There isn’t any other American female music duo in the United States today whose music and influence compares to Kin4Life’s, or who has accomplished what they have as artists who are out and proud and who are entrepreneurs of a new generation. Just watching them brings a number of things to mind. Among the milieu of what transcends from their prose and their dynamic presence is what distinguished Audre Lorde as a legend of the Diaspora and a leader ahead of her time. It’s what made New York’s Stone Wall Movement legendary beyond refute: The quest for freedom and the right to love boundlessly as we define ourselves as same gender loving people. Yet, as entrepreneurs of a greater enterprise they are truly what we’ve needed and just what we’ve been waiting for.
They are Kin4Life. And as we ensure that the quest for change never falls on def ears, they and other game changers remind us of what the remedy for change truly is. Undoubtedly, it confirms what the freedom fighters of the stone wall movement emphatically and poetically declared and what the message behind Audre Lorde’s words rang clear: That we’ve never been more ready than we are right now.
We caught up with Kin4Life who are manifested as Nor and IQ.
TaschimaAllen: How do you feel you’ve changed the game?
Kin4Life: I think we've changed the game by being the only female duo that not only writes their own material but produces, engineers, and mixes the music as well. I haven't seen any female duo in Hip Hop do that. We also have made a statement with our image. We have shown upcoming artists that it’s ok to be who you are and that you don't have to hide your true being just to satisfy the "industry standard" of what they think a female mc should look like.
TaschimaAllen: It seems like you came at the right time, cause so many of us were missing the female MC for a long time before KIN4LIFE emerged on the scene. How does your reception now compare with the reception you received in the very beginning?
Kin4Life: We have always carved out a spot for ourselves in the game. Although there are many female mcs on the rise, we don't fit the mold of the highly sexed up image that's out there. Our journey has always been a tad more difficult but people have had no choice but to fall in love with KIN4LIFE once they actually listen to the music. One listen and you're hooked. Our beautiful fan base expands daily. Our reception has become warmer and warmer as our career grows. It is always our goal to challenge the music fan to rise above mainstream stereotypes and appreciate the talent God has bestowed upon us. Plus we look good while doing it.
TaschimaAllen: Are you working on any projects right now?
Kin4Life: Most definitely. We always have something in the works. We have a couple new music videos in the editing stages as we speak. One of them being the premiere single "It's Over" now which will be released later this year. The "Welcome to Planet Noriq" Mixtape series has been doing really well for us online. Make sure you pick up Volumes 1-3 currently available for free on www.KIN4LIFE.com. While working on a new album we are also writing and producing for other artists signed and unsigned so look out for some great things in the near future. We also have tons of film projects in the pipeline. Our single “Money Brings Trouble” is featured in the full length feature film “Changing the Game” which is currently making its film festival rounds. Also our music has been featured in several documentaries and new sitcom projects. KIN4LIFE is everywhere.
TaschimaAllen: When I look at Kin4LIfe, I see history being made. The very image of you both together is powerful to see and it reinforces the great things that women of color are doing. Does it feel that way for you?
Kin4Life: KIN4LIFE is a revolution all on its own. They way we think, speak, create, and act makes the world around us change. With an industry full of cowards who won't take chances we constantly must create our own opportunities. We are definitely making history with every move we make from being the first black female mcs in OUT magazine to being the first black
female hip hop duo on the MTV LOGO click list. We are the first for many things..trailblazers if you will.
TaschimaAllen: At any point in your career, have you received any mentoring or advice from any MCs who preceded KIN4LIFE? Who would you want to be your mentor if you could choose one?
NOR: We have definitely met a lot of artists out there who have given us advice along the way. I have had some impactful advice from the likes of LL Cool J to 9th Wonder to of course the great DJ Jazzy Jeff. I wouldn't quite call anyone a musical mentor to me besides my own mother. She was an artist back in the 90's and she definitely was the reason I even started rapping. My mom helped me write my first rhyme and that is the moment I never looked back. If I had to choose an artist to mentor me currently I would definitely seek out Missy Elliot or P.Diddy. They both have been successful from being different and innovative.
IQ: LL Cool J definitely left an impression on me; having met him several times in my career he always treated us with respect and never made me feel like I was bothering him. That means something to me because we have also been ignored or treated rudely by other “celebrities” we have come into contact with. In terms of true mentoring I would say our manager Melody Forrester has had the greatest impact on me. From our meeting at a Russell Simmons event, she took the time to listen. She took the time to give us that first call back and to really believe and invest in our talent. If I had a choice of a mentor currently it would be P. Diddy on the business end. My dream/fantasy mentor would be the late great Biggie Smalls.
TaschimaAllen: Your fan base is so diverse, ranging in fact, from children to adults. Do you ever worry that you might leave out a certain demographic or age group of people who feel your music when you write? How do you both cover all bases?
