Toby Hambly

©Dan Govan

©Dan Govan

Grime rapper Karnage Kills has been making waves since he put out Hoe Diaries last year. He’s been a regular on the London scene and released his debut mixtape Suck It at the end of 2017. Managing to keep up a solid output on the side of his full-time job as a tailor, I spoke to him one evening after he’d got back from a busy day.

How’s music going?

Really good to be honest – there are so many things that I’ve got lined up and coming out that I’m really excited about. I think the most frustrating thing is wanting to put everything out at once and obviously having to wait and do it the right way.

You must just want the world to hear it.

Yeah exactly, that’s probably the hardest thing. But it’s going really well – there are lots of shows lined up and I’m just pushing to get myself out there more. I think working full-time outside of music makes it harder to commit myself to it as much as I would like, but I still do it 100% when I can – I still make it my first priority.

©Dan Govan

©Dan Govan

What inspired you to get into rapping?

I used to watch my uncles a lot and they used to spit with their friends. I’ve got this vision of when I was younger at my grandmother’s house and they’re all just lined up on the street rapping and playing music – everybody got involved. I used to always think, ‘I want to be able to do that.’ I was really bad at first but I just practiced and got good at it.

Was it hard for you to come out as a young man?

My coming out was really boring! I don’t even know if I’ve told anyone about this before but we did this poetry thing in year 11, I can’t remember what it was for but I wrote this poem and did it in front of everyone in assembly. Then my English teacher pulled me aside and she said, “That was so amazing, but I feel like it was your way of coming out to your peers.” I didn’t see the poem as having anything to do with that, it was about fashion. I thought, ‘What is she talking about?’ And then I said to my mum what my English teacher had said and the next day she turned around to me and said, “Do you like girls?” And I just remember saying no. Then we just hugged and cried and that was it.

©Dan Govan

©Dan Govan

When it comes to the music industry and rap music, do you find yourself with particular challenges being gay?

Being a grime rapper, being gay and very feminine – it’s the hardest thing to do. Being gay in rap is harder than being a woman in rap. I remember one of my friends said to me, “Just keep pushing but it’s going to be very hard for you to blow because you’re gay, you have long hair and wear wigs and hoop earrings, and people are not going to accept that.” Grime is very hyper-masculine. I feel that all I can do is just be myself and hope one day that somebody sees me and respects what I’m doing enough to put me on.

Do you think what happened at Radar Radio will carry on happening or was it a watershed?

I do think it’s always going to be a problem if I’m being honest. Until I see somebody like myself on one of these platforms being pushed or supported I’m just not going to be convinced that people are moving forward and accepting people for talent and talent alone without having ulterior motives. It didn’t shock me to be honest. I’ve been on Radar with Pxssy Palace – shout out to them – and not to be stereotypical, but the people I saw there, what I was hearing and seeing – it didn’t surprise me.

©Dan Govan

©Dan Govan

Do you consider yourself an activist?

I’ve been asked before about activism and I always say that I don’t know much about politics so I won’t speak on what I don’t know. I never want to seem more educated than I am because I feel like that would just make me look stupid. I do fight for LGBT people and rights for queer people in my own way, but in terms of being political about it I’m very rough round the edges – I’m not very political, I’m just doing what I do.

Karnage Kill’s new tune ‘Level Up’ is out now.
Updates on live performances: @karnagekills

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