“I have no time to be scared…I want this head on.” – Locke Kaushal
Meet Locke Kaushal.
Looking back on history, Washington, D.C. wouldn’t be considered the home of mainstream rap phenomenons, but with the success of polarizing rapper Wale and rising Maybach Music signee Fat Trel, the DMV has proven they too have a narrative to add to hip-hop’s complicated tale.
For Locke Kaushal, born Lawrence Locke, it all started five years ago.
Locke’s love for hip-hop had always been constant, but spoken word was his escape. It wasn’t until he performed one of his spoken word pieces publicly, that he contemplated trying his hand at a rap career.
Spoken word. Poems. Soliloquies. Haikus.
It all sounds romantic, but don’t get it twisted. Locke isn’t delivering flowery, soft (at times nauseating) rhymes sonically similar to preachy melodramatic poetry in motion. He’s witty, concise, self-aware, and probably riddles faster than your favorite rapper.
GlobalGrind caught up with the 25-year-old emcee to chat about his decision to transition from spoken word to music, growing up in the DMV area, and of course, his latest EP – Sober Man’s Thoughts.
For all things Locke Kaushal, click here. Check out our exclusive interview with Locke down under.
GlobalGrind: Tell me about Sober Man’s Thoughts and the concept behind the EP.
Locke Kaushal: Sober Man’s Thoughts is actually part two of two mixtapes ago. I put out a mixtape titled A Drunken Man’s Word and that was received very well. The basis behind that was I wanted to take topics that most people don’t have the balls to talk about unless they are intoxicated. A lot of the music wasn’t necessarily belligerent, but a principle behind the music.
A lot of times in real life you hear a drunken man speak, he might even be spitting some thought and some knowledge. But because he’s so unorthodox and under the influence, you’re just like, ‘Oh, I not gonna pay him any mind.’ That was the first project. Sober Man’s Thoughts is a continuation. What I wanted to do was kind of flip the actual context of all of the substance of the music. Sober Man’s Thoughts is about all the things a man might be thinking but won’t necessarily come out and say them.
When did you first start rapping?
I started rapping five years ago. I put out my first mixtape spring 2010, but I started working on it fall of 2009. It is coming up on five years.
When you first started rapping, did you get sh*t from your friends or family?
[Laughs] Nah, I was the one who was resistant about it, because the same way that most people are like, ‘Ugh, you want to be a rapper?’ That’s how I felt about it. Everybody wants to rap and go down that path. But what geared me towards music was my friends knew that I always do spoken word, which is why a lot of my music is very poetic with some of the flows and some of the topics that I touch on. Around the time Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged came out, my friend was like, ‘I hope you listening to that joint. That joint is crazy!’ It is one of my favorite albums of all time. So when that came out, my friend was like, ‘Yo, Locke. Please listen to it.’ So I listened to it and the spitting and singing over the acoustic guitar. One of the songs that she has on there, the guitarist broke the beat down and she started rapping over it, instantly the idea came into my head like, ‘I could do this and this could be hot! I could do this with my spoken word!’ The next week, I did this open mic and I did that. Everybody in the crowd was clapping, going crazy. Some cats started yelling, ‘Encore!’ That’s when I took my poetry into something that’s more rhythmic and from there that’s when my people were like, ‘Locke, why don’t you actually lay something down?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t really know anything about this rap thing.’ I just took off from there and the rest is history.
Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
The first poem ever? No. When I moved I actually lost all of my poetry books, so I had to start all over. So now I don’t even have my old poems. But the last poem I wrote was the first song I created and it was called “Rich Man’s Begging.” So I do kind of remember the hook, but that’s probably it.
What was it that motivated you to write poetry?
The fact that it was just real. It wasn’t until I got older though. After high school, I actually started doing spoken word. Before that it was just a form of expression. I’ve always been creative. Before poetry, I would draw. Paint. It would be creative expression to get away from the day-to-day tribulations that we all go through. After that, I was reading more and became more well versed. I wanted to verbally express myself. I didn’t gravitate towards music at the time because it wasn’t as real to me. It wasn’t as genuine. When I’m going through something, I don’t want to always turn up in the club. I want to hear somebody going through some real life struggles. That’s why I chose poetry.
