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Uptown Hit: The Kurious Interview

1994 was a crazy year in hip-hop. It was the year that Nas dropped his classic, and arguably genre defining, masterpiece Illmatic. Five short months later we were blessed with Biggie Small’s debut Ready To Die. It was, for all intensive purposes, the height of the golden era – and east coast had that shit on lock.

Enter Kurious (representing uptown), one of the most well known Latino artists on the NYC scene at the time. After getting involved with Bobbito and (Prime Minister) Pete Nice‘s Hoppoh imprint, he released his first single Walk Like A Duck in 1992. With the duos help he secured himself a deal and released his debut album in ’94 – on Columbia records – A Constipated Monkey, which was released (and promoted) alongside Nas’s Illmatic. With critical acclaim and more than one single, Kurious seemed to be on the rise; however, it wasn’t until 2009 that he released an official follow-up – outside of a handful of memorable collaborations including a verse on MF DOOM’s ?.

We were lucky enough to chat with Kurious himself. In part one of two he discusses his first album, his thoughts on being a pioneer and working with DOOM.

It’s that uptown shit. Check the interview after the jump

How did you first get involved in hip-hop?

I first got involved with hip hop as a fan when I was 9yrs. old. I grew up on 97th and amsterdam in the height of break dance and graf, across the street from rocksteady park.

How did you originally get linked up with Bobbitto and Pete Nice?

I grew up in the same building as Bobbito and he worked at Def Jam and got me a little gig when i finished high school and introduced me to Pete Nice.

Your first album was a classic…period! It was released on Columbia at the same time as Illmatic (I remember seeing the double ads in the source). Can you talk a bit about this period? On a personal level did you feel any competition with Nas?

It was an interesting period and everything was moving fast, I was a kid and very immature but having a lot of fun. I never felt a drop of competition with Nas, me and my friends admired what he was doing and I was just doing what came natural to me. Nas was always cool,really smart and beyond his years.

What was the process like recording your album? Who did you work with? What was your personal fave cut?

That album was a big party. Every session was flooded with homeboys and a lot of intoxicants. I worked with Stimulated Dummies, Beatnuts, Bosco Money and Pete Nice and Richie Rich. I guess my favorite song was I’m Kurious maybe but I really don’t like listening to it (the album) much. I think I was in a place of mass turmoil but having genuine fun in those days but I wish I was capable of taking things more seriously. I’m glad that some folks consider it a classic though.

Do you consider it a classic?

I personally may not consider it classic but it definitely has a charm and that’s not up to me to decide anyway. I am really grateful for how that album affected certain people and I see the sincerity when they approach me.

Tough question…but many consider you a pioneer or legend. How do you feel about that? Do consider yourself a pioneer?

I’m definitely a veteran but my path has been long and unpredictable. I am a musical artist of some sort that loves hip hop. I think I may be a legend probably in my own mind .

What kept you from releasing a follow-up until 2009?

I had to find myself and it took a while. I’m still learning but I was like yo I gotta release an album, it was haunting me. I had some guest spots here and there and some songs but thats it. I wasnt believing in myself enough or I was over thinking. You CANT overthink music. You are WAY better off underthinking.

Tell us what it’s like working with Doom. What is that creative process like?

Working with DOOM is great. He is a true artist. Down to earth, unnaffected and loves music but more importantly than that, we were great friends. The creative process with Doom is a sloppy perfection if you ask me. Smart dude and a kind dude, he’s special. He would make raw beats that always lean the right way and breathe and he always kept a notebook with him. During times when I was uninspired he would give me a spark. When we get together shit happens and when making hip hop there’s strict rules and theres no rules at the same time. That’s how we get down.

Riley About Author

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns