Kari Faux: “Just come and enjoy yourself! We’re gonna have fun!” (8/9 at The Foundry)

Next week Kari Faux kicks off her first post-pandemic tour.  The headlining jaunt begins August 3rd in Atlanta, and includes a show at The Foundry at The Fillmore on...

Next week Kari Faux kicks off her first post-pandemic tour.  The headlining jaunt begins August 3rd in Atlanta, and includes a show at The Foundry at The Fillmore on Wednesday, August 9th.  The dates are in support of the Little Rock born and bred rapper’s latest full-length, REAL BITCHES DON’T DIE!, which dropped this May on drink sum wtr.  The LP came about when Kari returned to the South after several years in L.A., and the album itself serves as a celebration of both Kari’s personal southern roots and the history of southern rap.  It was largely produced by Kari’s partner, Phoelix, and includes contributions from the late Gangsta Boo of Three 6 Mafia, Big K.R.I.T., Devin the Dude, Jazz Cartier, and theMIND.  Earlier this week, I got a chance to chat with Kari Faux via Zoom about her return to the South, her recent collaborations, and just how excited she is to get back out on the road.

Izzy Cihak: Earlier this year you released REAL BITCHES DON’T DIE!  How do you think the album compares to previous releases, both in terms of the sounds you’re exploring and also how you approached writing and recording?  I understand that you essentially isolated yourself from music for a year while you were conceiving of the album.

Kari Faux: I think the difference between this one and the rest of them is that on other projects I don’t necessarily say that sonically I’m trying to go from one sound…  I think that with other releases I wasn’t necessarily pulling from one idea or one region, and I think for this one, it’s more regional; most of it feels very southern.  I feel with other projects I’m just experimenting, and whatever feels good, I’ll just go with that.  I think I was just being very intentional with the sonics on this one, which is because it was an homage to the south and southern rap music.

And then, as far as the process, with this album…  I usually don’t really work with a lot of people.  I’m one of those people that I don’t have five and six people in the studio, like smoking, drinking…  It’s literally usually just me, producing, engineering, because I need to kind of focus and figure out what it is that I’m doing.  With this process, it was a little different, because I was writing with my friends and my boyfriend produced the whole thing, which was our first time really working together in person.  I had my friends helping me write hooks and stuff like that, so it was more of a communal effort to bring this album together.  And I just really enjoyed making music with those people because they were my friends.  It made me feel really comfortable, and I think that more of my personality got to shine out without me being self-conscious about it.

Izzy: You mentioned that you kind of focused on the traditions of southern rap on this one, and I know you somewhat recently moved back to Arkansas from L.A., so I’m curious, how has that been, and what was it that inspired that decision?

Kari: So, I live in Houston now, and I lived in Little Rock for a little while after the pandemic, ‘cause I kind of really didn’t have a choice.  I didn’t have any work, so if I don’t have work, I don’t have money, and I can’t pay for an expensive apartment.  But I also didn’t love L.A.  I lived out there for five years and I never really felt connected to it.  And so, I just went home and kind of wanted to remind myself of why I even started making music, which I started making music in Arkansas.  I think, just coming home, being around my family, going out and hearing cars playing songs that I remember when I was a kid, it just really brought me back to how good those days felt.  I also kind of felt really disconnected from myself when I was living in L.A., because people around me didn’t understand me, or didn’t understand the slang I used, or didn’t understand the references I would say.  It made me feel alienated, a lot.  I think coming home, it felt good to not feel foreign [laughs].

Izzy: Have you had any favorite reactions to the latest album so far, whether things you’ve read or things that fans have told you, personally?

Kari: I think my favorite reaction is that it’s an album that has so many emotions.  People say, “This album makes me feel like I’m their bitch, but it also makes me cry, but it also makes me want to fall in love.”  I like that people can walk away from it feeling a range of things after listening to my music, because I feel like, as an artist, I’m not doing my job if you take in something I’ve created, and you don’t feel anything.  If you feel indifferent, I’m not doing my job.  So, I think the fact that people were feeling a multitude of things from one project just made me really happy.

