In this weekly column, RFT Music gets to know local creatives, musicians and their missions. Get a slice of the local scene, complete with a snippet of sound and info about upcoming releases and shows. Stick around to see what St. Louis artists have to say whenever they Fill in the Blank.
"We're basically learning from the pioneers that started this thing, and becoming engineers going through things in life," says hip-hop artist KD Assassin. "What we do can be called 'street-hop,' meaning it's good music with an edge.... It's positive music -- intelligent, intellectual conversation with a message."
Recently, KD Assassin and fellow emcee Jah Orah released a music video for "It's Not the Same," a song that their producer Stephen King, a.k.a. InStrumenTaL jokingly refers to as "some kind of unintentional manthem." Prince Ea directs the video, which also features Orah and KD's counterpart, MC923. Assembled on the spot in the studio, the song tells the story of each artist's individual relationships and frustrating realities in one seamless song.
"I wanted my son to hear his father's story about what happened to him and his mother.... It just seemed like the best idea to get that out of our systems, period. In doing so, it ended up being something most the population can relate to. I believe that song is timeless -- never going to be whack or old," says Jah Orah, adding that their teenagers offer brutally honest opinions about their work. "If my daughter says it's not hip, then it's not hip."
KD Assassin got the primary part of his alias from his grandfather, endearingly nicknamed "KD" after a beloved Coupe de Ville. Jah Orah, on the other hand, received his prefix from joining the Rastafari movement. He'd later find that "Orah," an acronym of a name given to him in youth, means "light" or "candle."
KD and Orah grew up seeing the natural progression of music during the golden age of hip-hop -- KD, a native of St. Louis, and Orah with roots in Los Angeles, starting out as a dancer and freestyler in a long-standing open-mic workshop called Project Blowed. After moving to St. Louis in 2008, Orah met KD and they wrote their first song of many together.
The duo's songs carry a conscious undertone, even in the thick of it. Influenced by everything from dancehall and reggae to old-school soul and R&B, the group refuses to stagnate, working with multiple producers to keep a fresh canvas on which to drop knowledge.
Live, their sets often come in high-energy seven-minute spurts. The creatively-glued snippets of songs get assembled like a rapid-fire mix-tape, filled with hyped and teased hooks to always keep the audience guessing.
Look for current tracks via Digital Dynasty series mixtapes hosted by Cappadonna, and stay tuned for an appearance from the two in Cronies, a Michael Larnell/Spike Lee film to be released later this year. Jah Orah and KD Assassin will also release a collaborative album titled Used to be Darrick & Bobby on Systematic Muzick. Get a taste of what's to come by checking out the video for their single, "It's Not the Same," below.
We invited Jah Orah and KD Assassin to "fill in the blanks." See what they had to say on the next page.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.