FLANKED BY OFF-CENTER MCS LIKE MIKAH 9 AND AWOL ONE, THE LA BEATMAKER INJECTS A BIT OF SMOKED-OUT SUNSHINE INTO HIS TWISTED TRACKS
"I think that everyone I work with on a regular basis is pretty much nuts, "Daddy Kev muses, running through a partial role call of the eccentric MCs he calls collaborators. "Anybody will tell you P.E.A.C.E. is crazy, Mikah 9 is leftfield, AWOL -- he's outta the park. Some of the guys have mild schizophrenia, a little manic depressive disorder. You can definitely see the psychosis."
Playing amateur psychologist while he crafts beats for Project Blowed grads like Busdriver, Freestyle Fellowship microphone masters like Mikah and other colorful personalities like punch-drunk soul-searcher AWOL One doesn't phase the LA producer. In fact, Kev has made unappetizing sacrifices to get down with the posses of oddball lyricists. He and drum & bass DJ/producer Hive endured some lean days on the road to launching their leftfield hip-hop label Celestial (which has since spawned the jungle imprint Vortex) back in 1998. "We were beyond broke," he laughs. "We figured out every combination of Top Ramen there is: the seasoning stirred up differently with the cheese, different mixes of the packets to give you different flavors."
Though the living is a bit easier these days, Kev still doesn't cook much. Edging into the tight quarters of his Echo Park apartment/studio, the first thing you notice is a computer monitor running Pro Tools perched on the stove. Boxes of CDs cover the floor and a microphone stand is wedged near the bed. One wall is covered by Mear's goth-graffiti painting for the cover of Kev's new Lost Angels EP, an eerie collection of twisted carnival twinkles and cave-dweller dark drums complemented by free-form wordplay from Circus and AWOL, among others.
Celestial releases may be rife with ominous beats and altered-state rhymes, but Kev's creations aren't one-dimensionally gloomy. Check the buoyant clip-clop trots and shrill flute trills of "Rhythm," the lead single off Kev and AWOL's recent full-length, Souldoubt (Mean Street), for a hint of his diversity behind the boards. "There was a time when me and Hive were going back and forth like, 'You think that was dark? I'm going to show you real midnight black,'" he admits, pausing to gulp smoke from a glass bong he keeps within arm's reach. "(Now) I try to do a really dark, sinister track and then a brighter, nice one. For peace of mind, you need a little balance."