When Arlington hip-hop artist Krum goes looking for a sound, he often seeks guidance from Rob Viktum. Last year, Krum hit Viktum up for something with a gospel vibe.
As it turns out, Viktum had been waiting for him to ask. “He immediately sent me over a ridiculous track I fell in love with,” says Krum, formerly known as Playdough. And there were plenty more where that came from.
The album that resulted from this collaboration, out next month, is built from samples of old gospels songs coming straight from Viktum’s vinyl collection. As a result, Bare Knuckle Gospel is surprisingly raw with a soulful, organic sound. “It’s really gross,” Krum says. “Sonically, it’s not the clean sound that lots of people are putting out.”
Originally meant to be part of a few new projects Krum is working on, these new tracks quickly became his first album. “I didn’t know how much I would be able to write,” Krum says. “But the songs just really pulled the lyrics out of me.” Krum recorded lyrics and added vocals to 10 tracks in about two weeks.
Many of the records used were live recordings released by churches, stuff Viktum came across while crate digging. Bare Knuckle Gospel definitely retains some of the energy of the live performances. “I’m moving towards more of a live sound as opposed to being so canned and electronic,” Krum says. This is also apparent in his live shows, as he is now using a drummer and live DJ instead of just trying to win over crowds with his skills as an MC.
Indeed, Viktum is not a producer who has no idea what he is sampling. Ask him about a song he used and he likely knows the name of the bass player and producer on the recording. He’s been doing it this way since he was about 13. “I collect records,” Viktum says. “That’s just what I do. There’s a particular sound I always thought he’d flip over. He just happened to ask and that one song turned into an album.”
Viktum spent years digging through gospel records and putting together tracks he had in mind for Krum. “I think there’s a demand for it,” Viktum says. “A lot of the stuff you hear on the radio just sounds the same. It’s kind of like instant music.” Rather than making electronic beats or sampling a song he couldn’t name if his life depended on it, Viktum is very specific about the old sounds he is rejuvenating.
Viktum also takes pride in knowing the right sound for an artist. “It’s always really cool to see what your friends can do when you put them under a certain light,” he says. “Krum has always been one of the dopest rappers I know, but this one really brought something out of him. Sometimes when something isn’t planned and just happens it really works out. I’m really proud of the way it turned out and love the way it sounds.”
“I think he was saving them for me,” Krum says of Viktum. “I’m sure he has a psych-rock section he is saving for someone and a soul stack he is saving for another MC. Rob is a digger.”