In spite of the 75 degree weather, Kahj walked up with a beanie and a crooked smile. She exudes the same confidence in person that she portrays on wax; though she probably stands around 5’4”, it feels like she’s the tallest person in the room. About five minutes in, John, our photographer, pauses after taking a photo and says, “You know, this would look really sick with a blunt.” Without hesitation Kahj replies, “I’ve got a backwood in my backpack” and starts rolling up on top of her skateboard. Throughout the shoot she stared down the camera like it’s been talking shit to her, daring it to make a move as the blunt hangs from her mouth.
Kahj linked up with Threes in May to put out Momma Bam (2017), a short but captivating tape that evokes images of sun-bleached days spent driving around LA. Kahj rhymes effortlessly on all her songs, finding the pocket in every beat and staying there for the duration of her verse. On her new single “When U Go,” she is lyrically vicious and uncompromising. The beat flips “Naked When You Come,” a song by now-defunct Danish pop group The Lollipops. When pitched down, the sample creates a surreal, dreamy mood that serves to highlight how fierce Kahj’s rhymes are. This track is a warning to all listeners: don’t cross her.
During the shoot, I asked Kahj about her music, life, and views on the hip-hop scene.
So what have you been up to, Kahj?
(Laughs) I’ve been chillin’. After I did Momma Bam with Threes, we both decided it would be a good time to start my own project, something more focused on me. The first project is really telling about a person. It’s pretty much your life up ’til then. Right now I just wanna keep putting out music, putting out songs. I’m aiming to have my project out by the end of this school year.
How did growing up in Torrance, CA influence the music you make? Where do you see your style fitting into hip hop as a whole?
Torrance… yeah. Torrance is cool. I grew up around a bunch of white kids by the beach, so a lot of my style and influence is kinda like skater, surfer, really just from LA. I didn’t see a lot of hip hop in Torrance. High school was really my biggest writer’s block, going through depression and nasty shit. I write about Torrance, but most of my music was developed after I moved up here. I didn’t really get to find myself in Torrance ‘cause it’s a really homophobic place, a really racist place. I think my style is just me; people fuck with me cause I’m just unapologetic. I’m unique, I’m different, I don’t give a fuck. I had to have that attitude ‘cause I dress the way I dress and talk the way I talk.
When you start writing, do you hear a beat and write to it or do you write your verses and try to match them to a beat?
Flow is really important to me. There’s always shit to write about, but it’s how you say it that matters. Meeting Threes helped me ‘cause I always like to hear the beat first, and he’s got a lot to work with. The only way to do a beat justice is to listen to it and give it the verse that it needs. The song’s already there, you just have to chisel it out.
How do you know when a song is finished?
(Laughs) that’s tough. I’m a perfectionist. Because of my expectations for myself, I don’t care if it takes a long time. Even if my feature did it in one take, I’ll still do my five takes. The more I do it, the faster the process gets. That doesn’t mean I’m caring less, I’m just able to do it in a shorter time.
How do you approach song order on a project?
I went through that process for the first time on Momma Bam. The theme of the project was Springtime, and we recorded the entire album in half a week. We just shut the doors on ourselves, smoked endless blunts, and just recorded. I wanted to start off like setting the scene. And then you dive in and you explore the bigger themes, and leave it kind of open ended. I wanted to end it in a thought provoking way.
What is your vision for one of your shows? What feeling do you want to leave people with?
People are shocked to see a girl onstage. I have to show I’m not just a rapper who’s good for a girl, cause I’m not. I’m good, period. The show’s gotta have a progression too, just like an album. I want to time it right. At the end of the day I want the crowd to see that this is lo-fi. I’m not pretending to be a millionaire rapper. I think a lot of rap is like a facade, and it shouldn’t be.
Tell me a little about your experience as a woman who makes hip-hop music.
I think that it’s cool, and I don’t get offended when people seem surprised when they hear me. I feel like I’m showing girls that they can do it, they don’t have to fit into a box or be a certain way. A lot of mainstream artists are really sexualized, or sound really flowery, and that’s great, every girl is different and every girl should do their thing. But there aren’t a lot of girls who are focusing more on the elements of hip hop. I focus on things that are real to me, and because it’s so relatable, because it’s so real, I think people feel it.
I wanted to ask you about a few lyrics off of “When U Go.” One of my personal favorites was the line “I’m not just gay today/I’m not your phase/Oh you’re bi bitch?/ha ha bye bitch.” Can you expand on that a little bit?
“When U Go” is about my ex-girlfriend, the first female I ever dated. I was like 13 or 14 years old, and she cheated on me, kissed some other guy right in front of my face. She lived far away, so I was excited to see her, and when I got there not only did she not care that I was fuckin’ there, she was with this other guy. At the end of the day, she didn’t know who she was. I don’t hate on all bi girls, but there’s a certain type of girl out there who tries to experiment on someone else’s time. And that kinda sucked. Growing up as a gay girl, I was really confused, and that experience just left me more confused.
What kind of releases can we look forward to from you? Any upcoming projects?
I’m working on my first EP. This will be the first time it’s not all beats from Threes. It’s gonna be a story. It should be out by the end of my senior year, and as of right now I am living the ending. I’ve also got a single coming out, “Birds.” That shit is light and refreshing compared to the last song I put out.
Written by Walker Spence
Photos by John Lawson