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ThaWilsonBlock Magazine Issue66 (August 2018)

"No One Is Safe" A Profile on Chris Kemp and Dirtay

Article by Jhantu Randall
It was an unusually balmy August night heading to the No One is Safe record release party in Columbia City. It was the kind of night where there was something unexplainable accompanying the energy the city was holding. With all the projects being released in the local scene, if 2018 is “The Surgical Summer” then the Pacific Northwest is surely sharpening their scalpels.

Pulling up to the theatre, I walked for a few minutes on a rather vibrant block as I saw the surrounding bars, restaurants and cafe’s that lined the street. After glancing at my phone I was greeted by one of the headliners, Seattle rapper, Chris Kemp. Now, before we go any further, I have personally known this person for around 16 years, I know to a degree where he started and how far he’s come. My biggest challenge with this was to remain as unbiased as possible. We caught up a bit as live jazz music could be heard from the 2 artists playing in the venue, giving acknowledgements and introductions to the other performers who were on the bill.

I wish I had an opportunity to talk to all the performers on the bill because they all made a distinct mark on this event, but hopefully their words will appear in a future article.

Before the interview began, we walked into the venue, past the 2 on stage playing jazz, and walked through a heavy green door. In the back stood a bar and to the right, an elevated stage that had huge red drapes revealing a DJ’s booth. This place was built for performing and it only seemed right that this was the location to host this party.

We stepped back outside and that’s when I started the interview with Chris Kemp. As I stated earlier, I have known this man for over a decade so instead of the usual introductions I started with the question, “What sets you apart from the array of other artists out here?”

He stated that he’s a rapper first, a student to the craft but he’s never been one who accepted being boxed in. From his first mixtape, “Star Power” to the other projects he’s been apart of, he’s always tested his boundaries. Ranging from just spitting bars to venturing into pop music with high energy, catchy hooks. Taking influences from his mother blasting Bone Thugs N Harmony on the radio to listening to 2pac and Biggie as a young kid, the seed to tell stories is implanted even though at a young age, those stories aren't quite as relatable as they are in later life. Also pulling from people like Nelly, Lupe and Kanye, Chris’ most unexpected answer was that other parts of his song writing comes from modern Country music. As shocking as that is, if I think about it for a moment I can understand it. Both genres came from the blues, both have a heavy bass to them and both are predicated on telling vivid stories, regardless if you agree with the content.

Now Timothy Kendall Jr., better known as Dirtay was a little harder to interview. A very stoic person who wears every emotion in his expressions, you know right off the bat that he’s going to tell you the truth off top. I had seen Dirtay perform a few years back and have always liked his music, but was always a bit too intimidated to talk to him for some reason. The first thing I asked him in our interview was to describe himself to the people, his response was simply, “I’m an asshole.”

Some may take that a certain way, but in the world of performing, many strive to be that but very few actually can hit that bar while still being held in such high regard by all those who associate with him. While most rappers talk about beginning to write rhymes as kids, Dirtay said he’s only been writing music for 6 years. His verses are his therapeutic release from the stress he goes through, his finished product is very well produced songs. A songwriter first, Dirtay begins the process by writing the hooks before crafting the verses around it. With a rather unconventional style, Dirtay said one of his influences coming up was No Limit’s C-Murda which made sense, both move to the beat of their own drum and make moves regardless of the public's initial thoughts. Intrigued, I wondered what his writing process is on these songs that he creates, half expecting some long drawn out answer, Dirtay summed it up by saying, “I write every rhyme just 4 bars at a time.” With that information, his finished work is even more impressive considering he takes many different thoughts and pieces them together like a puzzle that only he himself knows the answer to.

On top of it all, every piece of apparel worn in that show by him and Chris was also custom made and designed by Dirtay as well as the cd’s and artwork. Beyond rap lays the heart and mind of a mogul who’s determined to make his way regardless of what his competition is doing. The show itself sums up the title of the ep, No One is Safe isn't merely a catchphrase but rather a strong statement!

The album itself takes on the task of not only announcing that both Chris Kemp and Dirtay are here to make an impact, the high speed tempo and the raw energy of their set comes off as a distinct warning shot aimed towards anyone who would have the audacity to doubt the beast that they have created. And to think, this whole collaboration came into existence with one simple invite and a miscommunication. Chris was only expecting to do one feature, but one feature eventually turned into a culmination of 2 creative minds coming together as they fed off the cadence and stage presence of the other.

To perfectly sum up what the future holds from this project, Chris Kemp said it the best, “Only time will tell,” leaving the audience with a sense of anticipation on what the future holds in store for these 2 unique artists.

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