Times are changing. Gone are the days when executives in hip-hop only served one purpose -- sitting in an office. Longevity comes with change, and Kawan 'KP' Prather knows this, probably better than anyone in his position. Beginning his career at Arista under LA Reid and Babyface back in the ‘90s, he represents a moment in time when the Atlanta music industry was about spearheading and trendsetting -- much like it is today, with a lot less visibility. Why? Because no one seemed to care what they were doing down in the A. That is, until the city started churning out hits from artists like TLC, OutKast and Goodie Mob. Then folks started paying attention.
With Pharrell’s cosign (the two have a 20-year friendship), today Prather heads the creative collective i am OTHER which allows him to marry his two most natural attributes: listening to the artists that have next, and brainstorming on ways to break them to the world. The serendipity of it all is his return to the DJ circle as KP the Great. His position behind the turntables has made it even easier to share i am OTHER artists with the world, even as they are introduced through established friends within the industry. “I do that at a lot of my shows,” Prather shares. “I’ll usually bring out somebody people don’t know in the midst of somebody that they do know. You can get Don Zio P but you can also get The Migos. You can get Rexx Life Raj but then you get Uzi. Or Kap G, who you may not have known, but then you get Wiz. Just to show people that if it’s dope, it belongs together.”
Here, Kawan Prather speaks on his i am OTHER arrival and just what it is that makes KP so great behind the tables.
REVOLT: 2017 was a busy year for you, for sure.
Prather: I’m just dead in the middle of my life right now. Everything is operating at full throttle, whether it’s family, my kids are moving around and in their own lives right now and i am OTHER, I’m running the music department there. Kap G, Watch the Duck, Bia and we’re working on a couple other new things like the N.E.R.D. album Pharrell’s just put out on Dec. 15.
But in that, within the last couple of years I found my space in DJing again. And luckily I’m in a place at i am OTHER where it’s a creative space so nobody’s really trippin’ on what we do as long as we’re doing dope shit. And we’ve found a way to incorporate it. At ComplexCon this year, I DJed the i am OTHER party, but we also brought out friends who would perform like the Migos, Lil Uzi, Kap G, Leikeli47, Watch the Duck, Rexx Life Raj. We had a bunch of people come out and it was just this big fun thing. It just turned our company into this fun place. Like what Facebook is for the tech world, we try to be that for entertainment.
What made Pharrell decide to bring you onboard at i am OTHER?
I think we both hit a place at the same time where we wanted to take all of the things that we learned and put them together for good. The idea of i am OTHER came about around the time “Happy” started blowing up, he was always creative. I mean, that’s Pharrell but it was like he wasn’t really in demand. We were trying to figure out how people could just kinda go in and out on someone that talented but me and him have always been consistent with our relationship since T.I. and “I’m Serious” [Tip’s first single]. In that space, he’s become himself -- the Quincy Jones of our generation -- and I’ve become me, in the executive space, successfully. But we both were bored. So we were tryna figure out how to enjoy this and help people and he had already thought of the idea like, “Let’s do this together. You’re bored where you at. Worst thing that could happen is that we create something really dope and have to make some real decisions.”
It was really that easy. And we have Mimi Valdes who runs the film and TV, and we’re all just friends who have come up in our respective industries but we’ve always had similar tastes, integrity and drive to push the culture forward. So it just made sense, because we would hang out, why not make money doing it and push the culture forward? We got Dope off. We got Hidden Figures off. It’s a lot, and it doesn’t require much other than being honest.
Hip-hop moves in waves but there’s always a pattern involved. What do you think the next one will be?
With the world moving towards a place where we have to think more, I think that the music is going to do the same. I listen to everything but even in the stuff that’s more ‘trap’ I can hear Quavo on a record with Tip talking about police brutality. So it’s like, everybody’s aware so even in having fun like I’m my own boss, people are starting to figure how to do this together. You see all these collaborative albums, you see all these people working together again, hopefully the next thing we see is a dope group that means something.
Why aren’t there more rap groups these days, you think?