Kin4Life: Our fan base does definitely vary from all ages, races, colors, and creeds. By making music that is true to our lifestyles people gravitate to us naturally. Our versatility allows us to create different sounds and speak on different topics that are relatable to so many people. At the end of the day we make music that comes from an authentic and honest place. Authenticity makes our music universal. Struggle + Fun = The KIN4LIFE Sound.
TaschimaAllen: What impact do you hope to have on young women of color globally?
Kin4Life: We hope to show women of color that there are many representations of us in this world and not to be afraid to be loud and proud about who you are. There are no limits if you put your mind to it. Women of color have a place in this world, we can be engineers, producers, and writers in this game with no apologies for being who we are.
TaschimaAllen: How do you handle the impact you’ve made on LGBT youth and the responsibility that it carries?
Kin4Life: The impact we have made on the LGBT youth has been an integral part of our movement. We have shown them that no matter what adversity brings, keep fighting and keep pushing towards their dreams. I take great pride in being a role model to the LGBT youth and we are bearing the cross to make it ok for them to have chances in this world. Your sexuality should not be a determining factor in whether you do well in life or not. We are the voice of the LGBT community and we wear that badge with great honor.
TaschimaAllen: In recent years, the number of suicides by LGBT youth have increased. For some of those teens or youth who are bullied in school, who might be reading this in China and the United States, Brazil and the world over, what message would you like to send them?
Kin4Life: Suicide is never an option. We live in a world where people judge you for everything but we cannot fall to the negativity. Your life is more precious than you know and this world needs you here to stand and fight against the opposition. It may seem hard and like no one understands but there are so many people going through the same struggle. Bullies only try to make you feel terrible about yourself because they feel terrible about themselves. It's called projection. We have been harassed for being openly gay on so many occasions in my life but we choose to not let it affect who we are. We know our hearts and no one can take that from us. No one can make you feel less than because we are all here to serve a special purpose. We address the teen suicide issue in our song "Lone Ranger" which you can check out on www.kin4life.com.
TaschimaAllen: What’s your favorite song by KIN4LIFE and Why?
NOR: Wow we have so many songs it’s hard to choose just one. I would have to say "Make Up Girl" because of what it's done for us career wise and for the lgbtq community. The "Make Up Girl" video is still on MTV in several different countries and we released it years ago. Timeless classic! check it out in youtube or just google KIN4LIFE MAKE UP GIRL
IQ: I have to agree with Nor and say "Make Up Girl" is one of favorites as well for a similar reason. But to expand on the question I think I have to throw in our 2002 anthem "KIN4LIFE" as a favorite because that track renamed us. The track and album was so groundbreaking in building our fan base that the fans decided to call us KIN4LIFE. Just in case you didn’t know we were the hip hop duo KIN from about 1999-2003.
TaschimaAllen: What’s the greatest thing about picking up the microphone?
Kin4Life: The greatest thing about picking up a mic is the power that it has once you use it. With a mic I am able to spread messages to the masses on records and live shows. It’s the main tool of any performer; it’s like a basketball to Lebron James.
TaschimaAllen: Like many artists who start out, there are a lot of obstacles to get through. Inasmuch as we know that your acclaimed success signifies that you’ve already overcome many hurdles, what are some obstacles you still face today, socially or politically?
Kin4Life: So many industry people know who we are but won't touch us because we are openly gay. That is the biggest hurdle for us currently. It’s crazy to know that people are watching to see if we can make it on our own because they are too scared to take a chance on a 'OUT" duo. Knowing this, it just makes us work harder to prove to the world that you can be Black, Gay and Successful.
TaschimaAllen: The world has just lost a great icon. Can you tell us the impact that Whitney Houston had on your life as a young woman of color in the United States?
NOR: I was raised listening to Whitney Houston. When my mother would clean the house she would throw on a Whitney record and we would jam out. Being an 80's baby, Whitney told us we were the future! Very inspiring artist and my heart goes out to her young daughter Bobbi Kristina.
IQ: Whitney Houston was the reason for my first live performance. At 6 years old my mother made my sisters and I memorize Greatest Love of All and perform it for our family during Thanksgiving. I think that feeling of all eyes on me singing, I been addicted ever since. She is an icon and a legend, she is MORE than missed.
TaschimaAllen: What do you hope to see manifested in the media and in society in the near future?
Kin4Life: We would like to see more positive representations of black women in the media, period. With so many reality shows out there a lot of young women can only look to shows like the Bad Girls Club and Basketball Wives; shows that depict jealous black women fighting and scratching each other’s eyes out over nonsense. We would also like to see more openly gay black people being highlighted for their accomplishments as well as being covered in gay press which unfortunately, is primarily geared towards our Caucasian brothers and sisters.