A Spotlite on Rapper KINETIC 9
By Paul Bruinooge
Kinetic 9 (aka Beretta 9) exploded onto the music scene as a member of Wu-Tang Clan’s Killarmy as a kid with a vision. Under the close tutelage of Wu-Tang’s founding father and mastermind, the RZA, Kinetic took advantage of the opportunity to learn discipline and hard work from the abbot himself. Like a disciple of kung fu, Kinetic studied and developed as a lyricist and producer, all the while gaining experience in the music business.
Since Killarmy’s debut in 1997, Kinetic has been busy in and outside of Wu-Tang, from working with RZA on the original music score for Quentin Tarantino”s Kill Bill to landing a role in the director’s Django Unchained. Now, after years of training and with as much experience as one can have, Kinetic is ready to take the world on himself. To quote the RZA: “Kinetic is back for the revenge. He has lived a lot through me and now he is about to live for himself!”
Paul Bruinooge: Tonight the moon is closer to the earth than it ever gets and it”s Friday the 13th. Did anything crazy happen to you today?
Kinetic 9: Like when Jennifer Aniston”s titties get big in Bruce Almighty when Jim Carrey’s character brings the moon closer and causes a Tsunami? No, nothing too out of the ordinary. I did however buy some lotto tickets today, and I wasn’t aware that it was actually Friday the 13th until about 10 minutes ago when I was talking to the neighborhood kids and I asked what the day was and one of the girls said Friday the 13th. Ironically, I had bought 13 lotto tickets earlier in the day.
PB: You”re a hot commodity these days. You”ve got an album coming out with Achozen (your band with RZA and Shavo from System of a Down), you”re on two of John Frusciante”s latest solo albums, and you have a role in Quentin Tarantino”s Django Unchained. What makes the biggest names in the industry want to work with you?
K9: You know, it”s funny, cause John and Shavo never knew I was a rapper in Killarmy. I was hanging with John probably a couple months before he knew I was a rapper and that I was part of Killarmy. He just thought I was RZA”s boy or bro. It wasn”t until Killah Priest came to his house and Killah Priest called me Beretta 9 and John was like, “Wait…wait…hold up…Beretta 9…who”s that?” Killah Priest was like, “Oh…Kinetic,” and John was like, “Wait…what do you mean you”re Beretta 9?” I said, “Yeah, that”s my other name from Killarmy.” John just went to his record collection and he dug out all of our albums. The same thing with Shavo too. He just thought I was cool and shit. He was showing me how to rap, and was like, “Nah…you gotta say it like this, you gotta do it like this.” I just went along with it. I was having fun but he didn”t know I was part of Killarmy. We were hanging with his friends and stuff and one of them asked who I was. I said Beretta 9, and he was like “Beretta 9 of Killarmy?”
PB: And what about Quentin Tarantino?
K9: I met Quentin in 2004 when we worked on Kill Bill which I got credited for as an assistant to RZA. When RZA did American Gangster, he approached me and he was like, “Yo we gotta get you in a movie, RZA just did American Gangster.” It was cool too because I remember RZA saying, “I want to be in a Quentin movie” and not a lot of people know that my first flair is film. Before I ever got into music or anything, before I got into Killarmy, as a kid that”s what I wanted to be, was in the movies. And then that perspective changed as I got older getting into music, but then it eventually got me into film.
PB: And you came into the music business when you were 16?
K9: Yeah, I mean it was kinda before that. 9th Prince, Islord, Shogun, and I were running the streets of Steubenville, back then. The funny thing is that, like I say, my mind wasn”t even set on being an MC at that time. Though I was very into the craft having the influence of Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City. Then, of course, 9th Prince, along with Shogun and others peers. You could catch me beating one the table while others would flow with me, not at all comfortable with myself to even jump in. That changed with time. Nowadays you can catch four and five years olds flowing. Man, woman, and child. No matter the race, color or creed. And killing it too! But back then I hated my voice. You know that voice before you reach puberty voice. Well, we later went on to form Killarmy, and headed to New York to record our debut album and the rest is history.
PB: In 1997 Killarmy”s debut album Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars went to number 34 on the Billboard Top 200. What made the record sell so well?
K9: I would say having that Wu-Tang stamp. And, of course, our sound. But that W played as important a role as did we. RZA dropping the name on the intro of the Wu-Tang Forever LP–that was big.
PB: What was it like being exposed to success at such a young age?
K9: Beautiful. It was just around the time I dropped out of high school. I was feeling as though I wasn”t learning anything. I was definitely headed down the wrong path, running the streets, so I would say I was very fortunate. I was thrown into a high-paced lifestyle, eventually going to New York linking up with other Killarmy members to record our debut album Silent Weapons For Quiet Wars. That lead to three more albums. But, yeah, just to be there around the time Cuban Linx dropped, when GZA”s Liquid Swords was being recorded and Ghost’s Ironman. I remember I would roll with RZA to the city, and he would spend the majority of his time then in the studio. My cousin and I would turn off the radio to spark some conversation, hoping RZA would leave behind the unreleased music. Man, we would be in Manhattan chilling in front of the studio in a dope ass ride, bumping unreleased Wu-Tang shit.
