Wesleyan, in recently years, has churned out almost as many rappers as it has unpaid interns. Most of these rappers are also unpaid, but recent graduates Kill-F (anon '13) and producer Mouthfeel (Dan Nass '13) have turned this paradigm on its head with Isn't it Rich? EP, where the idea of accruing wealth becomes an opaque rhetorical question. After listening to the EP I had to know what exactly "It" was to these two musicians. I sent them some questions, trying to get at the heart of their art, only to become permanently suspended in my search for meaning.
Is there life after Wesleyan?
KF: Just death.
Was there any particular vision you had while making the EP? How did the collaboration process work?
KF: For this EP, we were thinking a lot about different kinds of loss and how to reflect them through sound. Different kinds of loss and death. We worked with sonic elements that reflected this sort of thing, like the ocean and lots of drums.
DN: Kill had a clearly articulated vision for the tone and structure of the tracks, so I was often working off of his specifications. For instance, he was working on some lyrics about death and told me that he wanted the beat to be really dark. So I made a beat that was really dark, and that’s what turned into Shame On You, the opening track. The sound itself is a realization of the theme. You could rap about death over a happy beat, but that wouldn’t make sense at all.
KF: When you think about it, there are actually more dead people in this world than there are living. I’m surprised that death isn’t a theme in more works of art.
How do you compare Isn’t It Rich? EP to Very Good EP in terms of the writing process and the final products?
KF: I think we knew before we made the first EP one that it was going to have a sequel. That one obviously had a ton of fans, so we knew the sequel was going to be huge. This new one follows a pretty similar structure, like most art.
DN: The title Very Good is a statement. Very good. But Isn’t It Rich?—that’s a question. Isn’t it rich?
KF: Some of the songs on this one took well over a year to complete. Also, “Shame On Me.” the shortest song on the EP, actually took the longest to finalize. I came up with the idea for that song in a dream about a shame.
DN: And we both had to work through a lot of shame, a lot of self-loathing before we could release that into the world. That’s where the title comes from, I think.
Mouthfeel, how do you compare producing beats with making music that falls along more ambient, rhythmless lines, which you’re more known for?
DN: I’ve never really drawn strict divisions between my beat-based and ambient music—sometimes I’ll start working on a song planning for it to be ambient but then decide it needs a beat, or vice versa. I had a different name for my hip-hop producer persona when we released Very Good, but since then I’ve decided that I don’t want to have that kind of schism complicating my identity as a musician.
KF: Dan’s ambient music is kind of stupid, I think. But I like the drops. They make my head thump and my chest bump.
I hear a lot of 80s drum sounds on this EP. How conscious was the choice to invoke the feel of that era?
KF: Man, are you serious? Have you ever even heard 80s drum sounds? Did you even listen to our songs? Jesus. Do your fucking research.
DN: I wasn’t even ALIVE in the 80s. Christ, who is this guy?
KF: I hate interviews.
editor's note: they asked themselves this question.
On “Diamonds (feat. Truly Y.O.U.R.S.),” you quote the common adage “A diamond only lasts if you hold in in the light.” Who’s singing here, and what does the saying mean to you?
KF: That’s our friend P’tah of Truly Y.O.U.R.S. (he and Kimbro helped on that track). To me, it’s again about how things we love are temporary. You might have a beautiful expensive diamond, but if you’re not careful with it, you’ll break it. It all goes back to the themes of death laid out on the EP. If you’re not careful with a life, you’ll break it, and we all know what a broken life is called.
I hear a lot of different rap influences creeping into the EP, yet the final sound is so distinctly yours. What rap have you been listening to recently? How much does the music you listen to figure into the music you make?
KF: I like that most rap albums aren’t too long, so that influenced this one.
DN: Brevity is the soul of wit. Or in this case, the rap of wit.
KF: I’ll tell you what I’m NOT influenced by. Rap about happy. Makes me want to make rap about sad. It’s kind of like what Jeezy says.
How did your relationship with music change while you were at Wesleyan?
KF: For most of my time at Wesleyan, I didn’t really get music. See, music and I had a great relationship in high school. I used to spend a lot of time with music every day, and most nights. But you know how it goes. College happens, you can’t maintain what you had because you have so much going on. My relationship with music changed, for sure. It’s hard to see your relationship fade like that. It’s like, I never wanted to stop liking you--why doesn’t my heart feel the same way it did? Eventually, music and I got things to click again, but honestly, it’s never been the same. I guess I’ve always been trying to recapture what our relationship was like in high school. I guess that’s why they call it God’s Bitter Ear.
DN: Music-making has usually been a solitary endeavor for me, but I always dreamed of finding someone to rap over my beats. So I was really glad when Kill originally approached me about collaborating.
Near the end of senior year Kill and I played our only live show ever, opening for Boldy James in the WestCo cafe. Unfortunately Mr. James wasn’t around to catch our performance, but I’m still putting that one on my résumé.
KF: It’s strange to perform when no one knows your identity, as is the case with me. It makes people uncomfortable, like when your bed has no pillows.
What’s next for Kill-F and Mouthfeel?
DN: Kill just moved to Chicago, and I’m about to move to Borneo or something. As the crow flies we’ll be thousands of miles apart, but I’m not a fucking crow.
KF: We’re hoping to release our new release tomorrow.