Tell me about the development of Locke Kaushal – the artist.
For some reason people like calling me by my last name. I knew once I gravitated towards music I wanted to have Locke in it. One of the cats that was on my team, one day he said the name Kaushal. I was like ‘what is that?’ and he said he was doing some research and Kaushal is Hindi and it means to be skillful. I was like ‘Locke Kaushal got a nice ring to it.’ It came to be so randomly.
What was growing up like for you?
It was pretty chill. The neighborhood that I grew up in was middle class black and Hispanic. In the beginning, I went to school with a lot of chaos going on, but when I got to high school I went to an IT school across town with white people. As far as my family, they’re from Chicago, which is another reason I feel I get my soulfulness.
We ended up in Virginia, because my father served in the military and got stationed in Quantico, Virginia. Neither of my parents finished college the first time around. My father started working at the post office. My mom used to work at the mall. They had my older sister at a young age, so it was an everyday struggle. Now though, my pops is a teacher at my old high school.
If I sent you to a deserted island, and you could only take three albums, what three albums would you take?
Oh, easy. Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt, Nas’ Illmatic, and the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. My personal music selection is limited because I don’t want my influences to be too out there, where it’s like I’m trying to chase the new trend in hip-hop. I keep my influences very close, whether it’s music, family, friends.
Are you listening to anything new right now?
Yeah, Sober Man’s Thoughts [Laughs]. At first I thought it was weird, until I started stumbling across interviews of other artists who don’t have time to listen to a lot of other music other than what they’re working on. But I do listen to Pharrell’s G I R L.
Lets talk about The Rise. Would you consider it a visual album?
It’s like a look on mixtape. What I wanted to do was have it be 50/50. Any time you have an artist, they might have 90 percent music and 10 percent art for the cover and CD liner. I wanted it to be a nice balance so you feel like you’re looking at a comic book and it just so happens that you have music as the story that fills in the blank that you might not get from looking at the pictures. That’s all I wanted to do. My man Martin, who is a professional illustrator in DC, we shot the photos and he hand sketched all of the photos, watercolored the top of them, and we scanned them into a digital thing with high resolution. It was a crazy concept, but that’s only book one. It’s a three-part series, so eventually I’m going to release book two and book three of The Rise.
Who was “Judy” inspired by?
She was inspired by love. Not necessarily a who, but a what. Let’s keep it at that.
Are you in love right now?
[Laughs] I’m in love with my music, I’m in love with my life, my family. That’s where I’m at right now.
Do you have any fears about success or where Sober Man’s Thoughts will take you in the future?
My only fear in life is the fear of failure. So in regards to a Sober Man’s Thoughts, it’s seen more success than I thought it would. It’s only going to get better. I have no time to be scared. I want this head on.
What’s your vice?
Umm, I drive around aimlessly. I mean, I like to drink too. Definitely don’t like to smoke…out of desperation I would turn to those things and they did nothing for me. So I just chose not to do them anymore. I like to ride around to clear my head. No music. Just me riding around gathering my thoughts.
I’ll be performing at Broccoli City festival in L.A. on May 3. On May 17, I’ll be back in L.A. doing this thing for Team Backpack. Their claim to fame is they put together these freestyle cyphers, but they’re ridiculously good, very professional. It’s crazy.
Stream Sober Man’s Thoughts below.
Follow Locke Kaushal on Twitter (@FirstNameLocka).
Our Fave Celebs In Raf Simons To Celebrate The Historic Brand's Closing [Gallery]
AT&T Dream In Black Celebrates 50 Years of Hip-Hop
Side By Side: 8 Unlikely Hip Hop Collaborations We Never Knew We Needed
The History You Never Knew About The Hip Hop Hits You Love
For The Ladies: Five Queens Confidently Killing It In Hip Hop
Actor Lance Gross Shares His Journey, Talks Diverse Representation in Film and More with Current HBCU Student
The AT&T Rising Future Makers Showcase Is Now Open: HBCU Students, Enter For A Chance To Win $5,000
A Brighter Future for Black Women in STEM: Kimberly Bryant and HBCU Student Cadence Patrick Are Making It Happen