Words by Bryant Bowens (@arete88)
It was a little over a year ago when we first heard Chance the Rapper’s critically acclaimed project, 10 Day. On his breakthrough debut, Chance closes out the album with a heartfelt dedication to Ma Dukes with “Hey Ma.” The tune features a distinct vintage-sounding vocal that you swear was a dusty Jazz sample you once heard at your grandparents house. But in all actuality, we weren’t listening to a cleverly flipped sample, but instead the enrapturing voice of Chicago songstress, Lili K.
While Lili K has flown under the radar for the past few years, she began her (well-deserved) rise to prominence in 2012, releasing highly praised material alongside her partner in crime, Peter Cottontail. FSD caught up with the former chorister, as she discusses her upbringing in the church, being embraced by the local hip-hop scene, and thoughts on the soul scene in Chicago.
FSD: What’s your life been like these past couple of months?
Lili K: The past couple of months I’ve been working a lot on the visuals for Metal Petals. I did a video and song with The whoEvers. I did that because they’re friends of mine, and I think they’re dope artists. We also have a show coming up, they were one of the supporting acts for my headlining show at the Hard Rock a while back. Now I’m in the works for the next project that Peter Cottontale and I are putting together.
FSD: It was documented that you were introduced to the music world through the church; can you elaborate?
Lili K: Well, it’s kind of funny. When I was little, like four or five, I lived in Chicago, and I was going to a private Catholic school—it wasn’t for me. Then I moved to California with my Mom, and in the third grade this teacher by the name of Mr. Anderson, started coming to my school once a week. He would mainly teach us spirituals, and I really got into it. I’ve always liked singing, but he was the one that showed me I was actually good at it. So I started to go to his church, and it was an Apostolic church in San Diego. So from the third to fifth grade, I went there and sang in the choir. That whole style opened my eyes up completely to a new way of how I saw music.
It just showed me music invokes such emotions out of people. Not only in their belief in a higher power, but just the joy and sadness it could bring you. Also in high school I was Gospel choir a lot, just because I love Gospel music.
FSD: It is evident through your music that you fuse multiple genres in your style of recording. How did this come about?
Lili K: Well I guess Jazz was the first thing that I picked up that was like, “Wow I really like singing this!” Jazz was just a perfect fit. My sophomore year in high school was when the Neo Soul movement kind of took over me. That’s when I kind of fell in love with Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo, and India Arie. At the same time through that I fell in love with A Tribe Called Quest. Also as soon as Kanye came out with College Dropout, I was involved with that too. Once I started my original stuff I wanted to put them all together.
FSD: You also went to a performing arts school in Milwaukee? How was that experience?
Lili K: It was amazing! It would always share a home-like feeling for me. I watch TV shows about kids that get bullied, and we honestly did not have that. There wasn’t like the jocks and cheerleader cliques. It wasn’t the typical high school thing that you see everywhere; so I was fortunate to just be brought up in such a supportive and creative environment.
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