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KT Killin' Them: changing the direction of hip hop

Local hip hop artist, Kurtis Burke, known as KT Killin' Them or KT, opens for T-Pain August 26, set out to help change the face of hip hop.




"She Got Me"--Chae feat. KT Killin' Them

"She Got Me"--Chae feat. KT Killin' Them /Madeline Fetchiet

Kurtis Burke, known as KT Killin' Them, is not satisfied with, nor is he following in the direction the rap game is currently going in, and he wants to help be the change. His style is simple: no cussing, and no nonsense. While some rappers are superficially spitting about gang banging and selling drugs, Burke is killin’ them by keeping it real, instead.

“Hip hop is growing, but it’s growing in the wrong direction if you ask me,” says Burke. “Rappers are making millions and getting so famous off just talking about selling drugs or whatever the case may be: gang-banging or killing someone, and it’s stuff they don’t even do. It’s all about the image.”

For Burke, too, it’s all about the image, but it’s a much different picture. With dreams of making international music, Burke’s style targets audiences indiscriminately. His most unique trait as an artist is his “no cussing” ploy, aimed at attracting ears of all ages.

“I want everyone to listen to my music,” says Burke. After releasing his Hallucination of Reality mixtape in January and his iTunes single, “First Crush” around Valentine’s Day this year, Burke got right back to work on his next hit.

His brand new track, “She Got Me” with German producer, Chae, is already getting promotion in Canada, and should surely be hitting the radios in Germany and the U.S. in no time. Meanwhile, Hallucination of Reality proves he doesn't’t have to swear to spit fire. Tracks like “Roses Are Red,” and the hit, “International Dreams” produced by popular European producer, Legalise, are a display of his killer word-play and diversity as an artist.

“I never write the first thing that comes to my mind,” he says. “I’ll write a whole song and throw it away.” Burke possesses rare traits as an artist--maturity and a conscious awareness of his impact as a man and a role model. Unhappy with hip hop that displays an insensitivity to women and younger fans, Burke busts down barriers of the genre by telling the clean truth.

“The younger generation nowadays is getting worse and worse because of television music, rap--you know,” he says. “I want to be not the change, but help change. I would love to be the change, but you know, I’m just being realistic.” But with a keen recognition of the malleability of young minds, Burke makes music everyone can “live off of.”

Perhaps Burke understands the importance of positive influence because he once had “a young, brainwashed mind” himself. Born in Albany, New York and raised by a single mother, Burke says he often found himself in “no place you’d want to be.” At age 13, his mother moved him to Grand Rapids, Michigan in search of better surroundings.

“Moving here was, I want to say, a savior because if I didn’t, I would probably be in jail or dead or something,” he says. Since relocating to west Michigan, Burke has flourished. Last year, Burke snagged first and second place in the first-ever Hip Hop Heavyweights contest at The Intersection in Grand Rapids, and fellow artists, promoters and radio stations began to tune in. Dubstep/hip hop hits like “International Dreams” went internationa, with plays in Europe as well as the United States.

As he gains local and international attention on the underground scene, Burke says he tries to remain loyal to his image in the wake of opportunities to perform and collaborate with other artists.

"I turn rappers down,” says Burke. “I’m not lying when I tell you that. I maintain a certain image and I know my worth.” With chances to open for artists like Kid Ink, Yo Gotti and Curren$y, Burke rejected the offers without a flinch, maintaining his “image over popularity” mantra. In line with his goals to be an international artist, Burke says he keeps his distance from “cliches.”

“I’ve turned down Kid Ink just because, I like Kid Ink, no disrespect, but I don’t respect his music-- he’s just a cliche,” he says. ”If I’m going to open up for someone I have to respect them. If I was in his shoes I would want him to respect me.”

Respect and “a lot of love” is what Burke is getting around Grand Rapids venues these days. With a passion for pure inspirational lyricism, Burke creates an energetic performance atmosphere.

“You learn that in school--it’s about grasping people’s attention right away,” he says. “If that first line is not there, they’re not there.”

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