“Wordplay For Me Is A Big Thing, That’s Definitely What A Lot Of People Know Me For”: In Talks With KO

Casey Dorney

By Casey Dorney

Casey Dorney

29 Nov 2021

Hailing from Hackney, East London rap icon KO elevates with new mixtape drop ‘Fine Line’. Since taking off with a hard-hitting string of singles, KO’s memorable ‘Mad About Bars‘ appearance in 2017 instantly crowned him as one to watch followed by two highly approved mixtapes ‘This Sh#ts Ments’ and ‘Drilliam Shakespeare”. Known for his lyricism and infectious wordplay, KO stands as one of the best rappers on the rise right now. Showcasing a heightened level of versatility, constantly progressing his artistry – KO is undeniably a star in the making. لعبت بوكر

With the anticipation of new mixtape ‘Fine Line’ finally over, KO talks to Mixtape Madness on music, life and more!

Let’s get into it so, what made you want to start making music?

Just rapping with my friends from young basically, I just used to make little tunes with them and then I made ‘Like That‘ and then everyone was saying to shoot a video. Kilo Keemzo was always a big influence, he’s definitely part of the reason I started making music.

Who else did you grow up listening to in the UK?

Obviously Potter Payper. I grew up listening to a lot of man you know. Mover, Benny Banks too. So many.

Listening to those calibre of rappers, do you feel like you’ve taken elements of like their artistry and used that in your music?

Definitely, definitely. I think I take influence from a lot of people I listened to.

As a member of the 98s collective, do you feel like there’s an importance on Homerton and making that known to audiences? 

I feel that at a time where I was flagging the Homerton thing, it was needed. Everyone was just flagging their area. It was a big thing to say where you’re from. I feel like it just creates an identity. People want to know where you’re from when you rap.

At the start of your career you used to wear a mask, what decisions led up to you wanting to remove it?

At the start it was different but I just got used to it really. Taking off the mask was part of the plan really, because I feel like you can only go so far with your face hidden. If you don’t have a certified established mask like me – I just had a balaclava on. So yeah, I feel like if you don’t have an actual mask that’s identifiable to you then yeah, you can only go so far.

Some people say once the rapper takes the mask off their music isn’t the same. Did you receive any of that?

Yeah I get that all till now but I don’t really take it in. I feel like its cheesy to be honest with you. 

Was there a moment where you felt like “Wow people are actually starting to take me in”. What stage of your career – if it has been that, did you feel it?

Mad About Bars definitely. That was the biggest one for me. Well, the biggest moment anyway. I feel like that’s when I realised “Yeah it’s a rap ting”.

Quick fire question. What’s your top three foods spots in London ? 

Ahhh, I don’t really have a top three but I like STK. I don’t really know restaurants, but I can give my top 3 cuisines. I’d day say Turkish, Caribbean and Italian. Yeah definitely man.

Growing up in Hackney, there’s a lot of Turkish food places there – everyone always says it.

Because people just like going Best Kebab *Laughs*.

Well, back into the music side! When in studio what is your preferred process of making music?

I like to hear the beat first. I like to go through beats, ill choose one then after that its just writing time. With writing lyrics, I haven’t written at home for probably years you know, I used to but as I got more into music, I just stopped – I don’t know why. So now I just write in the studio. لعبة على الانترنت

Do you find it easier when the beat is there and theres people around you or do you still prefer to be alone?

Obviously when I’m writing I don’t need really talk to anyone like that, because its just a distraction. I feel like when when im writing, I just need to hear the beat over and over and over and over. Sometimes it takes hours but sometimes it’s quick. It just depends on what I’m trying to say, how im feeling – you know what im saying? Because there’s been tracks where I take hours, even days, that might take like 10 hours!

What about production? Do you prefer working with specific producers or do you not mind where you get the beat from?

I feel like I’ll work with anyone as long as the beats hard, so if you’ve got hard beats, I’ll work with you. I don’t really do the name brand thing these days – obviously there are some go-to’s who are established and they always have hard beats, so I like to work with them too.

Mainly you do Rap, which is obviously your strongest genre but do you have any plans to pave into others?

Definitely, definitely. Because when you just do one thing, it puts you in a box. That’s not what I wanna be doing basically. I feel like people want me to do that though. But I can’t please everybody.

What’s it like when you’re collaborate with people in the studio? Do you prefer going into the studio and making songs with them or just doing a verse for verse thing?

It depends man! If I know you personally then yeah, it’s a studio ting. I haven’t really done tracks with anyone I don’t know like that. If it was to be with someone I don’t know, I wouldn’t mind going studio. I like to hear the beat or the song before starting writing so I know what I’m doing. 

Do you find that you prefer to work people with people close to you because the chemistry is already there?

It’s not even a preferred thing, that’s just what I’m around. It’s just easier and the people around me are sick of what they do so why not. My favourite collaborations are definitely “9er Ting” or “Wait A Minute” – But yeah, I’m open to collaborating with others. I just gotta rate the artist, I’m not against it.

I can imagine that the music life, being around so many people who also make music must be quite enjoyable. So can you tell me one funny moment like that you’ve experience either in the studio or within music in general?

I don’t think I can put my finger on one you know, probably my video shoots or even studio session to be honest. تعليم لعبة بوكر That’s where all the funny things happen, its always in the moment you know what I’m saying? *laughs*. GoPros catch all that tho!

I saw on the groundworks Instagram page the day you made “Captain” and “Car Door” in 24 hours. Would you say that was your hardest session you’ve had?

*Laughs* Yeah I was slumped! That’s the longest time I’ve been in the studio non-stop. 

As an artist , what do you feel like you do differently compared to other rappers in the scene?

I feel like my clarity is very very good but mainly wordplay for me is a big thing, that’s definitely what a lot of people know me for. I have toooo many one-liners. In every song I do has at least one. 

You’ve dropped ‘This Sh#ts Ments’, ‘Drilliam Shakespeare’ and now ‘Fine Line’ – talk me through the meaning behind the title of the new mixtape.

I feel like that’s how I’m living right now. It sounds cliché I know but based around the whole idea of music versus road type of thing. That’s the meaning behind it.

What do you think you’ve done differently this time round? 

This tape has different types of sounds compared to TSM + DRS. Way different. The first two were heavily drill. I would say this one’s more rap than drill.

I saw that you have a collab track with R&B artist Morgan. Talk to me about how that track came about.

It’s a trap beat. I wrote a hook and sang over it, then I got Morgan to basically double over what I done for some emphasis. I feel like the songs hard, it’s one of my favourites from the tape.

What’s the end goal in your music career?

I want to be able to live off it basically – If I can live off it, I’ll be happy. I’d say to become stable from music financially would be the end goal. I’d be happy with that. Obviously, I would like to become as big as possible but even if that didn’t happen to just live off it will be alright for me.

What do you want people to take from your new tape?

I want them to take that I can do any anything. Any genre. I’ll be comfortable with it. Yeah. Just that I’m versatile, basically.

So we’re coming to the end of the interview, describe ‘Fine Line’ in 1 word.


Keep up to date with all things music on KO’s instagram here!