[updated] Exclusive UB Interviews: Meet The Gay Boys of Hip-Hop

Kevin “Kaoz” Moore is a native Clevelander and an award winning writer, actor, poet and educator. Currently residing in Minneapolis/St Paul Minnesota and manages the HIV/Health Education program for Pillsbury United Communities. In December 2006, Kevin initiated an annual World AIDS Day observance event called Silence Equals Suicide a showcase of local spoken word artists performing original works centered around HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention messages. Kevin received the National AIDS Education Services for Minorities (NAESM) Award of Excellence in Youth Leadership in 2007.

Kaoz exploded onto the hip hop scene in 2010, collaborating with numerous hip hop, pop and R&B artists from across the country. The Tyler Durden EP (Experience) , released June 2010, marks Kaoz’ sophomore solo music/spoken word effort, and was followed up by The Tyler Durden Mixtape (released August 2010) completing the Fight Club trifecta. Kaoz plans on releasing a full length concept driven album titled The Intervention in 2012.
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Talk to us about your upcoming album, what can fans expect and when can
they expect it?

KAOZ: That’s a good question and one that I’ve been asking myself a lot lately (laughs). I originally was going to try to drop my next album that was called “The INTervention” sometime in 2011 around the end of the year. But just kinda looking at my year and schedule in the summer & the projects I have going on and things I’m most likely looking to push it back for sometime in 2012. Plus a lot of people are dropping this year that had planned on dropping last year. So it’s just going to be a lot of people dropping new releases. So I just want that to be able to ride out before I drop. Plus believe it or not people are now just kind of picking up on the first release as well as the EP, so now I’m starting to get sales. So I’m gonna take this year to really get in touch with my fans and do some touring. I’m still going to be dropping songs, like once a month to keep myself relevant and my name out there. But the project, I’m not gonna rush it.

Whats gonna make this one different then your previous releases?
KAOZ: This one is going to be more of a concept based album. Where as the last one, you can see how the songs flowed together but at the same time none of the songs had anything to do with the previous one. This one is going to flow together, kind of like The Fugees “The Score” but even they didn’t set that album up like it was a score to a movie, you know. There were things that were movie like, but it’s wasn’t a fluid thing.

You’ve been doing alot of touring lately, I watched a video of a show and you was gettin it in (laughs). What can fans expect from a Kaoz show?
KAOZ: Thanks (laughs). They can expect me to give them a lot of energy; you know what I’m saying. Even if I’m sick, not in the mood or whatever it may be, I’m always going to give them alot of energy. Even though they say I look like him in the face, they use that Kirk Franklin thing on me when it comes to my performances (laughs). Even my aunt use to say that before she passed away, like you be jumping around the stage like that lil Kirk Franklin man (laughs). I try to connect with the audience and I’m going to be sweating, that’s the kind of show I’m always going to give.

What else do you have coming up?
KAOZ: There’s an organization at the University of Minnesota, it’s a Men’s group for gay and lesbian called “Something is Hiding.” Some of the members were in “Fierce Love” and they wanted to remount the show for Black History Month. So next Saturday (February 26th) at the U of M. I’ll be in Boston, the end of March for a show. Hispanic Black Coalition: It Takes A Village. It’s based around us who work with or around HIV prevention. It’s a round table discussion with performances after. In April I’m at the South City Café in Minneapolis performing. Some other things coming up not 100% confirmed yet. And I’m going to be doing a lot of stuff with my crew here in Minneapolis this year!

Whats been your biggest accomplishment?
KAOZ: Wow, that’s kinda hard (laughs). I’ll say some of my biggest are the impact I’ve been able to make on HIV prevention here in Minneapolis as well as other markets. And just the fact that I got up this morning you know. After so many things and I’m still moving, still trying to be something better and I’m trying to get there. So my biggest accomplishment is getting through each day with God and my parents love and people who genuinely care about me. Sometimes we’re around those who don’t really care about us, but when you have people who really do care; you’re blessed and God protects you.

[listen] to KAOZ!

