How Kari Faux Confronts Trauma With Music

By Kelsey Tang

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“Everybody wants to be legendary and iconic, but nobody wants to take risks,” says Kari Faux. Throughout her career, the 27-year old rapper has taken plenty of risks. In 2014, while other music videos boasted elaborate set designs emulating Egypt royalty and tropical rainforests, Kari rapped with a flip phone in her hand in “No Small Talk.” Eventually, she would turn down an opportunity to collaborate with Drake on an OVO remix.

Now in her most recent EP CRY 4 HELP, Kari’s risk-prone tendencies are stronger than ever.

“As an artist, have you taken any creative risks?” I ask.

“Have you seen my [EP] cover?” she retorts. Kari is shown bent over upside-down, clad in red fishnet tights, and flipping the camera off through her legs. When asked what influenced the cover art, she recalls, “I got assaulted on the streets. He grabbed me, and that sh*t shook me up. So I thought, how can I combat these feelings with my art? I was like, f*ck it. We getting on our knees.”

CRY 4 HELP  (2019)

CRY 4 HELP (2019)

Kari launched her career by employing cyberspace visuals and pixelated art into her music videos, and inadvertently aligned herself with the “internet rap” movement. She also mentions, “People weren’t seeing me in real life. I lived in Little Rock [Arkansas]. Where you gonna see me at? On the internet.”

But Kari has evolved past the Windows 95 screensavers while remaining unapologetic in every possible sense. Unapologetic in her rap delivery. Unapologetic in her storytelling. (In “LATCH KEY,” she raps, “See, I can take two things, the dick and a hint / So if you act like you don't want me, baby, then I'ma dip”). Unapologetic in her principles. (“I’ll never put anybody over music, except for my children. And I don’t have children.”) And unapologetic in her music taste. (“I listen to Souja Boy deep-cuts.”)

Kari has just wrapped up the last leg of her Help Wanted Tour, where she performed on a bed on stage. The idea sprung from the impulse to invite the audience to a more intimate setting. “When you go to a show and see an artist on stage,” she begins, “they just feel so ethereal. And they’re the focal point. But I just wanted to make it about everybody in the room.”

It’s easy to see how connected Kari feels to her fans. During the Los Angeles performance of “Gahdamn,” she rewrites the hook to spotlight the audience: from the original first-person lyric “Gahdamn I’m the motherf*cking sh*t” to the more personalized “Gahdamn you’re the motherf*cking sh*t / Word around town, LA is f*cking lit.”

Kari has also learned to maximize the songwriting process in her own unique way. She picks up her phone to show us her notes -- an extensive list of phrases and one-liners. “These are all lines that could turn into songs eventually,” she says, scrolling through her notes. “I go through my notes. Like hmm, let’s expound on this thought. When I come back to it, I might interpret it a totally different way.”

CRY 4 HELP is a compact narrative containing only 5 tracks. The EP documents every personal experience from navigating unhealthy relationships to coping with a miscarriage. After enduring a traumatic assault on the streets, Kari felt the need to reclaim ownership of her body. “When you’re walking down the street in broad daylight,” she begins, “coming back home with a bag of oranges, and somebody starts following you and snatches you up, and there’s nobody around to help you -- that sh*t is scary. This is basically what caused me to spiral and end up making the EP.”

“What do you mean when you say spiral?”

“I spiraled into depression.”

Kari is a self-proclaimed control freak, and she recoils from the thought of feeling like the victim. Producing and writing the EP became a free therapy session for her: “At some point, you hit the lowest point, like I kind of don’t want to f*cking be here anymore. And then you choose to be around. And it’s like, alright, well what do I do to feel better? Get it off your chest. Put it in a song. One song turned into five. Here we are.”

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Jeffrey Wu