Khary on Steering His Own Ship
On his latest album, Captain, Rhode Island-bred, New York-based rapper Khary set out to explore self control. Yet, what he found first was a series of self-imposed roadblocks and a realization that, in order to steer his own ship, he would first have to acknowledge his frustrations and limitations.
In this TIDAL Read Q&A, Khary speaks candidly on the project, his emotional process behind it and how it set him up for what’s to come next.
You just put your album out, Captain. I read that the title Captain meant you’re the captain of your own happiness and spiritual well-being. Can you elaborate on that?
I originally envisioned the project as such, being in control of your own destiny, just self-actualizing and not letting things affect you. I think the way the project ended up shifting was much more, like… that being the goal, but I felt like I achieved it on false grounds. It was a superficial version of that. I was relying on other things to have this confidence to be in control of myself and my life.
I think when you go for being in control and being in power, it has to be built upon a pure place, a genuine place. And I think the project came back as a knock-back at my own original thoughts for the project.
So you think that, while you were creating it, you realized that you didn’t have as much control as you wanted or it didn’t really happen in the way you envisioned? Like, you were doing the things you were trying not to do?
Yeah. A hundred percent. Half of the project, I was kind of living it while I was making it. It became this project that was a hundred percent ego and insecurities.
So now that you’ve finished the project, do you feel a little bit more in control of your life and the things you were going for?
This project felt like a release, much more. The way I ended it, I ended it with a very dark track called ‘Anyway.’ The chorus is like, ‘There’s no use trying, you won’t like me anyways.’ It’s me talking to myself and talking to other people at the same time.
So, this project feels much more me addressing the problem. I didn’t solve it yet. I didn’t get to where I want to be at. I wanted to leave it open-ended. I don’t necessarily feel like I did conquer these things yet. I feel like I’m ready to now. That’s what my music going forward will be a reflection of.
The music video for ‘Captain’ is basically you in an empty room with yourself and your thoughts. It’s sort of the physical manifestation of what you’re talking about on the album — you having to face yourself. What was going through your head while filming that?
The weekend before we shot that video, we did the cover art shoot. I remember when we were shooting the cover art, I was like, ‘Yo, I’m going to try my hardest to make myself cry.’ The project starts off with ‘Captain,’ a hard, in-your-face track. But I wanted to bring these two worlds [together], kind of showing a chip in the armor.
When we were shooting the video, I wanted to embody the strength portion of that, and, at the end, it turns into black and white, and it’s still me in the room standing there by myself. It was a dope experience.
What was your vision for this project aesthetically?
It’s crazy. As I said, I was living half of this project out while I was making it. I was actually involved with the girl who was supposed to do the cover art. Halfway through that, that fell apart. I ended up in L.A. shooting with my homie.
When I was working with [the girl], it was going to be very colorful and then, shooting with him, I wanted to play off this black-and-white, stripped-down thing. And my homie Chris Lee just helped me put it together. We shot the black and white stuff, and as soon as I saw the black and white stuff, I was like, ‘Yes, this is perfect.’ It was very stripped down, very serious. It just seemed very effortless.
A lot of what you talk about in your music is being a twentysomething guy living in New York. You’re from Rhode Island originally, so I’m wondering how your perspective has changed on the city since you moved here?
I think I’m ready to move. I’ve been here for five years. When I first came here, I was just trying to do everything and be everywhere. Before I moved here, when I was in high school, I always told myself I was going to move here even though I’d never been here in my life. I ended up here, and it’s been dope, but I feel like I need a new inspiration.
I need new air, new people around me, new experiences. But I feel like it’s been a blessing to be here and experience. I feel like I learn better and I make better music and art when I’m going through or experiencing real shit and real people. That’s what New York has done for me, and I’m looking for the next place.
Growing up in Rhode Island, did the people around you share your same sense of creativity and taste in music?
As a kid, I listened to the radio. That’s when Biggie and 112 songs were playing all the time in the mid-to-late ‘90s. Up until 15 or 14, my music taste was always dominated by my brother and the friends I had at the time. It was until 10th grade when I used to have a big fro — I shaved it off —and I was also skateboarding and rapping at the time, and everybody used to call me Lupe. I was like, ‘Yo, who is this?’ And I looked him up on MySpace, and I saw the ‘Daydreaming’ video, and I was like, ‘Oh shit, you can talk about this?’
Around then, listening to him is when I started to move on my own and listen to other shit. And I met this other dude who I worked at a movie theater with, and every time we got off work, we’d just go buy CDs and listen to old-school hip-hop.
I saw that you put up a post on Instagram asking your fans what their favorite song is. I’m wondering if you have a favorite?
It’s between two songs, which are ’4AM Thirst Ballad’ and ‘Anyway.’ ’4AM’ because once I made that, I had a tone for the project, and I could build everything around it. And then ‘Anyway,’ I don’t think I had ever made a song that made me cry while making it. I think the last six minutes is me letting out all the frustrations that I’ve had up to this point in my head.
The freestyle was actually four minutes longer, but we had to cut it down so it didn’t put people to sleep. That song is probably my favorite because I know where that came from. It’s very honest, and it’s what a lot of us feel when you have the audacity to try to be something in life and try and push through emotions and hard times to get what you tell yourself you want.
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