This week’s interview is with Karol de Souza, a rapper and fashion designer, who came from Curitiba and fell in love with the city of São Paulo when she came to live here a few years ago. During her interview, she explained why the whole Yeezy line is so important to her and her carrier. Today she drops her new single “Fé pra Tudo”, check it out on the streaming platform because it’s dope!
“I am Karol de Souza, I am a rapper, born and raised in Curitiba and living in São Paulo for 13 years, and now I‘m releasing an album in 2019. I have always been very much in love with the “masculine” universe: I was always very into basketball, skate, and rap. So all these – sneakers, cap, big t-shirts – all these things that they say is for boys always enchanted me very much since my teen years. Karol de Souza was always a kid boy girl (laughter). One year I’d ask for a Barbie doll for my birthday, and on another year for a skateboard. This follows me to this day, and I love being this person. This is me (laughter).”
“And that was crazy, because I worked here in São Paulo, I was a seller, and people started to call me to do gigs. And I wasn’t expecting that, I still had my career as a backing vocal but people started calling for me, started consuming Karol”
You started your career in Rap, what was your path like?
karolI started singing Rap in a teen girls only group when I was 17 years old, in Curitiba. The band was called Garotas de Atitude – it was very childish, very juvenile – and we sang for about 2 years more or less. I was always very much like “give it to me, I‘ll do it” and I started doing a matinee in Curitiba downtown so I could play, because if not, we wouldn’t be able to play anywhere. We had 10 Rap groups each sunday and mine played always, of course – I was the one who arranged it, so I always played. And this was most of my life foundation, of my teenage years, when I was already a big rap listener. All my lifestyle was based on 90’s Hip Hop, early 2000’s. After this time, which lasted for about 2 years, I didn’t rap anymore. I stopped for 10 years and only got back when I was already living here in São Paulo.
I was back vocal for another Rap singer, I didn’t know if I wanted that for me, so I went to study fashion, graduate, and did other things. But then, living here, the city is so Hip Hop, it drags things out of you and I felt a need to expose, to give voice to my feelings, to my things. When you are singing with another person, even if you are a step behind, you’re a part of the band structure, you are on stage, you have the crowd. I did one song and then I always sang it in the middle of the show – and from there to wish to do all my things again, my career, and what was turning into a super dream, it was a snap.
So, in 2010 I did 3 songs. And that was crazy, because I worked here in São Paulo, I was a seller, and people started to call me to do gigs. And I wasn’t expecting that, I still had my career as a backing vocal but people started calling for me, started consuming Karol. So I said “man, I want this for me, I think I do want this life!”. I carried the backing vocal career for one year more and then I pulled my name, my name to have my history, my legacy, my stuff. I kept working to have a steady income, pretty for a while, I only stopped working in everything else apart from music in 2014. So, from 2015 to this day, I am only an MC rapper. It is all I do, thank God. And I live from this, survive from this, invest again on it, my dreams, my energy is on this – on my music.
“And in this time I was honoured to be part of Rimas e Melodias – it was a gift in my life, where I learned to share with other women in a way it has never happened. All this in a time when women started to get along more, when they realised that rivalry is a utopia, a fantasy-like and planted, that the reality is that we have to hold hands and do it together.”
We always say, when you do it from the heart, things happen.
karolNow to launch my album, it has been a huge step, because I was 6 years without releasing work like this. It’s been a really big hiatus now, people were demanding me heavily, I couldn’t take it anymore, I couldn’t take it anymore. People say: “I want your music” and I say “Imagine me”. I really want to release it to the world.
And in this time I was honoured to be part of Rimas e Melodias – it was a gift in my life, where I learned to share with other women in a way it has never happened. All this in a time when women started to get along more, when they realised that rivalry is a utopia, a fantasy-like and planted, that the reality is that we have to hold hands and do it together. It was a gift for me, I don’t have any sisters, only brothers, so with women close like this, travelling, being in the same bedroom, fighting, it was fucking hard for me. It was enriching for my life. We worked a lot for about 2 years, and when the will to launch each own solo album started growing back we said “so now Rimas takes a break so we can do our own stuff, and after that we go back to Rimas e Melodias”.
Going back a little, how did you all meeting and starting Rimas e Melodias happen ?
karolWe already knew each other, the 7 of us. We met from one knowing about each other’s work, because another recorded with a friend, went to a gig. Everyone knew who everyone was, we all met and some were closer than others. And then, Tatiana Bispo, who’s among the ones that sing the most in the group, saw some gringo videos of woman only ciphers and she had the insight that “fuck, we don’t have this here, we could do it”. So she connected DJ Maíra – she is friends with everyone of us, a journalist, she has written about music for Veja Online. The two of them talked and decided to do something in this format here. They chose a team – that is Rimas e Melodias. They called and everyone accepted taking part.
