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Putting Ass On The Beat

Kutt Calhoun

It doesn’t take much to get Kutt Calhoun talking. He works his laid back southern charm with fans before each show, signing autographs, posing for pictures. But he’s not nearly so laid-back on stage—there, he dances and flows with an acrobatic ease. Over ten years of touring with Tech N9ne, Kutt has released three albums and is now co-headlining the Strange Noize tour to promote his latest release, Raw and UnKutt. Kansas City born and raised, the MC is now touring all over the United States and is working on achieving mainstream success.

He took a few minutes to speak with Mass Media over the phone from his tour bus before a show he headlined in LA this summer.


Mass Media: Do you still live in Missouri?

Kutt Calhoun: I haven’t moved out of the state yet. Born and raised. Still there. Just be on the road more than I be at home, you know.

MM: Any intention of moving?

KC: Kansas City is cool. I’m just so used to it, man. Had we not toured so much and expensively I probably would have been ready to move out years ago, you know. But just being born and raised there it’s no problem for me to stay there. I love Kansas City. It’s my birthplace, you know what I’m saying? I think us being gone so much keeps me content to stay around home.

MM: How old were you when you started rapping?

KC: I was fourteen when I started rapping, man. I was going to a Boys and Girls, and I was in a marching band as well, called the Marching Cobras. And there was a guy in there that used to rap every day and I’d sit around and I’d listen. I used to sit around and watch these guys beat on the table and stuff while we was there in the lunch room or wherever we was at, just beatin’ on something, makin’ a beat. And he was rapping and I was like, wow, I want to be able to do that. And I went home, and I wrote something and I had the guys make the beat and it was like wow, you know what I’m saying (laughter.) It was better than some of the stuff they’d written before, and I’d never rapped in my life.

I’ve always rapped music like NWA. I’ve always rapped other people’s albums, or mocked them, you know. Gotten in front of mirrors and rapped a whole song, memorize their whole album in front of the TV holding a brush like it’s a microphone, you know, doin’ that. But I’d never written any of my own, so that was my first time when I was 14 and since then I’ve been writing. Got into a studio in ’95 for the first time.

MM: What’s a day in your life like now?

KC: Right now a day in the life of Kutt Calhoun, man, I’ve been on tour since May 11th and I haven’t been off tour since. It started May 11th as Strange Days, and that tour ended June 19th which allowed me to just sleep overnight at home and get up the next morning and leave by 11 o-clock to start driving to Colorado Springs to meet up with the guys of Head PE and Subnoize Records. In Colorado Springs we started this tour, called Strange Noise on June 21st. So I just had one night to sleep, and I started this and I’ll be on it until August 7th. (Since this interview took place in late July, Kutt Calhoun has gone back on tour with Tech Nine, and won’t be back home until October 30th.)

So a day in the life of Kutt Calhoun consists of waking up in a different city or a different state every day. I’m going to work man, waking up, getting’ up, getting’ something to eat. Before you know, it’s time to sound check, and meetin’ with fans outside. We have little meet and greets every now and then. Coming time for the show, man, I’m co-headlining with Head PE, so I go on any time between 9:20 and 10:10 each night right before Head PE goes on. So it’s like, a day in the life of Kutt Calhoun is stayin’ busy, stayin’ busy. Watchin some of the guys that go on before me at the merch booth, taking pictures, signing autographs for fans, gettin’ on stage, showin’ my butt off workin’ hard, workin’ my ass off man. My 30 minute set, gaining new fans, coming off of the stage, going back over to the merchandise booth, signing autographs, making new fans, people that never knew me saying that my music’s awesome, they’re loving it, keep doing it. You know, doing that at the end of the night, and coming back onto the bus, getting something to drink, maybe something eat, goin to sleep and waking up to do the same thing. That’s how my days are.

MM: How did you get the name Kutt?

KC: The name Kutt, man, came from me having old school Cutlass Supreme cars, like 71, 72 old school Cutlasses. And back then we’d call ‘em Cut Dogs, so they started calling me Cut Dog because I had quite a few cars that was that year of old school Cutlass, so that was my original name, Kutt Dog, and it changed to Kutt Calhoun after awhile.

I just got to thinking, Kutt Dog, nah it just don’t sound professional. For the success that I wanted to reach, Kutt Dog just sounds kinda bland, you know what I’m saying? So I was like, I’ll go with Calhoun. That’s my last name, my real last name. And Kutt Calhoun, it just kinda flowed. It just went together, meshed together, and it’s been that way ever since.

How did you meet Tech Nine?

I met Tech Nine late 98, early 99. We happened to be recording at the same producing house, IcyRoc. We call it the Rock Tank. That’s Tech’s original engineer/producer that he was with, before I even knew who IcyRoc was.

I left one studio, and started recording over at IcyRoc, and it just so happened to be where Tech Nine was recording at, so we bumped into each other there. That’s how we met.