Izzy: You released your most recent single, “MAKE A WISH,” shortly before the album dropped.  How did that particular track come about?

Kari: That was just something that me and my boyfriend had wrote together.  I wanted to make a song that sounded like Kirk Franklin did a collab with Lil Jon.  I know that’s such an odd pairing, but I grew up listening to a lot of Kirk Franklin, and I grew up listening to a lot of Lil Jon, so those are like two ends of the spectrum for me.  And so, I think the sonics on there feel very gospel-inspired, and then I come on the bridge and it’s like crunk and stuff, but it’s over gospel music!  I like to take things from different things that inspire me, and put it in a pot and see what it does.

Izzy: And it works!

Kari: Yeah, people really like “MAKE A WISH.”

Izzy: You also released a really cool, kind of minimalist, music video for the song.  How did the concept for the video come about?

Kari: It was more like a visualizer, so it wasn’t really supposed to have, necessarily, a story, more just like visuals of kinda growing up in the church.  So, the top half of what I’m wearing is more like a church lady, and then the bottom half is like some little bitty shorts.  And it’s the same thing, where it’s a song that has the gospel feel to it, gospel chords, but then it’s turnt up, you can play it in the club.  And so, that’s just showing the juxtaposition of what I am inspired by.

Izzy: The album was released on drink sum wtr.  How is it working with the people at that label and being a part of that family?

Kari: It’s really cool!  I think they give me the space to just kinda do what I want, be myself.  And, honestly, that’s all you can really ask for, is people to give you the space to get your ideas out and get your art out without them imposing what they think you should be doing.

Izzy: You’re gearing up to kick off a pretty big US tour.  Are there any shows you’re especially excited about, whether venues you’re especially excited to play, or just cities you’re especially excited to visit or revisit?

Kari: I think I’m excited about the entire tour, just because I haven’t toured in four years.  So, I don’t even know what it feels like anymore [laughs].  I think I’m just excited to be out, outside again, and around people, just getting to connect with them in person.

Izzy: What can be expected of the live show, in terms of setlist, production, and just the general vibe of the night?

Kari: I don’t know if I can answer that [laughs].

Izzy: That’s fair!

Kari: The vibe of the night is, “Come and get your life!”  Just come and enjoy yourself!  We’re gonna have fun!

Izzy: You’re playing somewhat of a variety of venues on this run, from some medium-sized rooms to some pretty huge clubs and even some festival dates.  Do you have a favorite type of setting in which to perform, or certain things that you think make a venue especially fun to play?

Kari: No, because I feel like I’ve had great experiences in places that are a little more intimate, and I’ve had great experiences at festivals, where there’s 5,000 or 10,000 people in the crowd.  It’s just more about me giving what I have and then the crowd giving me what they have, and then it just becomes this like reciprocal energy that’s being passed from me to the audience.  So, I think it’s just more about the energy in the room.  Like, how are we all coming into the room, and deciding how do we want to leave this venue?  Like, do we wanna leave and be like, “Awww, Man, I just kinda stood there and just kinda like, stared?”  Or do I want to actually participate and be a part of what’s happening?  I think that it’s really easy to be a performer and go to a show and just be up there and not really connect with the audience, and I think it’s a whole other thing when you kind of make the audience feel like they’re hanging out with you.  That’s the energy that I feel like I try to give.

Izzy: Finally, what’s next for you, after these tour dates wrap?  I’ve had a few people asking me if you’re planning anything overseas anytime soon.

Kari: Honestly, I believe I am going to go overseas, but I don’t have anything locked in.  But, honestly, I kinda just wanna focus on what I have going on right now [laughs].  Like, I have almost-a-30-city run, so I just wanna get in the mode of being outside and, most of all, just being present.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.