Dallas hip hop is a real melting pot, but Grey Matter's Kilo Art of Fact takes the idea to a whole other level. Born in Santiago, Chile in 1983, Kilo's family moved to Bergen, Norway when he was three years old to escape the Pinochet dictatorship. Being a political refugee is traumatizing enough, and something most of us in America have never had to experience. But when Kilo and his family came to Texas, things didn't get easier, as he dealt with life as an illegal alien. And that's when hip hop helped get him through.
Kilo's first memories are in Norway and he started learning to speak Norwegian just as he was beginning to speak Spanish. As a child, he actually thought everyone suddenly started speaking Spanish at school one day, not realizing he had quickly learned to speak Norwegian.
Norway was a place of refuge for many Chileans and his parents immediately formed a band with fellow expats. They had successful careers bringing a tropical dance sound that Norwegians had never heard, even toured nationally. With his mom a lead singer and his father a drummer, some of Kilo's first memories are of his parents rehearsing or performing.
His family did well in Norway for four years and could have stayed, but his parents decided to move back to Chile in 1990. It was only when Kilo returned to the country of his birth that he first experienced culture shock: the roads were made of dirt and the economy was wrecked. His family decided against staying in Chile, but after being out of Norway for over 11 months, citizenship there was no longer an option.
They decided to join family in the United States and arrived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 1991. Kilo was immediately thrown into schools where people either spoke English or a particular kind of Spanish that he didn't immediately understand. But he was already accustomed to change and learned how to speak English very quickly. In school he met future members of the local hip-hop scene, including a DJ named Buddha Fingers, who he eventually formed Grey Matter with.
Kilo Art of Fact bounced around from job to job; some places checked his fake social security number, and others did not. Sometimes a promotion led to a reevaluation that caused problems. But he worked hard, wherever he worked, and eventually settled in the culinary arts. He specifically enjoys making healthy food, which is something he is passionate about; he credits it with changing his life.
One of his first public performances was at the Caribbean Grill in 2003. He participated in the Monday Night Fights hosted by Headkrack, who he shares a bill with on Friday.
"8 Mile had just come out," Kilo recalls. "The rap battle scene was trending more than usual." He didn't know there was a local rap battle scene until he just happened to be playing pool at a place next door to the weekly competition. "I enrolled, I enlisted, I got up on stage, and got beat up," he says.
Kilo got destroyed several times, but it was invaluable training. In true style, he came back stronger every week and adjusted to the adversity. He won his first rap battle within a few months. The battle stage set the tone for his career.
All the while, Kilo faced increased challenges over his lack of American citizenship. He recalls how much more difficult the process became after 9/11. In 2008 he thought he was close, but the process dragged on and really started to take its toll on him. He started writing things down as a form of therapy. But with his situation unresolved, he didn't do anything with the lyrics, which were very close to his heart. "I wasn't comfortable saying those things," he says.
In 2012 Kilo Art of Fact was ready to get married, but had to wait two years. The year before he finally became a citizen was probably his most difficult. The girl he wanted to marry was pregnant, his driver's license expired and he was unable to renew it. But his future wife brought stability and their child made him reevaluate everything.
"Every moment counts," Kilo Art of Fact says. "Everything's important in my life." Shortly after becoming a father, he became a legal citizen and Grey Matter started getting recognition. The group has big plans for their next releases and even hopes to perform in Mexico and Chile.
Finally, just last year, he became a full-fledged citizen. But with the help and encouragement of Buddha Fingers, Kilo decided to take a quick detour with Illegal Alien, his most personal project yet. "I suppressed it until Buddha Fingers pulled the lid off," he says. A big science fiction fan, he uses an extraterrestrial metaphor to tell his personal story.
Kilo didn't want to use a cliché approach to the subject matter and put out an album with artwork showing him with a backpack sneaking past the border patrol. "And that's not what happened," he says. "I came here by plane." Kilo Art of Fact has a very specific story, he had a long time to think and develop a unique way of telling it.
Throughout his career in music, Kilo has consistently tried to be a voice for humanity. He has consciously tried to separate himself from music that is anti-social or negative. With that in mind, he runs with the Illegal Alien concept until the story imagines the entire human race on a different planet.
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Last month Kilo Art of Fact released an EP meant as a preview to the full-length album he plans to release early summer. The sound is extremely thematic with terrific production. The story he is telling comes from a real place, it translates to music beautifully, and is uniquely engaging to the listener.
KILO ART OF FACT will perform at the Final Fridays Hip Hop Honors DJ Whiz T show at 9 P.M., Friday, March 27 at Three Links, 704 Elm Street, $10.
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