Throughout the early to mid-'90s, Atlanta bass and booty music legend Kilo Ali was the most notable rapper to represent the city. He released his debut album, America Has a Problem, in 1990, when he was just 17 years old, instantly becoming the first wild card of Atlanta's nascent hip-hop scene. He was also one of the first rappers to emerge from Bankhead — long before "Bankhead Bounce" ruled the radio. Following the highs of such songs as "Baby Baby," "Love in Ya Mouth," "Show Me Love" — and his most acclaimed album, 1997's Organized Bass — Kilo was convicted of burning down his own house. In October 2005 he received a stiff 15-year prison term, but in January 2011 he was released after serving six years. Still, it was a long time to be away, especially in the fast-paced music world.
Since then, Kilo has worked a construction job on the side while sharpening his skills in the studio — all while readjusting himself to the free world and the new musical landscape. His first post-prison release, Hieroglyphics, dropped in February 2011 to little fanfare, but he remains undeterred. With a headlining slot at the upcoming 808 Fest, Kilo is primed to start a new chapter in his career. As it all gets underway, he took a few minutes to talk about of his Southern rap legacy, the time he almost kicked George Clinton out of the studio, and the drug addiction that prematurely derailed his career.
On adjusting to life after prison: I've been sparing, as I would call it ... going to different studios and getting myself back into the mental shape. It's hard for artists to come from prison, or an institution like that, and survive in a free-minded world. Institutionalized ideas, you need to get rid of them or balance them.
On his close encounter with George Clinton: When I was 27 years old, I met up with Kool Asa [who was] dealing with Curtis Mayfield, Larry Blackmon — he told me he knew George Clinton, and I said, "Come on man, you don't know P-Funk!" I used to have a closed session because of my cocaine thing, right? It wasn't like a weed thing — weed in the studio was like bubble gum or something like that. I had a closed session with my engineer, my management, my producer, and everybody else couldn't come because I held my shit and would be like [snorts], "Yo, take that back, let me hear that again, yo!" He walks in the studio and I'm surprised because Asa is supposed to be producing tonight and he should be by himself. I buzz him in and somebody walked up with him. I'm about to cuss him out, and I said, "Asa, who is this kid?" He says, "That's P-Funk." I said, "Stop playin'." I ran to the window to see where he parked the [mother]ship at!"
On cocaine: I never blame anything on cocaine ... I felt trapped, [like a] shark in a pool. My career was so boxed in and I couldn't get out of that. It makes you want to splash water and it makes you really upset and angry. That's what I think my drug habit was — I was a regional artist that was sort of a big giant in a manner ... and caged. You could listen to the radio and it could be Janet Jackson, it could be 95 South, it could be anybody; Kilo's gonna come up No. 1 on the charts when I release a record out in the city.
On regrets: I'm not regretful of anything I've done in my life. [Except once when] I bought an airplane from Toys R Us, and I flew it in a park that was too little and it got stuck in a tree as soon as I got it in the air. I would change that, I would go to a real park. [laughs]