This is: Lo Village
MV-based rap group Lo Village (consisting of Kane, Ama, and Charles Tyler) has been finding and solidifying their musical identity for nearly ten years. These efforts culminated in the delivery of a standout EP last year called It Takes A Village, which quickly received an outpour of support from outlets such as HYPEBEAST, Ones To Watch, Lyrical Lemonade, and Earmilk. The EP’s title is a clear reference to the old proverb “it takes a village to raise a child,” which perfectly encapsulates the group’s collectivist mentality when it comes to songwriting.
Lo Village recently dropped a single called "Terry Crews", which premiered on Zane Lowe’s radio station earlier this week. The song will be part of the group’s upcoming Lost in America EP. True to its name, the single and EP have an overarching motif about problematic black celebrities that lose track of what it was like to live in modern-day America before achieving fame and wealth.
Myth’s interview with Lo Village tackles topics including the current political climate, the issue with idolizing celebrities, and what it means to separate an artist from their work. Check out Myth's full interview with Lo Village below.
Lo Village's music video for their song "NERD". Directed by Evan Yuson
Where does the name Lo Village come from and how was the group formed?
Kane: Ama and I are from Ghana - we’re siblings - and [Charles Tyler] is from Trinidad, so we always had a “village” mindset. Also, we grew up on people like Camp Lo and those kinds of groups.
Charles Tyler: Yeah we just want to just pay tribute to where we came from and also kind of like signifies like, yeah, we're like a trio. We're trying to just like, fuck it up.
Ama: Yeah [Kane] and I are related. It was just the two of them [Kane & Charles] in the beginning. We had another member in it at one point - so it was actually the three of them - and then I would do features and stuff. It went from that to including me, and we’ve done a collab tape with other local rappers as well. There’ve been so many different variations of [the group]. It’s changed a few times.
When did this trio solidify then?
Kane: 2017-2018? Ever since we got Nishant [our manager], it was like, all right, we’ve got to trim the fat and get serious about this. At that point, you know we said that this was it - this is really the base of what we’re working with, at this point we should be focused as a trio.
We know you have a series called The Lo End Theory which I’m sure was inspired by A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory, not to mention that you have a song called “For the Children” referencing Wu Tang. Can you tell us more about your influences?
Ama: We can get people saying we sound like certain people, but I feel like we’re still very unique, especially for what music has become in this day and age. For me, Lauryn Hill is a big inspiration for me. Same dynamic. Mary J Blige - I've always loved her too, especially because she has one of those lower voices and I feel like I'm that way as well.
Charles Tyler: My early influences, just coming up, I listened to stuff like Dipset. Just a bunch of just stuff, you know what I mean? Like you got to have your bars right, but with the way music has shifted - it’s like, you know, of course you got bars but can it sound good. What can you do to incorporate [bars] into a more melodic song. So, you know, still trying to stick to that like hard rap. I mean I would at least I like to say, but it's great because it's like we all have a different type of thing we try to do.
Kane: I can see a time period where someone exists - like Charles Tyler’s a 2000’s rapper, like that's his shit. You know what he's saying on Dipset - that's what he gives us, that’s what he brings. In my teens I got lost in the 90s, and I still feel like I'm trapped there. But it's like I grew up in the 2000s, so it's like that whole dynamic. And then Ama was just like - well, she's younger than us. She's four years younger than us, so she’s a breath of fresh air, but she still has those influences because, you know, we grew up in the same house. So a lot of my influences she also has, you know? We lived in the same neighborhood. So we all had a lot of things in common and it shows musically.
Each of your music videos has its own concept and is quite unique. How are the concepts behind the videos created? Do you guys put your own input in or is it all a separate production company?
Charles Tyler: We all kind of just collaborate and brainstorm. Kind of just throw a bunch of ideas at the wall and kind of just see what sticks. So that's kind of how we have been deciphering, you know, what kind of direction we go for the videos. But that's the great thing about it, is we're all so creative. We kind of just see things and it’s like “alright, let's make the vision come alive.”
Kane: And I feel like me and Charles... when we were making music videos first before Ama was even in the picture, we used to spend a lot of money and time making music and making music videos that never came out. We already know what it's like to shoot music videos and not be pleased with the results. So now we're in a mindset of like “let's have like a theme so we don't end up in the woods dressed up in suits, rapping.” Like no bullshit that’s something we did back in 2013 haha - we had a concept, but we were just like, let's do something that makes no sense.
