North-West rapper Keko is here to show off his slick lyricism and melodic flow with his latest project, In The Meantime-a nine-song project that highlights his smooth lyrics and versatility. He’s a rapper who’s never afraid to experiment when it comes to beats, and we sat down with him to find out all about it.
Nicole: Tell me a bit about yourself and who you are?
Keko: My name is Keko, otherwise known as Kekoto. My friends mostly call me Keko or Omar. I’m an artist from North-West London, and I describe my music as alternative. I feel like it’s just a mix and blend of different genres and sounds. I feel like that perfectly describes me and my sound.
Nicole: So, I was doing a little research, and I know that you used to do football and YouTube. What made you decide that you wanted to start doing music seriously? Like, what was that defining moment for you that made you realise it? Was there one?
Keko: Do you know what? It’s so weird because if you told me in YR11 that I would be doing music now, I’d be like, na that’s cap! But for me, it was just being around people who do music and just feeling like, ‘Naa, I can do this’, because I’ve always been a music listener. I’ve always sought out new sounds and tried to find new artists that I might like, but not everyone else might. For me, it was just curiosity and feeling like, ‘Yeah, I can do this’. The moment was just me being like, okay let me book a studio session and see what I can get done, and then I recorded my first track. Hearing it back, I was like, ‘Okay, cool, I can actually do this’.
Nicole: Do you remember how you felt when you released your first song, ‘Rick Owens’? How was that feeling?
Keko: I was gassed! I remember before I released it, I was just playing it to all the mandem and sending it to everyone and being like, ‘Yoo, listen to this track, man made a song’. I recorded the song and then didn’t release it till like seven months later because I was planning this music video and I didn’t even end up shooting it, because I just didn’t have the resources, but yeah, I released the song like seven months after I recorded it. I was just so gassed that I actually recorded something and that it sounded like that. It was a good feeling.
Nicole: Okay, so we have to talk about your project In The Meantime. So initially, you said this tape was a placeholder, but then you came back and visited it in more detail. What made you want to come back to these tracks and explore the idea in more detail? What changed?
Keko: Yeah, so at the start, it was like what you said—a placeholder. It was almost like a mixtape – I’ll just throw these vibes out and let people listen to that whilst I work on the next KK2 project, which felt more like an album. But then, I don’t know, I just felt as if the music was too good to just be put out as like some throwaways, cause it’s really good music. So, I was like, let me actually come up with a concept for this and kind of explore this stage and this point that I’m at in my life. Before we even got to the name, In The Meantime, I remember me, and my boy had a whiteboard full of different names, and I was genuinely going to call this tape ‘fuck it’ but my boy who produced it was like, ‘Na, we’re not calling it that.’ So, I was just going through different concepts, and I feel like ‘In The Meantime‘ kind of just fitted the theme so perfectly. It’s almost like this is where we’re at right now, and we’re trying to get to there but we’re not just going to sit around and wait, so we’re just going to put out what we can for now and work towards getting there. The name In the Meantime just felt very fitting.
Nicole: So, with the name In The Meantime, the context behind the name is about like accepting the moment you’re in now because this used to be something that you prayed for, and now, you’re living it. So, does 2023 you feel like he’s currently living out one of his prayers right now? Or are you experiencing things that you never even dreamt of?
Keko: Definitely, yeah! I remember there was a time when I was like, I know what I want my sound to sound like, but I’m just not capable of making that yet, or I didn’t have the producers around me that I have now. It’s crazy that these people I’m working with now, like Mello, NV, and Mannydubbs, they’re all literally like my neighbours. They all live like five, ten minutes away; I can walk it to them. So, it’s like I was almost looking outwards for all of these people to work with, and they’re literally my neighbours. Being able to improve my artistry and put out music that I can play around my friends, where I’m like, ‘Yoo, I’m proud to actually play you guys this song’. That’s definitely one thing. Numbers aren’t really the main focus, but I feel like with this tape I’m putting my best foot forward, so hopefully numbers-wise that does improve, but that’s not really the main focus. For me, it’s just having the music be well received from people that I know have a good taste in music, so people like you guys, and my friends. Hearing the feedback means a lot because I know they all have good taste and a good ear for music.
Nicole: What was your favourite song to write for In the Meantime? I love ‘Green Room’; I think that’s my favourite right now.
Keko: I was actually going to say that too! I’m going to say it’s between ‘Green Room’ or ‘Luv In Da Endz,’ just because ‘Luv In Da Endz’ was a process to actually make. We recorded it on Fruity loops, but we recorded it in one of our guys’ living rooms, and there wasn’t much soundproofing so getting that mix down was just bare background noise. I think I sent it through to like four, or five engineers, and in the end, the mix that we ended up releasing was just the one that me and NV mixed down a couple of months ago. So yeah, just the process and finally getting to the end where it was like, okay, cool this sounds polished enough to release. It was a journey to get there, so yeah, I would say either ‘Luv In Da Endz’ or ‘Green Room.’
