Bravo Playing It Kool

Hip Hop has a long history of some amazing rappers reaching high levels of success before they’re even legal drinking age. Superstars like Nas, Lil Wayne, and LL Cool J were crafting classics and performing on sold-out tours before they reached their 20th birthday. More recently, new acts like Diggy Simmons, Chief Keef, and Joey Bada$$ have seen their names trending nationally on Twitter even though they’re barely removed from middle school. And in the not too distance future a new name may be joining that list.

Koolaiddbravo (born Brandon K. Jackson) is a 16-year-old emcee with an old soul and a new sound. Drawing inspiration from Kendrick Lamar, Stalley, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and others, this Virginia native is a lyrical assassin with talent well beyond his years. While most kids his age are spending their time online commenting on YouTube videos and tweeting about reality television, Bravo is spending his time shooting innovative videos and writing passionate songs about his reality. With a work ethic of a veteran and the energy of a rookie, Koolaiddbravo is a blue chipper with the potential to be an all-star.

The more I got into [rapping], it became a daily routine to write, and it became a passion of mine.

Yohance Kyles: When did you discover your voice as an artist?

Koolaiddbravo: When I was about thirteen I started writing rhymes, even though they weren’t that good. Then I put it on hold for a while. After I released Crash The Party on my 15th birthday, my first mixtape, I thought I had talent, so I decided to keep it going. Next came Koolsville, and I realized I could hone my skills and take the rap thing a long way. The more I got into [rapping], it became a daily routine to write, and it became a passion of mine. So pretty much after the release of my first project is when I discovered my voice.

YK: What lead you to pursue hip hop as a profession?

KAB: At first I started writing rhymes because my brother and sister rapped, so wanting to be like them, I came up with rhymes and attempted to rap. It wasn’t really a serious thing for me until the first mixtape I released. After that I was like, “yeah I can do this”, but when I dropped Koolsville I was totally into it. Around the time there were a lot of local rappers getting a buzz locally, and I felt I was better than all of them. So I continued to do it, getting better, and hoping to prove that I was among, if not the best. Now, I can’t go a day without thinking of some bars or writing a verse. I realized I’m actually nice, to the point I feel I could best a lot of these mainstream rappers. Through getting better and recieving more positive feedback from my music, I knew I could go somewhere with this and get acknowledged.

YK: How did you come up with the name Koolaiddbravo?

KAB: My nickname has been Kool-Aid for years because my friends say I have a Kool-Aid smile. I took that name and kept it. Originally my stage name was “Koolaidd The Black Ken” in reference to Lil B’s Black Ken mixtape, but I felt people would always reference me to Lil B, so I decided to change it to Koolaiddbravo. Among a list of names I chose, it appealed to me the most.

On the tip of stardom

YK: What was it like for you the first time you stepped on stage to perform?

KAB: It was very exciting. I wasn’t really shook, but I was a little nervous, at least until I started rapping. Once I began rapping I heard people in the crowd yell my name so I felt comfortable on stage. I met a lot of talented people. Overall it was a fun experience.

YK: You currently live in Virginia. Do you think that eventually you’ll have to relocate to a larger hip hop media city like New York or Atlanta in order to get the maximum exposure for your music?

KAB: I do believe that it would be best for me to move to a city like New York or even somewhere there is a lot of hip hop related activity to get more exposure. I plan on doing so in the future after I finish school.

YK: You’re Back 2 Basics tape had more of “trap rap” feel to it, but the new Diamond Thunder 2 EP seems to lean more on a conscious/poetic rap style. Why did you decide to try a different sound for your latest project?

Diamond Thunder 2 EP Cover

KAB: It’s like, it’s not that I tried a different style. I try to keep the sounds diverse throughout my music. Not to sound conceited, but I feel I’m somewhat of a deep individual. I have a high level of thinking when it comes to life and things of sort, so I like to relay the messages in way that would represent me. The way I write lyrics I put songs together in a weird way, but it’s the best way for me to do it. I’ve tried different approaches but not many of them work for me. I guess the conscious/poetic rap style is the style I’m most comfortable with. When I rehearse my songs, I often realize I could recite them in a spoken word/acapella type of way which helps me to find the best rhyme scheme.

I’ve even heard and read up on humans being aliens. I’m an unsual guy, so I find interest in things like that.

YK: On songs like “Terrorist Threats” and “Retroville Remix” you address some heavy topics including terrorism, alien abduction, and battling depression. How did you become interested in talking about such serious themes at a young age?

