By Shannon Heupel, Montgomery Advertiser
Montgomery has the potential to be a significant participant within the rap and hip hop scene of America, and one in all its music stars would like to see it occur.
Nevertheless it’s going to take quite a lot of work.
“We’ve got to deprogram ourselves first,” stated Kevin “Khao” Cates, one of many fathers of lure music. He’s a multi-platinum, Grammy nominated music producer who has bought greater than 30 million information.
Like most of Montgomery’s artists, he struggled in his youth earlier than discovering success.
Like few others, he’s poured that success in to one thing even larger that advantages others, together with a newly launched Black Historical past 365 double album primarily based on a Black historical past textbook he helped create.
When he appears to be like at Montgomery’s music scene general by means of the lens of expertise, Khao stated it must develop and join.
“We’ve got to take a look at (Montgomery’s scene) as being larger than ourselves, and our personal points,” Khao stated. “Any artist that will get taken away from right here, it hurts us. It hurts Alabama as a complete.”
By “taken away,” Cates means greater than having artists, like himself, who really feel pressured fo journey to bigger markets to make a reputation and attain the following stage. Montgomery exports quite a lot of artists, particularly rap and hip hop, however we’re additionally shedding expertise to violence.
“Shedding Doe B damage town as a complete,” Khao stated. “The violence, there’s received to be a shift from the frivolous issues that our younger males are dying from… The facility is in unity, greater than something. With us divided, we are able to’t get forward.”
FINDING HIS WAY OUT OF AND BACK TO MONTGOMERY
“I achieve this a lot in all places else, now on a world aspect, however house has all the time been my coronary heart,” Khao stated. “Generally it looks like it’s tougher to make sure issues occur on this metropolis.”
There was a time California native Khao felt trapped in Montgomery, like he was up towards a brick wall. Some folks even used him as a cautionary story to different would-be artists. They’d say, you don’t wish to find yourself chasing goals like Khao.
“After I first began, I all the time knew I used to be going to be music,” Khao stated. “I didn’t know the way it was going to occur, however I knew I used to be going to do one thing large sometime.”
As a child, he was a part of a music group that might do drug-free reveals for elementary college students. Whereas he was at Lanier Excessive College, he received into radio doing program opening spots, after which a mixture present referred to as the Friday Evening Avenue Jam on Sizzling 105.7.
In 1999, Khao was additionally a part of a gaggle Originew Crumbsnatchaz (aka Unfastened Deuce) with William “Bizzo” Brown and Daryl “Hed Rush” Branche. The title got here from the shortage of profession strikes for hip hop in Montgomery. Chatting with the Advertiser on the time, Khao stated it was like scrambling for crumbs.
To chase his dream as a younger grownup, Khao scraped up sufficient cash to maneuver to Atlanta, and tried to get by doing temp work.
“I ended up being homeless, residing out of my truck, however nonetheless going to work,” he stated.
Khao didn’t let anybody again in Montgomery know the way he was residing. He didn’t need those who thought he’d by no means make it to really feel like they have been proper.
“I simply stored pushing, stored pushing, stored pushing, and it simply developed from there,” stated Khao, who at first discovered work as a “ghost producer” for large artists, with no credit score.
Then he got here again to Montgomery and helped open a studio right here, Self Rizun Leisure.
“About that point, we began a crew referred to as Tha Heavvy Hittaz,” Cates stated.
Throughout his return to Montgomery, Khao related with T.I. and Grand Hustle Information, which he describes as a brotherhood. He’d unknowingly cast a hyperlink to Grand Hustle years earlier than at Sizzling 105.7 when performed music from an unknown artist Jason Geter, who would go on to change into Grand Hustle’s CEO. Underneath this group, Khao would produce on TI’s “City Legend” and “King” albums.
“I by no means did really signal a cope with them. It was only a matter of mates coming collectively to construct an empire,” Khao stated.
As of late, Khao will get again into Montgomery pretty recurrently. Final summer season, he did a stay present right here with Terrence Baldwin. Khao can be related to the area by means of his spouse, who’s from Selma.
