The Bronx drill rapper discusses finding success at 18, his recently-released ‘D.O.A. Tape’ and the influences that shaped his style.
Kay Flock hails from the Bronx, a New York borough that carries a decorated hip-hop background that includes the legendary likes of Grandmaster Flash, Fat Joe and KRS-One. But at 18, Flock is injecting young blood into the borough’s enduring legacy – and he’s bringing big Bronx energy to NY drill music.
The young rapper has made some early career splashes on multiple Billboard charts, indicating that his regionally specific style of New York hip-hop has flashes of crossover potential into the mainstream. His first body of work, The D.O.A. Tape, was released earlier this month and debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums Chart. As a featured artist, he debuted at No. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100 earlier this November alongside NY drill veteran Fivio Foreign on Lil Tjay’s “Not In The Mood,” showing off his energy and his assertive flow on the track while matching the combined intensities of two of the current New York scene’s most notable mainstays.
Now, he’s going at it on his own as a drill rapper, proudly repping and putting a Bronx spin on the rap sub-genre. The D.O.A. Tape, released under Capitol Records, is mostly a collection of previously released tracks, but includes a remix to “Being Honest” with Chicago’s G Herbo, displaying just what kind of talent the rising MC is already able to attract at this early stage of his career. With his booming vocal cadence, suave persona and youthful energy in tow, Flock has his sights set for greatness.
Billboard spoke with November’s R&B/Hip-Hop Rookie of the Month about his early breakout in the rap game at 18, his D.O.A. Tape project and how he aims to set himself apart from other rising artists.
You are our November R&B/Hip-Hop Rookie of the Month. How do you react to that?
It feels great. I ain’t gonna lie, because I never even thought I would get here, you feel me? Never thought I would be here, so soon. It feels different.
At 18 years old, people consider you a rookie to the game — to life, even. How did you get your start with rapping and what convinced you to start early on?
I wasn’t thinking about rapping. I wasn’t doing that. I used to watch mad videos — like Bronx artists and rappers from other hoods. I started out playing around. When I first made a song, I was goofing and playing around and s–t. It got to a point where I made a song that I liked, and I just dropped it. I got signed to my label shortly after that.
Why do you think your music has caught on so fast and at such an early age?
If you know, you know. Before this rapping s–t, n—as been knew who I was for a long time. That’s how I feel. If you can relate to it, you can relate to it.
“Not In The Mood” with Lil Tjay and Fivio Foreign debuted at No. 61 on the Hot 100. I heard you wrote your verse in five minutes, is that true?
Yeah, I went to the studio and did that s–t mad fast. I usually take my time in the booth, but if it had came out trash though, I would have done it again. Usually, I be taking my time.
I told myself, “I gotta go crazy on this. Let me talk my s–t real quick.”
Your project, The D.O.A. Tape, debuted at No. 3 on our Heatseekers Albums chart. What do you think about that?
I ain’t gonna lie, s–t’s crazy. When they first told me that, I thought they were talking about “Not in the Mood.” But the tape, for real? I ain’t really expect that from the tape, it’s mostly songs that have already been out.
But now I’m thinking like, “D–n, imagine if it was songs that fans haven’t heard yet.” That would probably go No. 1.
I want to talk more about the song “Being Honest.” Drill music is more commonly known for its intensity and aggression — the song flips that script a little bit, getting personal and introspective in its lyrics. What was the process like writing those verses?
I ain’t gonna lie, I ain’t write those lyrics — I just freestyled it. The way I rap, I don’t write anything down. I’ll deadass write something and get stuck, you feel me? I just go in the booth and get in my mood, turn the beat all the way up. The beat gotta bring me to my mood. That’s when I start going off, start talking my s–t.
It’s real life experiences. It might be hard for other people probably but not for me. I’m gonna talk my s–t and tell you how it goes, and put it all together.
How do your Bronx roots influence the kind of music that you make?
Like I said, if you could relate to it, you could relate to it. If you can’t, you can’t. If you know, you know.
What kinds of artists and songs were you listening to growing up?
My mom used to always argue with me when I used to rap along to Chief Keef and s–t, I’m not gonna lie. Lots of Chief Keef. L’A Capone, a Chicago rapper. My mom used to come home and take away my music because of who I was listening to, saying, “You’re not about to listen to all that.”
But I ain’t gonna lie, my mom’s the best. Couldn’t ask for anything better.
We talked about “Not in the Mood” and how you got to work with Fivio Foreign, a veteran of the New York drill scene. You’re pretty new to it and you’re really young. How do you think you can contribute and help push New York drill forward in the coming years?
I just gotta keep going, you feel me? And other artists that are trying to come up through drill, just help them out too. Just gotta keep putting people on. I don’t know, to me, it don’t really mean nothing that I’m in the industry or whatever. That s–t don’t mean nothing to me. I’m still the same dude. If I could get a million [dollars] or better, my people can too. They most definitely could.
You’re very active on social media and you like to interact with fans a lot. What does it mean to you to be able to keep that steady relationship with them?
Oh yeah, because I remember before I had all this. I used to want the famous people to reply to me, you feel me? So I know how that s–t feels. I ain’t gonna lie, I look at it different – all the s–t I wish I could’ve had, now that I got it, I know I can give it back. So that’s what I’m gonna do.
So you got a taste of live performing, playing at Meek Mill’s Madison Square Garden concert and Rolling Loud New York. What has performing been like for you?
That s–t was O.D. I’m not gonna lie, especially Rolling Loud. That s–t felt good. I had mad crowds running toward me and all that.
As you continue to grow and learn how to navigate the industry more, what do you want to do in the next couple of years to set yourself apart from all these other rising rappers?
I wanna own my own businesses and all that. Real estate. My own land. Build that out. That’s what I’m on right now. So I can be good for the next five years or so.
It’s bigger than music for you, then?
Right. I’m not gonna do music forever, you feel me? There’s a million ways to get money in this.
So now that The D.O.A. Tape is out into the world, what’s next for you?
I’ve been working on some songs, so I was thinking about putting together another EP. I want to add more artists and songs to it, definitely some solo songs and some more collaborations. I’m working on a song with [Lil] Durk right now. Got another one with Tjay coming.
What do you want out of your music career?
I wanna be rich. But I wanna make sure everybody’s set and healthy first, then make sure I’m set.
Kay Flock is ______?