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Washington, D.C., Washington, D.C., United States | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | INDIE

Washington, D.C., Washington, D.C., United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2016
Solo Alternative Hip Hop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Top 15 Albums You Should Hear But Probably Missed"

No. 5
The multi-hyphenated MC tells his truth and artfully so. He doesn’t try to be something he’s not, but confidently steps out and shares life as he sees it. Ah, refreshing!

Hear Kokayi’s “Leave Me Alone”. - Bold As Love

"DC ROCK LIVE -Reviews: Spirit Animal KOKAYI KinHeads"

Kokayi - Kokayi is a singer, but he is here with a guitarist, bassist and drummer which is a really good thing as this band is piping hot. He starts in a hip-hop, R&B, rock style of vocalizing, but eschews the hip hop for much of the set. While the guitarist occasionally channels Isaac Hayes, I hear much more of Keith Levine here. In fact the whole band could be Metal Box era PiL supporting someone like Seal on vocals. The drums are quick and powerful and the bass playing is big and thick. And the guitar keeps going into strange places as the guy squeezes out angular chunks of bliss. It is all crisp and powerful throughout the 35 minutes. I hope they continue to stay together and work this kind of magic again some day soon. - DC ROCK LIVE

"REVIEW : KOKAYI Pro Deo Et Patria"

On the song “Over There,” taken from his 2010 album Robots and Dinosaurs, DC-based multi-hypenate Kokayi posed the question of what an experienced MC and producer can offer hip hop when everything about the genre is about celebrating the new and next. Then and now, I’d suggest his answer is both simple (for him) and difficult (for too many): Just do you.

So what exactly do you do as an MC and producer who’s married with kids? You talk about how you see life from where you’re standing, not from what’s “popular” among the tween and twenty-something set. In fact, his recently released Pro Deo et Patria is a great example of full—but never over-produced—soundscapes surrounding headnod-inducing beats and supporting his trademark strong songwriting. The biggest takeaway I can offer is that his songs are passionate (he clearly loves music and making music), but considered. They’re not brash.

For example, on the current album’s “Wayyts (Weights)”, he could be talking about Trayvon Martin or any number of the young black men murdered on a daily basis:

Young boy lost his life today now
ooh woah ooh woah i wanna know
if justice is blind who is gonna pay now?
ooh woah ooh woah uh huh uh huh
pay for the tears and the stolen moments
for the memories that will never be mentioned
dreams that will never be fulfilled
we forfeit the children
When it comes to black relationships in songs, it’s usually all fairy tale-like bliss or arguing, fighting and other recriminations. I guess those extremes are supposed to signify deep love or, on the other end, deep passion. Ultimately, what they only scratch the surface of the many facets of relationships. And, usually, it’s depressing to hear half-hearted renderings of relationships from people who are either unwilling or unable to make a serious commitment.

Which is why one of my favorite tracks on the album is “Been Thru” featuring Alison Carney. As someone who’s been in a married almost 15 years, it’s gratifying to hear a song that take a clear-eyed view of relationships. For example:

It’s been a lifetime of bitter
A bucket fulll of grief and
And a 5 lb bag regret
Like 17 winters left me aching
From the weight of what i went and tried to forget
Now I suppose one may think that
All this means that the clouds never
wondered away but it’s quite the contrary
and precisely the reason i decided to stay

It’s a song about love that has endured despite the ups and downs life has thrown at a couple. Take a listen:
Other standout tracks include “Breeve Long E,” the reggae-inflected “Punchdrunk” and “Old People Talk Too Much”.

Without a doubt, Kokayi is a talented producer. In fact, he wrote, produced and arranged much of the album himself. However, I think his real gift is songwriting. For listeners, the gift to us is that he has the courage to tell his own truth is such an artful way. That makes for one of the more engaging listens of 2012. - Bold As Love

"MTV Hive Song Premier"

It’s easy to notice Washington D.C. native Kokayi‘s love of electro-pop, soul and psych-rock to convey his messages. But don’t sleep on the rhymes: The veteran MC blazed a trail in the city before rapping was fashionable, traveling the world with his Opus Akoben crew and teaching aspiring rappers how to freestyle. On this new track “Birdus Ghetti,” Kokayi bemoans the concept of police helicopters (or “ghetto birds,” as they’re often called). “I hate them joints,” he says. “Not that they aren’t doing their job, but the big light, it’s mad late and they’re hunting. It’s the antithesis of the early bird getting the worm proverb.” The song, with its bouncy synths and country rock flair, is the lively opener of Kokayi’s forthcoming album, Pro Deo et Patria (For God and Country).

Though the album carries broad themes — racial injustice and lovelorn angst, among other things — Kokayi wants people to have fun with the music. “My sincere hope is that folks party to it, find their favorite song and sing along, then have the lightbulb go off once they figure out what the song is speaking to.”