Because everybody wants to be the man. Everybody wants to be the boss. Nobody wants to be told what to do and “every thought in my head in mine.” I don’t require any help. Everybody’s on their own tip, so hopefully with everything going the way it is, it’ll make people willing to deal with each other again. It makes the music different, because if you’re thinking about other people when you’re making music, the content and the substance has to be different. If I’m making a record about me at my most fun time, it might not relate to someone I know and deal with closely in my life because they don’t have the same life that I have. So it starts alienating people from your music, I would love to see people start making music for people again instead of for other rappers.
What would make you want to get involved with an artist?
I’m aware enough to know that people have to make sense in the rooms that I’m in. You have to be comfortable in a room with Pharrell as well as in a room with 21 Savage, because my access level is wide, I have to utilize that and I need artists that can utilize more because it takes the same amount of energy to break an artist whether local or international. So you wanna put that energy into someone who sees themselves as more than the coolest person in the room and enjoying that space. I want people who want to push and do more and be effective in pushing the culture in their space and the world because they can. I’m not saying everybody’s gonna do that but everybody should be trying to live up to their fullest potential.
Recently had a conversation with Jason Geter [co-founder of Grand Hustle, founder of Culture Republic] and he says that the label as we know it is dead. And when you look at collectives like Culture Republic, Roc Nation...
Don’t leave out Quality Control. Honestly, QC has done it the best to me, where the artists are themselves and the company backs their visions. It’s not so tainted with, um... It’s not always normal, and that’s a testament to tastes and awareness of how to motivate artists to want to do more. If they’re being themselves and successful at it, they wanna do that all the time and they get guidance in it. I like the fact that Coach [K] has been in the business long enough to have experiences and successes. He’s broken three of the biggest groups to come out of Atlanta so whatever connection he has with those artists, shit, that’s everything to me. And I’m looking for i am OTHER to be like that for the artists that fit our world.
You’ve returned to DJing but some remember your rapping. Planning a return to that too?
[laughs] But see, I’ve done one verse in my entire life so nah. I didn’t rap enough to even say that. I was in a group but I would make a record. I think I figured out how DJing and A&R-ing works for me, I get to go to these cities and hear new shit and introduce it to people in the other cities I go to. Almost on some outbreak shit and it’s the same thing I do as an A&R, I find new shit and try and expose it. So it kinda goes hand-in-hand. I feel like I could make a record where I introduce new people that I like but that’s after people care about me DJing.
Would you say personally, that it’s easier to reinvent yourself and come out as a DJ now?
Yeah. It’s easier now in a weird way because people don’t work that hard. If you’re really dope now, it’s the best time to be dope. If you’re dope and you have a hustler’s spirit? You can get out here and really make a difference in whatever it is you’re doing because most people are sitting at home waiting on people to come find them and like them.
But you already have your name, so to be fair...
I know a lot of people who were in the same position as me and lost their position. The average lifespan in the music business is three years. But that’s where the generational gap thing is weird to me because when I was 20, I wanted to know LA Reid based on how much he had done already so I could get that information and not end up having the same fuckups he had. I wanted to learn what worked and what didn’t work. The young kids now don’t want to do none of that, they just wanna completely... The freestyling we did was out of necessity. There were no OGs to ask. No OGs in the record business in Atlanta.
They don’t want to work for real.
KP: They wanna skip to the balling. Like, “I don’t need no process.” And the process is how I can keep DJing and as long as I do my part by being good, I can do the work part. Getting hot is a process because it’s all about consistency of the product that you giving. I’m blessed that that’s a talent I’ve been given. I know to practice so I’m good at it and by the time I show up to work, I’m ready. I know people are looking at what I do ‘cause I know that I’m me. So I had to be clear that I knew what I was doing before I got out in front of anybody. I can grow from “dope” but I gotta fundamentally be dope first. The circus tightrope part of it is that the only reason some people want to come see me, is to see if I’m wack. So shit, let it happen. Come see if it’s wack, but if it’s dope you gon’ fuck wit’ it.