South London rapper Casyo ‘Krept’ Johnson and Karl ‘Konan’ Wilson met at a bus stop, while Konan was being pursued by members of a rival gang. “It didn’t look positive for him”, Krept deadpans. Krept distracted the assailants so his new pal could sail to safety on a double-decker and, as a result, they formed a friendship and an acclaimed duo. They’ve now recorded two new mixtapes, ‘7 Days’ and ‘7 Nights’, and are releasing them both on October 20. One is a daytime-themed rap record featuring Skepta and Stormzy; the other draws on their soft R&B side and is best played after dark. They’re complex characters alright, who find themselves in scrapes despite having hearts of gold. Let’s explore their two sides – the naughty and the nice.
Nice Krept and Konan
Their brave, truthful lyrics
In 2011, Konan’s stepfather, Carlton, was shot and killed in his own home by an assailant who was attempting to kill Konan. The duo address the murder in an incredibly candid and emotional way on the 2013 track ‘My Story’, which includes the heartbreaking line, “This is my story / All the pain, all the things, falling on me”. Konan explains his motivation for recording the track: “I wanted to open people’s eyes to the fact that we’re all going through things behind the scenes. A lot of people are showing you their fun side, but you don’t know what they could be going though.”
Their feminist freestyle
Krept delivers a feminist freestyle on the ‘7 Days’ track ‘Cold Summer’: “Gotta give praise to a woman / Every one of us came from a woman / I was raised by a woman”. This is a reference to a similar line in the 2Pac track ‘Keep Ya Head Up’ and, indeed, he also shouts out the originator of the lines. Krept tells us that he “wanted to pay homage to the woman in my life” and, when we point out that Skepta brought his mum onstage at the Mercurys and Stormzy cast his mum in the video for ‘Know Me From’, he beams, “Mums are having a moment!”
Konan’s duet with his mum
N’aww! Talk about mums having a moment. The 2015 track ‘Fell Apart/Lucky Ones’ sees Konan actually duet with his! Well, sort of. She found an old tape of them singing together when Konan was young and happened to send him a recording as he was working on the track. “It actually fit the beat,” he says. Konan was always singing around the house as a kid – his father, Delroy Wilson, was a famous Jamaican reggae singer. As Konan says, “I’m kind of a big deal when I go to Jamaica.”
Their right-on Charity
This duo’s Positive Direction Foundatione seeks to teach disadvantaged kids the workings of the music industry. They’ve enlisted the help of producers, engineers and visual artists they’ve worked with and will invite kids to record, mix and design the artwork for their own records. Says Krept, “We’re reaching out to the kids who have trouble.” He has a degree in accountancy from Portsmouth University but argues, “At school you don’t really learn how things are in real life. It’s important for people to learn how to do the things that they’re actually studying for real.”
Naughty Krept and Konan
Beefing with Wiley
There are probably vegans out there who’ve had beef with Wiley. The Godfather of Grime enjoys a Twitter spat and, in 2015, it was Krept & Konan’s turn to get sprayed with 140 characters of pure shade. “Wiley just likes to say stuff,” Konan says now of Wiley’s criticism of the duo’s album ‘The Long Way Home’. “You’ve gotta banter it off or let it get to you.” Readers, he let it get to him. Konan responded with a veiled diss on the track ‘Last Night In LA’: “Calling my name, that’s a real risk / I thought about it and I’m still pissed / ’Cos I don’t care if you’re new or a legend”.
The track ‘Do It For The Gang’, taken from ‘The Long Way Home’, sees Krept deliver the decidedly dodgy line, “White whip, red interiors / That’s a white chick on her period / Said she into girls, I’mma turn her straight”. He cringes at the lyric when NME reads it back to him. “Sometimes you don’t realise how bad lyrics are when you’re writing them,” he says. “I just thought of the punchline rather than the statement.” He now skips the line when he and Konan perform the song live. “Obviously you grow. Every time we perform it, it’s like, ‘Oh, s**t, that line’s coming up again.’”
Konan’s prison Sentence
He was jailed for robbery in 2008, of which he says, “When I came out, it was like, ‘I’ve gotta get my head screwed on.’” Konan made a list of achievements he wanted under his belt: two mixtapes, an album, festival performances, radio play and, of course, at least one good crowdsurf. He recalls being amazed at “ticking it all off”. The duo received a Guinness World Record when ‘Young Kingz’ became the highest charting album by an unsigned act. “That was a little bonus,” he grins.
Pissing off Jay-Z
JAY-Z and Kanye are probably low on the list of people you want to vex. Yet Krept & Konan did so when, in 2011, they freestyled over the ‘Watch The Throne’ track ‘Otis’. The video reached 5 million views in five days, but was swiftly removed when it transpired that someone had erroneously ticked a box that claimed Krept & Konan owned therights to the track. “This is when we were at our lowest so were like, ‘Yeah! We’re gonna get paid today by YouTube’,” says Krept. In the end, the royalties went in Jay and ’Ye’s silky pockets. Bummer.