KAB: I like to get involved in what’s relevant as well as the important events in the world. For as long as I can remember there has always been speculation about other beings. I’ve even heard and read up on humans being aliens. I’m an unsual guy, so I find interest in things like that. As for the depression, it comes with life. Everyone is faced with it, and everyone handles it a different way. I like to touch on what’s going on currently in my life and things other people could relate to. I’m pretty smart, so I guess you could say I’m advanced for my age.

YK: Considering what’s the prevailing sound in mainstream hip hop right now, were you ever worried that listeners in your age group may not connect with those themes?

KAB: I always worry that people won’t understand what I’m saying. I really don’t expect many people in my age group to connect as of yet, but they will one day. I let my friends listen to my music, and the reactions are mainly the same with most people. I’ve dumbed-it-down on a few songs just to see how the feedback would be, and it was as I expected. There are people who actually understand and know what I’m talking about, and I love when I meet those people. I feel for someone to grasp the lyrics they would have to listen carefully.

YK: What’s you opinion of mainstream hip hop right now?

KAB: I don’t really listen to a lot of mainstream music, but from what I do listen to, it’s mainly flashy music and simple lyrics. In my opinion, it’s all hype music and songs that are meant to make people want to “bop” to them. I like the mainstream, but I’d prefer to listen to an underground artist any day.

YK: If you could collaborate with any three artists out now who would you choose and why?

Ab-Soul is a major influence on KAB

KAB: The first would Lil B, “The Basedgod”, for the simple fact that he is my favorite rapper. If I could collab with Lil B, that would probably boost my confidence and give me a feeling of great achievement, and it would be a great track. The second would be Ab-Soul, I think the guy is one of the best doing it right now. His music really speaks to me, and I understand most of what he says. I tell people to listen to him, but they don’t undertsand so it doesn’t have the same effect on them. He is a very skilled lyricist. The third artist would be Joey Bada$$. He’s a dope young’n. I feel like he’s better than a lot of the mainstream artists that are relevant. Since we’re both young I feel we could make some dope music.

YK: Your independent video for the remix to Ab-Soul’s “Terrorist Threats” is pretty creative. Can you just talk about the process behind making that video?

KAB: Well for that video my director and I found a location we thought would be perfect for the effect we were going for. The video is meant to stimulate the presence of extra terrestial beings and how they’ve affected the world. A lot of pictures and flashes. It went really well with the song. The background was to seem like a projector screen that the images showed up on. There were two of me- that was to make it seem as though I was talking to myself as well as telling a story to the audience, or listeners. It was fun, and my director, vainsmith, thought of the images that would coincide with the lyrics.

YK: You also had a series of videos on your YouTube channel updating the growth and maintenance of your dreadlocks. Why did you decide to share that process with your fans?

KAB: Before I actually got my locs, I watched many videos of people’s dreadlock journeys to ensure that it was something I wanted to go through with. As I watched them, I was amazed by how obvious the change in the appearance of people’s locs were, so I decided to document my journey. Whenever someone new sees one of my videos and are interested, they can look at the beginning to the current stage of my locs. It was for me to see the changes as well, but as time passed people were interested.

Long hair, Don't care

YK: Do you think your personal style is an important factor when selling your brand?

KAB: Most definitely. I think the way one carries his/her self is a very important factor when it comes to sales and things of that nature. There are people I would never have even thought about getting into if it wasn’t for their “swagger”. I don’t think the appeal would have much of a positive response if one’s style is the same as the next guy’s.

YK: What’s next for Koolaiddbravo?

KAB: I’m currently working on the Koolsville X mixtape that I plan to drop early December. The Koolsville series is something like my brand. Koolsville was the second mixtape I ever created, and the feedback I got from it was special. So I feel it’s only right to keep the movement going. This time around I feel I’ve gotten better with the schemes, lyrics, and quality. I believe this mixtape will show the world what I’m capable of as a rap artist.

All photos courtesy of Koolaiddbravo

To download Koolaiddbravo’s BRAND NEW mixtape Diamond Thunder 2 EP click it

To connect with Koolaiddbravo follow him @Therealkoolaidd

Check out Koolaiddbravo’s videos for “Terrorist Threats” & “Fences”:


Previous Q&A’s: Wildcard Film Auteur: Q&A with Filmmaker Vishnu Seesahai; Style & Substance: Q&A with Fashion Stylist Fatiah Rebbekkah