He's worked with mainstream artist Kid Cudi, had his music propel brands like Monster Energy, and Lebron James, and has had more than a million streams of his music heard online. But you probably haven't heard of Queens, N.Y.'s K Sparks
--and that's just the way he wants it.
K Sparks toes the line between being comfortable outside the limelight and feeling a strong push to share his music with the masses--be it in product placement, films, writing with and for a number of artists, and releasing new albums, like his brand-new project, Seasons Theme
His approach to his career, his musical style and his dedication to staying original sets K Sparks apart from most of his contemporaries in hip-hop--Christian or otherwise. He's on our Indie Artist Watch, and we asked him 10 questions to get to know him a little better.
How did you start rapping? Growing up, did you emulate anyone? When did you know this was a talent of yours?
I started freestyling in neighborhood cyphers when I was in elementary school. From that point, I knew it was definitely a talent when I started to beat emcees that were older than me. I would freestyle for fun, but it became apparent I could pursue it professionally. I emulated local emcees in my neighborhood, such as LL Cool J, Run DMC, Kool G Rap and others. Not only were they legends, but we saw them on a regular basis.
You've written for a number of artists. Who have you written for, and how do you approach that versus your own music?
Contractually I can't disclose that information, but I can discuss the approach. It's essentially like writing a cinematic screenplay. Each character has to encompass their own dynamic, so when I'm writing I take that perspective head-on; how can I make this musician genuinely have his or her own voice within this content?
You've certainly been immersed in hip-hop culture, Christian and mainstream. What have you learned from being in both?
Ultimately I've learned both industries have artists that in some way want to be accepted by the opposite group. For example, several Christian hip-hop artists hate being labeled Christian rappers, but on the flipside several mainstream artists I know jump at the chance to thank God at award shows. So while some Christian musicians try to minimize their affiliation with God, on the flipside some secular artists want it to be acknowledged they have a spiritual compass; it's a strange dynamic.
You've had lots of songs placed in product advertising and the like. What are some benefits you've experienced as an artist as a result of this entrepreneurial approach to your music?
It's really how I prefer to conduct business, low-key and in the background. Some people have to be in the forefront, but that's not my style. That aspect of business allows me to work behind the scenes while retaining content ownership. The product placement advertising is essentially a business card. When people hear my songs in Lebron James or Forever 21 commercials it spreads the message.
In your new project, Seasons Theme, you dedicate the songs to the various seasons in life. Why'd you decide to go this way, and what are you hoping to communicate in the process?
I felt it was needed. Musically, we're in a space of stagnation. Musicians are chasing trends. Everyone's making trap records. To each his own, but I don't follow trends. I went a direction on this record that's the complete opposite of my contemporaries. The message on this record is to encourage and inspire.
What has the response been to the project so far?
It's been positive. I created the content to elicit thought, and seeing it resonate with people is confirmation that the message is timely.
What does 2016 bring for you?
I just finished working on a movie soundtrack for a film in China that will debut in the States. I'm also working on several compositions for corporate placement, and then touring overseas for Seasons Theme.
What's your mission as best as you can tell?
I'm always thinking growth. My mission is lifestyle-inspired content, so anything that affects myself or people, I want to tackle it--once the timing and execution is right. I don't want to do songs for the sake of doing what's trendy. It's not like, "Yo, let's do a trap record; it's like, "How can we elevate the culture?" If we can't do it creatively, I'd rather not do it.
What do you dream about?
I dream about my mother. She passed from breast cancer in 2013. Sometimes those dreams seem so real to me.
Who would you love to work with, inside or outside of Christian music?
I like musicians predominantly under the mainstream radar yet still talented in their respective genres. It's sort of this underdog mentality where I have to support the next big thing. Robert Glasper, Nathan East, Esthero and Mike Phillips are some I'd like to work with.
Anything you'd like to add?
Persistence wears down resistance. Keep striving and achieve your goals.