In march 2016, we met to do a couple of rehearsals and a video session in Casa Brasilis, now already shutdown. And we realised I had music with the one with the other, and the other had a song with another and with one more still – we had a lot in common. So it was really easy to get an instrumental and for each one to sing their own piece of anything she had and get more material. So it was beautiful, it looked like a done gig. And we recorded that with two cameras from our friends, super basic, cute, without choosing clothes, each one dressed the way she liked. We finished this material and uploaded online. And then it was a boom. Especially the Cypher, it went viral, went to many channels, Brasileiríssimos posted us on Facebook, it gave us a big push, it was very nice, great.
And then people started calling to ask for gigs. We didn’t want that, but then we accepted to do one gig to launch these videos. The gig was at Brasilis house, and it sold out, people were left outside! We saw that it had worked and we were quick, smart, to make another gig. And then I, because of the fashion graduation, came and said “we need to dress in a way that people understand that we are a real group”. So that it wouldn’t take out or upset any shape we’d play with colors. So we always do 2 or 3 colors, or a mood. It really worked in this way. We managed to get some gigs, composed, started singing, it was meant to be. We felt a tide making everything work for us, even without realising or wanting. It was fucking great.
I think the crowd needed to hear what we had to say in that moment. Dilma’s displacement, Marielle’s death, all those weird things, from politics, behaviour, women’s killing, all that happening and there was no women aggressively talking about that in a pretty way. I would say that our success came because we were smart, lucky and took the moment. I feel very gifted with the group, very much.
The coolest part of all that is that you realise that you speak for a lot of people, you know? You please some people who want to dance, but there’s different people. The person wears your message, she feels that someone really talks for her. We talk about love, or politics, or women’s issues, or mainly black women, because we have a group scenery where most of us are black. We have Maíra who is white, Paulinha who is armenian and northeastern, so we have this mix that we looked and said “this is beautiful, let’s do a song about that”. Let’s talk about our loves, not only our pain – when you take black women it comes all of that machismo, racism, and we are not just that. Our speech can’t be just about that. Our crowd has to be entertained, has to be cheered, has to dance.
These days I saw a quote from Bia Ferreira that said in an interview: “if in every 23 minutes a black kid dies in Brazil, I am reborn every 23 minutes, because I stay alive”. It’s very heavy and very truthful. First of all, the young die more, and the youth that dies the most is black youth. So dude, we have a lot to say. To discuss about it. And I always say it, even in other interviews, that we are a very annoying generation, because we have to keep saying what people from before wouldn’t talk about, it was nice that way. But I took on this part. I will talk about it so that in the future everybody gets it, so it doesn’t happen in the future and we won’t need this annoyance anymore. Because it is annoying, we are really annoying. But we had to wear this annoyance so things change and change for the better. We couldn’t stay that way anymore. Society was weird. We are in adjustment. Our music came to give voice to all this, to expose and tell of this moment.
“And I always say it, even in other interviews, that we are a very annoying generation, because we have to keep saying what people from before wouldn’t talk about, it was nice that way. But I took on this part. I will talk about it so that in the future everybody gets it, so it doesn’t happen in the future and we won’t need this annoyance anymore. Because it is annoying, we are really annoying. But we had to wear this annoyance so things change and change for the better. We couldn’t stay that way anymore. Society was weird. We are in adjustment. Our music came to give voice to all this, to expose and tell of this moment.”
You’re now launching your album Grande!. How was the creation process e what do you expect from it?
karolSay. My album got started 3 years ago. It’s not easy. I don’t waste a single word before I go “ah, not this”. Everything I think of goes into my music. I don’t write 50 songs to then pick out 10 for the album. I wrote 9 songs and all 9 are going in the album. And then to find the texture I want, the sonority I want, which audience I’d like to dialogue with. And for so long I thought, I want to speak to the people from Rimas e Melodias, an audience of mostly girls, and I want to speak to the people from trap, which are mostly boys. How do I bring those two things together? How would I honor the old timey guys, who did more Boom Bap, which is where I came from in all this journey? I need to find a link between all this and bring something new. So how do you maintain the roots while bringing something interesting, relevant to this moment?
That’s the biggest challenge, since it isn’t just sitting down and writing. Then after you’ve sat down and written everything, you polish and write it all over again, then you go to the studio, we finish up a base and it turned out amazing. You take it home, listen to it, then after a week you go: this is all wrong, I don’t like this, I don’t like this hat, I want it that way. And it’s so crazy, because at the same time I don’t want to create expectations as to what it’ll be like, how people’ll receive it, because I didn’t write one song to sell or to please in specific. I tried to be smart, but first and foremost it was what I wanted to do. Because everytime I did that it worked out. Since the beginning, since my first song I’d go “ah, I can do it” and did it. And then many people related to it. And now all I can do is send it to the world and pray people will understand, so it’ll be relevant. I know i’ll be doing shows, I know I’ll win stuff, I’m going places, but I want to for example receive the same things I received from the crowd at Rimas e Melodias. To change lives in a positive way through what I did.
That’s why it’s called Grande!, with an exclamation mark at the end. I think I dreamt big with it, a physically large woman and a high level inside the head, I wanted to expand, I wanted to do differently. This time I said “I can, I want all that I’m capable of doing”. So it’s called Grande! because of that. I hope you like it.