Pro Deo et Patria is out Sept. 21. Stream “Birdus Ghetti” below: - MTV Hive

"Kokayi – Pro Deo et Patria [Album Stream]"

I know that all of you are fluent in Latin so I won’t waste my time explaining what the title means. Wait, you don’t speak Latin? You dumb fucks… Well it means “For God and Country”. If you know who Kokayi is, you must be aware of how eclectic his music is. This album is a progressive electronic sounding album. It’s a bit odd. It’s not totally my cup of tea but maybe it’s yours. But if you’ve never heard of Kokayi, I’d suggest checking out his album Robots & Dinosaurs first. He sounds like a young Cee-Lo, rapping and singing on that album and you’ll definitely enjoy it. - fashionably-early.com

"Arts & Entertainment : Music Review Pro Deo et Patria Kokayi/CZRS (Self-released) On his latest, Kokayi is thoughtful as ever, but never cloying"

Put aside any preconceived notions about Kokayi. Chances are, he isn’t what you expect. In a growing local hip-hop scene, Kokayi is easily one of its most dynamic artists, expressing himself through edgy psychedelic rock, electro-soul, and heavy pop. As an MC, he’s equally ambitious: The Deanwood resident can freestyle an entire set, churning out strong rhymes with incredible ease.

But sometimes, it’s tough to comprehend Kokayi’s focus. On the surface, he seems to prefer jamming over pontificating; many of his compositions, with their throbbing bass lines and synthesizers, overwhelm his lyrics. But peel the onion, and Kokayi ponders serious topics: aging, suicide, unrequited love.

On his impressive new album under the moniker CZRS, Pro Deo et Patria (“For God and Country”), Kokayi discusses racial injustice and infidelity with refreshing enthusiasm, brightening anxious ideas with energetic country rock and bouncy electronica. Over an uptempo arrangement on “Wayyts,” the MC ponders wrongful death and what it means for minority children. “Young boy lost his life today now,” he sings urgently. “If justice blind, then who gonna pay now?” “Breeve Long E” seems to riff on the unsavory side of dream chasing—long nights, fast living, and blunt roaches in the ashtray. But he has advice for those caught in that cycle: “You’ve got to slow down and breathe.”

Pro Deo is Kokayi’s first vocal solo album since 2010’s stellar Robots & Dinosaurs. There, he looked inward, reflecting on young love and his place in music. There’s no rapping here; instead, Kokayi, the commentator, sings frenetically, observing his surroundings over the record’s 36 minutes. On album opener “Birdus Ghetti,” Kokayi laments police helicopters—called “ghetto birds.” “Old People Talk Too Much” is a straightforward, fast-paced jam about living it up. Then again, who knows: Kokayi is crafty, and the messages in these tracks could mean something much more subtle.

That’s why he’s always an intriguing listen. Kokayi is, of course, brainy, and assumes the same of his audience. His is articulate music that resonates in headphones and on the dance floor. Sure, these songs have meaning, but stop to decipher them when you’re done dancing.
- Washington City Paper

"Kokayi Pro Deo Et Patria"

When Kokayi released 'Robots & Dinosaurs' in 2010, I was blown away by the singular nature of everything he was doing lyrically and musically. The blend of sounds, rhythms and storytelling were unlike anything I had heard before. 2 years later, he's back with 'Pro Deo et Patria' and everything that R&D was has been re imagined and amplified in magnificent order.

One of the most standout elements of Kokayi's work is his production. For this album, he shows up, out and off with the depth of his work and scope of the project. This is album is far more "electric" than the last in terms of sonics and completely abandons all regard for normalcy. Not the faux House-Dance Mix-Dubstep stuff taking over urban radio. That's not what it is at all. It's more genre redefining than anything; in the way that Janelle Monae's 'Archandroid' was. He's completely set his own rules and lane.

I'm amazed at the level of artistry Kokayi delivers. From the first 8 bars of the album to the last he displays pure genius ability. When I heard the instrumentation choices on the opening to the album, "Birdus Ghetti", my jaw hit the floor. This dude is fearless! "ZaZa Hey" and "Punchdrunk" are not of this universe and everything in between is perfectly complimentary. You will be blown away by 'Pro Deo et Patria.' I can promise you this.

Get into the free stream below but PLEASE BUY THIS ALBUM because not buying it is ... well ... ridiculous.
- www.roxfontaine.com

"Listening Post"

Always good to know there’s new music from DMV resident and Grammy-nominated MC, producer and educator Kokayi and his punk/hip hop/rock/”psychodisco” entity known as CZRS (formerly TheCaesarz). You may remember them from their Afropunk Fest 2008 appearance, or their inclusion on our first compilation Fire In The Dark (still available for a free download via Amazon.com), or from last year’s banger “Roxtar”.

Deal is, this song, along with “Wayyts” (which is a meditation on the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Amadou Diallo), are the first offering from the new CZRS project–Pro Deo Patria–that will be released later this summer. - BoldasLove

"What's Good? Marcus J. Moore's Favorite DMV ALbums"

hile Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid is still my favorite album of 2010, Kokayi's Robots & Dinosaurs is most certainly my second. Maybe even 1b. If nothing else, I'm intuitive and get good feelings about certain albums before they drop. I had that feeling about Monae's record and it blew me away. The same goes for The Phenomenal Handclap Band record that dropped last year. I felt the same way about Kokayi's album—like I just knew it would be dope, long before it ever blared through my speakers. It didn't disappoint. From the mind-numbing haze of "RoxTar" to the chilling depression of "Autumn Rules," Robots is a sonic and lyrical masterpiece that deserves all the accolades bestowed upon it so far. It tackles ageism, suicide, and heartache with unmatched precision and solidifies Kokayi's stature as one of the greats. - Washington City Paper

"Robots & Dinosaurs"

First things first; credit for my discovery of Kokayi goes entirely to my friend Confusion over at Pigeons And Planes. Confusion posted about Chanticleer - the last song of Kokayi’s sophomore album Robots & Dinosaurs – back about a month ago, and I finally got around to giving the entire album a chance. And wow am I glad I did – this emcee/singer/producer has some crazy talent. Kokayi is the stage name of Carl Walker, a Washington D.C. native who was nominated for a Grammy for his production and vocals on Wayna’s cover of Minnie Ripperton’s ‘Lovin’ You’ back in 2009.

