Kids Like Us: Life gets weird
Courtesy of the Artist
Rappers Eli Fhima and Sam Wayne were friends many years before they created Kids Like Us, adding classmate Lizzie Fontaine as their third member and vocalist. In fourth grade, they were the sound technicians for their elementary school play. In eighth grade, Wayne's family moved to Florida so his father, who suffers from MS, could be in more comfortable climate. At the time, the two were interested in punk rock. Then, after discovering Rhymesayers, Fhima's love of hip-hop was born.
"We were chillin' in Florida for a week, and I introduced Sam to the art of freestyle," Fhima says. "He was really dope at it." After leaving Florida to return to Minneapolis, Fhima and Wayne began writing rap verses over the phone. "That was the summer when I didn't go out once. We would just stay up all night on the phone, talking and writing with each other," says Wayne.
Courtesy of the Artist
The two decided to start a group, considering KIDS as an acronym. Instead, they settled on Kids Like Us, a term they say reflects the fact that everyone can relate to them. "It's not geared towards only younger people," says Wayne. "It's for kids of all ages- even the ones that are a hundred years old. They're still kids at heart."
"It's a phrase that everyone can relate to because it symbolizes the idea of everyone's inner kid," says Fontaine.
The trio have invited Gimme Noise to an exquisite late afternoon lunch at Faces, in St. Paul, where Fhima's father David Fhima is executive chef. As we sit sipping our drinks, chef Tyler Drake is in the kitchen preparing us an impressive spread. Sun is tentatively shining through the clouds, and it seems as if spring may actually be here to stay. Fhima, Wayne and Fontaine are all smiles, and rightly so. They are releasing their much-anticipated full-length, When the Going Got Weird, this Thursday at the 7th Street Entry.
Fhima and Wayne met Fontaine at Hopkins high school, where the three were students. Before a performance, the two were looking for a vocalist to sing a hook they had written for one of their songs. One of Fontaine's friends suggested that they give her a chance. "We got her on stage and she killed it," Fhima says. "The energy and the vibe were so right."
"I remember it so well, standing in a huddle trying to learn the hook," Fontaine says. "Once I got to go into the studio and record with them, my mind was blown. It was the most exciting thing."
Kids Like Us are firm believers in the power of thought and the simple fact that hard work and perseverance yields favorable results. They are also well connected, and have had destiny on their side often along their journey. Fhima's brother, who is a former booking agent at the Fine Line, helped to put them on the stage in their early days. "He opened a door that we were knocking on," explains Fontaine.
The 20-year-olds have already had the opportunity to share the stage with established artists like Tech N9ne and Toki Wright. They also recently revealed that they will be performing at Summer Set.
Drake interrupts their reminiscing to serve us an appetizer of soft shell crab on a potato gallette, with a New Orleans-style sauce. It has a smoky, savory flavor. Everyone pulls out their phone to start documenting the meal via Instagram. Wayne starts chanting, "Instagram, monster jam," in a parody of those ridiculous "monster jam" commercials that used to play incessantly on the radio.
Courtesy of the Artist
Since high school, the trio's lives have moved in quite different directions. Fhima and Wayne have decided to take a break from school, focusing intently on their music careers. "Sam and I see each other ever day," Fhima says. Fontaine is a full-time student at Augsburg. "They always call me the 'Mom' of the group," she says. This lunch date, in fact, is the first time the three have all been together since May Day. Despite their different paths, much time and love was put into creating When the Going Got Weird.
"I feel like the best times we put a song together is when we all have a really good idea of what we want to say," says Fontaine. "We all meet somewhere- because we all have really similar backgrounds, and interesting ways that we intertwine- but our best songs happen when we're not all writing in the same room at the same time. I like to isolate, and come back and finish the song."
The album tackles a variety of universal topics. "Empty Egos," a track on the album, discusses one of Fontaine's failed romantic relationships. "It's talking about how my love and my openness was so there, and present, and you didn't believe in that with me and it drifted because you didn't fall in with me," she says.
"We do talk a lot 'bout drugs on this album," says Wayne. "I've experimented with drugs, and I'm often surrounded by people involved in drug culture. We discuss it on this album." Wayne and Fhima are open with their experimentation, while Fontaine asserts that she doesn't experiment herself.
"At our age, there is a lot of drug use going on," says Fhima. "So yeah, there is a lot of drug content in the rap, but that's just what we're seeing." He makes references to the rising popularity of EDM culture, which Kids Like Us DJ Beak Nasty is deeply enmeshed in, and the close relationship between this culture and drug use. His openness is refreshing, and also a somewhat frightening reminder of the state of youth culture today, especially in some music circles.
At this point, we're all enjoying a ridiculous amount of incredible food: sea bass with saffron risotto, lamb tangine, seafood tangine, and a grass-fed burger. Our Instagram followers are becoming increasingly jealous. Jokes are passed that this interview should take place more often. The kids continue to get more deeply into the content of the album.
"My solo track, called 'Good Morning,' is about trying to start over," says Fhima. "It's about finding love for yourself." The song talks about his brother's drug use. "That's my favorite part about the album," says Fontaine. "There's so many dark topics, but it's really real, and there's a huge optimism behind all of the themes. The point is that life gets weird. The going gets weird. It's a process, and it's art."
"We call it weird," says Fhima. "We don't call it tough." The concept originally came from the Hunter S. Thompson's line: "When the going got weird, the weird turned pro." For Kids Like Us, this applies to the challenges of growing into adulthood: graduating from high school and integrating into the so-called 'real world,' and being faced with a world of new responsibilities and a suddenly more daunting dark side.
Courtesy of the Artist
The three seem to have learned quite a bit from the mistakes of their family members and friends, as well as their own. For their tender age, they have amassed an impressive amount of self-discovery and self-actualization. Listening to them discuss the origins of the content on The Going Got Weird, one can easily see that they all share a wisdom beyond their years.
After the album release, they will continue performing as Kids Like Us, but will also be putting time into recording solo albums. Whatever the future holds, they are clear about the bond that creating and performing together has fostered.
"We're always a family," Fontaine says, looking around the table. "You are my roots. That's an unconditional love."
Kids Like Us will celebrate their record release tonight, May 22, at the 7th Street Entry. Alex Wiley, 2 Jayz, and Nazeem open. Hosted by DJ Snuggles, with Tiiip on the decks and live art by Amo Tarvas. $5/$8, 9 PM, 18+
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