As I interview rising rapper Kalan.FrFr, I’m struck by his humility. The 26-year-old is generous in his assessments of the burgeoning wave of new rappers from the Los Angeles area, yet he nearly always deflects praise for his own accomplishments. “It didn’t have to be me,” he says repeatedly. “It could be anybody.”
Maybe that mentality is a result of his upbringing, shuttling back and forth between his dad in Compton and his mom in neighboring Carson, or perhaps it was instilled when he avoided extended prison time on a breaking-and-entering charge from his early adulthood. At the time, he was attending San Diego State University, where he was on the football team — an endeavor he dropped as a result because he didn’t want to have to tell the team about his arrest.
However, he finished school and switched focus, picking up the threads of an interest in music stemming from his high school days throwing parties with his friends. After an initial run of buzz in Atlanta failed to pan out, he returned home to LA, released a pair of mixtapes in 2018, and saw his fortunes change for the better ever since.
Now, he signed to Roc Nation, his latest tape, TwoFr 2, is generating the sort of buzz that suggests a big breakout in the coming year, and he and his South LA cohort, which includes members like the 1Take crew, AzChike, BlueBucksClan, Blxst, Roddy Ricch, Rucci, and others, are beginning to draw more attention from both critics and fans with songs that nod to LA’s homegrown G-funk while also incorporating melodic impulses from Atlanta rap, the snickering punchline style from Detroit, and the off-kilter cadences of the nearby Bay Area.
While on a Zoom call with Kalan (his real name), we swapped stories of growing up in Compton, participating in separate “New West” waves a decade apart, and how his prior experiences prepared him for the nearly inevitable fame coming his way.
First of all, I want to say thank you for coming through Uproxx and doing the UPROXX Sessions with us. How did you like doing that man?
Man, that was dope. Seeing all the other artists that have done it and when they do it, it’s like different stepping stones. So when I was able to do that I probably was happier to be there than you all was happy for me to have done it, bro. I ain’t going to lie, that was big to me, man. So I really appreciate it.
I don’t know about that man because I’ll tell you, I get excited for two kinds of artists. I get excited for artists who I’m a really big fan of and I get excited for artists from Compton. Usually, I like to ask this question at the end of all my interviews, but I know that as a newer artist, a lot of journalists have to ask the who, what, where, why, when questions. Know that gets boring. So the question I like to close out all my interviews with I’m going to start this one with this one is, do you have any topics or subjects that you want to talk about that nobody ever asks you about?
Nobody ever breaks down my songs. Nobody ever really breaks down my lyrics. They get the outer layer of it, but like, it’d be, sometimes it’d be so much deeper than what I just be saying. It might mean something totally different than what people be getting. I’ll just be wondering if people be catching on or see how I see.
Do you have like a specific example of a song where you know you got off and people don’t really see it?
Ain’t going to lie, gang, I be making so much music. I’ll be lying if I try to just pull one up out of nowhere right now. [laughs]
So are you from Compton or Carson? Because I’ve seen both and I love a definitive answer.
So my daddy from Compton and my mom from Carson. I lived in between both houses. I went to school in Carson. I went to school in Compton. Half the time I was at my momma’s house. The other half, the time I was at my daddy house, and it ain’t nothing but five minutes away from each other. It’s literally separated by a freeway bridge.
It’s definitely within walking distance if you have enough time.
You feel me? If you walk across the freeway bridge you right there in Compton so it ain’t no separation. So that’s why I say I’m from Compton and Carson.
If you had to compare, which is the one that you would really stick to?
I love both, man. I love both.
Did you have a specific goal in mind when you were recording TwoFr 2 What were your expectations for it?
I try to do everything with no expectations. Because I’m real emotional and if some shit don’t go how I wanted it to go, my feelings going to be hurt. I’m going to hate it. I try to do everything just being thankful that I got the opportunity to do it. I know if I put some music out, somebody going to listen to it. Somebody that’s doing the same thing, working just as hard as me, might be better than me at doing music. And ain’t nobody listening to their music right now. So I’m just happy to be here. I’m blessed.
So I ain’t really had no expectations really. I wanted it to be better than my last project. That’s it. I don’t never want nobody to go back and say that “That wasn’t it.” I always try to make sure you don’t have to skip a song. You can walk all the way through every song. Just make sure it’s undeniable.
