It’s hard to class someone as a “mumble rapper” without any shade, but the calm warble of Adamn Killa isn’t evocative of a guy who’s totally zonked; there’s a real depth to his sentences, even when they’re somewhat obscured. The 19-year-old pink-dreaded Chicagoan purveys a somewhat melancholy brand of motivational rap. Compared to his competition, his quick flexes are humble, but due to his backstory, that makes them all the more inspirational. He doesn’t have to remind listeners where he’s from, as his monotone bears the weight of the cold streets of the South Side of Chicago.
Though his energy doesn’t sway too much, Adamn fluctuates between quicker, drill-inspired flows or drawn out bursts of melodic rapping. In each case, the mumble effect only serves to amplify the song’s resonance. What’s most special about his voice is its ability to hold steady amid an eclectic range of productions, whether it be trap, warped European club sounds, or bass-heavy ambient beats from mysterious SoundCloud producers, such as Blank Body, with whom he released October 2015’s Libra Season, which got him heavy exposure on array of taste-making blogs. He’s since joined forces with two experimental beat-making crews, Shlohmo’s WeDidIt and Brodinski’s Bromance, both which have come into the game with a knowledge of hip-hop as well as experience with a world of other sounds.
Adamn has also made waves across the pond and, specifically, in Sweden, as the country’s leading rap star, Yung Lean, discovered his early SoundCloud work. The pair has since collaborated multiple times, and the Sad Boy leader invited Adamn to open on his “Warlord” world tour earlier this year. Lean guests on the Shlohmo-produced “Ten,” which stands as arguably Adamn’s biggest hit. The pair went to Amsterdam for the mesmerizing video, in which they venture from a demolition lot to a field of tulips with a giant yellow snake.
The young equestrian’s recent work includes the “Saddler” video — which stays true to its title — as well as his Mr 650 mixtape, executive produced by North Carolina heavy-hitter DP Beats. We spoke to Adamn when he was in the studio working with WeDidIt’s Ryan Hemsworth on their new collaborative single, “Commas,” which dropped last month.
You may recognize Adamn from his signature ad-lib — his own name delivered with a hiccup. Now it’s time to meet the Killa himself.
So you’re out in L.A. right now working on a song with Ryan Hemsworth?
Yeah, we shooting a video for it right now.
How’d you first get affiliated with the WeDidIt crew and interested in producers like Shlohmo and Hemsworth?
Ryan is good friends with Will [Hoopes, his manager], and I had met him a couple times. We went to the studio with him in Atlanta, too. And I ran into Shlohmo at the at the airport one time. We went to the studio with Shlohmo when I was on one of my first trips out here. They came up to me at the airport, and then I went to the studio with them the next day.
You’re based in L.A. now?
Yeah, I just moved out here from Chicago.
I know you rapped, “Moved out of Chicago, now I’m poolside” [on “Saddler”]. Was it always a dream of yours to get out of Chicago?
Yeah, I like Chicago a lot but it’s really just too dangerous. I really just wanna move my whole family out of Chicago ‘cause it’s not a good environment to grow up in. But if it wasn’t so dangerous, it’d be real nice though.
You’re from the South Side?
Is your family still there?
My aunt is staying out there. My mom just moved to a nicer neighorhood. I’m happy about that. We all from Roseland.
When did you first get into music?
I always liked music. But I only started rapping a couple years ago.
How did that start?
I had a cousin over at my house, he was rapping. I had just got a MacBook, so I had GarageBand, and we made some songs and it was fun.
Were you influenced by other Chicago music that was going on at the time?
Even from the beginning, your beats were always way out there.
Yeah, the beats way different from any Chicago stuff.
When did you first start finding these weirder, electronic beats?
When I first started, I didn’t have those kinds of beats or nothing. I was using anybody’s beats who would send me something. I guess people that weren’t from Chicago liked my music, and started sending me beats.
What was the first project you put out?
The tape had the song with Yung Lean and Shlohmo, “Ten.” The video was crazy.
We was in Amsterdam.
I was wondering where y’all were. How did that collab come about – you and Yung Lean?
After I put out my first real songs, they hit me up on Twitter and stuff. Then I started doing songs with them. I didn’t meet them ’til we went on tour in March.
You were touring in Europe?
Yeah, it was a United States, Canada, and Europe tour. We shot the video while we was on tour.
What were the shows like in Europe?
It was crazy. They was treating me like I was Justin Bieber or something.
You’ve got a big fan base over there?
Yeah, or the fans that I do have out there are crazy.
How did that video come together? With the snake and the junkyard and the field of flowers, was that all spontaneous? Whose vision was all that?
Lean was like ‘I want a snake.’ And I was like, ‘N*gga you crazy.’ I tried to hold the snake for one of the scenes, but I was like, ‘Nah get this shit off of me.’
It was a big ass snake.
Yeah, it was bugging me out. We was driving to the junkyard place, and we just saw those tulips. So we decided after we was done filming the junkyard stuff we’d come back and film with the tulips ’cause they look nice.
You were opening up for Yung Lean on tour?
I see some crossovers between the moods of your songs and the types of production. Can you speak on his music a little bit for the Stateside people who might not understand the appeal?
He’s like the European version of a trap artist. He’s Sweden’s version of Gucci. He got the same influence over there. He be putting people on and stuff.
Your latest tape was “Mr 650” with DP Beats. How’d you link up with him?
He’s from one of the Carolinas. He sent a bunch of beats, and we just made a mixtape.
And then the new single, “Saddler.” Tell me about the video. First time on a horse?
It was crazy. Horses are big as hell. I didn’t know they was that big when I was far away. Up close, they all muscular and shit, and you think they gonna stomp on you or something. I was riding the horse fast as hell. I thought I was gonna fall off.
I’ve noticed you’ll have a lot of motivational lyrics even when the beats are dark or there’s some sadness in your voice.
The stuff I be saying is real shit, though. Tryna make money for my family, and whatever. Shit like that.
There’s also a lot of flexing, but I think you have a more humble approach. [On “25”] You rap, “I got a Honda but I kinda want a Jag.” I know you rap about Hondas on a few songs. A lot of guys wouldn’t do that.
I say real shit, I really just bought a Honda [laughs]. I just talk about real shit that I did. I don’t lie or talk about – I dunno – I really just bought a Honda. I want something better, but you gotta work for what you want.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
I’ve been working with Brodinski and Bromance.
That’s dope. Are you putting something out on their label?
I might drop some stuff with them. They helpin’ us a lot, working on the project and stuff. A lot of them on my project.
Is that gonna be a mixtape?
That’s gonna be my debut album.
Anything else you wanna touch on?
They playing my song in “Atlanta.” “Back to Ballin’ Intro.” They hit us up, they emailed us. They wanted to use one of my songs. It was crazy. ‘Cause I like the show, too. It’s a good show. Also the merchandise. We got (“Saddler”) polos.