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Killa Kela
By
Lloyd Vaughan

The UK beatboxing scene is exploding, led by one man who lives, breathes and speaks hip hop, who goes by his graffiti tag name, Kela. Now 27-years young, but a veteran of the scene, Killa Kela is regarded by many as the best beatboxer in Britain, if not the world. The planet must bow to the man who has been inventing beats from the age of six, but who has now grown into a one man orchestra, composing mini symphonies with his mouth. Killa Kela is ready for world domination and wants everyone to know it.

Born in Billingshurst, West Sussex, Killa Kela has been mad on the hip hop scene since he was a young boy. He knows the scene as well as he knows the building blocks of music. Influenced in his early years by the Russian sensation DJ Vadim, who taught Kela not only how to structure music, but how to survive the industry, Killa Kela has learnt how to craft tunes all of his own. Kela has the utmost respect for his former mentor. “He embraced me and likewise, you know what I mean? He taught me a certain work ethic, which I still stand by now, he’s a don.” Kela received a seven-year apprenticeship leading up to his first big label release. He toured with Jurassic 5, served time with the Scratch Perverts and Rocksteady Crew and more recently performed with NERD in the UK, Europe and America. Pharrell Williams, The Neptunes’ production genius has championed Killa since hearing his beats at an N.E.R.D. London gig. Killa is more than happy to voice his respect. “You make opportunities and he was one of the biggest opportunities to come into Killa Kela’s career. Even being signed was based on working with him and doing performances and records with him.”

Killa Kela has now moved into a new era in his career after signing with record company giant Sony BMG. His latest album ‘Elocution’ was released in late 2005, and has been championed as the best crossover album to date. Killa Kela had personal pressures to face up to whilst making the album. “The first thing was trying to put Killa Kela across as an artist on an album, trying to make a Killa Kela album as opposed to a beatbox album,” he says. “I just wanted to try something different and build up a bigger audience than what previously would have checked out ‘Permanent Marker’ [his debut album]. Taking different vocal disciplines, the singing, the rapping, the spoken word and incorporating the beatbox into it as a woven sound amongst all the tracks, that was one of the biggest things to try and get locked.”

But what does this new album offer that his first album did not? “The difference, I guess, is that I decided to go ahead and choose different instruments that I could not do with my mouth, which in turn created a band construction of a string quartet,” he says. “The piano I could not do with my mouth, and also backing vocals, and a few dub sounds here and there. It’s completely different to ‘Permanent Marker’ because ‘Permanent Marker’ was a lot more synthetic, a lot more industrial. That in turn created a sound and a feel. I had been trying to find something that translated me and the beatbox a little bit more.”

With ‘Elocution’, Killa Kela is treating his fans to more of the same underground flair that has always poured from his mouth, but has added an underground vibe through his selection of additional instruments and sounds. “The dub sounds that are involved in the album were definitely underground related. I think that is the true sound of British music,” he explains. “Equally as beatbox stands it’s very left of centre, it’s not the normal instrument to be working with on an album, and the fact it’s Killa Kela and not Girls Aloud, you know what I mean?.” At this point Killa Kela bursts into laughter and gives a real insight into his character. He is someone who knows what he wants; he has learnt how to get it and knows how to enjoy it. He is a reflective character that shows signs of ego, but is used satirically. It starts to become clear he is a likeable character, and he starts to show the reasons why people have embraced him.

The album sees collaborations with some colossal talent including the mighty dubmaster, Roots Manuva. He features on the track ‘Here Comes The Submarines’, which was the result of a prosperous sound check. The vocal talents of Neneh Cherry are utilised on the chorus for ‘Feminine’, which was based around an ex-girlfriend of Kela’s. Killa was pleased with the vibe that they brought to the album. “The thing is with Roots, I have known him for ages,” he says. “He is a fan as much as a friend and it’s really cool to work with him; he is very easy to work with, and the same with Neneh,” he explains. “These people have been through the same life changes and the same circumstances. I know Neneh from other shows and other past performances, so it’s really easy to get on and do tracks.”

Other tracks on the album offer some enticing sounds, including the new single, ‘Secrets’, which offers some Prince-like funk vibes that describes how mischievous boys like to play mind games and have ‘Secrets’, a track that Kela deems his favourite. “It’s the first single and I think it represents the whole album,” he says. “It connects tracks together whilst standing on its own. It optimised the sound of the album.”

With the impending release of ‘Secrets’, Kela’s first video release was also accomplished. Killa Kela was soon thrown into the world of visual accompaniments. “It was wicked,” he says, excited about what he had achieved. “It was literally the hardest 24 hours, solid, solid work,” he explains. “One minute I would be in a swimming pool with a lighter, and it was dark, and the next minute I was in the woodlands at three o’ clock in the morning,” he says. “It’s all based around a lighter, that’s the deal with it. It’s dark and dingy. The video is very cinematic.”

Killa Kela’s success in propelling beatboxing into the mainstream arena reflects the respect the once considered ‘freak show’ is receiving. Beatboxing is now being dubbed as an integral element of the hip hop genre, being thrust into the spotlight, not merely left on the sidelines. So, who is hot within the scene at the moment? “Me!” Kela says in his pseudo-serious egotistical tone. “What’s great at the moment about the scene is that there are a lot of beatboxers out there at the moment doing their thing, and the community is thriving. There are beatboxers out there that I could mention. I could quote, Poizunus, Scratch from the States. There are loads of people that are doing a really good job, at keeping the scene moving and advancing their skills, do you know what I mean? I think it’s a collective thing for everybody. I think the scene is really good at the moment.”

And for all of you budding beatboxers out there that want to emulate the beat-master, Killa Kela is happy to reveal the formula for success. “Get on one man, get deep on it. Just work on like sounds, work on the building blocks of beatboxing, you know, the sound in which you use, the breath control of what you’re doing, and try and come up with a style, come up with one of your own. All these beatboxers that are out at the moment, one thing that they have on their minds all the time is how am I doing something different?”

As the interview draws to a close, Kela’s passion for talking about hip hop and beatboxing never falters. It is evident that his passion for the scene is as strong today as the days when he spent excessive time in the bathroom, utilising the quality reverb familiar with all shower performers. So what does the future hold for Killa Kela? “World domination, man!” A signoff reserved only for the disillusioned amongst us, or the people whose gift enables them to say it, and for people to believe it. Killa Kela falls into the latter category, and if his new album is anything to go by, expect to be seeing a lot more of the man that can only be referred to as the master of the beatbox.


Killa Kela’s new single, ‘Secrets’ is out on April 24th, 2006, and the album, ‘Elocution’ is out now. For more information on Killa Kela log on to his official website at www.killakela.com.

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