Now to talk about the sneakers. Besides brand or model, what does this object represent to you?
karolI think power. When I have the sneakers I want, I feel more powerful. And I think that everybody, the more it’s rare and desired, the better you feel, because you think you’re part of a more select group, more powerful or more important. My relationship with sneakers also began very early. I remember TV ads for a Dharma sneaker. And I, very little, asked my mom and she went “if you get passing grades, I’ll give them to you”. I did and she gave me two! I was very happy. I got a white and pink one and a gray and pink one. Loved it. That was the dearest sneaker of my life.
I remember almost all of my sneakers. After that my mom got me a Nike Air Max, also gray and pink. And right after, I started to see the skater boys and the sneaker I wanted was the Hosoi at any cost. But I was held back and my mom wouldn’t get it for the world. I’m traumatized, I was just these past couple of days looking for one to buy, I’ve got so much of a thing there. I think there was the break for me to say I liked sneakers, because I didn’t get that one and had a thing of having to have it. My sneaker of desire is a Hosoi all black, somewhat boot like, and it also has a few kinds of reflective gray parts. I’m still gonna find that sneaker.
Then, just after, already a teenager, I began this relationship with Adidas, because I was already kind of trendy, I’d wear polo shirts and formal grandpa pants (laughter). I bought them at thrift shops. Then I had a Gazelle, Spezial with the bottom yellow, a black and yellow Superstar. One of these days I found a picture at my mother’s house, there were 6 Adidas boxes above the wardrobe. Only later, much later, would I come to like Nike, but I think that was me. Never had a heart that beats too much (laughter).
“My relationship with sneakers also began very early. I remember TV ads for a Dharma sneaker. And I, very little, asked my mom and she went “if you get passing grades, I’ll give them to you”. I did and she gave me two! I was very happy. I got a white and pink one and a gray and pink one. Loved it. That was the dearest sneaker of my life.”
I think that’s crazy, that we pick brands.
karolThe brand doesn’t even know you breathe, right? But you are there. I don’t know, I get happy when I see Adidas’ stuff. When I started engaging with the brand, I went there for the first time and I didn’t tell nobody. I asked a time off at work, I said “tomorrow I can’t come, I have an appointment”. My roommate asked “but where are you going?”. I don’t, can’t say. All this from fear that it wouldn’t happen, you know? But then I arrived happily at home with a bag with 5 pieces, outside like this, but on the inside I was like Copacabana’s new year, pleased, crazy, colorful. I swear. And each time I went to Adidas I was like “guys I’m here, how is that, I’m here!”. In my album I even have a phrase that I deserve the 3 stripes kits. I can’t explain it. I simply like it, and don’t need to have a connection. I think that even if I didn’t, I’d still be buying. I like it very much.
And why, from all sneakers, you chose the Adidas Yeezy Boost 700?
karolBecause of Kanye West. I don’t have any doubts. Because I knew him before anybody got to know him, and my favourite was always Jay-Z. And he is besides Jay-Z for a long time doing things, producing. And my favorite song for a long time, Lucifer, is Jay-Z’s and his’. Black Album is my favourite. From this time, 2005, I paid close attention to Kanye. And when Jay-Z did Fade to Black, he is with Kanye for a while already, and Kanye says “when you go to the stage you do that and this” and Jay-Z says “I work with young, amazing, and visionary people” and then the camera focus goes to Kanye. From then on, everybody understood that when he wears polo shirts with the collar up, he was already showing he was ahead and very smart.
And now, talking about today, I am a big fan of his because his work is like mine, he raps, he managed to be a millionaire, incredible and relevant. He is not the best MC, not the best singer, not very handsome, but somehow he became the most fucking amazing guy in all of that. He built a flawless marriage, beautiful, incredible, he treats his wife like I want to be treated – he taught her how to talk, how to dress, taught her entire family to behave. He transformed. And that affected the whole world as business, as fashion. And today I have that for me. I am at a 2 years old relationship where I feel like a Kim Kardashian because my boyfriend is incredible with me, even more so than Kanye.
Yesterday I went to have fun at a party, a Tommy Hilfiger party and he went to a business meeting for me. He came and said “I want to work with you, what can I do to add as an advertiser?”. And I said “I don’t know, what do you want to do? What do you do?”. He said “I know this, this, this, can I do it?”. And I told him yes. So he is doing it. And this Yeezy was a gift from him. He is the one who found it.
Now I look at Kanye and say: “man, you really gotta be a dick, because if not, you would be perfect, you’d have wings and go flying away”. He is amazing, dude. And then he made a sneaker that doesn’t have a new design, nothing that’s never been seen before, not that big of a deal. But it’s the whole package. It’s for being a part of his club. I feel part of it (laughter). From now on I will always be paying two things: a Yeezy and my rent, my steady bills forever. This is my first and only until now. I believe that, in that picture of him in the middle of a giant wheel of Yeezys, I think that the production of the already launched sneakers rose because we will see more exclusivity in the next ones that we haven’t seen yet. I think that it tangles a strategy of “you’ll be tired of this because you will fight over the next ones, but we have to sell these first”. Because business is business right people? The man is a businessman.