Since then, Kokayi readied Robots & Dinosaurs for its 2010 debut. And after a listen through the album, I’m sorta surprised that there was no repeat nomination this year. KOKE blends a crazy smooth flow with some of the tightest self-production I’ve heard in a long time. Think Cee Lo Green’s production without any gimmickry and rapping that sonically fits between MF Doom and Joell Ortiz but creates his own little sphere. Stylistically, things go crazy. On ‘Roxtar,’ Kokayi throws in heavy beats and an electro synth, whereas on ‘Believe It’ piano is the focus. - Malleus & Incus

"SXSW Edition Featuring Kokayi"

Team SHAE headed to Prague in Downtown Austin for the DMVINCIBLE Showcase of art artists in the Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia area. Upon entering, it didn't take long for Washington D.C's Kokayi to take the stage, demand your attention, and leave you wanting more.

Grammy nominated and world traveled, Kokayi talks to SocietyHAE.com about his growth as an artist and why he is such a grounded artist in the midst of so many seeking fast fame and fortune.
- Society HAE Random Acts of Music

"Attack of the Dinosaur: new album + video from Kokayi (SXSW dates)"

How much does age dictate a recording artist’s relevance? In the Hip-Hop genre AARP cards are issued around a rappers 25th birthday and pensions get paid out at 30. For every Kendrick Lamar that becomes hot each year is it safe to say there is a veteran of the underground who’s just as exciting but with the seasoned chops to produce a quality album. Maybe we can find the answer on Robots & Dinosaurs (on QN5 Records), the latest release from grammy nominated MC/vocalist Kokayi (pronounced Ko-Kah-Yee). Smartly presented as a cool title with interludes featuring a little boy debating what makes dinosaurs and robots cool, Kokayi leaves it up to us to figure out the meaning (guess I ruined that for you) while letting the songs work as the litmus to prove the point.

A staple of the DC scene, Kokayi holds legendary status for his freestyle skills and ability to move the crowd at the drop of a dime with a flow that embodies Floyd Mayweather’s footwork and lyrics that punch just as hard. Having rocked with groups (Freestyle Union, Opus Akoben), solo, and even as a U.S. sanctioned arts ambassador, he’s seen the world, been signed, worked the indie route and scored a grammy nom in 2009. We thought he reached his peak with his last CD, Mass Instructions, but Robots has broadened his scope, showcasing storytelling rhymes, punch lines and singing over alternative Hip-Hop backdrops and even the type of beats typically reserved for radio ready songs informing us about the latest two-step craze. Hard enough for the youngins but sophisticated enough for those who have been rockin boom bap since even the teacher KRS-One was rockin guns on his album. Who says there’s no good music left. Oh yeah, those Hip-Hop fans who wait for DatPiff.com and WorldStarHipHop.com to tell us what’s hot. Some robots can shoot lazers but I’m pretty sure a T-Rex could rip them a new one.

CATCH KOKAYI AT THE 2011 SXSW CONFERENCE ON March 17 & 18. For info click here. - Hipstreoverkill.com

"Grammy nom thinks outside the box"

Kokayi is one of the only independent hip-hop artists to ever be nominated for a Grammy Award. And that’s about the least interesting thing about him.

He sings, raps, produces, plays a handful of instruments and speaks almost as many languages. He’s a devout Christian who has mentored artists in the Middle East, toured China (no small feat for an American MC) and discoursed with respected holy men across the planet.

His self-produced sophomore offering, Robots and Dinosaurs, is a reflection of some but none of those things. It sounds like everything but nothing on the streets. And that, says the D.C. native during a recent phone interview, was the idea.

Admittedly, Kokayi likes to keep people guessing. Cornering the man with even a loose label like, say, ‘hip-hop’ is enough to make him uneasy. He was recently quoted calling his sound “afropunk, hip-hop, funk, rock and psychodiscobilly.” The affable artist admits now the description was a lark used to throw off an opposing pundit.

“Sometimes I just say a whole bunch of stuff so that people can’t say what I am. I get tired of getting the labels so I’m like, ‘aight I’m psychodiscobilly,’” he laughs.

Since the release of his first disc, 2007’s Mass Instructions, Kokayi’s dished up six releases through numerous side projects. In addition to a solo hip-hop career, he forms half of electro-hop duo Dastardly and is a member of Afropunk group TheCaesarz. In short, he stays busy and “don’t like boxes.”

“You have society’s expectation of who you supposed to be based on your race, your economic status. You have all those things that people try and box you in,” he says. “And then, as a musician, you have all those expectations, the pressures, the little squares that people want you to fit in. I just want to do me.”

In line with his eccentric (albeit refreshing) outlook, Kokayi’s new record fits no script. While there are traces of everyone from Eric Sermon to Mos Def and Kanye to Common on Robots and Dinosaurs, the album sounds like nothing any of the aforementioned artists has ever released.