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Tim’m T. West – author, poet, activist, lover, freedom fighter, professor, emcee, freestyler, vocalist, edutainer, tease, father, big brother, publisher, friend, papa bear, curator, scholar, raptivist, public intellectual, spiritualist, house-head, and, and, and…

Tim’m T. West is a poet, emcee, scholar and the author of three books “Red Dirt Revival”, “BARE”, and “Flirting”. A graduate of Duke, The New School, and Stanford universities, he is also co-founder of the now defunct rap group DDC. Tim’m followed their success with three solo projects, “Songs from Red Dirt”, “Blakkboy Blue(s)”, and the 2009 release “In Security: The Golden Error”. He also created and hosted the “Front Porch” Spoken Word/Soul/Hip Hop showcase in DC, Oakland, Chicago, Brooklyn, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and various U.S. Colleges and Universities. Tim’m also appeared in Byron Hurt’s “Beyond Beats and Rhymes”, Alex Hinton’s “Pick Up the Mic”, and is featured Mario Van Peebles documentary “Bring your “A” Game”. Though Tim’m currently resides in Houston, TX where he is Program Coordinator at The FUSION Center of St. Hope Foundation, he has also been a Visiting Lecturer in Ethnic Studies at Humboldt State University in Northern California. He recently accepted a position as an Adjunct Professor in Philosophy at Houston Community College.

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Are you working on any new music right now that fans can look out for?
Tim’m T. West: I’m working on a couple of projects, one is a project I started back in the fall it’s called UnEarth, it’s actually a collaboration with me and a guy by the name of Osiris. We decided that we wanted to do a clean project, something that will be political and activist oriented. We’ve done a couple of songs, one is about global warning and our environment issue. There are a lot of topics that don’t get touched on about the economy. You don’t hear a lot of green Hip-Hop, yet I think it’s a movement that people are starting to respond to. We always hear a lot of the same topics generated over and over again like there isn’t anything else to talk about, so why not. Then I’m also doing something with Lester Green and I’m working on an aggressive Hip-Hop project with a brother by the name of Calculest. That’s gonna be a little different more along the lines of battle rapping; let’s get em style (laughs). There was a song on my last project called “Alone Again” which was a response record to a diss record. Which funny enough I put it on my album as a bonus track because I’m not really a battle rapper. That’s not what I do, but when someone comes to me, I can do that. It ended up being one of the most popular tracks on the album. So I think people want to hear more of that from me. But it’s not a whole project like that, we’re coming in the sense like we’ve been ignored as lyrical MC’s too long. So it’s kind of a diss to the industry in a way of like, hey ignore this! I like the collaborative projects it’s really a twist and a different voice. He’s a really aggressive MC, so I can’t be Mr. Nice Guy (laughs). It’s going to force another side of me that nobody has ever heard from me on a single project. I’m excited about that and it’s actually most likely gonna be done before the “Unearth” project by the fast pace that me and him work.

After doing so much from music to books, what’s been your biggest accomplishment that’s made you the proudest?
Tim’m T. West: It’s hard to pick just one. I would almost have to say, my work with BBC is very important social wise. I think of a lot of MC’s that have come up in the game are so much more talented than when we started doing stuff. We were like anybody that is willing to say they’re gay and rap come on (laughs). As a result it led to a lot of people contributing to the landscape of Hip-Hop who was out. There were a lot of people who were “contributing” that I didn’t really like as far as their lyrical ability. You couldn’t really be picky, if they were willing to do it and say that they’re gay and it’s like fine let’s work with them. I think the benefit of the game now is that there are a lot of MCs out now that can rap with the best! And I don’t mean with gay folks but people I like to listen to in general. I love KAOZ’s work, Last Offence, Bry’Nt, Sonny Lewis, Bone Intell, all of them really bring it! There are all aspects of course, but I really like lyrical Hip-Hop, I’m not as big of a fan of entertainment Hip-Hop. That doesn’t mean I don’t support them or wouldn’t do shows with them. But I like to listen to a good punch line, I don’t necessarily want to listen to something that beats me over the head with gay, gay, gay! I think that’s because I’ve been in this scene for so long. I don’t need that reinforcement. If it happens to come up in a song, I’m not gonna run from it but I’m also not going to try to push and force it either!

