Being no stranger to hard work, the second winner of the LOUD Contest Kevin “Kaze” Thomas (pronounced Kah-ZEE) has been in pursuit of recognition since the early half of the 21st Century.
Opening up for numerous acts like GZA, The Clipse, and Dead Prez, it was only a matter of time before the door of opportunity would swing open in his favor.
Now with his half of the $100,000.00 grand prize, which he shares with Philly’s L.F. Daze[Click here to read pt.1 with L.F. Daze]; the MC who hails from North Carolina should be able to breath a little easier at night knowing that he doesn’t have to go the journey alone anymore…
iHipHop.com: Where are you originally from?
Kaze: I’m originally from Virginia, but I was raised in North Carolina… My father was in the military, so I was born on a military base in Virginia.
Once he retired from the military, we moved to where my stepmother is from when I was starting the eighth grade.
iHipHop.com: How was it like growing up there?
Kaze: It’s a different mode down South, because cats have their own way of moving around…
They’re a lot more laidback, and just as the people up North hang with their friends, down South; nine times out of ten you’re hanging with your cousin or somebody that’s related to you…
There were a lot of things that took some getting used to.
iHipHop.com: What made you first get into Hip-Hop?
Kaze: It didn’t really start for me until I was about to graduate from high school and go off to college, but I always had the love for it.
It was around my senior year of high school that I really started experimenting and having the idea that I could really do this.
I went to UNC Chapel Hill for college, and once I got on campus there were a whole squad of cats from New York, Philly, or Virginia and they were either rapping, making beats, or poets… So we made this collective called Hip-Hop Nation, and it included everyone who made beats or whatever.
We were throwing our own shows and making our own demos, and we were rocking so hard that we got the student government to give us $18,000.00 to build a studio. For UNC to give a club called Hip-Hop Nation money to make a rap studio was pretty a huge landmark at that time. Once we got that studio on campus, I think that was the last day I ever went to class… [Laughing]
iHipHop.com: [Laughs]… What gave you the idea to enter the LOUD Contest?
Kaze: I was out here grinding independently, and it was brought to my attention that LOUD.com was giving away $100,000.00 and a deal. Usually I don’t jump in contests like that, but with this one I got confirmation that it was real… So I thought to myself, “Why not jump out there, and see what happens?”
But when they picked the first ten finalists, I wasn’t in it. Then I got a call a week later saying that two people dropped out, and I was the first name on the list of people who they thought could fill in.
So from going to not even being in the contest to winning it—it’s like God blessed me man… I jumped in the contest a week and a half late, and ended up winning it… People might be skeptical about the sh*t being real, but I can tell everyone out there who’s reading this that it was DEFINITELY real, and that LOUD and SRC are about their business…
iHipHop.com: How was the experience like for you? Was it difficult at times?
Kaze: I felt like the most difficult part of the competition was the deadlines. Because the things they were asking you to complete in 4-5 days is sh*t that might take you a month to do… [Laughs]
One week was like: “Here’s the beat, make the song.” Next week was like: “Okay, you got the song, make the video.” Everything was like boom, boom, boom…
iHipHop.com: You ended up splitting the $100,000.00 grand prize with L.F. Daze.[Click here to read pt.1 with L.F. Daze] How did the judges come to that conclusion? What did they base it on?
Kaze: It was crazy because the final four had all flew to New York and met with the A&R’s and the whole staff…
We met everybody except for Steve [Rifkind]… At the meeting they told us they were going to bring back the winner, and that they would give us a call on Monday so we could be here by Tuesday…
A week goes by, and it’s Monday night, but I haven’t gotten a call yet. So I thought I was out of the game, then they called me at nine that night and asked if I could be there the next day.
Once I got there it was me and L.F. Daze left, and we met with Steve [Rifkind] individually. Then they wanted us to play our best song, and the man who singed Wu-Tang Clan, Big Pun, and Akon is sitting right there with a poker face on. Then they called us back in and said that they had a winner, but they said liked us both and wanted to give us both deals, and that we would split the money.
So me and [L.F.] Daze walked in the other room to talk about it, and we were a little confused. We thought they were trying to make us into a group, but they said they weren’t trying to do that, and they wanted to give us both the opportunity to do our thing. So we both shook on it, split the money, and we both got deals…
iHipHop.com: What’s been one of the toughest things for you to overcome so far as an up-and-coming artist goes?
Kaze: To me there’s like an invisible wall you have to break through… If you don’t have a major co-sign, or if you’re not coming in being a part of a clique it can be hard… I feel like I have the talent to be one of the best, but nobody really gives a f*ck unless it’s “Kaze featuring Lil Wayne,” or “Kaze produced by so-and-so.”
I understand how that’s part of the game now, and I can sit here and cry about it, or play the game. I’ve been opening up for cats, going on tours, and I dropped three projects independently, but it seems like it was never enough.
iHipHop.com: When it comes to the North Carolina Hip-Hop scene, a lot of people automatically peg it as an underground region due to groups like The Justus League. Is that a fair assessment to make?
Kaze: I would say in a sense that you have to pay that respect to the 9th Wonder’s, the Little Brother’s and such because they did bring the attention. Before that you might only talk about Petey Pablo, and still n*ggas might talk about that sideways… So you got to give thanks for people like that shinning that light.
But on the other hand, if cats think that’s the only thing going on down here they’re sadly mistaken… I know for people on the outside looking in, it might seem like that, but there’s a lot more going on out here on all sorts of levels. For everybody who thinks we all sound the same down here, I’m throwing their ass a curveball…
iHipHop.com: I also read that you participated in battles. Do you think its necessary to enter battles as an artist on the rise?
Kaze: I’ll put it like this: There is no part of the game that you can bypass; either you’re going to have to deal with it now, or you’re going to have deal with it later on. So when cats ask me about the battles, I tell them to get in those, especially early in your career. There’s nothing like a buzz coming from a cat that’s locked in that heat of the moment confrontation.
This level of the game right here is competitive, and if anything, you’re going to be prepared for what may come. I feel like battling prepared me as an MC, and it’s that attitude and that chip on my shoulder that I carry throughout all my songs. But if that’s your only lane, then it’s going to be a dead end road.
For more info on Kaze, check out: http://www.myspace.com/kaze1