An Interview with Jymmy Kafka

By: Malakhai Pearson

Lil Nothin is the new collaborative project between Jymmy Kafka & producer/artist Rilla Force. Kafka – originally from Framingham, MA – grew up just a few apartments away from the building I was raised in. With Lil Nothin’, Jymmy provides a snapshot of his early years and what it was like growing up with a single mom in a low income neighborhood.

Where Lil Nothin’ stands out is through the combination of Kafka’s lyrics and flow paired alongside Rilla’s futuristic production style. The project has a really cohesive sound and aesthetic. Jymmy floats effortlessly over Rilla’s production giving listeners insight into his youth whilst still providing a glimpse into his life at this current point in time. Kafka and Rilla offer a clean, 8 track project with contributions from both Maka and Billy Dean Thomas on the project’s second track “Blood”.

Below peep a brief interview with Jymmy, courtesy of Graduation Music.

On “35a” you rap about the apartment that you were raised in – what is special about growing up in Framingham? 

There really is something special about growing up in Framingham. Whenever I think about it my mind goes to diversity, and not like college brochure diversity, but being able to really feel like you’re exposed to a full variety of cultures. The culture in our neighborhood, Beaver/Second St. was one thing, there were so many people in a condensed area that all the cultures constantly overlapped. A memory I have, that I bet most people from our area share, was being out with your friends as a kid when someone says ”so and so’s” grandma is selling limber for 50¢ down the way, which was pretty much Puerto Rican Italian ice. I feel like I never knew whose grandmother was selling them but it was a staple. There was also a big Brazilian population and the Brazilian barbecue is a cultural phenomenon. If you found yourself at one, you were instantly part of the family and definitely going to leave over fed. Then, you have the north side where there are mansions if you go far enough. More of the white population was in the north side but there were still a wide variety of people in all economic standings. I feel like the friend groups I had looked like the Captain Planet cast at times and yet we didn’t really think about it being like that. There definitely were and are racist people in Framingham but I remember talking about and questioning the racial divide and essentially systemic oppression as a kid/ teenager with my white friends. It’s like we would gravitate to who we related to as people first and then realize that our society makes no sense and is fucked.

In this project you reflect a lot about your childhood and how you grew up. What’s some advice that you would give to your younger self? 

I would say double down and focus on the things you know you want to do. Listen to your gut and not to people who think they know what’s best for you. 

Making this tape exclusively with Rilla, what was the creative process like when it came to making Lil Nothin’? 

This has actually been in the works for years. I originally wanted to call the project Disentanglements, after a chapter in this book I was reading about Edgar Allen Poe. Rilla and I made the song “Swoon” which actually took me a YEAR to write but was ultimately the catalyst of our extended collaborations. Throughout the time of writing swoon I was going through a lot of things, and feeling very wrapped up as a person. I ended up having these huge moments of self discovery and realizations that I was stifling myself and that it was okay to be exactly who I am regardless of what other people thought. We just kept pressing forward from there trying to make things that felt new and were different. Then the “SoundCloud rapper” wave hit, of which I feel I’m the antithesis, and it was honestly a little disheartening. Don’t get me wrong I definitely love a lot of the music that can be qualified into that bubble, but it felt like the shittier the music the more love and popularity it got. In a way I think this project was meant to come out in 2020.

BLOOD”, is the only track on this tape with features on it. How did the contributions from Maka and Billy Dean Thomas come about? 

They’re just the homies and really, cool talented people. My writing process was pretty weird and I’d only be able to get thoughts out if I was alone and separated from people. This song did come together in parts but the driving force was to try to shake off that barrier and be more open with creating. Rilla definitely helped me get past that in a lot of ways, and he’s the conduit for so many cool connections that don’t even involve us.

In the midst of COVID – 19 did you want to wait to put this project out? How have you been handling quarantine?

I was saying before that we’ve been kind of sitting on most of the project for a while, partially the perfectionist imp was holding me back from putting it out earlier. The one cool thing about quarantine was that it gave me a lot of time to slow down and reflect, and with that, the impetus to put it out strengthened. Then there’s this reawakening to racial injustice and police brutality which directly and indirectly is often referenced in this project, I felt like it was the right time for my voice to be heard.

Lastly, can we expect more from you and Rilla? What’s next? 

I think it would be impossible for me to not collaborate with Rilla so we definitely have a lot more coming in the future. Hopefully live shows are a thing in the near future because that’s been a big part of our dynamic and we haven’t gotten to tour together yet, so that’s definitely in the works if nature doesn’t heal itself and get rid of the human race… just kidding… But you can expect a variety of things from us separately and together real soon.

Interview by Malakhai Pearson for Graduation Music

Artwork by Tyler Kpakpo

Listen to Lil Nothin’ below: