Kyprios is a Vancouver, Canada native whose close affiliates include Swollen Members and the group (which he's a part of) Sweatshop Union. Having been well praised for his Slam poetry performances at such venues as the Nuyorican cafe in New York, Kyprios recently was signed to Sony. His debut solo album should be released later in 2004.
MVRemix: Why the name Kyprios?
Kyprios: That's really easy. I started writing poetry around eleven or twelve, and I had five older brothers which influenced me a lot growing up. One of my brothers, my brother Matt, started getting into Hip Hop when he was about eighteen. I was fourteen and thinking "Wait a second, this stuff is kinda cool." He was getting into underground artists like Aceyalone, Freestyle Fellowship - guys with conscious messages. He kind of turned me onto it and so I started trying to convert my poems to rhymes. Tryin' to rhyme on beat and freestyle. Anyways, I was going to school one day - you always want a pseudonym that's cool and I had the worst names. People were calling me the stupidest things. One day I came into class and that name was on the chalk board. I was like "Yo, what does that mean?" And the teacher said "It's Latin for "Lord;" 'Lord of the Manor,' 'Lord of the Estate.'" I was like "Yoink." I put that one in my pocket.
MVRemix: Who conceived the logo?
Kyprios: The logo was done by Akro. I came up with the concept of a mic having a brain popping out of the top. I gave the idea to Akro and he just ran with it.
MVRemix: So who inspired you with regards to having a cool logo, and of course, musically?
Kyprios: Do you remember that company Tribal? Zodak actually designed for them and he designed this battle mic. He designed these two cool mics and one was like a bat upside down. The image was crossed over. It looked like it was a sleeping mic, but then also you had this bat. And then you had this battle mic, where there were battle-axes and knives all on this microphone. So that kind of gave me the idea of doing something around the parameters of having a mic. When I looked at the mic head, it's a head. What I'm trying to do is conscious lyricism and so I'd be a smart ass and have a brain popping out of the top of the mic.
As far as emceeing inspiration; Aceyalone, Mikah 9, Pharoahe Monch. Who else is kind of more modern? Mos Def is a big influence on me. Saul Williams. Poets like Taylor Maui and Bo Ceia, I really like their work. Obviously Rakim. I studied his work a lot. I'm a huge Beatles fan, especially their late work.
MVRemix: How did you end up performing at the renowned Nuyorican Café?
Kyprios: I moved to New York... I drove out there with this girl Heather and Dave for the 21st Rocksteady Re-union because Swollen [Members] was really unknown there and Madchild was Rocksteady. They gave us the opening slot and we drove out there. When I went out there man, I was tired. I was really sick. I was tired of emceeing; some bullshit had gone down with regards to battling where shit got physical when it was just rap and mental. I got really uninspired. When I went to New York, it revitalized me. It gave me such an artistic energy that I spent all my time tryin' to get back there. I saved up some money and I was studying acting and got back into acting and I saw this movie for animation which I think was for the slam of '96, I can't remember. Anyway, I saw this film - I was already doing some spoken word shit, and I learned about Slam and I was like, "Holy shit!" In that, it talked about the Nuyorican. So I knew I was going back to New York. I had actually been to the Nuyorican and entered a Hip Hop battle there - the first time that I was there for that Rocksteady. The energy there... you've been there hey?
MVRemix: I haven't been, but I know people that have...
Kyprios: The energy in there... I started going there three or four nights a week, so I tried to qualify for the May slam and then when the May Slam was on I'd be there. And when they had other open mics I'd be there, and at the time it producing such prolific writers and such creative people who had ideas and were so articulate that I'd never heard it said that way before. It was just fuel. I just go in there and was so humbled. I wanted to encapsulate what these poets and what these emcees are doing. I just wanted people to feel how I'd felt. More than anything it gave me such a fucking energy burst and inspiration. So I just started hanging out at the Nuyorican; open mics, battles... I was just there.
MVRemix: With "Hate," when I saw the actual video you have an introduction where you state not to judge it until it's finished. When you performed it for the first time, did you have that there too?
MVRemix: How was the reception following it?
Kyprios: I like to think of "Hate" as my first real slam. I had a couple of Def Poet slams that were okay. But this was the first piece that was really crafted out. Trying to get it under three minutes. Trying to put it so I'd actually be able to enter it. When I wrote it, I was so nervous. I read it to a couple of my friends that I was hanging out with in New York. Everyone was like "You've got to do that..." And I was like "Fuck - I don't know, I don't know." So I went down there, my friend was with me, he could see the paper shaking in my hand because I'd just written it and I hadn't memorized it yet. I kind of had the courage to know that I was either gonna win the slam and get called over or I was gonna get lynched. But I was worried for nothing because the most conscious minded, those people have heard and said everything. They liked "Hate" but I honestly don't think that it was the craziest thing they'd ever heard. That to me ordained the peace and gave me the blessing to take it back home and do it everywhere. I figured if I could get away with doing it there then that's a blessing for me to try to preach it everywhere else.
MVRemix: Considering your transition to Sony, I'm assuming you've been able to meet some artists you looked up to. Do you have any stories or accounts of meeting an idol of yours?
Kyprios: I guess Saukrates was a pretty big one. I had no idea that he and I were the same age. He's been doing this for twelve years, but when I was eighteen I knew where I was at and he already had a big tune. He already had a single and a video and all that shit out. I got to work and do a song with him. I called him up and I guess he'd heard a thing or two. He was down to do a tune and that was pretty inspiring and pretty humbling. He has been really good to me. He's one of those people where they say artists hold a mirror up to reality. I think musicians kind of hold a mirror up to the sky and the good musicians it just beams down and goes out. There's no "Pass go." There's no cross-road, and he's one of those people. You'll go to a studio session for two hours and he's already got eighteen amazing ideas. The song's fuckin' done. That was pretty special.