It definitely rides straight through. So something about that last response hit a chord with me: When people ask you why you are special, you always come back to I’m blessed. Where does that come from?
This could be over tomorrow, bro. It ain’t no telling. And at the end of the day, I just wanted to be able to take care of myself. I like to do music. Even if I wasn’t getting paid for making music, I would still be making music. I probably just wouldn’t be able to make as much music because I would have a job or something. Now that I’ve learned how to take care of myself forever, making music in the long run, I know I can make some money doing this and I’m going to be able to be okay, I’m going to have residual income for a long time.
That’s why I don’t complain about shit because it’s what I asked for. So you got to be able to take everything that come with it, the ups and the downs. I remember sleeping on the couch in Atlanta and dropping a song, dropping “Fine Ass” and coming back to LA and then just start getting booked for shows.
It just started happening so fast I’m not really noticing, but just looking back I was like, “Damn I was like damn near homeless like last month.” It’s a blessing, man, because it didn’t have to be me. It could be anybody.
What was the biggest difference, internally and externally, between before and after, and where would you put the line?
I think it was literally July 1st, 2018. I dropped the first TwoFr. And then I think maybe the same day I got booked to perform in Arizona. I got booked 4th of July to go perform. It cost me more money to get to the show than what I made. Got this Airbnb because nine homies want to come. We got to drive out of here. It looked like I’m just going to walk away with $200, $300. It’s going to be a rough day, a rough little weekend. But it was all a blessing because it didn’t have to be me.
I’m forever grateful for every experience. Because every day I can see it. I’m going back and performing at the places I used to go open up for people. Listening to older music that I made, hearing it and how hearing how different I sound now. The different shit I would never do again. So everything just started coming full circle, man.
What I find really special is that when I was about your age, the last big wave of West Coast artists, when it was, Pac Div and U-N-I and Kendrick and everybody was coming up, we were all coming up together.
Overdoz and all them. I used to go watch that shit. I was like one of them kids. My cousins was older, so they was like really up on it. I was in like sixth grade and fifth grade and I used to really be in to like Pac Div and Overdoz, they got a lot to do with like my musical influence. I would never take that away from them because I really with music bro. I really with Casey Veggies a long time ago.
I hear that in your music. And now you are part of the new wave with Blxst and Roddy Ricch, who I hear you getting compared to a lot. Is that more of an advantage or a detriment, getting comparisons to those guys are also blowing?
I just look at it like, if they think that these guys are the best guys and you want to put me around whoever you feel are the best guys, I appreciate it. I’m not in competition with none of these n****s. At the end of the day, God got a plan for me. It’s already written. So whatever going to happen, going to happen. I got too much shit to be worried about for me to be worried about what’s going on with somebody else. I got to do what I got to do. I got people depending on me. I got people that took chances on me. I take all this serious.
I find that interesting because the things that I was originally initially pursuing, wound up informing my current job so much that it gives me certain insights I don’t think anybody else has. So I look at your story, playing football and going to school, and I wonder how it informs your current grind.
I can’t find the excuse for nothing. If it’s an excuse, it’s a goddamn good one. It don’t make no sense because I do whatever. I done waited for my homies to be done with they studio session so I could get an hour or try to squeeze the song out the last hour. Wait until they was falling asleep so I can record some. I had to learn how to mix my own shit so I could put music out. Because I couldn’t afford to pay for no engineer. So it’s not no excuses at all.
Whatever I needed to do, I’ll make sure it got done. So, with football, either you going to swim or you going to drown. If you not doing what you supposed to do, they going to get rid of your ass. You going to get the same results you put in. You might not never play in the game. They might call you and if you’re not ready, you ain’t never get called up again.
Where do you see Kalan.FrFr in 2022?
My album LP Two. I want to have had that out and be working on just the EP. I just want to be bigger than what I am now, man. I just want results, that’s it. I would never say like, I want to have a million followers and this. Because maybe I’m not supposed to have it right then. If I get it that fast, how long is it going to last? I just want to get better every time really. I just want it to be better than the last one. I wanted to be better than the last one I would like to be performing at night at Rolling Loud.