Gimme Noise spoke to her ahead of her set at the final Best Love Is Free this Saturday at First Avenue and 7th St Entry.
Tell me about your new Hologram Kizzie album. What inspired the new moniker?
Actually, Kizzie was my name before it was Psalm. Like most rappers who came up in the '90s, you had more than one name. There are people out there in some circles who actually know me as Kizzie. You can go back to my earlier work and hear me reference myself as Kizzie. It's really kind of looking to past, when making music was simpler to me mentally, and also looking to the future; that's where the "Hologram" comes in. For me, Hologram Kizzie is the wife of Hologram 2Pac. It makes me giggle.
How is this work different from stuff you've worked on in the past?
I just went with what I liked, not really worrying about if it fits certain molds. It just had to feel sonically sensical to me. There's a freedom in that. Half the songs were songs that Rhymesayers kind of didn't take to as far as sound, and half the songs are a bridge from music I introduced last year on my Free Hugs EP
. It's just a bunch of tunes that I didn't want to abandon them in away. It's me embracing some of the best music I think I've ever made, and putting it out there, and not worrying about my associations, just worrying about making the best album I feel I can make.
What made you want to take a more melodic direction with newer material?
I guess for me, coming into my own sound and understanding the kind of stuff I dig the most. Also, having a band. I started playing with live musicians last year, so being the front woman of a band helped me tune my melodic self a little bit more. I always had melodic music, but singing along was never something I was completely comfortable with. As my voice has gotten stronger and I've grown in this artistry, it's given me the ability to not be scared to do it. It's given me the confidence to go ahead and do it. I'm not a singer, but I think I have a unique voice. Some of the stuff sounds pretty cool when I do it.
There's a number of Minneapolis producers on the album. How did you choose who you wanted to work with?
It's just me having a relationship with Minneapolis. Since being signed to Rhymesayers in '06, I've come to know and love some of these cats. Lazerbeak I've known for a while, P.O.S. I've known for a really long time, Nate Collis who used to play in Atmosphere, me and him are super good friends. Also, Brandon Allday, he did a remix for me couple years back, the "Better Than My Last" remix
. For me, it was just an organic placement of these songs that I already had collected. P.O.S. came in towards the end, and he liked the song ["What A Movie"] I was doing with GodDoG, he just wanted to add some stuff to it. It was real organic, real easy. I didn't really pick them. I had these songs just kind of living my life. Putting this album together is a really a testament to the music I've been making over the years, and putting it into a cohesive project.
How did you get involved with the Best Love Is Free lineup?
I'm cool with Botzy, Sean Anonymous, all the GRRRL PRTY ladies; I'm just cool with them, so when I want to play in Minneapolis I reach out those cats and see what's possible. Upon reaching out for this Hug Life
release, making sure I play it in Minneapolis, they basically offered me this show at the Entry. Of course I was down, it's a great lineup
. I'm looking forward to playing this new material for everybody.
You're doing some mentoring and recording in Haiti. How did that come about?
I run a mentoring program here in Chicago called Rhymeschool
. Basically a friend of the program approached me with the opportunity to do what I do here in Chicago in Haiti. I'm going to go over there and mentor some youth, and I'm also going to make some music with local artists out there. Even before the earthquake, Haiti is very torn up post-war. It'll be very interesting to be able to help by doing what I do. I think its important for people to understand that art and education, those are very powerful things. I kind of combine those in my life, and it becomes a really great opportunity for not only for the kids but for me as well. I personally, one of the biggest things I want is for people abroad to see a female MC from America that is different than what they see. It's cool for me to show that. Whenever I'm able to do that, I'm on the plane.
How did you first get involved with Rhymeschool in Chicago?
I was living out in San Francisco, and I was mentoring with America Scores, an after-school program that provides poetry and soccer. I was an instructor there, and I kept getting approached to do different and more music-leaning programs. Through that I got the opportunity to work with [the] ASCAP songwriter residency, which kind of snowballed into the Child Support album I came out with in 2012. That was an effort through America SCORES and ASCAP. So after going home and seeing that Chicago needs stuff like that more than anybody, I was actually approached by Mike Simons who runs the Intonation Music Workshop
here in Chicago to be a part of his program. They have a rock band and a pop band; I run the hip-hop program, which is Rhymeschool. It was super organic. When I moved back from San Francisco, I did a show for Rhymefest and Mike Simon was there and was familiar with my work. He asked if I was interested in doing an after-school program that combines hip-hop with what they do, and I was all in.
How has that work inspired your personal art?
I think it helps me not to take it so seriously. As far as trying to come up with things to talk about and just talking about my life, being way more open to collaborative efforts, and being way more open to writing for other people and other people writing for me. I did the Child Support album
working with 9 and 10 year olds; what are you going to talk about? You need to combine a ten year old's sensibility with your own skill as an adult. For me, it was an opportunity for me to become a better writer and be more succinct in what I'm trying to say. You can't get super abstract with kids, unless you're talking about like, monsters, which we do have a song about mythical characters and monsters and stuff. That's something we don't necessarily speak on as an adult artist. So even being able to open up your imagination a lot more and talk about some of these things that kids find important, that helps anybody become a stronger writer.
Catch Hologram Kizzie at The Best Love Is Free 5 this Saturday, February 15th, at 7th St Entry. 18+, $15/$20, 8 p.m.