Updated: Jun 15, 2018
Kali Dreamer is a technicolor Columbus, OH based rapper. We got the chance to talk with him about music, his creative process, and his upcoming project.
Groupie: Tell us about yourself as an artist and music maker.
Kali Dreamer: Well, I always liked music, I played violin and flute in elementary school, but I had no drive back then. I’d just quit an instrument, move on to the next one, quit that instrument and move to the next one. It wasn’t till I was 18 when I picked up guitar and really started going super hard to make music. All because, I randomly saw this nirvana video one day and was like ‘Yeah, I think I want to do music now’.
The rap stuff didn’t happen till years later. It was something I dabbled with as a kid. But, I mean, every kid growing up was like ‘yeah ima be a rapper’, because it automatically made you sound cool or something. I would never tell anyone I wanted to be one, but behind the scenes I was always writing.
Groupie: I feel like that’s a lot of people, just having a notebook filled with all your musical secrets that you aren’t ready to tell anyone.
Kali Dreamer: See I had one, and my friends found it and read it when I wasn’t around, friend’s sister was like ‘they was reading your rhymes and making fun of you but I thought it was pretty dope’ I was like “what, I don’t even know what you’re talking about”. I feel like that’s one of the reasons I had to get good at it! I couldn’t let people think that was the best I could do.
Groupie: Motivation at a young age, just wanting to prove that you’re as good as you know you are.
Kali Dreamer: Exactly.
Groupie: When people hear Kali Dreamer what’s the first thing that you want people to think about you, what’s the first impression you hope you leave people with?
Kali Dreamer: I don’t really try to be different but I like leaving people with the idea that whatever they want to go after is possible. I was garbage at this for a long time, and whenever people see me and are like “You were so good, you were amazing” I’m like ‘This me could be you if you just don’t stop’. I know its cliché to say ‘Don’t give up’ but literally, you just have to be so irritated and upset that you can’t do that eventually you learn how.
Groupie: I feel like there’s something in peoples chest that pulls them to do something, and as long as you listen to whatever’s pulling you then you’re going to excel. The first band I ever interviewed, the lead of the band said “If you wake up every morning and something tells you to do something it can’t be wrong”.
Kali Dreamer: Unless it’s like, serial killing, then you should probably not do that.
Groupie: Yeah, then seek help, [Laughs] but if its music we’re good.
Your Soundcloud bio says guitars and bars, is that from your roots in instrumentation music, and why is that what you want people to see as their first impression of you?
Kali Dreamer: Because I really, really love guitar. I played a bunch of instruments but guitar was the first one where I immediately felt it. All my best rap songs started off with a chord progression that I just kept messing with or put on a keyboard or put in FL Studio or something like that. I feel like I have power on the guitar.
Groupie: I love that, people want to say beats aren’t instrumentation, aren’t live music, but they could be either or.
Kali Dreamer: That’s the point we’re trying to move towards with Dank and my friends Kendall and all them. I have certain songs were everybody keeps coming up to me like ‘Dude, your riffs are awesome, I’d love to hear you with a full band and I’m like ‘we’re working on it’. It’s just a lot easier to show up to these house shows with my backpack and my laptop as opposed to fifty people with drum sets and guitars and pedals and all that shit.
Groupie: So you started with physical music, instrumentation music, and you’re currently trying to incorporate that into live structuring. How do you think that it is incorporated right now just so far as recording music, or coming up with ideas? Where do you think the guitar shifts how you approach music?
Kali Dreamer: It definitely changes my flow a lot. I can come up with crazier flows but whenever I’m playing guitar… it’s definitely... like a legato effect? When you play a note and smoothly transition to the other one? Especially in my song, “Prince of Heart”where there’s strings behind it.
I don’t know what it is, I feel like its psychological but whenever I’m strumming and I just start to rap it’s like immediately the flow just kind of happens, I don’t have to consciously go ‘I’ma do this this and this’, It just brings everything together like a glue.
Groupie: You once tweeted, ‘Empathy is Counterculture’, how you take that sentiment and apply it to how you make music?
Kali Dreamer: Oh man… I remember when I said that. That’s just, to really give a shit about people is weird. Say somebody’s going through something and you take a minute to be like ‘Hey what’s going on’ people are SHOCKED, and that should not be how it fucking goes. [You] should not be surprised that people care about other people. But, as far as my music, I don’t really hold back as far as any emotion I’m feeling, even if it’s drowning in weird ass lyrics and me rapping at 200 beats per minute or something like that. When you get the lyrics you can really see there’s a lot of depression and anxiety and a lot of people connect with that. A friend that I had years ago, that I’ve always put on a pedestal actually, told me the other day, he sent me a message on Soundcloud actually, which sucks cause Soundcloud does not notify you on the phone when you get messages, you gotta go on the desktop one.
But he was like ‘I love your music a lot and I’ve been going through a lot of shit recently and I’m just listening to your music and that shit’s definitely helping me’ and it’s just like, that’s crazy. That’s intense to hear from another person, especially since most of my songs are just me yelling, screaming anime references and shit.
Music has definitely made me more approachable as a person, cause that was kind of my thing, being regular stone-faced. But as soon as I started making music people felt more inclined to open up to me.
