The term ‘veteran’ is thrown about pretty recklessly within hip-hop nowadays, but in this instance, we’re pretty confident when we call Ken Masters a veteran of the highest degree – he was spitting bars when you were spitting your dummy out. Ken’s latest project sees him team up with Norwegian producer Torb The Roach as ‘BADROACHES’ to create ‘Cosmic Viking Wizard Funk’; four tracks of experimental boom-bap featuring Vikings, wizards and a whole lot of other strange imaginings from the mind of Ken Masters.
The pair are hoping to get this project released on vinyl, using a pre-order system that requires them to hit 300 orders within 60 days for the go ahead. As of writing, the project has 20 days left to hit its target. We caught up with Ken to find out more about the project and the importance of it achieving a vinyl release.
What’s the story behind the formation of BADROACHES?
Me and Torb go back a good few years. We first connected through ‘JUST JAM’, Newcastle’s biggest hip-hop event, centred around B-Boy battles and cyphers. I’ve hosted the event since day one, and Torb came over with his crew – Kakaroaches – to compete as a B-Boy. It was only years later, when I travelled with my crew Bad Taste Cru to the Kakaroaches jam in Oslo ‘Real Deal’, that we linked up again. The event was raw and gritty, there’s plenty of offshoot street cyphers and rap shenanigans! I remember walking through the streets of Oslo at four in the morning listening to Torb’s beats on a boombox thinking, “I need this shit in my life!” Not long after that Torb shared a couple of instrumental projects on Soundcloud and I think the pen hit the pad before I even knew what was happening! The rest is, well, the future.
‘Cosmic Viking Wizard Funk’ is a pretty eye-catching name, what can you tell us about the themes of the project and how the concept came together?
I think there is a strong but slightly blurred influence from the type of music that both me and Torb hunt for as record collectors. We both, as producers, have eclectic collections full of psyche, afro-rock, krautrock, prog, anything that has a groove regardless of genre. A lot of these records have a certain time travelling mysticism about them, so I guess that might be the starting point.
But when I heard the beats, I already had an idea of the direction I was going to go in. Once I started writing I found the words balancing between some straight up ill Viking shit and some outer space contemplative mystic shit. The title came soon after that, and SUNE (the artist behind the cover piece) completed the vision perfectly with his interpretation. But the overall concept of the project is unity. I knew I wanted it to be held by the three labels that I am affiliated with, and who I love the individual vision of. So, Northentic, Ill Prepared and Killamari have come together on this to co-release it, something I feel really blessed about, and something that fits with the international collaboration, the cross-arts presentation, and lastly the combination of two like-minded crews to create the name BADROACHES.
Where do you find the inspiration when writing such out of the box lyrics?
I’ve been doing this for a long time. No offence to anyone else who’s been in it for a minute, but I’d get bored with myself if I was spitting all this predictable, generic shit that people do by default. Don’t get me wrong, I love what’s coming up from the next generation right now, but I think when you get to a certain point, where you’ve been writing rhymes and playing with words, and having experiences, and living life, you reach a certain understanding of wordplay that is next level. It sounds arrogant, but that’s how I feel. I have a relationship with language and rhythm, and I guess that what makes me an emcee rather than a rapper.
You’re well known for spinning vinyl, so how special is it for you to finally have your own music immortalised on PVC?
Well, it’s not out yet so let’s not jump the gun. This is a pre-order project that requires a certain number of orders to make it a reality. SO GET SOME BADROACHES VINYL IN YOUR COLLECTION! Aside from that, vinyl is a very important part of my life and has been since I was very young. To me, it is the only real format that can best portray a music a release as a sensory experience. Digital releases only engage your ears. Vinyl will stimulate all your senses. The look, the feel, the smell, the sound and, er, the taste (don’t eat records, it’s a waste).
What’s next for Ken Masters musically? Is BADROACHES something you’re going to focusing most of your energy on now?
As an artist, I am always busy. I do a lot of community work and am heavily engaged in hip-hop education through my company ‘Knowledge Movement’. I see this as having equal footing to my own artistry, as they both rely on each other to thrive. In terms of projects, I’ve recorded a couple of collabs with people and got a load of unreleased Ken Masters tracks that I’m looking to drop at some point. I feel good about BADROACHES, and Torb has a vast cavern of spaced out boom-bap, so there will be more to come for sure. I’m also working on an international project that will be quite unlike anything anyone has ever heard, so that’s exciting. Basically, to use a popular hip-hop phrase, I “Can’t stop, won’t stop”. Peace.
By Johnathan Ramsay