If you aren’t familiar with the signature “uh-damn” uttered at the beginning of an Adamn Killa track, something you should know before listening to the Chicago rapper is that he won’t meet your expectations. Despite having a dynamic voice with an expansive range, proven on the new collaborative album Lover Not a Killa, he is known for a very different sound. Heavy auto-tuned vocals and lazily-flowing lyrics effortlessly create an alien-like effect, and his words are laced into the instrumentation. His songs are by no means lyrical masterpieces but if you are hung up on lyrics, you’re missing the point.
At only 19 years old, Killavesi might be young but she’s far from inexperienced. Earlier this year she toured Europe with Adamn Killa, and last year, released the surprisingly mature 15-track “Run & Hide” EP. On the project, she toys with her impressively low register and in raspy-sounding verses, she raps on dark and twisted beats. Her neutral auto-tuned melodies work well with freaky and sometimes even jarring production (see “control u” prod. by DJ Karaoke), making her solo work imaginative and fresh.
Last Sunday afternoon, I sat down with Killavesi and Adamn Killa to talk about their duo album, Lover Not a Killa— filled with six adorably sappy and infectious love songs, the album is inspired by their relationship, but in the process has also inspired a new sonic direction for them both individually.
After watching the “Love of My Life” music video, which is also the premiere track on Lover Not a Killa, I was excited to see their chemistry in person. Sitting together in a small booth in the lobby of The Line Hotel in Koreatown, the couple tells me they met in their mutual home-city of Chicago over 2 years ago but they haven't made music together outside of 2 singles: “Ballin’ Like Messi” and “Make a Way.” Those tracks demonstrated their potential as collaborators, yet no other joint tracks followed until now. I asked them what’s it’s like in L.A. compared to Chicago, and which place they identify with more.
A: “Definitely Chicago is still our home.”
K: “Yeah, we moved here last July. [Chicago] has good food. The city life— it’s just different than LA.”
Since the move, they’ve worked with a range of international producers, Adamn Killa teaming up with French DJ’s Sam Tiba and Brodinski, and the both of them with L.A.-based producers Shlohmo and D33j. In addition, they’ve worked with Canadian producer Ryan Hemsworth and Chicago’s Different Sleep— you start to see that producers across a truly diverse range of genres see something unique in Killavesi and Adamn. I wanted to know how they pick beats and keep their projects cohesive, and whether or not their music-listening preferences were as out-there as their production credits.
K: I listen to a lot of Future and Young Thug, I don’t know what else I’ve been listening too. Just my Spotify music on shuffle. My entire library has been me gathering music since I was a kid. A lot of different shit. I usually listen to a bunch of beats that people send to my email, and pick the ones that stand out to me the most [to rap over], the least boring ones.
How did you link with those producers?
A: A lot of them fucked with me already. I met Shlohmo a while ago in LA one time. I was just meeting people, but a lot of producers already knew me. And my manager works with a lot of European producers/DJs like Sam Tiba and Brodinski. Oh and I fuck with Kid Cudi.
K: Yeah, Kid Cudi, his last album was really good! Passion, Pain, and Demon Slaying.
I would love to know what about both of you as artists, outside of your relationship, made you want to work with one another. And not just on a single or two, but on an entire album?
A; I like both of our music—
K; I think it’s that personally we’re very similar, but very different [musically] at the same time. All of our morals are aligned, and our sounds are different. They’re not similar.
A: They’re very different.
K: But they work well together.
It’s interesting to hear such niche sounds from both of you in your solo work, and then hear Lover Not a Killa— a project that is a complete U-turn in everything from lyrical direction to production, from vocal style to effects.
A: There’s no autotune on anything with the exception of the bonus track, which is old.
Yeah, the bonus track definitely refers to your previous sound— I would love to know where you both go from here in terms of sound. Something similar to Lover Not a Killa? or the rest of your discography? Or will you switch it up again?
A: I mean I guess it depends on the mood I’m in. The bonus track is actually around a year old. Honestly, the direction we go depends on the beats we get.
K: I wanna stray away from autotune though.
A: Yeah I’m not feeling autotune right now.
This new notion for them, lack of autotune, is best embodied on the second track of the album titled, “My Only”— it’s probably the furthest away from anything you’ve heard from either of their solo stuff, so if you’re a diehard fan, brace yourself. Adamn Killa sings riffs woven throughout the track that borderline on wailing, without even a hint of filter or effect. And Killavesi has a charmingly crystal clear singing voice, which Adamn affirms, saying, “she can actually sing but she just gets nervous.”
How did you feel about the making of Lover not a Killa? What vision did you have for the project when it was first pitched?
A: We recorded in like a week.
K: It was probably less than that, from the beginning we just knew what we wanted it to be.
How does dating and professionally working together actually work? Do you ever argue?
A: We argue sometimes, but it’s all good.
K: We never have serious arguments about music though.
Do you have a personal favorite track on the album?
K: My favorite is “Love Trust.”
A: Mine is “My Only”
K: I was having a bad day that day [while recording “My Only”]. Adamn did his part of the hook first. I did something to it, but it wasn’t what they wanted, I was still rapping. And then Adamn treated me,
*Killavesi and Adamn start laughing*
—and I went back and came up with that.
A: Different Sleep and Sebastien Christie worked on that one. It was the same words but she was rapping it at first.
Why did you decide to put the bonus track on the project despite it’s different sound?
K: We still felt like it was a good song.
A: I didn’t want to put it, but everyone else disagreed with me. That song is a good song though, I just felt it didn’t fit the project. That’s why it’s a bonus track.
It’s like one of my favorite projects that I’ve been a part of.
K: It’s really different from what’s coming out now in the music scene
In instagram comments on pictures of the two of you together, I see people say things like “please be my mom and dad.” On your joint tour did you hear that kinda shit in person ever?
A: Yeah, people are crazier in person. We don’t have the biggest fan base, but the fans we do have are crazy.
K: A cult fan base definitely.
I’m curious to see what kind of fans you pull in from this. It’s not as specific to any sub-genre; it really could appeal to a larger audience that doesn’t have an ear for your other work.
A: I think we’ll end up doing another joint take, but I think our projects together are going to have different fans from our regular fans.
So you guys are gonna do more projects together?