PB: What”s your favorite Wu-Tang Record?
K9: Wu-Tang Forever.
PB: Do you remember the first time you heard Wu-Tang?
K9: Yeah, it was early “90s–somewhere around “92–when there were some demos floating around. If I’m not mistaken I think 9th Prince had some tracks. But to answer your question, early “90s I recall hearing tracks RZA, ODB, and GhostFace had done. I recall hearing “Bring Da Ruckus,” the original version, and “C.R.E.A.M (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)” with Deck’s original verse.
PB: With all the buzz around the 20th anniversary Wu-Tang album are you ready for the renewed interest in Killarmy?
K9: I”m hoping that will come. I think we”ve been out of the picture for a minute and we need to take a slower approach to it. Every time we get together it”s like. “Let”s do an album.” I”d rather we just do songs and then say, “Hey, we got an album, let”s put it out.” It’s tricky because all six members have their own agenda, I would say. Everybody needs to look at the fine print and take a step back. We”re Killarmy; we need to be strategic. It”s all about strategy. I think it should be broken up more between us. It should be culinary when it comes to doing music. I think we should take a more strategic approach. In the army, you”ve got your point person, you”ve got your artillery guy, you”ve got your explosives guy. We should be set like that. Not everybody just out for themselves. I feel as though when the time is right there will be a new Killarmy album.
PB: What music are you listening to these days?
K9: I listen to a lot of different genres of music. Just recently the Doobie Brothers, Stevie Wonder, Michael McDonald, and Hall & Oates. I was also just listening to Moondog. John Frusciante really turned me on to Brian Eno when I was at his house. I was like I need this to help me sleep when I”m at home, and that’s the thing, when I go to John”s house I just like to sit and listen to music. And he was listening to Schoolly D and a bunch of early hip hop records. We listen to a lot of different things. And then I told George Clinton I was working with John and he said he wanted to get him on a song. So I called John and said, “George Clinton wants to come hang.” And John was like, “Hell yeah!” and so that turned into the song “Let the Good Times Roll” for George Clinton”s Gangster of Love album.
PB: Has Jay-Z proven that hiphop is not just a young man’s game anymore?
K9: I like Jay-Z especially cause you look at his shows and he does his lyrics word for word and he looks cool. He still sounds like the record. Then you got Red and Meth, and they get up there and they primarily do word for word. You know they have Streetlife and them backing them up and everything, but they do phenomenal shows–it”s their whole movement and energy. Jay-Z”s energy has grown over the years. He moves around a lot more, but you know he”s just so cool and lax. He”s not on the mic screaming, but he”s getting his word out and clearly with the right energy. He does it without overdoing it. I want to be the artist that”s not looking crazy and over performing. I want my shit to be natural and I think that comes with rehearsing.
PB: What have you learned from Quentin Tarantino?
K9: What I learned from Tarantino is that TV is not bad for you. You know as a kid they tell you “you watch too much TV.” Nowadays it”s video games for kids. But being around him we”d watch a lot of films. He”s very intelligent. He”s the Godfather, I call him. And since I”ve known him I watch more TV now and I don”t just limit myself to the new movies. I dig back, black and white.
PB: What projects do you have going on?
K9: I started Shell & Bomb Productions LLC in January 2013. It’s a production company that is inclusive of writers, artists, producers, engineers, and basically all staff. It”s inclusive of anybody who is in the business that wants to play their part. So Shell & Bomb Productions I”m looking to take off the ground. I”m looking for new talent. I have some talent I”m working with and I just want to fuse those elements together and make good quality music, good sonic-sounding music. I haven”t put out an album as a solo artist yet and I”ve kinda been holding back for certain reasons just because I want to do it right. I”ve been dropping mixtapes here and there even for free. People always say why don”t you put out a solo album and I agree, but as an artist lies that conflict and it”s hard for me to keep doing things the same way. I want to do it on a bigger scale–the right financing, the right distribution. I”ve never had a manager, even coming up in Killarmy. Being around RZA I learned a lot. I learned the music business. I have years of experience as an artist, a writer, a performer, and as a producer now. I waited a long time for that. As a producer I wanted to make sure I was ready. Like RZA said recently in an interview: you need 10 years until you actually become a master of your craft. In the years in the field that I”ve done at any position I have over ten years experience. As an actor I”m about ten years in that too of actually being on the set. I can even add a couple more years just from working on music videos doing the lights. When they did the Holocaust video I didn”t want to be in the video I said I”ll do the lights. I”ve been meeting with a couple investors who have some interest. I”m confident that I will bring the majority of my ideas to light. I research it. I look at the market. I”m also open to suggestion. For Shell & Bomb I got all the proper pieces to make it work. It’s the perfect time for me; it”s like being a president. They set the age for president at 35 because by then you have experienced life. So I”ve got the knowledge to do this, the wisdom and the understanding. It’s my life.
Kinetic 9 is a rapper, best known as a member of the Wu-Tang Killarmy.
Written by Paul Bruinooge
Photography by Wheaton Mahoney & Courtesy of Kinetic 9
Design by Francesca Rimi
Photography by Wheaton Mahoney & Courtesy of Kinetic 9