We recently found ourselves smack in the middle of the rolling Southern English countryside at the Shindig Weekender Festival hunting for The Funk. This small, vibrant festival hosts a selection of uniquely-styled areas with equally unique names where you'll find people of all ages dressed up to celebrate living, dancing, and smiling.
Tucked in a corner of the festival is part dance tent, part cultural hub known as the Ghetto Funk Nightclub. This stage hosted by the Bristol-based record label Ghetto Funk Records who's building a moveoment by spreading the beats and bass. With their diverse line-up of turntablists, live audio visuals, DJs and live electronic musicians, the Ghetto Funk Nightclub guides people through eras of music.
Among the Nightclub's showcase of the old, new, and everything in between were two very recognizable names: Krafty Kuts & Chali 2na. Chali 2na -- a lyricist of the legendary hip hop group Jurassic 5, salsa funk band Ozomatli, and avid collaborator with the likes of Krafty Kuts -- a notorious producer of breaks, beats, and beyond. Together they injected the golden-era hip hop into the atmosphere of the Ghetto Funk Nightclub during their 2018 Adventures of a Reluctant Superhero European Tour.
Before their set, we had the pleasure of sitting down with them for a chat on their upcoming album, creative motivations, collaborative relationship, and how they feel life's funkiness. Check it out below.
What's up Chali! How are things going so far in 2018? What's making you happy about this year?
Chali 2na: The creation of the new album called Adventures of a Reluctant Superhero where we've been doing like some cool collabs, cool conceptual shit that brings it all back to the essence of the hip hop that we love..
Yeah, I read in a recent interview that you have some interesting collaborations for this one. Perhaps comment on a few of those?
Chali 2na: Yeah, well some of the collaborations include Omar Lyefook, Skye from Morcheeba, Lyricsborn, Gift of Gab, Supernatural... there's a bunch of different people on there, man.
[Krafty Kuts walks in]
I was just talking about the new album with Chali and he was just telling me about the collaborating artists... what about the musicality and the kind of vibe you were going for?
Krafty Kuts: We kind of went back to the origins of hip hop and also bringing back the funk and also... a bit more of a fun side of it, too. We've always done that me and Chali -- we've always tried to bring a good fun element to hip hop. We just bring that golden-era sound back in a new style in our own way and we use fusions of funk, jazz, hip hop... there's some really crazy stuff in there. There are sounds we didn't believe existed. We just found these sounds digging for samples and by working with artists we're big fans of like Omar from the UK soul scene.
We're literally buzzing about it and are very proud of it.
That sounds wonderful -- like you guys are in the business of 'bringing the funk back'. Since you're at Shindig Weekender this weekend in the UK and you also play the Shambhala Music Festival in Canada -- both hubs for funk & electronic music -- how do you guys bring the funk back?
Krafty Kuts: If you look at Jurassic 5, the origins of their sound is predominently funk-based with Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark and obviously the boys -- it's a big part of what they do is finding really good samples, rapping over it, and making it sound like what real hip hop is about. And that's what we want to continue is that cool jazzy, funky vibe in our own way with a modern twist.
Nice, and going off of the adjective "funky" -- people tend to describe things in this world as "funky", which sometimes has little to do with actual funk music. How would you guys describe "funk" or "funky"?
Chali 2na: It's hard to describe. To personify funk is, like, well... that shit is crazy. I really would say, more than anything, it's a vibe. It's a style, but it's also a vibe -- you gotta feel it. Some people have technique and extreme talent, but no vibe, you know? It's the electricity that makes any type of appliance work, haha.
Krafty Kuts: It's definitely something that creates something magic.
Chali 2na: It is magic.
Krafty Kuts: It's like a tree with loads of different fruits, because loads of different things come out of it. And it can spawn loads of unique styles and sounds ... it can take it down drum n' bass, it can take it down house, it can take it down hip hop, and it can take it down a more latin route, too. So it just has these elements that are.... big. For me, it personifies everything I love about music. If it's got a funky beat, then I am all about it.
Totally agreed, and going off of the idea of spawning new things, I would like to reference some lyrics from your 2017 collaborative track "Hands High":
"...Hip hop certainly over-ruled my circuitry, perfectly circled me, turned me into a worker bee..."
Considering where you guys are now, could you describe a moment or phase that perfectly circled you, affected you, and that's now in your picture?
Krafty Kuts: I think the first moment we worked together and we really felt like we created something really unique. Everything just fell into place from there.
Chali 2na: If you're speaking about it from that particular perspective, then I think the point of no return for me was having a son. I only have one son, but this guy's [Krafty Kuts] got a gang of kids. My son is 27 now and his coming made me focus. And it made me grab every resource I had around me to make ends meet to feed him.
But what it turned into was a drive that made me turn my hobby into my job. And if you love your job, then you don't have a job. What do they say? "If you love your job, then you never work a day in your life" -- and that's what this feels like -- it don't feel like work. This is fun, you know? Just so happens we get to feed our families off of this.
So you guys are doing a lot of things as individuals. Chali -- you're one of the most collaborative MCs who's also got a photography hobby and an art hobby. Krafty -- you're producing and exploring all kinds of funky electronic music. Can you guys comment on some things about living life or the world that feeds your creativity?
