Photo Credit: Brennan Pierre
Kari Faux went from SoundCloud rapper-singer to appearing on the soundtrack of HBO’s series Insecure. With Lowkey Superstar Deluxe and her new record label, she’s forging her latest chapter as an artist and entrepreneur.
Kari Faux isn’t making music to keep up with her peers. Instead, she’s been steadily creating distinct work that speaks to her journey as an independent artist. One significant part of dreaming up a sound that feels like her includes being in an environment she finds inspiring. This was a defining factor that led to her relocation to Houston during the pandemic. The move was a reset that she felt she needed after spending months quarantining in Arkansas at her parent’s home.
“Houston has always been a major influence on me, just with the music [from] UGK, Lil Flip, Paul Wall, [and] Scarface,” she said over a Zoom call from her apartment.
Her Southern influences and talent for packaging her work have led Faux to cultivate an enviable path over the past eight years. In an industry that currently depends on computer-generated algorithms to garner traction, being an artist that stays true to yourself has been somewhat of a guiding light for Faux. Though it’s an anomaly, her ability to trust herself has grown from releasing songs on SoundCloud to being included on the soundtrack for HBO’s Insecure. Her cult following has grown up alongside her every step of the way, and that’s not a small feat given the fact that many rappers over the course of the past decade have come and gone.
Faux’s last release, the 2020 album Lowkey Superstar, is appropriately titled as she feels her rise in the industry has been the opposite of grandiose. Clocking in at 16 minutes, the project was created over a course of six days in 2019. It’s a lyrically driven body of work that’s fun to listen to and is sonically different from her 2019 album, Cry 4 Help. While the latter is an album that largely focused on her intimate emotions, the former meshes hip-hop with R&B and even punk, in other words, she’s a musical chameleon on this passion project.
Before she moved to Texas, the multi-faceted artist found herself uninspired and, for lack of a better word, lost. She got through these tough moments by having vulnerable discussions with her mother. One conversation in particular that was illuminating for her, was when she told her mom she felt that the years she’d spent cultivating her craft in Los Angeles during the mid-to-late 2010s was meaningless.
“I remember going to my mom’s room and I was just crying,” she said. “[I told her]: ‘I’ve come home and I have nothing to show for it. I don’t have a car. I don’t have a spouse, I ain’t got no kids. I have worked so hard all these years and I have nothing to show for it.’”
Her mother disagreed and expressed that a home of her own, a vehicle, and worldly possessions were just as worthy as the experiences she’d acquired in recent years.
After that moment with her mother nearly a year ago, she decided to sit down and figure out exactly how she was going to transform her life. Putting together a new LP, leasing her first car, and relocating to Houston — a city she says feels like home — were all parts of her transformation.
The deluxe version of Lowkey Superstar, which Faux released last week, could be seen as a celebration of this transformation, as she connected with artists she admires — Yung Baby Tate, Smino, Deante’ Hitchcock, Jazz Cartier, and J.I.D — for the special release. “I feel like this project is me moving out of my own way…,” she said before adding that her inner A&R sensibilities helped her figure out which feature belonged on a certain song.
LSD is a mixture of tracks that Faux has been sitting on. She wanted the new songs to mesh with the original version, sequencing the tracklist to where listeners are hearing the new tracks in between old tracks. One new addition, “Trouble,” was originally recorded in 2019 during a summer trip in London, the song more noticeably upbeat than others on the project. (Faux also shared that she recorded an entire album on her London trip but it’ll never be released.)
“Mo’ Liquor,” which features Smino, has a more colorful origin story. As she fights through a bout of laughter, she says that the St. Louis artist might hate her after she divulges the roots of this bounce-inspired track. When Faux first recorded “Mo’ Liquor” two years ago, she immediately felt she could hear Smino on it. After sitting on the track for months, she finally got the gumption to ask the rapper to add his own verse. But due to their conflicting schedules, she says it felt like he forgot about the verse.
It took her randomly pulling up to a studio visit in Los Angeles where Smino, Buddy and DJ Nos were working on music together, to receive the verse. Although Smino wasn’t confident that his verse would resonate, with a bit of rearranging and tweaking, the track was completed that same day. “I think that’s one of my favorite tracks just because it’s so calm,” she said. “He made the song amazing.”
The track is a notable highlight from the album not just for Smino’s verse, but because of the subject matter, with Faux detailing past issues of becoming dependent on alcohol as a coping mechanism. This is yet another example of how she’s willing to dig deep to share music that’s relatable. The chorus, “I chase my liquor with mo’ liquor” exposes how people often fall into this pattern when coping with death, struggles, and losing friends.
Hitchcock was another artist Faux reached out to, too. Pushing herself to ask for a feature from the rapper — who is one of her favorites at the moment — he makes an appearance on “Too Much, Too Fast,” an uptempo standout where relationships are the topic of discussion. The ending of it features a groovy beat that speaks to her obsession with the music of the ‘70s.
“Rapunzel,” the album’s closer, is also the newest recording she has at the moment. This one explores her feelings on a breakup, where she sings on the track’s chorus: “I’m so glad I can let my hair down.” Over what she calls an ‘80s-inspired beat, she reflects on a suffocating and frustrating romantic relationship.
Her creative process for these new arrivals to Lowkey Superstar wasn’t easy. Like many creatives, she felt imposter syndrome creep up as she was prepping the deluxe project. But she fought through it and came to understand she’s unlike many of her peers who record music often.
“For me, I like to live for periods of time, go through shit, find inspiration, and then I’ll lock in for a block of time,” she said, adding she sometimes struggles with comparing herself to her peers who seem to be in the studio every day. “The whole pandemic situation, if anything, it’s just made me realize how much I can take my time. I feel like, before this, I was just in such a rat race.”
With all of the success she’s accumulated in nearly a decade, she’s also contributing to another venture that she hopes will take off in the future — a record label. She affectionately calls herself the “guinea pig” of Lowkey Superstar Records. The decision to launch a label came after successfully self-distributing her last record.
“My intention is not right off the bat to sign people,” she said, before adding that she does want to become a resource to emerging, independent artists through the label. She feels this is needed since there’s no blueprint for success in the music industry.
Kari’s fixation on growing is a driving factor of this chapter in her career. From continuing to write about how she’s feeling to launching her own label, she’s stepping into her own brilliance after years of shying away from it.
“I don’t care what’s popping,” she said. “I really just write from how I’m feeling.”