two different back grounds so that influenced my music a lot. My father was a Jazz player so I listened to a lot of Jazz music when I was growing up. I listened to everything from Thelonious Monk to Billie Holiday. Now on the other hand, my mother was a minister so she played a lot of gospel music. I later started listening to Hip Hop music and essentially blended all of those elements into one style. My music is very eclectic as a result of that.
I read that you always knew you would be a rapper even when you were a kid. How did you get into rap?
K. Sparks: Rapping for me is something that is internal. In deeper terms rapping is an innate nature for me. That means it is something that I know I am meant to do. Everyone has a purpose in life, and everyone knows their purpose because you feel it. I actually started to freestyle when I was younger because I liked the competitive nature of it. After a while I began to start writing my rhymes on paper, and from that point I started to create concepts around my words. But I really credit freestyling for a lot because that was my foundation at the time.
Where did you get your name from, and does it have a specific meaning?
K. Sparks: I got my name from other artist I use to freestyle with in my neighborhood. They would always want me to start off the freestyle cypher so they would say "yo K spark it up". Since my government name begins with a K people started calling me K. Sparks. The name stuck and before I knew it cats were calling me that name more than my government name (laughs).
Who were your idols when you were young?
K. Sparks: My idols growing up were real artist such as Ras Kass, Nas, and of course 2 Pac. I was amazed that these artists were able to say what they want, but they were still able to maintain a certain level of substance with their music. I feel sorry for this generation due to the fact that a lot of the rappers they are forced to look up to are not idols. The rappers from that era were able to command respect on the microphone without doing some silly ass dance, or rapping about some non sense. We need more artist like that nowadays.
What was the best advice when you first got on the scene?
K. Sparks: My father told me "Persistence wears down resistance". Now that I have been in this industry for a while I understand what he was talking about. This industry is grimey, full of payola, and gimmicks. A lot of doors got shut in my face, but I kept pressing on. A lot of people told me no, but I kept pressing on. A lot of people tried to scam me, but I kept pressing on. In this business you have to be determined to win. Never take no for an answer. Grind and grind harder until you turn that no into a yes. If you knock on enough doors someone will eventually open.
You were in the Final's of DJ Green Lantern's Freestyle Competition. Do you think Freestyling is an important skill for all MC's to Master?
K. Sparks: Yes. If you are an MC you should be able to freestyle. Freestyling keeps you on your toes for combat. There are a lot of MC's in this game that want that number one spot. And when they don't get it they get upset. A lot of times they hate on you because of the success that you generate. As a result of this you have to be able to take off somebody's head lyrically at the drop of a dime. Lyrically I've cut off a few heads already (laughs).
You have performed at many events. Do you like performing live and what was your best gig?
K. Sparks: I love to perform live, the energy from the crowd is my high. I tend to feed off of their energy. I like to utilize a lot of crowd participation as well as a lot of hype tracks to get the crowd motivated. My favorite show was a show that I did in CT with my artist Dave Barz. It was for The Underground Jam. Talib Kweli and Joe Buddens also performed. It was a dope experience, but I always strive to outshine myself.
How do you write your lyrics, and what kind of message if any do you try to put into them?
K. Sparks: I write my lyrics based upon my mood. I don't force anything. I get a lot of beat submissions, on average monthly I may get 100 beats. Producers hit me like "did you track to it yet? did you track to it yet?" (laughs). But I don't work like that, I write to beats that fit my mood, if I feel like writing some super lyrical song then I find a lyrical beat. If I am in a mellow mood I find a mellow beat to reflect that mood. As far as a message, I always attempt to include some sort of message because at the end of the day of the day I feel all artist are obligated to say something. I don't that any true artist can only record bullshit records all of the time. There needs to be balance. The message I try to include is a message of knowledge, and for artist as well as people to be more self aware. Also, don't be afraid to be yourself. If everyone is using auto tune, then I use no tune because I need to stand out. I refuse to follow trends.
One of your mixtapes was nominated for an award in the U.K. How important do you think mixtapes are in the industry?