We checked your upcoming EP, Lost in America, and thought it was really dope - how has the political climate within the United States impacted the creation process? Was the EP created in response to the ongoing protests?
Charles Tyler: So basically what was going on motivated the whole creative process. We thought that we can't put music out there and not address the things that are going on. It was kind of like an elephant-in-the-room type of situation. Once we kind of pinpointed what we wanted to do, we just all brought kind of our own message, and basically just put it on the track. We all had different influences at the time; some people were really afraid. Some of us were just like, you know, “let's try to talk about this.” So it all came together perfectly.
When did you guys start making the EP?
Ama: We only have been to our actual studio twice the entire year. The first time was in February, and we just went out there just to record or whatever. But I think we made the intro song, “Sick,” in January. We recorded that and then we ended up just like having it for this project.
Kane: We did “Sick” and we did “Out the Window” before COVID happened and the political climate shifted. So we had skeletons of songs; like the choruses, the direction and the melodies were there but the content was frivolous. So we were like let’s scratch some of the content and just make it more about what's going on now.
We've always tried to use our music, and we’ve always been on this type of thing… but we understand that people are not trying to listen to artists tell them what they should be doing. They’d rather, you know, forget about that, and we understand that. So we try to, you know, straddle the fence and make our music sound good. But now it's like everyone's talking about [race] - like fucking Starbucks and Einstein Bagels (I'm just looking at things outside), they have messages of black inclusion and stuff. So we're like, let's talk about this and let's really talk about it. And I feel like this is what we've been wanting to be doing - but 2020 is like the opportunity when the audience will be accepting of it.
Lo Village's music video for their song "For the Children". Directed by Jack Rottier.
We were able to listen to your upcoming single “Terry Crews.” Celebrities like Terry Crews will have a significant influence on any issue, and a lot of people sided with his problematic stance during his debate with Don Lemon over BLM. Can you tell us about your reaction to that interview and how it ended up leading into this song?
Ama: I was upset because I was just like anybody else, like this was random. Like I really, really liked him. And a lot of celebrities right now are getting canceled because they don't have a filter and kind of just say whatever. And on one hand, I do think we almost need to stop giving so much influence to celebrities in general because it makes them feel like they should be able to say whatever they want. Like Terry Crews is an actor - he’s not an activist, so for him to use his platform in a negative way really threw me off. But it kind of just matched what we were talking about in the song. Like we named the song "Terry Crews" after the fact.
Charles Tyler: Yeah we were like let's name the song "Terry Crews" and throw this snippet on at the end. So kind of the subject matter and Terry Crews, they just kind of blended perfectly.
Kane: And I think I thought that the White Chicks role he played is accurate. That's him for real. Idiocracy as well. He's [Terry Crews] running a dystopian version of the US, he's the president and they're doing things like pouring Gatorade on plants and stuff. And in Idiocracy, it’s like he's the president and he's being like Trump. And it's just like... he played all these roles that are kind of like actually how he really is. So it's just ironic.
Adding onto this, there have been a number of other celebrities like Kanye West and others that have said some questionable things. What are your thoughts on separating an artist’s work from their political stance?
Ama: Yeah, I feel like it goes with what I was just saying around about looking at celebrities, like just giving them too much, idolizing celebrities. On one hand I think celebrities have a responsibility to use their platform and the best way they can, but these are also people just like us. But then right now, everyone feels like they have to say something and then they say the wrong thing, and then it's just like worse than it started out to be. I just feel like we need to stop looking for celebrities to save us.
Charles Tyler: I would say I'm stuck in the middle between like, you’re allowed to have your opinion. But I'm also just like... when you understand that you have so much influence, how could you go here and just say controversial stuff that doesn't even make any sense? I mean, it's right in the middle because, of course, you know, these artists make great music. But when they step off the field or leave the studio or whatever, they're not really living the things they preach in their message. So it's like, how can we even give them so much respect? I feel like [a lot of these celebrities] are only saying they’re down for things because they understand that you're looking at them right now, once they step away from the camera, whatever, they go back to their actual life.
