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Hot Karl - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Escape From Boring Ass Hip-Hop Conformity

September 2005

Individualism within hip-hop is a double edged sword which is appreciated by only true music lovers. Unique artists like Kool Keith, MC Paul Barman, Subtitle, Eminem, Del The Funky Homosapian, Pigeon John, Lyrics Born, MF Doom, Andre 3000, and Common, all have their own personal attributes that help define them. These little (or sometimes big) eccentricities pigeonhole them into the alternative or underground hip-hop category. Even the accessible yet wonderfully peculiar artists like Q-Tip, Little Brother, Slum Village, and Cormega have inimitable traits that earn them respect but separate them from the mainstream. All of these individualists remain successful because people from every race and origin can relate to them.

As a business, the hip-hop industry wants to sell records by riding the bandwagon on other people's styles. How many people bit off Busta Rhymes' videos, Eminem's shock value, or Jay-Z's image? For an artist to be considered a success, their image must help sell millions of records. For an artist to be truly respected, they must be honest to themselves and to the audience. The unique artists (mentioned above) were honest with the listeners. This honesty on the microphone is a magnificent display of their love for the hip-hop culture. Those false rappers could learn a thing or two by watching the film, “CB-4”. Even if you do not like Eminem's music, you must respect the fact that he honestly portrays himself and injects his real life into his music. As hip-hop evolves, the larger the variety of personalities will rock microphones. Out of all of these artists, the emcees who rhyme from their hearts and are true to themselves will earn respect.

Hot Karl is a perfect (and extreme) example of how an emcee does not have to play the role of a ghetto fabulous drug dealing floss pimp. Straight from the suburbs of California, Hot Karl is a skilled white emcee who loves hip-hop. He knows where he comes from and who he is. This white guy wears glasses, has an odd voice, and looks more like a clerk at an indie punk record store than a hip-hop emcee. If you do not know what his name means, look it up on the Internet. The legendary, Ice-T inspired Karl's name because he “shitted” on people with his rhymes. Although Karl's music is extremely comical, he is very serious about being himself and refuses to pretend he is someone else just to sell records.

True hip-hop lovers know that skills are skills, regardless of race or origin. Hot Karl proved his skills on the Power 106 radio show with The Baker Boys. With astute humor and sharp satirical edge, Hot Karl's talent won over both Black and White audiences and caught the industry's attention.

The industry bugs crawled all over Hot Karl. Mack 10 (from Westside Connection) actually offered him $50,000 cash in order to sign him to Hoo Bangin Records, but Karl declined the offer. Eventually, Interscope Records signed Hot Kizzle after a lavish period of wining and dining. The hype ignited, the funding was approved, and recording sessions were purchased. “Your Housekeeper Hates You” was his unreleased debut album that included collaborations with Kanye West, Redman, Mya, Fabolous, and many other big names. Some thought Caucasians were trying to take hip-hop over too! Interscope Records was the home for the other great White hope, Eminem. Could the label handle two white emcees? While Eminem's image was crazy, humorous, and violent, Hot Karl was more clever, literate, and quirky. Could the mainstream accept or handle an honest emcee who could be your next door neighbor? After spending an enormous amount of money, Interscope Records considered Hot Karl to be a novelty act and shelved his album. Luckily for Karl, money rolled in by writing for Sugar Ray and O-Town. While most emcees would buy cars or diamonds, Hot Kizzle invested in an art gallery in Los Angeles. Karl's Gallery Nineteen Eighty-Eight is named after the year “Yo! Mtv Raps” debuted on television. In true hip-hop style, Hot Karl became an entrepreneur. In the style of an individualist, he became an entrepreneur in his own way.

In 2005, BBE Records / Headless Heroes released Hot Karl's “The Great Escape”. Hot Karl finally received a chance to create an album his own way. Filled with hilarious skits and fun songs, “The Great Escape” LP offers listeners an escape to the conformist hip-hop forced-fed to the masses. MC Search (from 3rd Base) contributes a timeless performance on “Let's Talk”, a brutally honest yet witty song about how labels treat artists. Since Karl does not come from the projects, he does not rap about guns. Produced by 9th Wonder (of Little Brother), “I've Heard” is a poignant track that mixes self-examination and inner thoughts about the industry. Deeply personal, “I've Heard” has a bittersweet honesty that must be respected by the hip-hop world. Since he is not into diamonds, he's not flossing. Instead, Karl raps about the 80's, Los Angeles, ugly women with hot bodies, the music industry, and the vast suburban wasteland. With production by Mayru, C-Minus, Jamey Staub, Ali Dee, and 9th Wonder, “The Great Escape” offers a refreshing, humorous, and honest slice of hip-hop from an untypical emcee.

Hip-hop lovers love the songs about murder, drugs, diamonds, cars, pimps, sex, and the ghetto, but a little escapism is essential. Hot Karl is in the minority of emcees who are bringing something completely different to hip-hop. Love him or hate him, you have to respect the fact that he is being himself. Hot Karl has finally escaped from the mundane bullshit and used truth to find the beautiful essence of hip-hop.

MVRemix: What goes on?

Hot Karl: Nothing, man. I'm just working this record. I'm trying to get people to hear 'The Great Escape'. I also own an art gallery. That's where I am now.

MVRemix: How did you end up owning an art gallery?

Hot Karl: When I got that Interscope money, rather than just buying comic books and Play Station games, I actually thought that I had to buy something, so I could at least make it somewhat official. So, I got really into the underground art scene in L.A. and opened up an art gallery. It's called Gallery Nineteen Eighty-Eight and that's the year that 'Yo! Mtv Raps' premiered.

MVRemix: That's the name of the Blueprint's solo album too.

Hot Karl: Yeah, the guy who did the art for that is actually coming up here.

MVRemix: What kind of art is showcased in Gallery Nineteen Eighty-Eight?

Hot Karl: It's mostly underground. I don't deal in abstract art or anything like that. It's more pop-ish.

MVRemix: Do you have a favorite painter?

Hot Karl: I'd most rather talk about that than my favorite rapper. Contemporary wise, like in my ballpark? As far as old stuff, I was a film student in college, so I never got into old stuff or put art in my apartment. The extent of my art is in the affordable $1,000 to $5,000 ballpark. I like Rosco. As far as new school, Chueh. I like people doing pop stuff like Sam Florez.

MVRemix: What do you think of Klimt or Van Gogh?

Hot Karl: It's obvious that all of these guys got inspiration from them. All of these guys are pretty much art school grads. They are all somewhat inspired by the older guys.

MVRemix: Favorite hip-hop movies?

Hot Karl: I love 'Krush Groove'. I think it's a freaking great movie. I still think it's great. Rick Rubin plays himself, L.L. is still young, and it takes place in a dorm. There's so much ill shit in that movie. It stands the test of time, unlike those 80's movies like 'Disorderlies'.

MVRemix: Speaking of 1980's, what is your favorite John Hughes film?

Hot Karl: My answer would have to be 'Sixteen Candles', only due to it's good commercial appeal. Now you watch it, and my girlfriend loves it. There are other ones too, really weird ones. Isn't 'Trains, Planes, And Automobiles' a John Hughes film too? There are movies even outside of the Brat Pack shit too. Obviously, I love 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' too.

>>> continued...

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"When I got that Interscope money, rather than just buying comic books and Play Station games, I actually thought that I had to buy something, so I could at least make it somewhat official. So, I got really into the underground art scene in L.A. and opened up an art gallery. It's called Gallery Nineteen Eighty-Eight and that's the year that 'Yo! Mtv Raps' premiered."