Instead of emulating the styles of other rap artists dominating the radio, he stays true to his heart with his music. The Memphis native’s confident but slow-paced delivery, nonchalant lyrical content, and distinct West Tennessee accent has grabbed the attention of thousands who thirst for something outside the norm.
Boasting an international following, Travis is among the pool of artists who have successfully used the emergence of social media to build their fan base and establish a fruitful career. Making noise within the underground circuit for the last few years, he developed a solid following from his Codeine and Pizza mixtape; he released the project while a member of the hip-hop collective Raider Klan.
After leaving the group in late 2012, Travis dropped several mixtapes independently, began performing at venues across the country, and received numerous requests from other aspiring artists to collaborate on songs.
In early December, Travis dropped his latest project, Born In The Winter. Over the course of 16 tracks, he uses the installment to bring listeners into his life: a world of self-motivation, marijuana appreciation, and strong desire for success.
Travis visited the Memphis Flyer headquarters to talk about Born In The Winter along with how he got into music, having a cross-country fan base, his upcoming joint-project with fellow Memphis artist Xavier Wulf, and much more.
Are you originally from Memphis?
I’m from Memphis. I moved everywhere in Memphis: Orange Mound, Bartlett, East Memphis. Fuckin’ everywhere. I’ve been all around, going to different schools. I went to Germantown then Southwind and all them schools in the east.
How did you get into making music? Did you always think it was something you would like to pursue as a career?
I probably started rapping in like the fifth, sixth grade. I was on the Windows recorder rapping off old instrumentals. But I didn’t really take it serious until I got in like the ninth or tenth grade. And that’s when the Internet [took off]. You can build your fan base off the Internet; that’s when social media got cool. It was just the right time. I started to take it serious.
Who were you listening to early on that put you in the frame of mind that, ‘okay, I’m going to try rapping out?’
I used to listen to Tommy Wright III. 3 Memphis Kniccas. I messed with Three 6 [Mafia]. Playa Fly. Skinny Pimp. Gangsta Blac. Tommy Wright was my favorite though.
I got familiar with you around your Codeine and Pizza mixtape, but were you releasing projects before then?
Codeine and Pizza was actually like my first official mixtape. All that other shit that’s on the Internet, like Hell On Earth, Underground Series, that was shit I did back in like 9th and 10th grade but I just combined them and made something of it. But Codeine and Pizza was my first well-put together mixtape. Hosted by Gianni Lee.
I fucked with my homie Key Nyata. He reached out. He was fuckin’ with me. And Amber London, she’s been fuckin’ with me since day one. They had told [SpaceGhost]Purrp or whatever about me. He was like, ‘wassup, I fuck with your music. You can join Raider Klan.’ It was really an Internet thing. It was off the Internet, and then we met up. I met up with all of them; we just got cool and went from there.
You along with fellow Memphis artist Xavier Wulf (formerly Ethel Wulf) left Raider Klan. What brought forth your departure?
I left around last year in December. I was just trying to build my own shit from the ground up, not by getting a buzz off another nigga name and shit like that. I had tweeted one day, ‘I fuck with Raider Klan but I’m just doing my own shit,’ and I got my own shit popping. Even after that, I was still affiliated with them. We were still doing shows and all that, because I was still under contract. We were cool, but I was just on my own shit. But it was straight while it lasted.
Was it difficult for you to make the transition from being in Raider Klan to generating your own fans?
Yeah, but what I did was, I just kept on dropping music, dropping videos, and I built myself up off the Internet. It’s easy now, because you’ve got Twitter, Tumblr and all that shit, so you can just build yourself up off that. That’s what I did.
I've noticed from looking online as well as listening to your last few projects, you’ve been talking about the Water Boyz movement. Can you explain that?
Aw yeah, Water Boyz. It’s my shit I made on some stay pure shit. It’s really a positive movement just to get folks to drink water and not sodas. Just being healthy. Actually, what I was doing was trying to get niggas to stop drinking codeine, because after niggas heard Codeine & Pizza they was like, ‘aw, I’ma try that. What’s codeine?’ I was actually trying to get niggas to convert…just to stay pure and drink water.
On the other hand, a portion of your content focuses on smoking weed and sipping codeine. What's the balance between the two?
