Meet the young and incredibly gifted emo rapper, DEATH2KALON. The 20-year-old California native is paving his own way in the world of emo-rap, centering around making a profoundly positive impact on others.
BTS sat down for an incredible conversation with the introspective artist to get a better insight into who he is, learn more about his impactful Discord group centered around mental health, and who he’d be if he was a character in a TV show.
The film artfully captures the agony expressed in the song and is crafted with a dark, horror-esque, and chaotic feel. TV static fills the footage as shots are captured of the rapper surrounded by wildly flying newspapers and the violent swinging of locker doors as if possessed by demons.
Meeting his friend and producer Telly at the age of around 14, the two have grown together musically, like “Yin and Yang,” describes DEATH2KALON. Other than creating a unique sound together, the pair started the incredible Discord community “#AfterUs,” a place where other young people could connect with one other over shared struggles and discuss mental health in a safe community.
“I know how it felt to be, like, an outcast and not really fitting in with like a lot of groups and just feeling, you know, like feeling alone.”
Watch the full conversation with DEATH2KALON in the video above, or read through below to get a gist of our fantastic interview.
BTS: Give us the short history of you and your music career? What led to the release of your first song? And were you nervous to start putting your art out there?
DEATH2KALON: When I first started, it was kinda like a just-for-fun type of thing.
And I remember when I first recorded my first song. It’s all like iPhone 6s and you know, me and my friends are just fooling around on it. And I found something like a GarageBand app. And I went on there and tried a couple of songs out. And they had autotune on there and a bunch of other voice effects we’d play around with.
And even beforehand I used to write a lot of stories. Like I just used to have a journal and just write poems and stories. I was always into music from the start, but when I really started like getting into rapping was probably around, I want to say like the summer of 2017. So that’s when I started messing around on my phone.
And then that’s what led up to my first song. I wish I still had it. I wish I still had it, but I’ve been trying to find it for the longest, but I can’t, but it’s somewhere, it’s somewhere out there. Yeah.
BTS: What would you say is your biggest inspiration behind your music? What other artists inspire you and drive your creativity?
DEATH2KALON: Most definitely Juice WRLD. And I was listening to a lot of X[XXTentacion], like a lot of X. I’m talking like that 2017, early 2016, 2017, man. Nobody could tell me nothing. Like I was playing X, like back-to-back and Kanye. Kanye was like a lot of my childhood. Like, for sure. Like, that’s a legend. I like a lot of, I don’t want to say he influenced my sound, but when I was younger I played a lot of 50 Cent.
The Weeknd, Bryson Tiller, Tory Lanez, like all those singers. I think I picked up, like, I listened to them like a lot and I studied the skill and I think that’s how I realized like how to use my vocals properly because back then, I could sing, but I wasn’t really that good at it at the time.
BTS: So I know you used to/perhaps still write poetry… can you talk more about how that relates to your creative process?
DEATH2KALON: Mmm, I want to say when I started doing poetry, it was mainly, I think it was because I was really like a quiet kid and I didn’t really like talk to a lot of people like that.
You would have to speak to me to get me to talk. So. I was really just, you know, to myself, like the back of the classroom, just being really aware and I would write certain poems. It could really just be about anything. Like, I don’t know, just anything off the bat, just any story, like just making up a story, like just off the back of my head.
I was really good at English. I don’t know, like poetry was just easy. Like, I don’t know. I don’t know how to explain it, but yeah, it was just something that came like off the bat.
Like it was really like another way for me to express myself in a way, but it was before I was doing music, like before I did it publicly. Like I was just doing it privately. So, it was like another form of therapy, because we’ve heard other people say, even other artists, they’ll just say like, oh, you know, when I speak into the mic, it’s like therapy for me, it was kind of the same approach in a way.
BTS: Did any of your poems become your songs?
DEATH2KALON: You know, it’s actually crazy. I haven’t wrote, I haven’t written a song, probably, I want to say since like the beginning of 2020. So it’s been like a year I haven’t because I just freestyle and punch in and everything now. Because I’ve learned that if you just use anything that comes to mind and it actually has substance to it, it feels more free.
BTS: Let’s hear more about your producer/partner. How did you and Telly meet? How did you guys decide you both loved music and to pursue this path together?
DEATH2KALON: So how we met, it was through another mutual friend and we were just two little goofy kids in school. We weren’t doing music at the time. Mind you, like, he’s like skateboarding. And I’m like, I forgot what I was doing. I think I was like dancing or something or like playing basketball or doing something like just doing whatever.
