Talking beginnings and survival...

It’s been a big couple of years for the duo known as Krept and Konan. They’ve been involved in everything from politics - campaigning against the criminalisation of drill, speaking on the issue at the Houses of Parliament - and charity work, with their Positive Direction Foundation, to fronting TV’s ‘The Rap Game’ and opening their own restaurant, Crepes and Cones.

It’s been a few years since a full album though, and now they’re back with one of those too: ‘Revenge Is Sweet’, their second LP. The project is packed with features — from Stormzy and WizKid to Headie One and K-Trap — and tackles a number of hard-hitting topics. The title is a reference to a Frank Sinatra quote (“the best revenge is massive success”) and addresses what the pair feel they’ve been subjected to: years of online abuse and a lack of appreciation for their work.

But they’re heroes to many. Born Casyo Johnson (Krept) and Karl Wilson (Konan), these South Londoners have become symbols in their hometown and around the world. First though, they had to meet. “I think in 2002 was when we first met, through mutual friends and we kind of clicked from there,” remembers Konan, of their first encounters in the early 2000s.

“One time we were on the bus, I went through his phone and heard him spitting on Voice Notes - it was hard, and I was like, ‘Krept why aren’t you putting this out?’ And then we went from there.” As the duo started sharing and creating music they hit a snag as Konan ended up in jail, but that didn’t stop the motivation to seriously enter the music world. By the time he was released, their mission was clear.

“At the start there was a lot of us. And just being honest, we were in a gang, so when we were growing up, anybody that can rap or spit, they were just in it. Then I went to jail and when I came out we started to plan a mixtape. But our friend Reds unfortunately went to jail, so it was just Krept and I.” It was here that Krept says they really became the duo they are today.

“For the mixtape we were making, it was our friend Reds, Konan and I, but with Reds' name gone [he also went to jail] the mixtape just said ‘Krept and Konan’ and that’s how it started. When we released the mixtape people from the ends were fucking with it, but becoming a duo, that was never planned - it just happened,” Krept says.

And in June of this year, that accidental duo celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their first mixtape, ‘ Red Rum’. A major reason why they’ve achieved such longevity is how they’ve always keep things in perspective, and looking to the future rather than dwelling on present successes.

“We’re always thinking about what’s next, like we have our plans for this year and next year, like we have a plan and we work towards that plan and what we’re going to do after that,: explains Krept. “And that’s the difference between us and a lot of artists because we study this, we really think about being here forever. And going into the idea of studying, it’s studying the industry where the origins of their success lies and that was in understanding social media.”

Keeping engaged with online audiences set them in good stead, especially in the era of YouTube, before streaming was king. “If you weren’t on TV or radio, the only thing you had was YouTube and social media,” explains Krept. “And we were thinking we have to make these things our hub, and be the best at it, and market our stuff via social media. We thought if we nail social media, then we don’t need to chase TV and radio - they’ll eventually chase us, and it worked.”

With their knack for pushing themselves online, their version of Kanye West and Jay Z’s ‘Otis’ hit millions of views, and not only did their online profile rise but their profile in America too, something that Konan says they never thought was possible: “When we talked to people who knew our music, like really knew our music and were fans, we started to realise that this really was possible, to cross over. Because it didn’t seem possible at first to do it, that Americans would like our music, it really made us even hungrier.” The duo still turn negative energy into positive – take recent track ‘ SPY’, which they say despite sounding happy , the inspiration is far from it.

“The song was made during a time where everybody was just pissing us off. Even though it sounds fun and shit, but when you listen to the hook - it was during the time when we were pissed off with everyone. It really went from a song that was angry to Konan saying we need another beat because it was too dark and we found a new beat and found someone online to send us something over - we told the producer what we wanted and it changed the whole mood, “Krept says. “It has the same attack as the original, but It feels better, it’s more, a happy ‘suck your mudda’, not dark, which it was originally,” Konan adds.

“Basically, there’s a Frank Sinatra quote that goes, ‘the best revenge is a massive success’ and like Krept was saying earlier, we’ve been getting a lot of online hate, a bit attacked recently,” explains Konan of the new album's title. “But we’re like the last ones left in terms of we’re not from an era where, when you have an issue, you go to the internet. Instead of that we put all of our energy into the album, and hopefully break another record, and that’s our revenge.”

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Words: Jibril Osman

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