It’s a balance. I barely drink syrup [codeine] anymore. I do, but I don’t do it as much as I used to. I got water all day. I be drinking water and smoking, but I think you can still stay pure and smoke weed. I'm just letting folks know, 'drink water and you'll be good.'
On Born In The Winter, you state that Water Boyz is actually a label.
Yeah, Water Boyz Ent. I’m trying to make it into a label. That’s what I’m trying to do now.
Yeah, it’s going to be me and other artists, but I like to get producers. It’s a lot of underground producers on the Internet making noise. It’s producers from everywhere that send me beats. I got people in France, over seas, [and other places] that send me beats and they be crazy. Like, 12-year-old boys, [they send me beats] and they be crazy.
What inspired you to name your latest project Born In The Winter?
My birthday’s in December, so I was just like, ‘I’m Born in the Winter,’ ya feel me? I was actually planning to release a mixtape on my birthday anyway. I didn’t know it was gonna be called Born In The Winter. I just thought of it during the summer, and as it went on, it got cold and shit, I was like, ‘this is me. I was born in this weather’ so I was just like, ‘Born In The Weather.’ If you see on the tape cover, it was snowing in Memphis and I got the pyramid and shit right there.
One of the most meaningful songs to me off the mixtape is “Fuck The World.”Where was your mindframe at when you created that song?
I was just on some dark ass, fuck everybody-type shit, but still trying to, like, motivate. ‘Everybody gonna talk bout you.’ It’s just how people will feel. You’ll feel like, ‘aw, these folks don’t fuck with me; they talking about me and shit,’ it’s just like that. It’s how I was feeling at the time. And then I sampled [Lil] Boosie on the beginning of that junt when he was talking before he was going to jail in that [interview]. It was on some deep shit.
Why did you choose to put that excerpt in the beginning of it?
Boosie is one of my favorite artists, and I just think that what they did to him was wrong. I was like, ‘I have to put Boosie at the beginning of this shit,’ because that was a powerful ass interview; it was true what he was saying.
That’s when I was done with the actual song. Every time I got done with recording a song, I’d look at the time. ‘This is when the masterpiece was finished,’ that’s how I looked at it. Because I like to think of my music, not to sound cliché and shit, I try to make that shit classic. I’d like for [people] to be bumpin’ my shit five to ten years from now. That’s why I just try my best.
With being an artist, everyone listening to your music is not going to like your material, or they’re going to have different opinions and feel different ways. How do you handle that?
How I look at it is, I don’t care. I know what I like. Whatever I like, I’ma put out. I just don’t care about what people say. I just do what, in my mind, I fuck with. If I know this song that I did is hard, I’m gonna be like, ‘oh, okay this shit hard.’ I don’t care what nobody say about that shit; I just put my shit out. I don’t give a fuck. People be talking on the internet; I’m like, ‘okay.’ I got plenty of music; you can’t just dislike all of my shit. It don’t bother me at all.
I noticed on the majority of your projects, you don’t have any features. Why is that?
I just feel like I don’t even need features. I’ll do features but I wouldn't put them on my project. It depends. Most of the time, I don’t put nobody on my project, like, at all. It really ain’t even a reason behind it. I just feel like my projects should be me, myself, my experiences in life, everything that’s been going on. I would make like a compilation mixtape with me and my niggas on there but as far as my project’s concerned, I just never liked putting anybody on my projects.
Who are you working with as far as production wise? It doesn’t sound like the sound that’s popular right now.
I go to Eric Dingus. He’s from Austin. His shit is ridiculous. I got my homeboy Dirty Up. He produced on my latest shit, Born In The Winter.
What’s your writing process like when you're creating your music?
When I’m on my projects, I write and take my time. But it doesn’t take me long to write a song. I’ll knock a song out in one day. That’s how I make my mixtapes. I’ll do a song a day—play it, bump it and see how it sounds. I make plenty music. I make a lot of music and just put that shit out. I’ve got so used to doing it, I’ll just drop music whenever I want to. I’ve got plenty of music on the Internet; that’s how my fan base expanded, too.
You also call yourself Kenshin Travis. What made you adopt that moniker?