And when we first met, it just clicked. Like it was like, ‘Oh, like, yo, what’s up? Like, what’s up bro?’ It was just all like some, you know, like just a natural friendship. From there, we was just hanging all the time. Like just doing whatever, going to the park, like goofing off.
I think we started making music, like started getting into music around the same time, but it wasn’t planned, which is the crazy thing. Like we just started picking it up like, oh, I want to do this. Want to do that? So we both progressed at kind of the same time.
BTS: Let’s talk music video design on your new vid to “Beautiful Death,” how did you and Isaac work to storyboard this process? Can you walk us through some of the artistic choices at play here?
DEATH2KALON: We shot it, it was, I think it was Monrovia, some city in Cali.
And when I broke down the little storyboard, the little storyline, he was rocking with it and we went over it and basically I wanted the tone of it to be like dark, but like really expressive.
It’s a lot of emotion, like a lot of emotion built up in the soul. And Isaac, like he’s, I don’t even know how to explain it, but Isaac, I don’t know how he does it, but he’s just crazy. Like his directing skills, his editing skills, like the way he catches angles and the shots, even in my videos.
I have another homeboy, maseonfilm, and he was on set too. He does the VHS work and the aesthetic he catches on screen. It’s just crazy. When you match those two together it’s insane. It’s unstoppable.
BTS: Ok so your discord group with Telly is so cool. How did you guys decide to start that Discord group? Give us the story of where it started, where you all are at with it, and where you hope to see it go?
When I was at their age, because mainly the people that are in the Discord, they’re probably like 14, 17, like they’re young. And I know how it felt to be an outcast and not really fitting in with a lot of groups and just feeling, you know, like feeling alone.
It’s like a place where everybody can vibe. Everybody can, you know, tell one another what they’re feeling or what they did today, you know, just having somebody to talk to. Cause that’s really important nowadays. Like, especially now it’s really important to just have somebody to talk to cause, and you know, you never know… like mental health is very important.
It’s crazy, there are three kids, they’re all like a Miami and they all were in the same city and they actually met up in Miami. And, like, actually hung out. It’s crazy. It brings people together. So like that’s just a place where people can feel welcomed and be their selves.
BTS: Clearly leaving an impact on people is important to you, how do you want people to feel from listening to your music? What takeaways would you want them to have?
DEATH2KALON: Music? I just want people to have somebody that they can. Look towards somebody that can speak for them in a sense to where they’re, they know they’re not alone and they can eventually achieve anything they want to achieve.
No matter what it is, I feel like this generation, especially ours, like it’s a lot of people that doubt themselves a lot. And a lot of people that don’t reach their full potential because, you know, maybe it could be like their family in their ear, certain friends in the ear, or just people on the internet.
Cause the internet is a cruel place. But if you build self courage and self-worth and you know, like you actually put your mind towards something, you can really do it. Like you can do it. Like anything is really possible. You just got to keep working towards it and you only got to prove something to yourself and you have to prove nothing to anybody at the end of the day.
BTS: Name an artist that is completely outside your genre but that you think would be dope to work with?
DEATH2KALON: I want to work with Trippie Redd would be fire. I want to do something with Tory Lanez. I want to do something with the weekend for sure.
I want to do something with, I don’t think we’re the same genre, but I want to do something would be the Billie Eilish for sure she’s fire. That would be cool.
Ski Mask The Slump God, I really like he’s fire too. And I want to do something with Kendrick Lamar, for sure.
BTS: What can we expect to see from you next in the coming year? What were your big goals to accomplish for 2022?
DEATH2KALON: We’ve got definitely a lot more visuals coming like this year. Like, especially a lot more visuals come in. A lot of music and probably some clothing too, not just tied in with me, not just DEATH2KALON, but like the AfterUs clothing line. I’m going to have that coming soon.
And mostly just a lot of content. So yeah, just be on the lookout for that because we comin’ in hot, like I’m talking hot, like no games, fast breaks all year.
BTS: If you could be a character in any movie (or TV show) who would you be, in what movie, and why?
DEATH2KALON: Zuko from “Avatar The Last Airbender.” His character development is crazy. It’s one of the most crazy developments ever, like in the show.
Give the beautifully crafted new music video “Beautiful Death” a watch and check out the full video interview for the complete conversation between BTS and DEATH2KALON. We cannot wait to see what else this talented rapper throws at the world this coming year!
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*DISCLAIMER*: The interview above was edited for readability/watchability.