HomegrOHwn Hip Hop: K Carter's cinematic songwriting
On this episode of Homegrown Hip-Hop, host Da Gemini interviews Kevin Carter. Since the release of his debut album in 2015, K. Carter has earned a reputation as one of Dayton’s most prolific MC’s and performance organizers. In 2019, he founded the annual 4 Dayton By Dayton festival, which took place this year on June 10th. He also co-owns the Black Box Improv Theater on 3rd St., which hosts improv shows and classes five nights each week. In the interview, Carter talked about drawing inspiration for his lyrics from other forms of art, like drawing, film, and comedy. He also broke down the lyrics to three recent songs, including his latest single, “Nowhere safe.”
While some rappers begin by writing lyrics, then search for an appropriate instrumental for the songs, K Carter says his lyrics normally come as a response to a piece of music or art. “I’m not the artist that just gonna have bars for days,” he said, “Every song, I write once I hear the music. The music makes me feel a certain way, so whatever I feel when hearing the music, that’s what I write about.” K. Carter says the song “Nowhere Safe,” which came out in August 2023, was inspired by a drawing by artist Emily Smith. “My idea about that song was given to me by the drawing,” he told Da Gemini. “It’s a little girl on a swing, and you see demon hands controlling the swing.” He said that the image, which became the album cover for the single, represents to him the omnipresence of danger—both from others, and from oneself:
“[On ‘Nowhere Safe’] I talk about gun violence and things like that, but I even talk about the monsters under our bed. We grew up as kids saying there’s monsters under our beds. Our imagination isn't safe— even our imagination! We know how depression and things work; our brain isn’t safe, our own thoughts aren’t safe.”
Carter is no stranger to instability and struggle. On the song “Abundance,” which was released on his 2022 album The Prototype, he talks about growing up in the midst of poverty and violence, and articulates a vision for thriving. He told Da Gemini about the song’s message:
“The first verse is me talking about what I went through as a kid and growing up and everything. So you see that side of it. But the second verse is, I’m getting my abundance and I’m getting what’s coming to me now. And it talks about how I want this for everybody. This isn’t just about me, I want this for everybody.”
K. Carter says that he is currently recording songs for his next album. His music is available on all major streaming platforms. For updates about upcoming releases and performances, visit thekcarter.com, or follow him on Instagram or Facebook.
Text by Peter Day, adapted from an interview by Da Gemini.