He heard my music, liked it, and got on my album for free, which back then, if you wanted Tech on something, if you had him on something, it costed. So for him to get on my album and want it to do it for free was not only greatly appreciated, but it was also a complement, saying that he thought I had talent. And he was willing to jump on my album without me having to pay him. And shortly after that he started asking me if I knew his songs, and if I’d like to go and start doing a couple of shows with him, and of course I was ecstatic, man.

The first show that I did with him was the Spirit Fest in Kansas City. It’s a big festival, like fifteen, twenty thousand people, and he busted my cherry with 15,000 people at the Spirit Fest. I was so scared and nervous. But I did that show, and haven’t looked back since.

Name some of the other artists you idolize.

One of them is dead, may he rest in peace, Tupac Shukar. Definitely Eminem, that guy is phenomenal. Scarface, Ice Cube, UGK, may Pimp C rest in peace. Bun B is a phenomenal artist, man, and Pimp C, those guys are all in water. They’re so good for each other. It’s a pair. But Bun B is a phenomenal lyricist and he’s always shown his ass on each verse that he’s been on. He’s never had a dull verse, man. I like that guy a lot. TI is a great artist and rapper that I admire. Busta Rhymes is a great, great innovator, and very eclectic. Busta Rhymes, as far as the lyrics. Jedakiss, Jay Z of course, yeah those would be some of the top guys. Oh I’m sorry, and one more, Andre 3000 and Big Boy, you can’t forget about Outkast.

Speaking of Jay Z, why did you decide to use Auto Tune in your latest album even though it has kind of a stigma about it now?

I used [Auto Tune] on Flip Cam, like right in the middle. It was after my first four bars, I used it. You know, as far as him saying no Auto Tune and all that stuff, I mean that’s just his opinion, man. If everybody just did what one person said, man this would be crazy, you know what I’m saying. So that was Jay Z’s opinion. Him going F auto tune and all that, you know, that’s on him.

But if I feel like I hear auto tune, like I did on that particular song, I’ll use it. I wasn’t going to let what this man said dictate what I’m going to do in my music. You know what I mean? That was his opinion, man. So I’m going to continue to use it, if I feel that it fits for anything. Jay Z, even though I like him and admire his music, is not going to dictate what I want to do in my music.

When comes to lyrics verses flow, what’s more important to you in your music?

You got to have both—the flow and the delivery, and the content, the lyrical content. That’s what the industry is missing right now, man. It’s like you can damn near rap about anything and the hook be totally different, has nothing to do with each other, and just the lead is nice and that’s all that matters. That is so crazy man.

And you know, coming up to Spice 1, and Ice Cube, and Ghetto Boyz, and Scarface, man those guys had something to talk about. Not only was the beat hard, and their flow hard, they was actually talking about stuff. I like story telling rhymes, I like speaking about myself in a third person point of view. I like painting pictures, man. I want to be the Picasso of what I do, the Michelangelo of what I do. The beat bangin is just the icing on the cake.

How are the sales for this album compared to your last few?

The record sales are going phenomenally better than my previous two albums. This album has gotten me more exposure, as well as more fans and more sales. And it’s continuing to sell since it’s been out June 8th.

It’s continuing to sell because I’m still on the road and I’m performing this 30 minute set on the stage every night, man, in front of a lot of fans who have no idea who I am and maybe some that are there who know who I am, because they’ve seen me at strange music Tech Nine shows, but these kids are loving it man. And it’s doing phenomenally well. I would say three or four times better than my previous two albums especially my previous one that just came out, Feature Presentation, which was a phenomenal album as well but didn’t get its just deserts.

But right here is making a statement. Raw and Unkutt is doing well, very well. I have no complaints about it. I am happy with this and hope to continuously prove it. I’m only a month and a half in, with it being out man. Hopefully those numbers will keep rising and the word will keep spreading about Kutt Calhoun and about Raw and UnKutt.

Do you have a favorite song on your album?

Ah man, my favorite song is two to eighteen, you know what I’m saying. The first one is a skit, so two through eighteen is what I would say is my favorite. They all have their unique qualities, so I don’t have just one favorite, man. They all mean something different, and have a different feel, and it’s a different part of my life or what I was feeling or whatever I’ve gone through. So there’s no one particular favorite.

If I could speak through the fans though, a lot of them are loving Calling My Name. And that’s the one that’s the nearest to me as far as it being personal and how I really felt like I was at my wits end and this is how I feel. I’m giving it to you Raw and UnKutt, if you don’t like it fuck you, if you do get it and you love it, that’s great because that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want people to feel offended by it. And that’s the song that a lot of these fans are digging man, you know they love the album but that song I guess sticks out to them. So I did my job on that one. Writing my heart, and how I felt, and not holding back, you know, it worked out for me.

Check out Kutt Calhoun’s latest album, Raw and UnKutt, in stores now. It’s a beast. Each track will keep you wanting more.

If you’re a UMass Boston student and you’d like to do interviews with artists like Kutt Calhoun, contact our Music Editor, Bonnie Godas, [email protected].

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010