Today Casyo “Krept” Johnson and Karl “Konan” Wilson have shown us that they are a force to be reckoned with, shaking the UK with the unprecedented move of releasing two mixtapes –7 Days, and it’s counterpart, 7 Nights – in one day.
Since their Guinness World Record generating mixtape Young Kings, the rap duo have been skyrocketing to success in leaps and bounds. With two MOBOs and a BET award under their belts, the artists have generated masses of heat, cementing themselves as masterful lyricists who are redefining UK hip-hop.
Krept and Konan are not ones to ever water down their content, and because of this have undeniably maintained their artistic integrity over the years. This space to speak their truths has been made possible through a “good relationship” with Virgin EMI Records, whom Krept and Konan both speak highly of. They jokingly admit to having an “unruly personality”, and state they are allowed the full scope of their creative freedom: “they understand the creative side and let us get on with it. That was the part of the reason we even signed with them”.
“Music is therapy to us,” Konan affirms. “We’re artists – we make music that we feel like making at the time…a lot of people don’t like you to change. We want to enforce the fact were always going to make different stuff so get used to it. We couldn’t tell you what our next song is going to sound like”.
This quintessential characteristic of Krept and Konan as figures who effortlessly blur and cross the lines between music styles is hugely pronounced when listening to 7 Days and 7 Nights. The mixtapes encapsulate the full spectrum of their unmatched, unrivalled sound and, as they say, are definitely for the masses – “there’s a song in there for everyone – we want everyone to feel something from these mixtapes”.
As the title of the opening track on 7 Days suggests, Krept and Konan have ascended the hierarchy and are most definitely in the ‘Champions League’ of UK hip-hop. Right off the bat, the song knocks you off your feet and introduces a catalogue of high energy, menacing beats that follow. With hard-as-nails lyrics and earth-shattering baselines throughout, 7 Days has an urban, gritty and street vibe, and is saturated with guest appearances reflective of that. Skepta, J Hus, Stormzy, Abra Cadabra all deliver heavy, hard-hitting hooks and punchlines, and R.A gets a special mention for his tongue-twisting, lyrical acrobatics on ‘Khalas’.
There are tracks that probe their way into your eardrum and get stuck in your head for days, such as ‘Sauce’ and ‘Wo Wo Wo’ with their infectious instrumentals, and the hi-hat roll punctuated, haunting organ melody of ‘On My Life’ featuring Skepta is one of the best pieces of production to come out of the UK this year. However, there is much more depth to the mixtape than just a collection of club bangers. 7 Days bursts with ominous, raw and unfiltered content that offers a cathartic insight into the artists’ lives, experiences and their past; a transparency that Krept and Konan are known and loved for.
Through visceral verses, Krept and Konan boast of their highly deserved success, however simultaneously not forgetting their roots and what brought them to this point: “Yeah we had a couple set backs/ When I was broke I couldn’t relax/ Rain or the storms I was trying to make a G stack” (‘Champions League’).
In ‘Last Night In LA (Konan Freestyle)’ Konan spits over a choral refrain “went from a road yout to a rock star” and reminds his audience that they are artists who give back when he subtly alludes to their Positive Direction Foundation in the lyric “made a foundation to make up for it”.
When asked about how they have managed to keep their head in the game, the advice they offer is invaluable: “You gotta know what you want. Once you know what you want, you just go full speed at it. If you want to win and these things are going to stop you from winning, the logical thing is not to do them and just focus on the win. At the end of it all that’s what people are going to remember”.
Krept adds that the most crucial element is “blinding yourself with the goal; getting lost in the goal. That’s what’s kept us going and focused. Helping your family – that’s the most important thing in the end, making sure you can look after your family.”
Krept and Konan comment that 7 Days caters more to their male audience and is a salute to their original fans who have been there from the Redrum and Tsunami days. On the other hand, it is their female audience who were at the forefront of the thought process behind the creation 7 Nights and, and, as Konan reveals, “the first spark” for the mixtape.
The connection that they made with the ladies through the release of their previous single ‘Falling’ didn’t go unnoticed, and they wanted to tap into that growing fanbase further. “We don’t like to just feed one side of the population – we want everybody involved. Girls – were here for you, don’t worry we got you” Konan grins.
This tribute is touching, and particularly evident in ‘Cold Summer (Krept Freestyle)’ where he celebrates women in verses that echo Tupac’s: “A woman so powerful/ The only thing apart from god that a man would bow down to… Gotta give praise to a woman / Every one of us came from a woman…”. Krept’s verses touch on more than just feminism, but also race, police brutality and religion: “More grief, more black men dying/ Then they throw us all in a cell/ My young black gs got to change this within ourselves/ They don’t even need to kill us now/ They just give us the guns, and we kill ourselves”.
On the other side, 7 Nights has a more downtempo, ambient and sultry feel to it, which is embodied perfectly in the curtain-raising intro track ‘Don’t Lie’. Konan emphasizes that this track is his proudest moment on the record. It pushed him as an artist further than anything he’s done before because all the components of the song, including beat, bass, sample, vocals and harmonies are all entirely Konan’s handiwork, and it is important for him that his audience keep that in mind when hearing it.
The features on 7 Nights include Jhené Aiko, Hudson East and Tory Lanez and the tape is permeated with a dreamlike, lighter production, weaving velvety vocals over smooth RnB styled instrumentals.
One of the more striking songs on the mixtape is ‘For Me’, which is infused with a delicate dancehall and reggae beat that Konan gives recognition to his father, renowned Jamaican star Delroy Wilson, for, stating that music was “always in my genes. There was never another path for me”.
When asked about their collaborative process during the creation of the tapes Konan replies with “were a duo but we’re individuals – we make it individually, but it comes together somehow. He’ll write a verse, and I’ll write a verse completely separately but it will seem like we wrote them in the same room – we’ve been doing it for so long we’re in sync”. And this is palpable when listening to the record – their vocals interlace with each other’s seamlessly in flawless flow that makes it hard to distinguish where one voice ends, and the other begins.
What differentiates Krept and Konan from the rest is quality, consistency and versatility, as well as their humbleness despite their rapid rise to chart-topping stardom – the pair of mixtapes have been out for less than 24 hours, and at the time of publishing, both are in the iTunes top 5.
7 Days and 7 Nights are a compelling and groundbreaking pair of records, layered with flavour and force that paint a compelling portrait of Krept and Konan and their sound. It solidifies them in the highest echelons of UK hip-hop as unapologetic, trailblazing and pioneering artists who never cease to amaze and surprise, and who, for the foreseeable future, are unstoppable.
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Words Anya Angert.