On The Record: King Kekai
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
In a perfect world, radio airwaves in every city in America would embrace versatility and creativity equally. Here in Hawaii, island grooves, top 40, rock and old school would all be played harmoniously on one station.
Hip-hop artist King Kekai is out to flip the script on genre segregation with his latest album, “Wait on Me,” a polished project of traditional rap, island reggae and electro house offerings.
“My main goal is to try and change the way we do business here in Hawaii,” said the two-time Na Hoku Hanohano Award nominee. “I don’t mean to be condescending, but the way the system is set up now, Hawaii artists are very, very limited in the avenues that are afforded to them.”
Tracks from “Wait On Me” can be thrown into the pop music melting pot or island music imu with ease. Highlighted by top of the line production and infectious EDM friendly beats, Kekai skillfully blurs the lines of different genres. Two singles — “Hell of a Night” featuring Roxy On the Mic and “Island Girl” featuring Joseph Soul — are currently played on local stations.
“If we want commercial success there are pretty much only two options for us; going the island reggae route or doing some form of hip-hop, but the latter rarely pans out anyway,” said Kekai. “Even though there are tons of talented rock groups, EDM producers-DJs, rappers, et cetera. It’s really tough because everything is formatted in a certain way that to get on the radio you have to fit a specific format.”
The former Big Island boy now living on Oahu credits Eminem and 50 Cent for his love of hip-hop and time spent in California for refining his skills as a battle rapper. His industry knowledge is a direct result of growing up in a musically-inclined family.
“What I want my album to do is to break down those barriers and make it ok for someone who can fuse the different genres that are popular and be on multi-format platforms,” he said. “For example, some of the bigger island reggae acts could easily do a R&B album, but they don’t. I think it’s because they know that the support system isn’t there the way it is for the island reggae route.
“Hopefully my album will be accepted. I work hard and the music is good.”
While naysayers may prefer a more organic airwave assault opposed to a formulated one, there is little to hate on his hustle.
“Having that diverse fan base is extremely important to me because that’s what I am myself anyway,” Kekai said. “The same people (who) go to the ‘Mayjah Rayjah’ are at ‘Lovefest’ nowadays, so I figure why not be a local artist giving them that same experience through my music.”
A summer vacation to Las Vegas turned into the performance of a lifetime during this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival when he joined Los Angeles producer-DJ duo DSKOTEK to perform a remix of his song, “So Wrong So Right” for tens of thousands of fans to rage out to.
“If you’ve ever been you know how awesome it is just attending and enjoying the music and people,” he said. “But getting a song of mine played and being allowed to MC over it was huge!”
With his fingers crossed and his eyes on the proverbial throne as one of the most talented musical artists in Hawaii, mums the word on opportunities that transpired from his EDC moment, at least for now.
“After EDC I got to meet with a couple really big labels and I’ve got some really big stuff coming out, but it all starts with this album,” he said.
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.