“It’s not typical jazz, it’s not typical hip-hop. It’s black futuristic new music,” Kokayi explains. The overarching theme of R and D, he says, is that rappers these days are either “dinosaurs who claim hip-hop’s dead” or “autotune and getting away from sounding like themselves.

“I just wanted to do me,” he reiterates. “There’s a lot of not-doin’-me goin’ on. A lot of people jus’ don’t do themselves – they don’t have any idea on how to just be original – so what they do is they copy everybody else. Everybody’s doing some shit that sound like somebody else.”

But rather than find fault with, and level shots at, the state of hip-hop in general, Kokayi takes the high road. He believes there’s merit to the music being made by both the backpackers and ballers of old and new. “I love hip-hop and even in its different stages, there’s redeeming qualities in all it.”

Story: Remi L. Roy
Photo: Sean Josiah - Martyr Magazine

"Review: Kokayi Robots & Dinosaurs"

There’s almost too much record here to talk about. Too much record to fit tidily into one genre – it’s a heady blend of rock and hip-hop, with notes of soul and a refreshing pop finish. But it’s absolutely a record: at 13 solid tracks (plus a remix), it feels longer than most albums, and more richly textured. And it’s all great: Kokayi’s sound is classic and earnest, and his voice is distinctive. If there’s anything to complain about in the record, it’s that it aims for (and hits) so much that it defies easy description.

A Washington, DC native, Kokayi pulls off a mean rap about Interstate 95 (“Ninety 5?), which anyone who’s driven the East Coast of US can appreciate. In fact, he gets away with a lot of what might be gimmicks if they didn’t work so well, like stitching the lyrics to the nonetheless convincing and pounding “RoxTar” out of other bands’ names, or making an auto racing metaphor for the act of physical love last four and half minutes in “Drive” (ASE certification was never so erotic). But he also goes some dark places with equal success: “Wynter of my Discontent” and “Autumn Places” bracket an introspective and melodic core to the record. Kokayi is as much wordsmith as tunesmith, and when he raps, the occasional moments of brash bravado are all the more credible for his peculiar – dare I say nerdy? – idiosyncrasies: “you all foosball/ I’m all rugby/ you’re a sweater/ I’m-a let her be my Snuggie.” (“Shpring (What You Want)”)

The title, Robots and Dinosaurs, refers to a sort of running conversation Kokayi is having with himself over the course of the album, one given occasional voice in the interstitial clips of a child ruminating on both robots and dinosaurs (but one I confess I still haven’t puzzled out completely). Each seems to stand for a one-dimensional aspect of artistry, either side of the narrow and unique path Kokayi has set himself to walk. He walks it well. If he’s afraid of being either, he’s got nothing to fear; and if he wants to be both, he already is. - The Music Slut

"Album Review R&D"

To label Kokayi’s latest release as a mere Hip Hop album would be extremely limiting. The Washington D.C. native has managed to create a work that not only speaks to the current climate and decline of true artistry within Hip Hop, but also a revealing look at an artist who has accomplished more in his career than many of his more visible peers. Kokayi’s ability to tell stories of doubt, triumph, and sorrow yet still offer scathing and truthful critiques of an industry in flux mark it a success. The rapper/producer’s own doubts of his work and purpose are also revealed, although none of this wavering confidence is readily apparent. Robots & Dinosaurs is not intended for instant audio gratification. Instead, the album’s variety of moods and topics make for one of the most pleasant audio journeys in some time.

Primarily produced by Kokayi, save for one track produced by fellow D.C. alum Oddisee, the album begins with “The Onceler’s Theme”. The bass and keyboard heavy track is powered by Kokayi’s big vocals while Kokayi’s son provides necessary context that sets the tone and concept of the album up for the listener. “Shrping (What You Want)” is a straight-ahead rap track with Kokayi delivering expert similes and a confident delivery. This chest-out display is a rare moment of braggadocio but it works for the rapper; the chorus and added backing vocals bring everything together perfectly. The lead single “RoxTar” is a hard as nails and clever ode to rock music artists, using famous band names to form the basis of the lyrics. The track is a bouncy affair and legendary D.C. guitarist Stanley Cooper’s rock riffs are astounding.

“Wynter of my Discontent” is, in one word, amazing. Arguably the album’s strongest track, Kokayi’s flute-driven track is jaw-dropping but what makes the song work is the song’s content. One of many great stories present on the record, Kokayi’s performance is inspiring and there’s not one lacking element in this song. Somber as the song appears initially, there’s something uniquely triumphant about the track as it builds with the boisterous hook. “Nicotine” again showcases Kokayi’s expert ability to weave tales as he chronicles his relatable experiences with heartbreak. The track comes together with Kokayi’s background adlibs and the vocals on the chorus help the song along. Talented producer Oddisee provides the canvas for “Autumn Rules”, a track originally featured on an earlier Oddisee instrumental project. The song depicts a person’s struggle with depression and suicide and while many will expect an Oddisee production to soar, it achieves a higher platform due in part to Kokayi’s rhymes and harmonious vocals. “Drive” is a dull attempt to borrow the noisy, synth-heavy styling of the current Hip Hop sound; the metaphor of sex being depicted on this track is lazily delivered and doesn’t inspire a repeated listen.