“I’m going down to go to my in-laws there rather a lot,” Khao stated. “My sister and my brother are nonetheless in Montgomery.”
Which is why Khao is in search of methods to carry new alternative there.
“Whenever you begin shifting minds, you’ve received to offer them one thing else to sit up for,” Khao stated. “If we are able to change the mindset and create some new alternatives to the place folks can shift their power differently, that’s going to be one of many large items of getting that so as.”
KHAO FINDS ANSWERS IN EDUCATION
Within the midst of Khao’s music success, there was a lesson in his head from his Air Pressure veteran father, the late Michael Gregory Cates.
“He used to inform me, don’t simply achieve success. Be important,” Khao stated. “It by no means actually meant as a lot to me, till he handed. I used to be holding on to these phrases. That’s once I began realizing, wow, I’ve completed these items musically, however I transfer on to significance?”
Following within the footsteps of his father — a person who devoted a big chunk of his time to training outreach by means of ROTC scholarship awards, mentoring and social work — Khao discovered his reply in training. He started creating new methods to maintain youngsters engaged, particularly in a time when a lot of studying is digital.
In 2008, Khao based Bridge DA Hole, a 501c3 non-profit group.
“I took outing within the peak of my profession and wrote a textual content e book (with Denise Thompson and Willie Brown) that teaches life expertise and character constructing by means of hip hop,” Khao stated.
That’s developed right into a curriculum of life expertise that makes use of hip hop as a bridge between dad and mom and youngsters. Celebrities like Meagan Good, Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, Ludacris, Nipsey Hussle, Snoop Dogg and extra additionally received concerned.
“All these folks supported the motion, and it grew,” Khao stated. “We’re in faculties all through the U.S., South Africa, the Bahamas.”
He was undoubtedly on the trail to significance, and even obtained a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Obama.
After that, he based KOOLriculum, which has been described as College Home Rock on steroids. It’s over 500 songs that Khao has produced to assist educate math, science, social research and English for college students from pre-k by means of twelfth grade.
“I took the complete Widespread Core curriculum and stated, that is my to do checklist,” Khao stated. “I created songs and music movies on each matter. That’s now getting used all through faculties as properly.”
Inside KOOLriculum, he’s shaped a brand new division referred to as Kool AR (Augmented Actuality) that helps early studying with phonics and counting.
“Whenever you intention your telephone on the e book, the e book involves life,” Khao stated. “These characters hop on high of the e book, and there’s music movies.”
Most not too long ago, he’s partnered with Black Historical past 365 because the director of music training. It’s a gaggle that’s created an official Black historical past textbook.
“It’s being utilized in Texas faculties, and about to go in faculties all through the nation,” Khao stated. “I produced songs for every chapter, creating the soundtrack for Black historical past, from historic Africa all through present occasions.”
He’d like to see his packages utilized in Montgomery, and stated he’s met with the Montgomery Public Faculties about attempting to make that occur.
“I’m saving youngsters in all places else all over the world, however not at house, and it bothers me,” Khao stated.
NEW MUSIC AND AN ALBUM LISTENING PARTY
By means of all Khao’s work in training, he hasn’t deserted his common music profession. He’s engaged on new initiatives from house and in his 20,000 sq. foot warehouse music/movie studio in Atlanta.
“I’m engaged on a undertaking that’s type of like Quincy Jones meets DJ Khaled on steroids type of album,” Khao stated. “I introduced over 50 of the largest artists in hip hop, and fused all of them into 15 tracks. That album could come out the top of this 12 months.”
He’s dropped a couple of singles from it, together with “Performed With Her” that includes Lil Child, Gucci Mane, YBN Nahmir of Birmingham and fellow Montgomerian Tabius Tate.
“After which I did a report referred to as Unified. That report was my reward to the West Coast,” Khao stated. It was filled with West Coast legends Nipsey Hussle, Snoop Canine, The Recreation, E-40, Ice-T, Mozzy, Downside and G Perico.
His Black Historical past 365 double album from the Black historical past undertaking was launched in early February. It consists of songs like “Convict Leasing,” “Black is Stunning,” “Slavery,” “Harlem Renaissance” and “Elephant within the Room.”