Hip hop artist Krizz Kaliko turns his struggles into inspiration
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Cost: $15; 227-7625, ticketweb.com
It may seem like everything hip-hop musician Krizz Kaliko has been through seeps into his often stark lyrics, including the bipolar disorder diagnosis he received at age 30 to his vitiligo, a skin condition in which loss of pigment results in white patches of skin.
It’s the songs that deal with those issues -- like “Anxiety,” “Hello Walls” and “Bipolar” -- that resonate with listeners, who write to thank him for saving their lives, he says. The skin condition even inspired his debut album, “Vitiligo,” in 2008. He’ll perform at The Black Sheep on Friday.
“I find the fans gravitate toward me because I’m transparent, and I don’t hide any of this stuff,” Kaliko says. “Justin Bieber could be bipolar, but they won’t tell you that. That’s not their thing to open up. Our thing is to always be inside out. We write our lives and people identify with that.”
He often mentions Tech N9ne in conversation, a rapper and his frequent musical partner in crime for the past 13 years. Tech discovered him during a studio recording session when Kaliko was 25, and they’ve gone on to collaborate on 16 albums and often tour together. Kaliko is 38 now, with six of his own albums. His latest is “Neh’mind,” a seven-song EP released in November. Interestingly, the album debuted on diverse charts: No. 16 rap, No. 16 indie and No. 29 R&B.
“I just do whatever the music tells me,” he says. “I try to recreate my sound on every release. I just play with it, do whatever I want. People are used to me trying out different genres of music and blending them with hip-hop.”
The music, he says, is a cure for the mental illness that plagues him.
“I talk about it in my music and people hit me up on Twitter. Tech and I have become our fans’ psychiatrists,” he says. “All of these songs are about what I’m going through. People identify with them.
"They like the party songs, but not as much as the ones where I talk about the struggle.”
Kaliko’s mother was a popular opera and gospel singer in the 1980s in Kansas City, Mo., where he grew up. He credits her for his career.
“She forced music down my throat, made me sing and harmonize with her and my sister. My father sang, too,” he says. “We were a kind of black Partridge Family. I didn’t want any part of it.”
Eventually, music became a refuge from his schoolmate's relentless teasing about his vitiligo. Kaliko rap battled the offending peers before rap battles even became cool.
“After my dad died when I was 15, I decided to not take anymore (expletive),” he says. “I developed a wit about myself and started beatboxing against other dudes. They weren’t rapping but I was. It was a blessing in disguise, and I appreciate my mom so much. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have a house. Everything I have is paid for by music.”