Kane: I think I prefer this environment over what it was like in the 90s and 80s and 70s, where you don't know about the real character of someone you might stan over. Back then, you could be a devout follower of this person without knowing anything about their real personality. Now what I find is that the people that I actually like are the people that don't open their mouth. Like they always choose their words wisely when they will speak, and when they speak it has substance - it’s not some stupid shit that they just came up with, you know. Let people hang themselves, and don’t take [celebrities] at face value or treat them as deities.
Because of what it is right now in society, we can see Trump for who he really is. He has twitter, he has all these platforms to just fucking talk his mouth off. But I mean, Obama is smarter than that. Like, he kind of had to deal with these modern times and technology, but he didn't use his platform to just talk shit at all times; someone like Trump though is going to show you who he really is. And I feel like, allow everyone to show you who they really are so we can stop focusing on celebrities. I don't want people following me like that. I don't need that much attention; people need to focus on more important things and that's what I think that's an important message to be spread.
What’s the process of creating a song like for you guys?
Ama: Kane has a little studio in his apartment we use, and we usually listen to a lot of beats. So we figure out which one it is, and then someone will start like a melody or think about a topic or something of that nature. And then we go to New York and we go to like Frankie, our producer.
I'll tell him “oh I want to sound like this” and then he just kind of starts messing with chords and doing all that interesting shit with the beat that I don't know about. He starts messing with them until we hear something that we all like.
Charles Tyler: We kind of just all bring our own lyrics to the table, and we just put ‘em down. There will be points where we might say like, “nah that doesn't rhyme, you should say this”, but other than that, we all are comfortable with our own lyrics for studio sessions or performances.
How do you prepare for a studio session or performance? Anything special?
Charles Tyler: We practice. One of our friends has a spot we’ll go to with our mics, where we’ll do some dry run throughs. We try to do that at least a couple times before, because like the three of us... when we're on stage we can’t just stand, so we're kind of like” we’re going to stand here, we're going to roll, so we kinda just do that.”
Ama: I drink lots and lots of tea because I lose my voice all the time and I really have like a very….
Charles Tyler: Sinister voice.
Ama: Sinister? Haha no, I can't think of the word, but I drink lots of tea cause there’ve been times where I lost my voice before a show.
Kane: I like to drink beer
Were there any performances that were memorable or that you really enjoyed doing?
Charles Tyler: Actually, the performance where she lost her voice. The crowd was just, you know... I mean, the crowd, they just loved us so they were singing the lyrics and everything. She didn't even have to sing. It was in our hometown so a lot of people that we knew came out, a lot of people knew the songs and they were singing along with us... like, you get no love like hometown love, so that show hands down was probably our best show. The vibe was there. Moving forward, it's like, let's try to emulate that.
Have there been any concerts you guys attended that really left an impact on you or inspired the way that you want to do your shows?
Charles Tyler: I went to Made in America one year and Travis Scott performed live. It was lit. I don't think I could do that. Just seeing the engagement you can get from coming out into the crowd was wild.
Ama: I went to a Chance the Rapper concert, the Coloring Book tour, in 2016. I don't know, I just like how he controlled the crowd. He was very interactive with everybody and it was weird to see and everyone was singing the lyrics.
I also went to a SZA concert and that was life changing. I was right in front of her looking at her and I met her after the fact. I remember she had a couple of problems, she had like tea and everything - it just kind of made me think like what would I even do if I was in this situation. Like I have [Kane and Charles Tyler]. She didn’t have anyone, she was just up there, her voice was messing up and stuff. But it was crazy.
Kane: I saw Kid Cudi and I thought that shit was like something that I'll never forget, just like giving everything you got to the performance. That's what it's about.
Do you guys have some advice for aspiring artists?
Kane: Don't drink the Kool-Aid.
Ama: I would say whatever you actually want to do, just do it. Don't put yourself in a box - just do what feels right. Like they said, I'm younger than them. People in their generation might act a way but people in my generation are a different thing, especially when it comes to music and being true to themselves. So I would say that you should be true to yourself and just like do what it is that you know you need to do.
Charles Tyler: Get a studio, get a mic in your crib. That's what I would say. Yeah. A place you could record at all times. It’s not just a mic. Get you a little Garage Band app or something because you can be listening to something that could influence the bars that you have right there. Just go ahead, put it down, and then you can build off of it later. Just always keeping the train of thought on music, and don’t let other people define your success.