That’s Rurouni Kenshin. I was raised off it. I used to watch Rurouni Kenshin when I was little and shit. Last year, I think I was in New York and I had got this beat [and] in my brain, I was just like ‘bitch, I’m Kenshin Travis.’ That’s how that song came about—the “Bitch, I’m Kenshin Travis” song. I just started calling myself Kenshin Travis from then on.
You’re friends with Xavier Wulf, but you guys really don’t make appearances on each other’s projects. Would you ever consider doing a project with him?
Aw yeah, we’re doing a project together.
That shit’s gonna be big, bro. I think that’s what’s gonna do it for us. We’re both talking about going hard on that shit. Our styles are different as hell, so when we get on a song, you don’t never know what to expect. It’s just like that on all of our songs. We’re both competitive, so we both try to go hard. We ain’t never dropped no project, but once we drop this junt in 2014, we’re gonna see where this shit take us. We’re gonna try to tour off this shit.
Who are some of your favorite artists to listen to?
I bump Sade. I bump Anita Baker. I like a bunch of old, soothing music. I like Fonda Ray. I got plenty of artists I listen to—just old, classic music that I be bumpin'.
How would you describe your sound?
What I think of when I hear my music is, like, beach music or some shit. At the water. Some wavy shit but all of my music isn’t like that. I can get on a trap beat and kill that shit and then get back on my own lane and kill that shit. I try to be versatile. I just try to make as much sounds as possible. I try to start new sounds with all my projects. People tell me to make Codeine and Pizza 2 and all that shit, I won’t paint the same picture twice. Codeine and Pizza, that shit was too classic for me to just go and think I’m gonna do better.
Talking with Xavier Wulf, he told me that he really doesn't have a fan base in Memphis. He said it’s big in places like California and Texas. He also said he’s never did a show in Memphis. How is your fan base?
It’s the same. My fan base is all over. It’s in L.A., Florida, Texas; it’s heavy. I’m just starting to see my fan base in Memphis. I’m just now starting to see people bumpin’ me and asking ‘when are you going to have a show in Memphis.’ That’s why I’m like, ‘aw okay, they’re starting to wake up now.’
Why do you think people outside of your own city gravitated to your music before your local peers did?
I just think, I don’t know if it’s a lot of closed-minded people in Memphis, they don’t accept different music, or whatever the case may be, but over the Internet, [my music] reached them other places and hit they ass. Over the Internet, these folks over here ain’t never seen me but they bumpin’ my music and when I go over there to do a show, it’s a lot of people. We get a lot of people at our shows. I ain’t never had a show in Memphis. We’re trying to set up a show, right now.
How is it for you, being an independent artist and still being able to go to big markets and pack them out? And do you think you need a major label to truly prosper with your career nowadays?
I really think that I can do it independent. As far as the new era, you can do anything you want. Once you build your shit up off the internet and you have supporters in fuckin’ Cali, New York, I can go over there, do a show, a bunch of fans come, I show love to them, and they actually fuck with me—they mosh pitting and going crazy when we perform.
I like to do art. I do my own videos, edit them and put them out on YouTube. My Youtube channel has like 10,000 subscribers…I’ve been building up off that shit.
When I was in high school, I used to draw. I used to do art. I wasn’t even rapping. My mamma wanted me to be an artist. I was like, ‘hell naw. I’ma be an artist in music. I’ma be a musician.’
Did you ever make a video to "Misty" off Hidden In The Mist?
Naw. I’m supposed to be making a video to “Misty.”
Does it bother you releasing your music for free? And how do you profit from this other than touring?
Not really. It doesn’t bother me. And I always ask myself this: 'should I put my music out on iTunes?’ And then at the same time, I’m like, ‘naw,’ because I don’t necessarily need to. I can make an album whenever I want to. I’ma make an album when the time’s right. That shit’s got to be perfect. That shit’s gotta be on point. If a label wants to do an album, I’ll do that shit. If I’m funded everything I need to make an album, I’ll do that shit. But as far as now, I’m just building my fan base up with putting out all my music on the Internet.
What’s next for you?
I got the mixtape with Wulf coming up in 2014. After that, I might drop an album. I’m just trying to do some big shit in 2014.