On The Record: Joe Kerr
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Sharing his soul while making a statement in the name of Hawaii hip-hop is how Joe Kerr turns up.
Recording and putting out music as part of a collective or crew has never been an issue for for the Mililani-bred MC born Richard Simms, who has performed and recorded as a member of The Hammer Bros., Gotthos and the Black Baldwins. He may even hold the Hawaii hip-hop record for most guest appearances on other projects without ever releasing one of his own.
That will eventually change once “Journeys Into the Red Folder,” a mixtape that draws upon his personal misery, triumphs, struggles and his take on on the rights and wrongs of society, hits the Internet. Depending on your point of view, the debut effort is either long overdue or comes just the right time. Simms believes it’s the latter.
“I make real music — or at least music that’s real to me,” he said. “I think people can tell when you give ‘em something that’s truly heartfelt.”
Much of the aptly-titled project was conceptualized while he was incarcerated at Oahu Community Correctional Center.
“I kept a red folder, and in that folder I kept every song, idea and concept I had musically and my real personal paperwork,” he said. “When I got out, I opened the folder and started recording. This mixtape is a collection of those writings.”
Simms said he’s a changed man who battles his demons every day, but through all the bad breaks and questionable decisions, hip-hop has always been his release.
“I’ve been recording music solo for a while, but things and situations would always arise (and) I’d have to put it on hold and never go back to it, or start something new with new producers,” he said.
“Journeys Into The Red Folder” delves into aspects of his dark and twisted thoughts from the past via his own label, DOASC. Recorded primarily at Primaphonix Studios in Kalihi, Simms said the new mixtape will resonate with those in search of the realness lost in hip-hop today.
“Hip-hop needs more people to start making statements again,” he said. “To stand for something other than sex, drugs, violence and Gucci shoes.”
Likeable and as brutally honest as they come, affiliations with Hawaii hip-hop’s heavy hitters goes back to the days of rhyme cyphers at the Wave Waikiki and Buddha Bar in Waikiki. The charismatic showman has performed in front of crowds small and large, even opening for legendary rapper DMX at Blaisdell Arena.
“It’s like, how could I stop making music, maybe I just don’t want any of Hawaii rap history to be lost and I kinda feel like I contributed to the history of Hawaii hip-hop at least a lil’ bit,” he said.
Simms credited Primaphonix owner Jerry “Sub Zero” Wilkins for being an instrumental part of his refined focus, which has turned him into quite the studio junkie.
“Nowadays my focus is helping DOASC music and the artists at Primaphonix Studios advance our careers,” he said. “If we can all remain staples, we can do more to help newbies and the scene as a whole.”
While total downloads, likes and listens will loosely define the success of “Journeys Into The Red Folder,” simply having opened that folder to share with the world already spells victory.
“It’s in a safe place,” said Simms. “I still open it from time to time to remember how far I’ve come and how easy it is to go back there, too.
“The real triumph is just being able to look back on your body of work and seeing the growth.”
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.