Kari Faux became famous from rapping on the internet, but she’s way more concerned with real life. In 2014, she released a video for her first song, "No Small Talk," a catchy dance track inspired by her friend Shanice who originally said the line Faux repeats in the chorus, Bitch I'm taking calls/No small talk. The song went viral and in July of that same year, Childish Gambino did a remix of the track. Three months later, Gambino reached out to Faux and took her under his wing. She moved to L.A. and found it really disorienting. Living far away from her loved ones in her hometown of Little Rock, she felt muddled by the growing pains of womanhood and sudden success, which she recapped on her debut album Los En Los Angeles.
Now out of that perplexing haze, she's self-aware, honest and unabashed about who she's grown to be, like in her new video for, "Fantasy," which premieres below.
“This song started off as a poem, then I began making this little beat on Logic as a reference,” Kari told The FADER. "It took some time, but I got a couple of musicians on it and it became what it is now. “Cool Like That” by Digable Planets and “Certainly” by Erykah Badu helped as inspiration. It’s really just a song about how I was feeling in that specific moment."
Earlier in July, Kari Faux spoke to The FADER over the phone from Little Rock, Arkansas about the good and bad things about the internet, what it's like working closely with Childish Gambino, and her frustrations about not being a certain type of woman for a man.
In 2014 on your Laugh Now, Die Later EP, you released a song called “On the Internet” about internet famous people being superficial between online and in real life. How do you feel about the internet now?
I definitely still feel that way, but it just doesn't bother me as much. I think when I made that song I was more so kind of pissed off. There were people that were stuntin' on me a little bit. I'm like, “Oh okay. So you can fuck with me in real life, but because of your brand on the internet and because it doesn't necessarily coincide with what I do, you can't necessarily fuck with me on the internet. So it was really me just being salty [laughs]. It was me being salty about niggas stuntin’ on me. But there's so much negativity on the internet nowadays, that I'm just whatever about it. It did help me get to where I am and it does help people connect. But also, there's so much unnecessary negativity on there all the time. And it's just draining.
What it was like in the beginning when you were making music and putting it online from Little Rock, Arkansas?
When I started uploading music on the internet, Facebook was a really big thing and that's how you would stay connected with people in your city. There was a community of people who would post their rap songs on Facebook so at the time, I never really thought about it reaching anybody outside of Little Rock. So it was just something to do and to add to the community that was already doing this. When Twitter came into play it was like, “Okay, I can actually reach people outside of my city,” and it made more sense then. I got discouraged when I went to college. I was like, nobody outside Little Rock was ever gonna care about my music, so I stopped making music for a year, or two and then I decided to start making music again when I started using Twitter.
So Twitter helped your music reach farther.
Yeah, so you remember the "follow trains" and "follow for follows?" When that started happening I was connecting with people from different cities like Atlanta and Memphis and other places. I was like, “I can do this music with these people that I'm connecting with in different cities.” I can just use this to promote myself. So I ended up making friends and connections with people through Twitter. Those were the good ol' days. I miss Twitter back then, it was so much fun.
You said when you first starting rapping, you didn’t think it would get that far outside of Little Rock. But did you want it to or was it just fun?
To say that I didn't want my music to blow up and have the opportunity to leave Little Rock would be a lie. I wanted that, I deeply wanted that in my soul. But I'm very realistic and pessimistic at times so I'm like, "Yeah, but nobody else in Little Rock has ever made it. Why are you different?" It was definitely something that was fun. I’m not even going to lie and I don't know if I ever told anybody this, but after I made Laugh Now, Die Later, I had really come to point where I was like, "If this shit does not get me out of Little Rock then I'm not doing this anymore. I'm gonna make music but I'm not going to necessarily promote myself, or try, and keep trying and trying, and nothing happens."
At the time, my living situation was weird, I was working this weak ass job, I didn't have a car so I was taking the city bus, donating plasma— just trying to do fucking anything to work it out. Everything just ended up working out. I don't know if that was because the universe knew I was tired and that I was ready to go to the next level. When I wrote my first rap song, I was hanging with people who were making music, but at the time, I wasn't making music. My friend was like, "You should write a sixteen and come back and record it," and I was like, "What?" He's just like, "I can tell you really want to rap, cause you come over here every fucking day, and you just sit here and watch us rap and I know that you want to do it. So go write a sixteen, come back tomorrow and record it." Then I did it.
Your first song, "No Small Talk," caught the attention of Childish Gambino and he made his own remix. Why do you think you and Gambino connect so well as individuals and artists?
I feel like we have a lot of similarities. As far as being black and not fitting into a more specific box of "blackness." I like different things. Even me coming out with "Small Talk" and everybody thinking, "Okay, she's some ratchet girl. But I'm like that's only one side of my personality. I can be very extroverted and introverted. I'm into a lot of different things that most people would say, "You're kinda weird" and I kind of feel like we have that in common. We show black kids that you don't have to be one type of way. You can be whatever you want to be.
We talk about autonomy often and that's something that is super important to me. Having the space and support to do whatever I want is a priority, so being a part of Royalty was a no brainer. It’s really inspiring to see him work on an album, then be in a movie, and turn around and star in his own TV show. It just reminds me that the possibilities are endless.