The album ends with an unnecessary remix of the already excellent “RoxTar” (listed here as “Thrash RMX”). But beyond “Drive” and this final track, every song has at least one element that makes it a worthy listen. Kokayi has created a sound that’s entirely his own – a blend of rap, rock, electronica, R&B and whatever else he decides to throw into the mix and doing so with expert ease. If this album doesn’t make a best of 2010 list, it would be a complete travesty. This release deserves not only deserves measurable acclaim, but also a place in anyone music lover’s collection. - Potholes In My Blog

"Robots & Dinosaurs reviewed"

Kokayi's album is loosely based on the theory that the majority of the rappers in today's game are either robots, emcees who pump out whatever it is they're known for with no emotion, or dinosaurs, those who were once great but have since passed their prime. As such, in this album he attempts to innovate through original production, touch on emotionally significant topics, and... rap well. He more or less succeeds in all three categories. The production switches between organic and electronic fairly seamlessly (the latter is more innovative than the former, but the former is probably more enjoyable). He gets emotional multiple times, but it's hardly overbearing and doesn't take over the whole project, something that labelmate Kno recently got criticized for in Death is Silent (specifically with depression instead of emotion as a whole). And... he raps well.

There's many different types of songs on Robots & Dinosaurs, from the jumpy synths of Roxtar to the piano-based Only to the psuedo West coast driving anthem Drive, to the flow-fest Ninety 5, featuring Kokayi, Substantial and Tonedeff (who goes a little overboard). However it never seems disjointed or all over the place. It all works as a whole. Kokayi does flex his vocal chords quite a bit, singing quite a few choruses. He's not the best singer, but there isn't a single instance where it doesn't work. His son joins him singing the closer Chanticleer, which is a nice touch seeing as he also 'narrates' the album by describing robots and dinosaurs from a kindergartner's perspective.

Roxtar was picked as the first single, which is a little odd for two reasons. One, it's one of the weaker songs on the album. Kokayi just kicks some decent raps with band names littered throughout (surprisingly he gets pretty obscure, referencing such bands as Jesus and the Mary Chain) and an alright chorus with a guitar solo contrasting the synth beat for the closure. It's an enjoyable song, but there are many better ones. Two, Only is easily the most accessible (and probably best) song on the album. Kokayi raps and sings about his love struggles over a great, self-produced piano line. Fortunately, it was chosen as the second single.

One of the best parts of the album is how little filler there is. Not every song is great, but every song is memorable. Kokayi has a great sense of musicality and it shines through all over. The features are kept light; the only song featuring guest rappers is Ninety 5 and the only song featuring a guest singer is Hiya. This provides a very intimate feel and really allows you to get to know Kokayi, as a rapper, singer, producer, and, to some extent, as a person.
- Loving Peter Cetera

"Kokayi official review"

Carl “Kokayi” Walker once asked his son what he wanted for Christmas. His response: “robots and dinosaurs.” Initially, the Northeast D.C. resident was confused by the innocent request, before realizing that his son might be on to something. As Kokayi sees it, robots are the unfortunate young rappers with a zombie-like lust for all things popular, earning their stripes by emulating others. Dinosaurs, however, are irrelevant creatures and much too old to compete with younger emcees, most of them in their twenties. Kokayi, an elder statesman in the Chocolate City music scene, sits comfortably in the gray area. Granted, he’s no spring chicken, but he’s not ready for the gold watch and retirement home, either (just ask anyone who’s recently attended one of his energetic stage shows). Such is the foundation of Robots & Dinosaurs, a genre blending, mind-altering, middle finger to the somewhat ageist and racist business that Kokayi has endured for more than a decade. The former Opus Akoben front man proves unequivocally that urban music is a game for all ages, and that black people shouldn’t rely solely on hip-hop to express themselves. What results is an amazingly brilliant album that is easily one of the year’s best recordings — not just in the Nation’s Capital, but the entire industry.

Washington, D.C. is an unabashed hip-hop city; from street to street, it seems as if every young person with Nike boots and a composition book is a rapper, or at least aspires to be one. For obvious reasons, Kokayi stands out — not only as a hybrid rocker/emcee, but as a Grammy nominated producer who helps upstarts navigate a saturated entertainment region. Under that premise, it seemed as if Kokayi’s last recording, 2007’s Mass Instructions, was a straightforward salute to the District’s trials and triumphs, and reflective glimpse into his personal obstacles and successes. A song like “Stress!!,” for instance, ensnared its listeners through the clever marriage of thoughtful lyricism and boisterous electronica, which subliminally cradled Kokayi’s fans and kept their heads nodding in the process. But, with all due respect to Mr. Walker’s previous album, it diminishes when compared with the lyrical and sonic genius of Robots & Dinosaurs, which discusses suicide, condemns misogyny, and reminisces about love gone awry, among other topics. Instead of brutally attacking the aforementioned subjects, Kokayi delivers thoughtful messages that not only connect with their intended recipients, but provides everyone a brief glimpse into his surroundings. Quite simply, while Instructions was respectable, Robots is Kokayi’s Illmatic— a masterpiece that will surely be regarded as the artist’s crown jewel, no matter what he records afterward.

