I first met Ryan, aka Kadesh Flow, freshman year of college in 2007. At the time I decided I needed to get to know him because he was the only other black person I’d met who’s read the Wheel of Time series. We quickly hit it off, generally being blerds before we knew it was a thing.
When he first sent me his mixtape, I didn’t know what it would sound like. This was a time when snap music was dominating the radio. This was pre-Kendrick, pre Gambino, pre Lecrae- and even Drake was still a regular on Degrassi. So when he told me he was a lyrical rapper infusing Christianity and nerd references into his work I had no groundwork to base my expectations. But I was pleasantly surprised. His sound was rough around the edges, but it was cool in the least cool way possible. Music that infused references to video games and anime. It was a vibe.
Flash forward to 2018 (yes; it’s been 11 years and yes, typing that made me feel old AF) and now Kadesh Flow is slowly turning into a big deal. After quitting his comfy corporate job a while back to pursue his music full time he’s already making moves- performing a set at SxSW and opening for the one and only Miss Monae in a few months. Luckily, I had the chance up to catch up with him at Secret Stages, a low key music fest in Birmingham, AL for up and coming artists.
When I walked in the venue it was a chill scene; he was halfway into his first song and there was a decent crowd. It was dimly lit with a small stage but he was owning the room. Then, he put down the mic and transitioned seamlessly to an insane trombone solo. The audience applauded while he continued like it was the simplest thing on earth to do. By this point, I completely forgot that I was supposed to be ‘the press’ and just enjoyed the show- the parts where he cut the music to spit fearlessly about white privilege to a predominantly white crowd in the heart of Birmingham, to how he leaned in- feet balanced on the edge of the stage, before exploding in a burst of energy. His set serves as the perfect metaphor for the Super Saiyans he often references in his lyrics and the Goku dabbing shirt he rocked- once he gets powered up there’s no stopping him. After the show, was gracious enough to do a brief Q&A.
KWC: Let’s start off with an introduction Who are you? Where are you from?
Kadesh Flow: Kadesh Flow. I’m from Kansas City, MO, by way of Tuscaloosa, AL, by way of Spanish Fort, AL. I moved to Spanish Fort when I was 7, but my family was military, so I was all over the world before that.
KWC: When did you start rapping?
Kadesh Flow: I started rapping when I was 11. I was on the back of the bus as a 6th grader, and my friends and I were roasting each other. I wrote my first rap to tell a friend how bad his breath was. Yes, seriously.
KWC: Who is your favorite rapper or a rapper who inspires you the most?
Kadesh Flow: …that’s hard. Big KRIT is probably my favorite rapper right now. I’m loving what Kendrick is doing for the respect people give to hip-hop, outside of hip-hop. He’s brought the art form to a place of respect that hasn’t existed before him. My favorite rapper, all-time…probably either Black Thought or Lupe Fiasco.
KWC: At your show, you mentioned you left your job to rap full-time. What made you realized that’s what you wanted to do?
Kadesh Flow: I was working 20 hour days for about a year. I started cracking, making mistakes across all spectrums of my life, eventually. I had to make a decision. My manager sat me down and basically said, “we can help you improve and get back to where you were, but you really should consider the music momentum you’re building.” People in the C-suite at my job were coming to my shows. A lot of people in the company knew about how I was playing lots of shows, recording sessions on trombone, playing out of town, touring, etc. I chose to listen to my manager, and my heart. They gave me until the end of the quarter, which was about 6 weeks. Company and the sales team both threw me parties. Chief Sales Officer took me to lunch to give me some wisdom. I left the job on June 30, 2017.
KWC: Was there any doubt about whether or not you made the right decision?
Kadesh Flow: No. That’s not to say that this has been easy.
KWC: Do you have any advice for creatives who are afraid to make the leap to pursue their passion?
Kadesh Flow: I don’t think every creative should just leave their careers to pursue their creativity full time. I absolutely do think that every creative should focus on building as much momentum as possible until the reality of their careers becomes tangible. I think you have to find a way to truly, physically see your reality as a sustained creative before it happens, only because attaining that life is difficult. Being able to truly envision oneself as a fully sustained creative goes a long way, in my opinion
KWC: You work a lot of video game and anime references into your music, what’s your favorite gaming system of all time?
Kadesh Flow: Wow, that’s tough. I’d say Playstation 1. So many classics there. But that was a tough decision to come to. I just love JRPGs.
KWC: Video game? (Doesn’t have to be on your favorite system)
Kadesh Flow: I can’t give you a single. Toss-up between Morrowind, Ocarina of Time, and Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic
KWC: What’s your favorite anime of all time?
Kadesh Flow: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
KWC: As a fellow band geek, I was pleasantly surprised to see you play trombone right after rapping intricate verses.
Tell us a bit about your experience. When did you get your start?