Nicole: So, you’re the type of artist who likes to step out of their musical comfort zone and who likes to experiment with new beats. So, were there any songs on In the meantime where you were like, ooh, I don’t know how I’m going to approach this, I just know that I’m going to do it and figure it out?
Keko: Do you know what? That ‘Who Knows’ track, it was the drums and bass thing. At the time, it was even like a year-long thing where I was just banging out so much PinkPantheress, like I would be going everywhere with headphones in screw-facing mandem, but these times I’m listening to PinkPantheress. And then I remember I had a session with my boy NV, and I was like to him, ‘Bro, we need to make something on the drum and bass beat’. And before that, I don’t think he recorded any drum and bass beats, but shoutout to him; he was open to it, so he was like, cool, let’s do it. And I didn’t even know how to flow on it or approach it, but I just wanted to see how I’d sound on it, cause it’s something I was listening to. And I was enjoying just hearing it, so I kind of just wanted to hear how I would sound, so it was one of them ones. Instead of me usually punching in, I had to listen to the beat for like two weeks, then I would come down, lay down a verse, go away and listen to that verse back, and then write in another verse, and then go back and lay down another verse. Then I would have to come back and structure it. That was like a proper proper process where I had to actually study the beat and then come back and write to it. Normally I’m just used to hearing a beat and like humming and writing the words after, but this one I had to really study, like, okay cool, let me actually do this one justice.
Nicole: The beats on this project are insane, by the way. Crazy! NV did his thing! So, when it comes to the producers, is it always the same producer, or do you have different ones?
Keko: So, it’s a bit of both. My go-to’s are like NV and Manny; I’ve been recording with them for a few years now. I haven’t recorded a song with Jamobeats for a minute, but I really love his production and how he engineers as well. I just feel like my voice sits really well on his beats. I’m very open to working with different people. I feel like different people have their own specific sounds that I like tapping into with them. NV is very versatile, so sometimes I might record something like ‘Plain Clo’, which is a bit more geared towards live shows, but something like ‘Green Room’ is a bit more reflective. Manny just has mad collective sounds, and he’s really good at sampling stuff, so if I’m trying to get experimental or sample a tune from back in the day, I’ll definitely hit Mannydubbs up. I feel like Jamobeats has a very chill, flexy, and wavy vibe if that makes sense. So yeah, I like to play to people’s strengths, so if I’m going for a specific sound and I know this person is really good at that, I’ll just approach them.
Nicole: What songs are you most looking forward to performing live? I think Plain Clo is going to go off.
Keko: Yeah, a hundred percent! I’ve got lists. So, ‘Luv In Da Endz,’ that’s just a vibe; it’s a bounce. I made that one for like dances—you know, when you’re at the back with your drink just there and being like, ‘rah I’m a bit burst right now, but I’m vibing’. ‘Green Room’ as well, because I feel like I’m just flexing my rap skills. This is the first tape where I’m just rapping rapping on certain songs, like ‘Green Room’ is a more reflective track where you just listen to the bars. ‘Plain Clo’ as well, because it’s just high energy, and I love hearing that on a sound system. I’m basically just going to say the whole tape. Just everything!
Nicole: Are you excited to hear the feedback to ‘In the Meantime’? What’s it like seeing the feedback?
Keko: I love it because I don’t want people to just be like, ‘Oh yeah, this is hard’, like I want to know the tracks you didn’t mess with. And I was with a couple of my guys like two weeks ago, and I ran them the whole tape, and they were telling me the songs they were messing with and the songs they didn’t mess with and why, and I was just all ears. I really want to know what people like and what people don’t like. I don’t want it to just be ‘oh yeah, this is really sick’; I want to know what songs you didn’t like and why you didn’t like them. But I’m mad excited for this to come out, cause it’s basically been a year in the works. The feedback from the cover art has been amazing, so I’m just gassed to finally have it out there. I’m really excited, man.
Nicole: What are you most looking forward to doing in the next coming year?
Keko: Next coming year, music-wise, I’m obviously excited to have the tape out first and to perform the songs live as well. I really want to do more international and overseas sets. I feel like going to a different country and just hearing how they hear our music, is amazing, cause they don’t even know who you are, but because it’s something new and fresh, they’re just like ‘rah I don’t know who you are, but I’m vibing to it’. I’ve done one international set, which was in Amsterdam, and I performed ‘Luv In Da Endz,’ and I was like, okay, cool, these people are open to our music and our sounds, so I really want to do more of that. I’ve got the listening party on Thursday the 26th of October for In The Meantime as well. That’s short-term, but I’m excited about that and to see all my people’s. But yeah, I’m looking forward to more shows, more music, and more weird experimental sounds, and to curating the next tape. Whenever I put out one tape, my mind always goes straight to the next project.
Nicole: Do you have any last words to say about ‘In the Meantime’?
Keko: I do. So first of all, In the meantime is an experience; it’s something that we’re all experiencing because we’re all doing what we can for now to get to that next place, but at the same time, we’re currently living through things that we once wished for. So, we’re all In the Meantime.
Listen to the full project below:
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