MVRemix: Tell me about your forthcoming album, "Say Something"?
Kyprios: It's very um... I think it's finished. It's something that I've been trying to make for years. With my background, I was always into Hip Hop and I was always into soul. One of my other brothers was a great guitarist so I grew up on a lot of blues and rock and soul music aswell. Even before I got signed I was commissioning someone to make a beat. I'd save my money for the studio and maybe so I could get guitar player or an upright basist or a pianist to session. Because I always wanted my music to have a little more movement than just your stereotypical two bar loop over and over again. With this record I kept it pretty organic with what I was trying to do, I've just been able to do on a song and that's just have a marriage between some stock sounds, some drum machine sounds but have a chorus... a pre-chorus. I'm able to create songs and kind of emulate the pop songs formula in the sense that the song has got more body and I've been doing that with rap and spoken word and being able to sing as well. On the record there's everything from trumpets to flutes to harpsicords to claves to cellos to... what's that thing that Weird Al Jankovich plays? The polka thing... I also kept it to very limited guests. I didn't want to come out and be the strength of anybody else, I kind of had my first record feature as few people as possible. The only notable people are Swollen because I grew up with them and have known them forever. Sweatshop because I'm still part of them and then Saukrates because that's a kid I've wanted to work with forever. I don't know man, it's different. I don't know how the public's gonna react to it. But I know in ten years if I have children I'll be very proud to show them that their father worked very hard on making this record and I won't have any regrets on it.
MVRemix: I've heard your music has been played on Skate/Snowboard video's... are you much into that scene?
Kyprios: Yeah, I came from that scene. I grew up skating and snowboarding; I just haven't had the time. I'm an old school skater. When people started kick-flipping and all that sort of shit, I was getting out of it by then. So, I still like to skate. I skate more long board than anything else. But every time I'm in New York, that's how I get around. I have all my skateboards out there. I've just a passion for snowboarding. I'm a hack at both of them, but I've got a love for them both. Anytime I have a second to do it, I will.
MVRemix: A la "Fight Club," "If you could fight any celebrity, who would you fight?"
Kyprios: That's a great fuckin' question! That is a great fuckin' question. Who would I just demolish? You know I've answered this question before... Who would I just beat the shit out of? [Kyprios contemplates] Who really annoys me? I'd probably beat up David Arquette. Courtney Cox' husband. He stayed at the same hotel and he's a total dink. I just hated his steez.
MVRemix: What do you think of current Canadian politics, Paul Martin and such?
Kyprios: Well he didn't impress me that much. I just had the chance to meet him in Edmonton and he was doing the "Rush The Vote" thing. Someone asked him the question on what sort of stance he took on downloading becoming legal. It was a very point-point question. It was very easy to see the side you're standing on and you could see what the person that asked the question wanted to hear. He did the very political thing and danced around it. He danced and smiled and didn't address the issue. I think that government is kind of like the tax-man. You've got to be able to deal with them everyday somehow that you've got to have someone doing the most for you, with hurting you the least amount. I think we've been in rougher shape before, but if the people understand the power that the individual has of the vote that we'll be fine.
MVRemix: What are you listening to these days?
Kyprios: I'm making a lot of mixtapes out of CD's that I own. I'm listening to a lot of Bill Withers. I'm listening to a lot of Nina Simone, Jill Scott. I like the new Jay-Z record - that "Black" album, and I'm listening to some of the remixes of that. The "White" album, the first disc of the white album is always getting rocked heavy. I'm actually rockin' some Brand New Heavies too. And I like the new Aesop Rock too; "Bazooka Tooth." That's bad, that's just really bad. The MF Doom record too is really dope.
MVRemix: You heard "Madvillain"?
Kyprios: Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.
MVRemix: Any collaborations or guest appearances we've yet to hear that you've recently worked on?
Kyprios: Me and Sauks just did a song together for the record. Me and Sauks also just got contracted to do a song for the new Don McKellar film. He's the guy that wrote "The Red Violin." He asked me to do a song for him which was an honour in itself and he was trying to get "Bombs Over Baghdad" by Outkast but he couldn't get it. And he wanted a song for a club, so me and Sauks were like "Okay" and were gonna come up with something close to that. We did and it's a fuckin' monster. It is a monster! Other than that, nothing that I've worked on but there are tonnes of people I'd like to collab with.
MVRemix: Such as?
Kyprios: Oh man, I'd love to do a song with Mikah 9. I'd love to do a song with Mos. I'd like to do a song with K-OS. There's people on the wish list and then there are people that are tangible that I have a chance of doing song with if timing and schedules work out. I think that on the next record I'll try and bring more people into the fold. But as I said, I didn't really want people looking at the back of the record saying "He's got this person and that person so he can't do it on his own." I'm trying to be able to solidify my own integrity as someone that can do it solo that just wants to do collaborations. I'm not trying to use anyone's name for my benefit. I'd rather establish my own name and say "Listen, it's in your best interests that you participate in a song" if someone's down to do it. That's all I'm trying to do.
MVRemix: Last words.
Kyprios: Be conscious of what you listen to and what you see and what you hear. I guess we're all interpreters but it's just knowing the language as good as possible. Everything has got a consequence. If you're listening to bullshit or if you're being force-fed bullshit, realize why they're doing it and why something's stuck in your head and be able to stick in your head what you wish to. That's television, that's movies, that's what you wear. What you're looking at. That's all of that shit. I just thank you for the support and stay with me.
Lâ€™Orange and Stik Figa â€“ The City Under The City album review
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Canadian Underground Hip Hop - exclusive interviews, reviews, articles
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