Kadesh Flow: Also started playing trombone at 11, two weeks before I started rapping, actually.
KWC: Marching band or symphonic band?
Kadesh Flow: Loved both, but jazz band is the answer here. How dare you not include that option? (wink wink)
KWC: Did playing an instrument affect your approach to making music?
Kadesh Flow: I fell in love with jazz before hip-hop. My love of jazz informs everything I do musically, even if it sounds nothing like jazz. It’s culminating right now in my collaboration with Marcus Lewis (trombone player for artists such as Janelle Monae, Bruno Mars, Aretha Franklin, and others) and his big band. It’s called “Brass and Boujee”. It’s me and fellow emcee Kemet the Phantom rapping with a full jazz ensemble. We won a $10k grant and recorded an album. It’ll be out on August 24th.
KWC: You’re very open about your experience as a black nerd. Speak about the challenges you faced growing up.
Kadesh Flow: People really just want to put you in boxes, generally speaking. My song “Boxes” which will be featured on the “Brass and Boujee” album, talks about this in detail. I lucked out though. Some of my cousins were football stars. Some were drug dealers. I had a group of people try to roast me over my off-brand Air Force Ones once (mentioned in “Boxes”). One of my cousins interrupted them and told them not to f*** with me. Not long after that, they all learned I could rap. I still wore off-brand clothes. Nobody said anything. I was good to go after that.
KWC: Do you think society is more accepting of nerd culture today?
Kadesh Flow: A lot of nerd and geek things are more pop culture now.
KWC: I first heard of you while looking at footage from a nerd convention. Since these conventions are pretty coveted among the community, how did you get into the inner circle?
Kadesh Flow: I built a spreadsheet of a ton of conventions and just started emailing them after I released my free album, “Gateways”. Surprisingly, a few booked me. The first was Anime Los Angeles in January 2015. I landed a few shows due to my buddy Creative Mind Frame introducing me to some people. Then Mega Ran had the NPC Collective come to MAGfest. I played 1 song for something like 4000 people. That blew everything open, booking wise.
KWC: Crazy convention story?
Kadesh Flow: Otakon 2016. I didn’t deserve to be there. Got booked because the staff saw me at MAGfest, and I’m cool and easy to work with. It was a huge honor and the first time I was truly treated as a real guest as a con. I was at parties and dinners with some of my heroes, voice actors from Attack on Titan and Fullmetal Alchemist, for example, producers and executives at FUNimation and other anime publishers, anime and video game musicians such as Lotus Juice and Diana Garnett. I was in a dream. This culminated at one party night when I was partying with Sarah Natochenny, who voices Ash Ketchum for the U.S. dubs of Pokemon (she actually went to high school with fellow NPC brother Ohm-I the Artist). That same night, we met Japanese rock band All Off, which is signed to Warner Japan and has done a few Anime theme songs. They barely spoke any English; we barely spoke any Japanese. They had a translator. We started taking shots for some strange reason, and eventually, the translator got to the point at which he could no longer translate if you catch my drift. So, we were just taking shots and shouting joyously at each other. No words. It was glorious and ridiculous.
KWC: What’s your craziest Infinity War theory?
Kadesh Flow: I don’t really have any. Read the comics because of my former stepfather, and the movies aren’t far off, though there are some differences, of course. I expect them to have lady Captain Marvel be the hero with mentorship from the old Captain Marvel (who had a lot to do with Thanos being defeated in the comics). There are a few people they haven’t introduced. And there’s Drax’s role, but I can’t really imagine how the filmmakers would pull that off.
KWC: How do you feel about the DC Extended Universe so far?
Kadesh Flow: Trash, aside from the Wonder Woman movie, which I still have to watch critically, but which I enjoyed initially. And aside from the Nolan Brothers movies.
KWC: Back to hip-hop. How do you feel about the state of rap today?
Kadesh Flow: I honestly think it’s fine. It’s more diverse than it’s ever been artistically. People complain about mumble rap, but a lot of mumble rap just seems like glam rock for hood kids. I have no problem with that (of course some of it is bad, but that’s fine too; art is cyclical).
KWC: Give general opinions about streaming and who is your favorite “new” or current rapper?
Kadesh Flow: Current: Kendrick or KRIT; “new”: Nick Grant or Uzi Vert
KWC: A question we always ask rappers, what was your bad rap name? (Or first stage name)
Kadesh Flow: BMD: Big Maal the Disciple…trash.
KWC: Where can new fans find your previous releases?
Kadesh Flow: bandcamp.com, Spotify, or itunes
KWC: What’s next for Kadesh Flow?
Kadesh Flow: Brass and Boujee album on August 24th. See above answer for details on that. We’re opening for Janelle Monae at Starlight Theatre, one of the biggest venues in Kansas City, on October 13th. I’ll be dropping a solo release called “The Last Excuse” in March 2019.