K. Sparks: I think mixtapes are very important. Artists have to create a buzz in order to get noticed. If you fail to do that you will be another needle in the bunch that never gets the proper shine. 50 Cent showed how important it is to utilize the mixtape market to solidify your spot. I essentially follow a similar blue print as 50, the only difference is that my approach is digital. I attack the game from a digital perspective. I ensure that my mixtapes are all over the internet. Downloading is the climate that we are living in, so in order for artist to survive they must stay current. In business if you are not growing then you are dying. That statement applies to knowledge as well. Your knowledge has to grow in regards to what is happening around you in order for you to remain competitive.
Several of your tracks have a very jazzy vibe to them. Are you influenced by other genres of music outside of Hip Hop, if so which?
K. Sparks: Yes. I am influenced by all music, Jazz, Rock, Gospel, all kinds of music. A true artist is able to embrace and learn from all kinds of music. Music is music, I could care less if it isn't Hip Hop because as long as the music is great that's all that matters.
Who is your favourite producer that you have worked with? What producer would you like to hook up with in the future?
K. Sparks: I can't really say one producer because they all are my favourites in various aspects. For example. Pajozo is able to provide me with those soulful Pete Rock sounding beats. Moe Productions is able to give me solid mood music bangers. Kurser is all around eclectic, and he can flip any beat, but no matter what vibe it has they will always be hot. D Roof is able to provide jazzy / soulful beats too, and Big Drew always has bangers that knock, I will just summarize by saying they all are dope. A Producer that I would like to work with is Timbaland, because he does not just give an artist a beat, he is actually instrumental in making the record.
You did a track with Kid Cudi who's track Day n Nite was big on the UK scene due to a dance remix. Do you think remixes are important and who would you love to remix one of your tracks?
K. Sparks: Mos def. Remixes are important because they give the listener a new experience, not to mention it can breathe life into a song that may not capture a ceratin audience after first listen. As far as my records, I would like to hear Dr Dre remix one of my songs, I'm certain that would be a dope song.
Have you listened to any U.K. Hip Hop and if so who on the scene impresses you?
K. Sparks: I'm not too familiar with the U.K. Hip Hop scene. But I'm always open to hearing new artist and different kinds of music. I'll put that on my to do list (pulls out pad and writes down "check out U.K. Hip Hop artist").
You have been quoted as saying "Persistence wears down resistance, so you always have to pursue your vision and never waiver" what is your ultimate vision, and how do you keep from getting disheartened?
K. Sparks: My ultimate goal is to brand the name K. Sparks in the music industry. Once I obtain a major record deal (which will be very soon) I plan on releasing three albums tops and then putting out other acts. I own an Entertainment Company called Double Up Entertainment, there are other artists on my roster that I will also help brand in this industry. In regards to keeping from getting disheartened. My drive is very competitive, I do not stop, I refuse to stop, I refuse to lose, and I only accept victory. My mentality is different from most artists. Mentally I train myself the same way I train my body when I exercise. Thinking positive is work, you have to constantly work at it in order to manifest it as a part of you. Once it is manifest it becomes natural.
What have you got going on at the moment? And what will we be hearing from K. Sparks next?
K. Sparks: I have a lot of things going on. For starters I have my Manic Mondays series, on every Monday for an entire year I release an original song to the internet for free download. I am up to week 9 and the success from that alone has been excellent. To stay up to date with Manic Mondays you can visit www.Myspace.com/Ksparksmusic weekly to get the free downloads. Since September I have released 4 mixtapes already, and I will be releasing two more before the year ends (The Red Tape, and The Blue Tape). The Red Tape will be Produced By Kurser, and The Blue Tape will be produced By Moe Productions. Also, my artist Dave Barz will be releasing mixtapes as well so be on the look out for those. Major Labels have been contacting me, but they have not presented what I want. Once the appropriate situation comes along (which will be very soon) I'll let you know.
Finally in 06 you released the third album in your Future Problem Series. Do you think there is a problem with Hip Hop and what is the future?
K. Sparks: Hip Hop is filled with gimmicks. Most artist have a buzz because of gimmicks. Either they rely on big name producers to co sign their wackness so it appears they are hot, or they have Big name DJ's and A&R's backing them. Most of these artist suck and the solution is simple… K. Sparks.
By: Alex Humphrey