It’s because I’m a bad bitch like… they know that.
London’s Steadfast is a series focusing on up and coming artists around London. Grime artist Karnage Kills takes to the spotlight.
In the Summer of 2017, Karnage Kills released an absolute anthem, ‘Hoe Diaries.’ His first song details some very steamy scenes, in between the echoes of what has now become a trademark: “It’s the time to be a hoe.” The rallying cry has been chanted by crowds in venues such as Pxssy Palace, Dalston Superstore and even at festivals (Lovebox & London Pride). His lyrics have caused an uproar on different media platforms, as the headstrong artist has remained determined to rap about what he wants to rap about. What shocks everyone, in one way or another, is not so much what he raps about, but who he raps about. Karnage defines himself as a Grime artist, which places him in a particular genre of music. References to male-on-male relations have never before been expressed in UK rap. Be that as it may, Karnage was pleased at the feedback he’d received during his first performance in front of a straight audience last year.
“Yeah, the reaction was good. I loved it. The crowd went mad. They haven’t heard that, do you know what I mean?”
‘Timberlands,’ ‘Runaround,’ and ‘Ting’ are the three most releases from the London rapper, and gained huge success on streaming platforms. Karnage conveys important themes in his music and was happy to delve into what inspired him to write the tracks. The last release of 2019, ‘Ting,’ is not only Karnage’s personal favourite out of the three but also the track that differs the most from the rest in terms of its style. He has moved away from the unique Grime sound heard in ‘Level Up’ and ‘You Ain’t Bad,’ and with two different audiences, it was a mystery as to whether the young rapper tried to please.
“I’d like to cater to both, to be honest. I feel like when I’m in the studio recording, I just make it and if I like it, I put it out.”
Grime’s own Barbie
Grime Barbie is not afraid to reveal his sexual preferences. Although this is standard amongst a Gay crowd in Soho, this is something rather aberrant to the general British culture, where discussions about sex tend to be more implicit. ‘Timberlands,’ by far, holds the crown for being the most erotic of his tracks. This is simply because of the unmistakable Daddy/Son theme. Interestingly, the London rapper reveals that in his experience, the fantasy rarely plays out as the stereotype would suggest. Though, he offers an explanation to why there is so much desire for the popular role-play.
“For the most part, they want someone to take control over them sexually, you know. So, an older guy, they’re older than you. Do you get what I mean? You already feel like they should have more power over you because they’re older.”
If you’ve heard his sound before, you’ll know that Karnage quite often illustrates bottom activity. Though, with a role that is typically seen as submissive, the gifted lyricist is able to play with language, allowing him to depict it as being something powerful and dominant. When asked as to how he was able to reverse the power dynamic between the two roles, the outspoken artist gave his brutally honest answer.
“It’s because I’m a bad bitch like… they know that. They want me to dominate them because they want to be dominated by someone feminine, you know. Just know that you’re the shit. You know what you are. You know that you’re the bomb. You know that your pussy tastes good.”
Karnage Kills isn’t all about the sex. Similarly to many others in his music genre, the British rapper can sometimes come across as patronising, even degrading at times, towards his partners. Quite often, it’s women who are the subject of this in Hip-Hop but Karnage is a gay man talking about men. The artist points out that he only raps about what he witnesses and the way he views men is based on their behaviour in relationships. ‘Runaround,’ highlights the disloyal nature of men and manifests a form of empowerment, similar to Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade.’
“Men, a lot of the time, are dating you because they want you to see them in a certain light. Whereas they see you in another way. They can tell you that they want to be with you… and then, in the same breath, go out and fuck someone else and then come home… I can only go on what I see. So, what if I want something more? But I feel like a lot of the time – and I know that there are men out there that aren’t like that – but I feel like a lot of the time, men can be very unfaithful and untrustworthy.”
Karnage has been asked on numerous occasions about his experiences as being a gay Grime artist but it was interesting to find out more about his experiences being black on the gay scene. Many BAME (Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic) people within the LGBT community, have admitted to experiencing racism in the form of out-right rejection and fetishisation. Regarding Karnage’s experience on the London Gay scene, it seems it hasn’t been uncommon for the rapper, to be approached by a man with the intention of fulfilling a sexual fantasy. Karnage however, doesn’t have just the one stereotype attached to him.
“I feel like, that might be a bit hard to answer because I’m also Femme. That’s a whole other fetish in itself. So, maybe, I’m just going off on the Femme fetish and I’m mixing the two.”
Being Black, Gay and Femme, Grime Barbie finds himself fighting on three fronts, the gay scene, the Grime scene and the overall masculinity from both. The young rapper has faced a certain number of challenges, particularly while trying to find harmony between the gay and Grime scenes. Karnage, nonetheless, invokes the spirit of all three in both his image as well as his lyrics, passing on a powerful message through his music.
“Change is coming. Change is inevitable. People need to evolve and be more understanding and be more accepting.”
Back in February, Karnage Kills released his mixtape ‘Game Over – Vol. 1.’ If he hadn’t made it clear from his interview, the young rapper definitely made it clear through his eight tracks. Grime Barbie means business and with this being volume one, it’s safe to say that he’s not done just yet. A lot of what Karnage has revealed here sheds much light on the underlying theme of his latest mixtape. Two recorded conversations, three sexually explicit songs, a terrifying freestyle and one incredibly emotional but powerful track. Karnage Kills is not only determined on being successful in his music career but has been striving to make a huge positive impact before even having an audience. It’s for this reason that the tenacious artist is one of London’s Steadfast.
By Sam Dawson