Overall, Robots is competent and efficient, much like the aforementioned Nas classic, which is championed for its quick and thorough analysis of inner city blight. While Kokayi’s album is mostly upbeat, it also has a dark and brooding side, none more sullen than “Autumn Rules,” where the artist sings candidly about his fight with depression and thoughts of suicide. “I hold tight to truth and I slice, but not quite through,” Kokayi sings over Oddisee’s moog drums and acoustic guitar. “Only,” with its subdued piano loop, is a tale written from the perspective of a perpetual bachelor. Here, Kokayi sings: “I’m not so lucky with love, yo/I’ve been around a time or two before.” On “Nicotine,” the piano becomes much more chilling and sobering, as Kokayi rhymes about an on-again, off-again love affair that begins at childhood and continues through adulthood. Still, Robots is not entirely moody, as demonstrated by the raucous “RoxTar,” which salutes rock bands in D.C. and beyond, and “Obdare,” the autobiographical centerpiece where Kokayi analyzes his place in music. “Ninety 5,” featuring QN5 label mates Substantial and Tonedeff, is an effective club-ready track about the Interstate 95 road that connects the three artists. (Substantial lives in Baltimore; Tonedeff lives in New York City).

Pundits, tastemakers, and some casual listeners tend to sort artists into their own neat categories. And in some cases, we tend to abandon these entertainers once their talents spill outside our carefully crafted boxes. Mos Def, for example, was heavily criticized for releasing The New Danger, not only because he experimented heavily with blues and rock-n-roll, but because it followed the classic Black On Both Sides, an undeniable staple in hip-hop. Common was also crucified upon the release of Electric Circus, which saw the Chicago emcee rhyming over folk and dance music, and singing alongside his then-girlfriend Erykah Badu. Kokayi, however, has lived outside the box his entire career, thus making it impossible to corner him into one genre. The psych-rock scholar grew up listening to Led Zeppelin and has never been shy about his affinity for electric guitars. Therefore, Robots & Dinosaurs is just another walk in the park - Okayplayer

"Robots & Dinosaurs reviewed"

In Kokayi's world, most rappers fall into one of two categories: robots or dinosaurs.

Robots blindly follow popular trends and thrive by reinventing the lyrical wheel, while dinosaurs are archaic fossils, too old to compete in a game dominated by brash 20-somethings.

Carl "Kokayi" Walker, a Grammy-nominated veteran of D.C. hip-hop, fits somewhere in-between. While his 20s are a little ways behind him, he damn sure isn't a dinosaur, as evidenced by his raucous stage shows in Chocolate City and beyond. It's also unwise to merely call him a rapper. Sure, Kokayi rhymes occasionally, but his vast influences reside within the shattering drum cymbals and big guitar riffs of Led Zeppelin and KISS. "Everything I do has to be innovative," Kokayi told City Paper in a recent interview.

Such is the freedom of Robots & Dinosaurs, an unconventional long-player that proves that artists—especially those in this saturated rap region — can meld genres without sounding schizophrenic. What results is an exceptional record that is easily one of the best albums of the year, and the finest recording in Kokayi's small discography.

In hip-hop, rappers not named Shawn Carter seem to lose freshness by age 40, while rockers, blues, and soul singers remain relevant well into their 60s. It's a harsh reality that rests at the heart of Robots & Dinosaurs and its candid centerpiece, the piano-laced "Obdare." (pronounced O-ba-dare). Here, Kokayi raps: "Now can I tour at 60 like the rock idol/If I still can do it, my art is still vital/But I still got questions 'bout this mic in my hand/Should I hang it up for good and just play in the band."

Sonically, Kokayi's Robots trumps his last recording—2007's Mass Instructions—with its seamless song transitions, unblemished mixes, and flair for the unorthodox. That's not to say Instructions didn't dabble in the dramatic; as songs like "DCB," "Babylon Hey Nah," and "Stress!!" were particularly magnetic. Overall though, Kokayi's last offering was more reserved, forthright, and celebratory, while Robots is a full-scale assault on the mundane. On "RoxTar," for instance, he fuses psych-rock with bouncy synths to salute D.C.'s legendary bands and others, while the club-ready "Ninety 5," featuring QN5 labelmates Substantial and Tonedeff, persists as an even-tempered trunk-rattler.

While the album is mostly upbeat, it also has a reflective side. The chilling "Nicotine," a coming-of-age tale about childhood love, is the first of two concept songs that discuss love's precursors and aftereffects. "Only," with its somber piano loop and deep bass, tackles the struggles of bachelorhood and pangs of loneliness. "I'm not so lucky wit love, yo/I been 'round a time or two before," Kokayi sings on the chorus. "Autumn Rules," produced by fellow D.C. resident Oddisee, is by far the album's most personal song, detailing Kokayi's bout with depression and thoughts of suicide. Although remarkable, Robots has one blemish in the form of "Drive," an out-of-context, midtempo, West Coast groove that stalls the album's flow.

Although Kokayi is schooled in hip-hop, he defies the standard. Instead, he's a full-fledged musician with an album stamping his extensive skill set. With Robots & Dinosaurs, the Southwest native proves that urban music is not just a game for kids—there are enough toys for everyone to play nice.

Robots & Dinosaurs is available digitally on qn5 and iTunes. Physical copies will be available Oct. 19. - Washington City Paper

"Tabi Bonney, Kokayi Channel NPR’s Project Song?"

A few days old, this. But this video shot by Chris Keener, featuring a song created in one day by Tabi Bonney, Kokayi, and Alison Carney, as well as some somehow-related street art, is worth noting because: 1) It totally reminds me of NPR’s excellent (and now defunct?) Project Song series, only with less time, exposition, and Bob Boilen; 2) the song is really, really good; 3) it’s keyed to the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ latest Art (202) journal.