Yeah, I’m sad that I’ll never be anyone’s fantasy, but at the same time, I’m like, ‘Fuck that,’ because that makes me sad that I <i>have</i> to be som’body's fantasy. Being a woman is so ha’d. I'm understanding that more and more as I get older.
The album Los En Los Angeles, there are a lot of jazzy and groovy older feels. Who are some of your other and older musical influences?
I really do love Funkadelic a lot. My dad used to listen to a lot of Parliament when I was growing up. Now that I'm older, I'm starting to explore more and more into it. Like I really like Eddie Hazel, his solo stuff is really cool. Donna Summer is like fire. Rick James, and The Mary Jane Girls. I like Cameo a lot. Most people will say Cameo's sounds are kinda cheesy, but you cannot deny them. I'm not gone' lie, like from a producer standpoint, those sounds are fucking cheesy but it's fire. It just feels good. I love Debbie Harry a lot. Blondie, fucking fire. All that disco shit, Rod Stewart's fire. Especially Debbie Harry, the song "Rapture."
A lot of people say that my rap style is very elementary, or that it's super old, and I'm like, "Yeah because I listen to old rap music." When I tell you at one point in time, I was obsessed with Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five and the group that sings "The SuperSonics," J.J. Fad. Shit like that.
On the song, Fantasy you're singing about not necessarily being concerned with trying too hard to be desired by a man. Where did those sentiments come from? And why is it important for you to talk about a concept like this that people may identify with but may not express?
Honestly, that's just how I feel. I don't even do this shit on purpose. "Fantasy" was just me, having a moment where I was just mad as fuck because I felt like, "Yo, I'm not this thing that you dress up and everybody just loves me because I look a certain way."
My manager said, "You can look at that song from two different perspectives. You can take it as me being completely confident and I'm saying, "Yeah I'm not going to be your fantasy, I'm going to be what I want to be." Or you can look it from a point of view of vulnerability like, 'I'll never be what somebody else wants me to be."
I'm like, yeah, that's exactly how I feel. Because yeah, I'm sad that I'll never be anyone's fantasy, but at the same time, I'm like, "Fuck that" because that makes me sad that I have to be somebody's fantasy. Being a woman is so hard. I'm understanding that more and more as I get older. I've been a tomboy for so long. So now I wanna be more like feminine, wear more dresses, and wear make up. So it kinda sucks cause I’m like, "Am I doing this because it's what I want to do, or am I doing this because that's what I keep seeing presented to me and that's what I see people liking?"
I feel like that narrative is important. It's just as important as being a confident woman. Being insecure is something we all, man, woman, boy, or child, feel at some point in time. So why not have that as a perspective?
Did L.A. have something to do with that or do you think that's always been you?
That had nothing to do with L.A. I was never the kid who had name brand clothes. I didn't have the latest hairstyles — I was a geek. I watched cartoons a lot, I watched wrestling, I played basketball. I wasn't considered "attractive" growing up, so that's not anything new. I'm not trying to be pretentious or anything but I have a great personality. At the end of the day, not growing up as "The pretty girl," you definitely have to fucking figure out how you're going to survive. If you ain't got cool shoes, you gotta know how to roast a nigga if he come for you [laughs]. So that was me, "The funny girl," "The cool homegirl." As I got older, people were like, "Oh, you're attractive. Oh, you kinda fine," and I'm like, "Oh, thanks." Seventeen years later. Life is weird.
How do you feel about Los Angeles now?
I actually like L.A. now. I like it a lot now that I don't live there. When you live there you get so caught up in just "being in L.A.," but you don't take advantage of all the things that L.A. has to offer. Now that I don't live there, if I'm there for two weeks, I make sure it's a full two weeks of me doing stuff and hanging out with people, and doing things with people and stuff like that.
Why'd you leave L.A.?
I just felt like I need to come back home. I missed my mom more than anything else. I'm going to be honest, I missed her a lot because I didn't get to come here a lot. I think I only came to to Little Rock like twice when I lived in L.A. I've lived with my parents all my life and outside of college I've been close to my parents. It was just something I felt I needed to do. I feel like once you get to L.A. you can only focus on the things going on in L.A. When I'm in L.A. I don't talk to anyone not in L.A.
Why do you think that's the case?
I think something's in the air there. It's like you don't care about anything in the world—you're kinda just in the moment. I felt like I was forgetting that there are people I care about on the other side of the country that I need to be there for. I feel like I'm more grounded now. I feel like people go there and get disconnected from what's real.
On the Los En Los Angeles intro track, you said, "I'm not supposed to be here, but I'm here." Did you mean L.A. or did you mean where you were at that that specific time in life?
That was something that I said when I went to a Rolling Stones Grammy party. Mind you, I'm from Arkansas, there's no huge fucking event for anything going at any given moment. So that was one of those moments where I was high and I think Donald [Childish Gambino] was performing at this Grammy thing. I was just like, standing there and I was just like, "I'm not supposed to be here."
You know how you're thinking something in your head, but you say it out loud? My manager and Malik [producer] all turned around and looked at me, and I looked at them and I was like, "I didn't mean to say that." [laughs] They were like,"You're right though. You're not supposed to be here."
It's like bunch of black people from South Central or from Little Rock, Arkansas at a Rolling Stones Grammy party, rubbing elbows with whoever. I'm not supposed to be here, but I guess I am cause I'm here.