"I only wonder as a man but I'm lost."
Rapper KILLcRey sums everything up with one line on "Fly," his newly released song grappling with the epidemic of violence against women. Hip-hop is often taken to task, and rightly so, for its own lyrical lashings on the ladies. But a beat is a blank slate and KILLcRey had to speak on an issue that kept coming up again and again in his inner circles.
"I was talking to a friend of mine and she was saying that she was seeing a counselor dealing with sexual abuse that happened when she was a kid," the rhymer says. "I don't why, but at that moment I realized that almost every woman that I knew had dealt with that at some point, it wasn't like some of them, it was like all of them."
The conversation and the revelation left KILLcRey in a state of melancholy. The San Diego-born rapper felt weighed down by the project he envisioned. Never wanting to seem like a 'mansplainer' who understood, he enlisted the support of Orange-based poet Leticia "Filthy Blessed" Muñoz. "When I first reached out to Leti to work on the song, I told her to just write what she felt," KILLcRey says.
The tandem delve into the emotional scars carried by survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Their words are accentuated by the soaring violin sounds of Sarah Cranberry. The collaborative effort on "Fly" attempts to make a dent in stopping the cycle. "Sometimes these girls become mothers and then they have kids that deal with the same thing," KILLcRey says. "It gets passed on."
The rapper, photographer and Crappy Awesome Podcast host also films music videos. The idea for "Fly" always stayed the same. KILLcRey wanted a group effort behind the track and enlisted the help of his underground hip-hop cohorts from his Fresh State Crew collective and others, including Juice County's own Vally Vicious and DaveAllen.
Women rappers form the the majority of those holding signs and expressing anguish in the video. Some openly took the opportunity of the song to claim their own experience like Lady Bullet. "She came to the video shoot even though wasn't even planning to be in it and started telling me her story," KILLcRey says. "She actually puts up the sign that says 'It was me.'" And then there's San Diego's Jenn Johnson, who the rapper says went through a public ordeal where she almost got killed by somebody that she was dating.
The necessary effort almost never came to be with KILLcRey contemplating his role in all of this. "Once I wrote it, honestly I didn't know if I was going to put it out," he says. "I'm a guy, I don't even know if I have the right to talk about this." His friends gave encouragement, especially women who wanted to know when it was dropping and gave the song their blessings after previewing it.
With that crucial reassurance, KILLcRey gave wings to "Fly," freeing it up to go wherever it's heard. The track is part of an ongoing project called "failingFORWARD," that incorporates videos, short film, writing and artwork. KILLcRey came to a place last year artistically where he felt imprisoned by spitting bars for bars sake.
"We don't have a whole lot of time to just be talking about frivolous things," he says. "If that's the majority of what hip-hop's talking about then we're in a bad spot and I didn't want to contribute to that."