Bonney’s songs have really taken on an aspirational/inspirational tack lately, haven’t they? It’s working for him. - Washington City Paper


It’s official: Music is no longer a stand-alone art form; it is merely the audio component of social media. It was not enough for Kokayi to write a song that refers to lots of rock stars; today he is alerting those rock stars to the song, using his KOKLAROCK Twitter feed to make shout-outs about his shout-outs. Somehow, this hustle seems more clever than lame. Here’s a screenshot:
- Washington City Paper

"Download KOKAYI's "ROXTAR""

he last time we heard from Kokayi, he and fellow D.C. natives Tabi Bonney and Alison Carney had written, recorded, and performed “Higher Stars” in one day. This time, Kokayi goes at it alone on “RoxTar,” a genre-blending, mind-splitting, pop-rock fusion that pays homage to his favorite rock bands, and dispels any myth that black people can’t resonate over electric guitars.

“Why do I have to be a black rocker?” Kokayi asks in an interview. “Why can’t I just be a rock star? We don’t get a chance to just be us. I don’t stick myself in one category.”

“RoxTar,” the first single from Kokayi’s forthcoming Robots & Dinosaurs album, is an energetic electro-punk song with an impressive guitar solo from Stan Cooper and Kokayi’s masterful cadence and word play. He salutes D.C. bands Minor Threat, Fugazi, and Bad Brains, not to mention Anthrax, Megadeth, and Stone Temple Pilots, among other acts. “Puffin’ on the Sevendust ’til I’m long in the tooth/I ain’t Fugazi bitches, listen I am the truth,” Kokayi raps.

If “RoxTar” is a preview of Kokayi’s upcoming material, then Robots & Dinosaurs is a must-have when it drops. Either way, expect the unexpected.

Download “RoxTar” here. - Washington City Paper

"Kokayi @ The Bowery Poetry Club (CMJ)"

“Cee-Lo ain’t got nothing on me!” isn’t a direct quote from Kokayi, but once I moved past some of the obvious physical similarities between him and Cee-Lo, the music at last Friday’s CMJ show at The Bowery Poetry Club let me know that better sets ain’t elsewhere.

The rapper performed like a champ, knocking out the crowd with his creative blend of hip-hop which features an arrangement of rhythms that makes it difficult not to body rock. As he performed, hip-hop heads nodded in both response and approval to his presence, which he threw around the room.

Quite literally, Kokayi threw out punch lines in an impressive freestyle that incorporated nearly every person within his creative reach. When roaming around the crowd, using everything in sight as ammunition, Kokayi made it apparent that being perceptive makes an emcee. Almost instantaneously, the audience livened. Faces screamed, “Rap About Me” and, to their delight, the rapper did not disappoint, lending a few on the spot gems to the cavernous Poetry Club space.

Visibly worn, indicated by the sweat on his forehead, the rapper made his way back on stage, continuing his set with even more crowd participation. Initiated by a projector screen placed behind and above his head, Kokayi’s lyrics were matched with on cue clapping. If not intentionally comedic, although it was quite funny, I might blame my grin on the atmosphere and not the alcohol.

The Bowery Poetry Club is a mellow spot and Kokayi’s performance emphasized the mood of the night. After his last song, the crowd milled around but not before giving a much deserved and thorough round of applause, which they deserved as well for being a large part of the set.

Admittedly, I hadn't heard of the rapper before then, but like Gnarls, the memory will stick out.

Words by Naqeeb Stevens

Photo by Chris Carr
- Beyond Race Magazine online


Kokayi‘s genre-defying music might be hard to classify, but if there’s one thing clear, it’s that his soulful offerings are undeniably infectious while also being incredibly insightful.
His unmatched dexterity as a songwriter, producer and educator led him to receive a Grammy nomination for his work, among many other accolades. But what also sets the D.C. native apart from other artists is his ambition, which shines through in several bold creative projects he’s done over the years.
A prime example was his Track a Day project in 2014, where he released a new song every day for a year. This year, his creative mastery will be put to the test again through a joint project with Funk Parade called Sounds of the City, where Kokayi will craft a city-wide anthem using found sounds that are recorded and uploaded by the public.
Aside from his music, Kokayi has also built a strong reputation as one of the best live performers in the city. This Thursday, make sure to catch him at Songbyrd during our DCMD Salon show.
DC Music Download: You’re a singer, composer, producer and educator. Is there another profession you’d want to try but haven’t yet?
Kokayi: The professions that I’d consider are graphic designer/design guru at an ad agency or director/creator of television/film content. I’m a visual person with mad stories to tell. At some point, it’ll all segue or meld into that.
DCMD: You’ve been part of this music scene over the last decade or so. In what ways have you seen it change?
Kokayi: D.C.’s music scene is a lot more robust, being that there is no industry here, the musicians tend to hone their skills to make it pop elsewhere, which is both good and bad. The artistry is top notch in stark contrast to the venues wherein one could hone their craft… they are not as accessible as they used to be. There are still a few spots that are willing to have you, but overall they keep disappearing or are seemingly less open to local acts of a specific genre.
Moreover, it is a travesty that we as D.C. (old or new D.C.) residents are letting the legacy that is Bohemian Caverns be allowed to close. The Caverns is a historical landmark, or rather should be declared as such by the ANC’s in that ward. Allowing it to close feels like gentrification at its worst, when the new D.C. residents completely wipe out the history and legacy of the very foundations they were attracted to, or rather turn a blind eye to that legacy and stand idly by as a space that once was a beacon of light in a once blighted-then-burgeoning area is snuffed out without lament.
DCMD: Is your Grammy nomination your proudest moment?
Kokayi: My Grammy nomination is not my proudest moment. The fact that my kids are great human beings and read beyond their grade levels continue to be my proudest moments.
As a musician, my proudest moment was when I was able to bring my kids with me to Paris to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of a record I did with MacArthur recipient and mentor Steve Coleman. Nothing beats being able to allow your kids, family members or those you mentor the opportunity to see beyond the 60 square miles that are this city.
I’m a kid from East of the river, SW on the SE side, whose parents didn’t have a grip of dough that moved their family out so they could be better. I went to Patterson, graduated from Archbishop Carroll and was a college flunk-out. I didn’t expect anything like the past 26 years to ever have happened to me, but God is good and my parents made sure that I knew that circumstances didn’t make you great; character, integrity and honesty do.
DCMD: What are you looking forward to this year?
Kokayi: I’ve been working with DCMD on the Live at House series, in collaboration with House Studio DC, scoring films and planning to release a gang of new material this year. My next record should be out by the summer, with a close follow-up in the fall, and two instrumental projects that I have in the can. I’m also collaborating with Richard On, Prinze George, SHAED and Aaron Abernathy specifically on whatever we can get together and create organically.
Catch Kokayi perform at The DCMD Salon on Thursday, April 14 at Songbyrd. Tickets are just $10 online, or $12 DOS. Watch Kokayi perform at ‘Live at House’ below: - DC MUSIC DOWNLOAD