Chali 2na: I think the world does feed my creativity, you understand what I'm saying? Everything around me that happens is what waters the plant, that grows, and that people see. So it's a mirror reflection and it's cool to be able to absorb different things and regurgitate them, and create dialogue between people that make people talk. Because, then, that creates solutions sometimes, or that just creates an opportunity for people to make space for change.
What we're doing right here with this music... we could move mountains, you know? So it's cool to, first, know that. Then to be behind the wheel and drive the bus.
Krafty Kuts: I just feel blessed to part of something I love so much and the journeys that I take wherever I go around the world, I always find something unique from other people… from other artists. And my setting as well... my location. Like, if I am on the beach at the sea, I just feel at peace and that’s where I get my creative vibe on and that’s when I start thinking of ideas. Sometimes when you’re traveling and you’ve got a lot on your plate, your mind is a bit clouded, because you’re thinking of too many different things. But when you’re in a really good place, you just start to think “ah yeah, I could do this, or I could do that”, because your mind can start to reflect on where you need to go and what’s your next step.
But me, as a person – and me and Chali are very similar in this respect – we think about our projects while we’re doing them, and we work hard on them. And then, as soon as we finish that, it is on to the next thing. And that is what motivates us. So, we put all of our all into everything that we do and try to get the best out of everything. And that, I think, is really important, because it gives you a sense of pushing yourself further. And what you do, you’re gonna do better next time and it just goes onwards and onwards. For example, Chali’s working with his live band and again Ozomatli, who are touring, which is brilliant. He’s also doing work with The Funk Hunters and with me. And I do my electronic stuff, working on new music, working with Dynamite MC and other people.
It’s really good, because we feed off of that together, and it inspires us both to keep it going.
And with you guys pulling from so many sources as individuals, maybe you can describe what the Krafty Kuts & Chali 2na element is like when your inspiration comes full-circle?
Chali 2na: Honestly, man, the basis of it all is the pure love for hip hop. And having that love and sharing that vision, and being from the same era… I bet if you had The Jungle Brothers in here, it would be the same vibe … just that love is the basis for what we do. That's used to be the catapult, the foundation, for any great artist that was in hip hop or any kind of music is just that love, that basis. So for us, that basis is hip hop. We gonna bring that hip hop shit!
Simply amazing. And I guess you two had a pretty specific story meeting through Nick Middleton of The Funk Hunters and I heard you didn’t expect it to work out the way it has.
Chali 2na: Not to work out like this, no.
Krafty Kuts: Not to get where we are now. Like, tonight’s going to be a really good night and we’ve had some amazing shows together. We’ve had an awful lot of shows together. And it’s just like: every show is important to us – whether it’s a small crowd of a big crowd. And that’s what I love about Chali is when we play he always gives it 110% every show.
And we’ve been through a lot together, like illnesses, delays of flights, and family commitments and other things, but as soon as we get on the stage, that’s where everything is important and meaningful. That’s what we give our all to and what our passion and love is, and we both see that in each other. When we make music, we really try to focus on making the best music possible. And I just feel like: every time we write something, it just gets better and better. And both of us are really excited about unleashing this music, because we both feel like this is really something special. You know, there are tracks that we could listen to every single day and not get bored of it and that’s what we hope other people feel.
Chali 2na: Right. I hope that shit lasts 20, 30, 50 years, haha! You know how you listen to an Earth, Wind, and Fire song or some old song that your mom used to listen to it and you’re like: “damn, how did that last?”. That’s the type of music we’re going for -- Shit that’s gonna be here when we’re gone.
Krafty Kuts: Yeah, that stands the test of time.
That’s great you guys aim for timelessness with innovation and by doing it with love.
Krafty Kuts: I mean, that's what "Hands High" does, and especially "It Ain't My Fault". It's weird, because obviously it is only a year old, and we've really started to perform it more and more now, we're now getting the crowd to sing it back to us, and we're realizing how important this song is and how much people love it. It's such a blessing to see that and that's what makes all this hard work so worth it. I mean, we could travel to the ends of the earth and play to ten people, but when we see people sing our song, that is the magic right there.
So, what's coming up next for you guys -- Chali you have the 20 year anniversary tour with Ozomatli and Krafty you have lot of music coming. What are some pre-game thoughts on what's next?
Chali 2na: O-ZO-MAT-LI -- if you've ever seen us, you'll get it. If you haven't seen us, you'll get it! ha-ha!
Krafty Kuts: I am working on an EP for Westwood, which is showcasing the electronic style of my music, but also very funky. And obviously, Adventures of a Reluctant Superhero is my top priority and making sure that is 110% correct, finalized, and done to the fullest extent of our capabilites. And just promoting that over the next few years, because I think it's gonna have a lot of legs. It's gonna take us to a lot of places that we've never been to, like India and other places we want to go to.
And as last bit, any wisdom you guys want to drop to wrap it up?
Chali 2na: Enjoy music for what music is. It's bigger than hip hop - it's bigger than any genre of music. It's a language - It's a life saver - It's a unification. It can also separate people, so use it for good and not for evil.
Krafty Kuts: Make sure it is positive. Always take a negative and make it a positive. Live life on the bright side and focus on the good things, because that's what Chali and I try to do. It's really tough touring, and I am sure people know that, but it's the most enjoyable job in the world and we love it. We look forward to every show.
Special thanks to the Shindig Weekender Festival and to Chali 2na's manager and EU tour manager for helping put this together. Photos courtesy of Nathan Roach. Check out his work on www.coalpoetphotography.com or on Instagram @coal_poet_photography