"My given name is Kish, well, Lakisha. Kilo was my Twitter name. There was a rapper called Kilo Ali, who I was really into when I first joined Twitter, so I put ‘Kilo Kish,’ and, when I started to make music, it stuck. I came to LA a few months ago to record my album, but I grew up in Orlando, Florida. I always knew Florida wasn’t for me; I was a little weird and quirky for Orlando. I started plotting to leave Florida when I was 15, so when I finally moved to New York when I was 18 for college, my mom was like, ‘Obviously.’ [Laughs]
I studied textiles at FIT and got into music because one of my roommates was a rapper from Atlanta. I was kind of broke at the time and couldn’t afford art supplies for school really, so I went to hang out with him when he was recording, to see what he was doing. I ended up making a few tracks—covers of Lil' Wayne songs, and would play them at this hair salon I worked for. We'd laugh about how silly the songs were, but then people started asking, ‘Oh, what is this? I like this.’ I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Seriously?’ So I did it more. Eventually, through a friend of a friend, I ended up meeting this guy Matt [Martians] from Odd Future—the Cali-based rap collective. He heard my songs and said, ‘Oh, you should come out to LA and record something.’ So I thought, why not try?
Two years ago, I recorded my first EP, Homeschool, with a lot of help from Odd Future. We really didn't expect it to be popular, but Fader and all of these blogs started covering it. So after I graduated from college, I put out another EP and got to work with a lot of the A$AP guys. I'd say my musical style is just me talking about random stuff over beats—kind of rap, kind of singing. But it’s organic, really natural—just my personality in music. For kicks, I also model a bit and take acting classes, but I’m not taking acting too seriously. It’s just good training for me; it’s even good for my music.
Since I moved out of Orlando, I've been wearing my hair like this. It wasn’t as cool when I was 15, 16 to have natural hair. Everyone in my church was like, ‘Girl, you need to get a hot comb to your hair’ or ‘Um… can you go to the hairdresser or something?’ They would even give me coupons. I was like ‘Really?’ I relaxed my hair for two years of high school, but for the most part, it’s been natural my whole life.
My natural hair is actually harder to maintain than straightened hair or weaves; it takes a lot of work. You have to wash it every day, whereas if your hair is straight and you’re African American, for the most part you wear a shower cap and try not to get it wet. I only actually shampoo my hair maybe once a week with Mixed Chicks Sulfate-Free Shampoo, but I condition it every day so it doesn’t get too dry, using Aubrey Organics White Camellia Conditioner. I let my hair air dry—it takes hours—and once it's dried, I put in Jane Carter Solution Nourish and Shine to make it shinier and softer. Sometimes I'll just bring that in my purse so I have it on me when my hair finally dries. [Laughs] And I have to comb through it every day, because if I don’t, after a week, there will be a mad dread in there. It’s not cute. There are so many steps—my hair might need something at any time of day—so it’s continually on my mind, which is annoying. But I do my best to just leave it.
Growing up, I had no idea what to do with my hair, because no one at my school had hair like this, and my hairstylist was Dominican, and even my mom straightens her hair. So I’ve had to figure it out myself. More recently, I’ve noticed that a lot of people are feeling more comfortable with natural hair no matter the texture, so more products are becoming available, which is great. But I'm not trying to make a statement or anything. It’s just my hair, you know? Hair is hair. This is how it looks when I wake up, and we should all be OK with it.
When I want to, I can make every little piece perfectly curled, like they did for me in a Garnier ad I shot. A lot of singers have their hair like that, and it’s kind of what Oprah does. It takes two and a half hours, but you can twist it the night before and it will be perfect when you wake up in the morning. Or sometimes I put it up in two ponytails, or braid it so it’s back a little bit. And I love cornrows—chunky cornrows like old Tyra Banks-style, not super small Alicia Keys braids. That takes forever. I’d wear them more if I could do them myself, but I can’t do the ones at the top of my head.
Overall, my approach to beauty is natural, too. I’m not that good at makeup, so unless I have a shoot or have to be somewhere pictures will be taken, I won’t wear anything. When I do, I like to look like I don’t have makeup on. Liquid makeup scares me, because it feels cake-y on my face, but I love bronzer. Smashbox Halo Hydrating Perfecting Bronzer was my go-to for a while, but now I wear Physicians Formula Light Bronzer Solar Powder with SPF 20, and I think that one’s the best. I never wear sunblock—I’m the worst—so it’s good that it has some sun protection.
I fill in my eyebrows a little bit with the Anastasia Brow Pencil. It works well. Then I set them with clear Maybelline Great Lash Mascara. If I wear eyeliner, I always wear dark brown on the outer corners of my eyes and smudge it a little bit so it looks worn-in. When I want a winged line, Ardency Inn Punker eyeliner makes my eyes pop more on stage. If I wear mascara, I don’t care what brand it is—I’ll use anything as long as it’s black.
I usually just wear balm on my lips—Baby Lips by Maybelline. Lipstick doesn’t translate well for me in LA. Maybe something super light, like Becca Beach Tint in Fig. In New York, I like wearing a dark cranberry lipstick, because there, everyone’s in all-black all the time—black leather jacket, black boots, black jeans, black Alexander Wang bag. New York just has a vampire, cooler, nightlife feel. LA is more cutesy. On shoots, they always give me a crazy bright-red lip. But I never wear that in real life. When I’m paler, during the winter, I might wear Nars Pigalle.
If things look a little dry when I’m done with my makeup, I’ll set everything with Heritage Store Rose Petals Rosewater. My Friend Kalika uses it, and she would always spray it on me, so I got some, too. It smells so good.
When I first started getting makeup done for photo shoots, my skin freaked out. I'd barely ever worn makeup, so my skincare routine used to consist of rinsing my face with water in the shower. But I started to have all of these breakouts, so I went to Sephora almost in tears one day, and a girl there gave me a skincare routine, like, ‘This is what you have to do,’ with a cleanser, toner, day cream, night cream, eye cream—like a million creams. I tried it, and it made my face a thousand times worse. I was also trying so many different things at the same time, I didn’t know what was causing the issue. I spent like a thousand dollars on skincare trying to figure it out. I became obsessed with it. A few weeks ago, though, I picked up Dr. Bronner’s and my skin cleared up nearly overnight. Now I just moisturize my face with cocoa butter. We’ll see what happens.
I don’t want to wear makeup so often that I don’t feel comfortable walking outside without it on. There was this one girl in high school who always always had on a shit-ton of makeup, and one day she came to school without anything on, and everyone was like, ‘Are you sick? Are you okay? What’s wrong?’ She probably felt so bad. And I’ve always felt that people who wear a lot of makeup over time get worse and worse skin, so they have to keep wearing more. With me, what you see is what you get. It’s the same approach I take with music. Smoke and mirrors are cool, but this is me.”
—as told to ITG
Kilo Kish photographed by Emily Weiss in Los Angeles on October 13, 2013.