"Funk Parade Lineup Includes Rare Essence, Kokayi, And More"

The beloved Funk Parade returns to U Street on May 7. Today, the organizers announced many of the acts that will fill 12 different outdoor performance areas and over 15 evening music venues with live music and performance.
12-7 p.m.: Day Festival with Performance Areas throughout U Street.
4-5 p.m.: Parade from the Howard Theater to the Lincoln Theater.
7PM-10 p.m.: The evening component of the festival in which U Street venues, lounges, and bars host free live music throughout the evening.
Today's announcement reveals over 40 acts with more details to follow. There are many performers to note, some of which include hip-hop artist Kokayi—who is creating a new anthem for D.C., DJs Fort Knox Five and Ayes Cold, Batala Washington, as well as bands such as The Funk Ark, Sam Prather's Groove Orchestra, and The Ron Holloway Band. Rare Essence, one of D.C.'s most celebrated go-go bands, will also be celebrating its first studio release in over a decade.
Additional information will be posted on the Funk Parade website as May 7 approaches. - DCIST


Pro Deo et Patria (2012)
N.W.L. (deacon the villian and Sheisty Khrist) American Greed
Robots and Dinosaurs (2010) producer all songs except (Autumns Rules, produced by Oddisee)
Fresh (Tabi Bonney) IHIPHOP 2010-producer Blinding/Slackers Farewell vocals/Like A King/ Winners Tourney
Dope (Tabi Bonney) Sky republic 2009 - producer go hard, jet setter JetSetter is in rotation on MTV Jamz
theCaesarz-All Hail 2008 (producer/performer/arranger/mixer)
Life Is (Tamara Wellons) Ocha Records 2008 -producer
Higher Ground (Wayna) -Quiet Power 2008 moonlight rendezvous, Loving You (music) producer/c-producer
Mass Instructions-2007artist/producer
The new grease(k11)2007-artist/producer
Monster Maker(babygrande)-back ground vocals

for streaming audio go to www.kokayi.bandcamp.com



Kokayi (Carl Walker) is a Grammy-nominated artist and producer. Best described as a synaptic overload of post-apocalyptic punk and hip hop. Kokayi continues to garner rave reviews and new fans.Pronounced 'Ko-Kah-Yee' (or KOKE for short), this Washington D.C. native takes his name from the Swahili word meaning 'to summon the people'. Musically self-sufficient and versatile in ways that are reserved for upper-echelon talents, he produces his own music, writes his own rhymes, sings from the gut, and is self-taught on several instruments.

 Sharing stages with: Little Dragon, Pharoah Monche, Diamond District, Jean Grey, Black Milk, The Roots, Busta Rhymes, Rakim, Wale, Talib Kweli, Stalley, Oddisee, Zion I, Tonedeff, Cunninglyinguists, PackFM, Mr. SOS, Substantial, Homeboy Sandman, J*DAVEY, KRS-1, Muscle City, Heiroglyphics, and The Carps. Without resting on laurels he continues to have the same mantra, “whether 5, 500, 5,000 or 50,000 people in the audience, Kokayi gives the same show, with the same intensity.

Kokayi's latest record Pro Deo et Patria was voted #6 of best records of 2012 by the Washington City paper and # 3 best indie record of 2012 by RoxFontaine.com. It was also picked for Number 5 on the Best of 2012 on Bold As Love.us. The lead single Birdus Ghetti from Pro Deo et Patria was featured as an exclusive download on MTV's Hive.com. 5 of his songs can be heard in Kevin Hart's "Laugh at my Pain" and an original composition appears in the Bernie Mac documentary "I Ain't Scared of You". His record Robots & Dinosaurs received a 93/100 from the taste makers at Okayplayer, with the video “RoxTar” from winning “The Freshmen” contest for MTVU.