Groupie: I feel like if you don’t make music because you feel a deep need to you shouldn’t be making it.
Kali Dreamer: Yeah it’s out of my hands at this point. It’d be a lot easier to shave my head and go get a job at some office and make twenty dollars an hour, but I’m making 10 right now, and running home with 3 hours of free time to go scream into FL Studio about depression over an acoustic guitar.
Groupie: What’s the main thing you want people to take away from your music?
Kali Dreamer: I just want people to think. People accept things the way they are and that’s because of tradition and because of the way they’ve always been. If there’s anything about my music people take away, its that you can basically do whatever as long as you’re not infringing safety, or rights as a human being.
Even stupid stuff like my hair, people are like ‘Oh, I didn’t know you could do that’ and it’s like, you can literally do that. There’s nothing stopping you from doing that. But we just kind of put ourselves in these imaginary boxes and fake parameters that keep us bound to the same line of thinking. It’s like no, there’s nothing stopping you all those chains are invisible.
My music is unique, but, I don’t think it’s anything outside the realm of possibility of things that could have been done before. The only thing stopping people from doing what I do is just the mental block about it, as opposed to like, the ability.
Groupie: Its becoming more and more common but I don’t see a lot of artists personal freedom, even in the hip-hop world it’s sometimes the one track story of be an entrepreneur, be successful, and this way. To have somebody else be like ‘Hey, success can just mean personal happiness’.
Kali Dreamer: Yeah, and that’s what’s kind of sad about it, cause raps definitely the new punk music, but at the same time it’s starting to fall into that homogenous line of thinking where everyone feels like they gotta follow the same path. Like ‘oh this dude’s doing this? I gotta do that. This dude has his hair like this, I guess I gotta do that. They just take whatever you do. It’ll stagnate if everyone follows the same track.
Groupie: What’s your number one hope for the music you put out?
Kali Dreamer: At this point I’m just tryna get noticed so I can get out of this nine to five life. I’m not tryna be rich, but at this point if I was making as much as I’m making at my day job just making music I would die content. That’s a hard question. Just be heard at this point. But also to let people know there’s more than one approach to this rap shit. Everybody ain’t gotta be doing the same triplet flow over hi-hats, there’s plenty of shit to do out there.
Groupie: Speaking of which, you have a new project coming out in July. What has been the process of making that project?
Kali Dreamer: I read a lot, but as far as me getting motivated musically it always comes from movies and books and games. I hardly ever, these days, listen to another artist and get inspired to make music. I’ll be reading a book and a line will pop out to me, or certain words.
I don’t get too pretentious with the lyrics but I’ll find a way to work in these esoteric words just cause I like how they sound. But yeah, just a lot of me getting motivated by reading books, and then that becoming concepts. I’ll play around on guitar and then I’ll hear a beat, and that’ll latch onto some part of my brain. Then that part, where the concept meets the music, it’s just like… flow. That’s the entire project.
Groupie: Do you have a name for the project? Are we allowed to know that yet?
Kali Dreamer: It’s called “Dreamer is Unbreakable”. It’s a reference to “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure”, the fourth part is called “Diamond is Unbreakable”. It was like, Diamond is my birthstone, Dreamer fits, it keeps the same initials, let’s just go with that.
Groupie: So, you’ve set your genre on Facebook as “Fairy Pop”, what is your definition of Fairy Pop?
Kali Dreamer: Weird-ass, sparkly music that’s also hype as shit. Hype, Sparkly, Melodies, Hype [laughs]. It’s like, almost catharsis. That’s how I always felt about the hype music, like the video we did for “Akuma Dreads”. We were originally supposed to do one for “Prince of Hearts” and it was this complicated thing with storyboards and stuff like that.
It’s a cool idea for the future [on] more in-depth songs. We were like let’s storyboard it and I was like nah, I think I’m just gonna jump around and point at the camera a bunch, and that’s what ended up happening.
It’s one of those where it ain’t really about shit, it’s just something for people to get hype to. And it’s really cool, cause when I’m at the shows and I perform it, even when I’m jumping around, no matter what I’m doing I’m still paying attention to the audience. You see people change from when they’re just sitting on a porch drinking beer or waiting outside a venue where we’re playing, and then when [the show starts] you see everyone together like they’re best friends. I’m just like, yes, this is exactly what should be happening.
Groupie: As far as your music, where can people find you online?
Kali Dreamer: Soundcloud.com/Kalidreamer, I’m also on Instagram an twitter, I got a Bandcamp I haven’t updated since 2 albums ago. I’m also on Spotify, Apple Music, just type Kali Dreamer into google. Which is crazy cause I just typed Kali Dreamer into Google and saw a picture of me, Kali Dreamer, Rap/Hip-hop artist, when the fuck did that happen?
Groupie: Anything you’d like to say before we go?
Kali Dreamer: Community pride is gonna be in Columbus [OH] the 16th of June, lotta people coming out for that. They actually have a sign language interpreter so we had to submit all our lyrics. I bought a crazy ass jacket with the [epaulets], I can’t wait to break that out for the show. Other than that I’ll probably just be in someone’s basement screaming and doing cartwheels, so follow me on any of those [social media] for the details.
Groupie: And the tape comes out the 4th of July?
Kali Dreamer: Yep!