Tell us about “Hearts Break Open” and the song you composed for it?
Tim’m T. West: It was brought to me by a friend who does a lot of photography, video direction and small film projects. He was working on a film project and said since we’ve always wanted to work together would I be interested in doing a song for this film. It has to do with a man of color who finds out he’s HIV positive and how he has to deal with life after. As someone who’s been living with HIV for 13 years, that’s an important message. People in Hip-Hop need to know there are rappers out there who are positive. I’m one that has been on the forefront of that and I’m kinda surprised more people don’t do more with that. We need more than people doing shows and saying wear a condom, then doing a song about hitting it raw 10 minutes later (laughs). We need couscous people who can be an example on how we can deal with this on a day to day basis. So the single is out, I shot a video for it, but it’s not on an album. People keep asking, but it’s really just out to promote the movie. Which will be out this year. I do wanna put it on something, being that I’m not working on a solo album til later this year, but we’ll see!

You graduated from DUKE, what was your goals when you first graduated and when did they if at all shift to what you’re doing now?
Tim’m T. West: Yeah, it’s interesting because when I left DUKE I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I applied to Law school and Grad school and had gotten in but I wasn’t really confident that was something I really wanted to do, so I took sometime off and went to Grad school in NY and that’s when things started to shift a little. I started doing more of the spoken word, poetry and Hip-Hop stuff you know. And even then it was something I did on the side, it wasn’t my main get up. It wasn’t til I contracted HIV while working on my second masters in California, that I was like you know what; I’ve always done this thing on the side so let me do it for real. At that time my health wasn’t that great and honestly I didn’t know how much time I had. My thing was if I’m going to go out, what do I want to be remembered for? Is it gonna be doing a philosophy book that about 2% of the population can understand or take these ideas I have and put them into an entertaining form. That speaks to people and makes them feel empowered. I rap and sing and I just want to put these ideas I have into something. It ended up being such a great thing I didn’t even finish the PHD I was working on (laughs). People ask me do I wish I would of finished and I say not really, because I think I’m able to help more people with my music. And it’s led to a lot of great things for me like Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes, Mario Van Peeples recent Bring Your A Game. I think fortunately I have been one of the guys on the gay side that has been respected by a lot of the straight Hip-Hop personalities. From opening for Biz Markie to being on a panel with Talib Kweli, things like that. A lot of artists on the gay side haven’t had those opportunities yet, but I think it will happen. Part of it is you can’t just be a “gay” rapper, you have to be a really, really good rapper. And have topics and things not just related to your population, because you know what I’m gonna say this. Black gay folks, don’t support black Gay Hip-Hop artists. So if I was looking for them to support me, I wouldn’t have a career. I have to realize there are white people who appreciate what I do and straight kats that do. I bond with the people that are feeling me. They don’t play our stuff in the clubs (laughs).

You’re currently a professor in philosophy at Houston Community College, how rewarding is that for you to be able to teach young adults philosophy?
Tim’m T. West: My favorite rapper growing up was KRS one. I think one of the first times I even heard the word Philosophy was from him, a rapper. So it’s no coincidence that I took up the field of study in college and continue to find that place where the theory meets the street: TuPac and Machaivelli, JayZ and Dyson, Cornel West and Kanye West. Philosophy is just a way of encouraging critical thinking in a society of mass production where people are encouraged not to think about what lyrics are saying… to be drawn to what’s popular instead of what is truly “good”. I especially appreciate that as a Hip Hop Scholar who is a Hip Hop artist, I get to bring a very interesting and dynamic understanding to philosophical topics. I can forsee a day when we begin to talk about Hip Hop philosophy as a serious area of theoretical inquiry… Some got street cred, I got academic credits. Real for real (laughs).

[more on] Tim’m T. West

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