You Should Know Kaylee Crossfire

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Radio Milwaukee spoke with Backline artist Kaylee Crossfire as she prepares for a new project and a new EP. The rapper and R&B singer is behind the Female Takeover movement that aims lift other female artists in the city.

5 questions with Kaylee Crossfire

Kaylee Crossfire | Photo by Jake Nueman

1. When did you discover music?

Music was around me at a young age. I was a tomboy growing up, so I feel like music for me would happen while hanging out with all my male cousins. They were always rapping and doing freestyle sessions. Me being the young one and wanting to fit in, I got into it. They would put on a beat and we would freestyle. That's where the rapping part of it came about.

The singing component happened in elementary school. I just found a picture of a birthday cake when I turned 10 with music notes. It's helping me remember that singing passion and music passion for me so young that my mom put that on this cake. In elementary I ended up in choir classes, then middle school. Middle school was interesting; in 6th grade my World Music teacher allowed me to record a demo for the first time. That was my first recording studio experience. I had my first experience of recording and actually hearing myself and he told me years later, that he used that demo for the class as a demonstration every year. That's so cute! It started from there.

2. Did you grow up in Milwaukee?

I grew up on the East Side. I remember my childhood on Booth and Clarke. When I turned 9 or 10, my mom moved to Wauwatosa. I was in Wauwatosa until 15, then we moved back to Milwaukee in the Washington Heights area. I currently live back in Tosa. I remember my childhood in multiple areas. I'm just a Milwaukee native for real. I've lived on every side of town.

3. What do you think of the music scene in Milwaukee?

The music scene in Milwaukee is cool -- it's diverse. I feel like I want someone from the city to take off and put us on the map. I don't think people really take us seriously here, or they don't check for us here. People who have had success here, could do more to make us known so people focus on here.

We do have amazing people from the city who have found success. When they find that success they leave and don't rep where they're really from; they rep the next city they move to or whatever is popular or trending. When I travel, people say they thought it was only beer and cheese and they didn't even know black people stay here. I hear this all the time.

We have dope people from here. I think the Milwaukee music scene is diverse, there are a lot of people here producing different sounds. I feel like the one artist from here that can get us known will open a Pandora's box of amazing people in Milwaukee.

4. Female Takeover is an event you produce. Could you tell me more about that?

Female Takeover, that's my baby. It's saying, "This is what someone can do for the community once you put your mind to it. This is how we can shine light on the female artists in the city." When it comes to Milwaukee as a whole, I feel they are not paying attention to us and even less they aren't paying attention to the female artists in the city. We don't get the recognition we really deserve here. That's where Female Takeover came about. Trying to create that awareness and shine a light on dope female talent to people in our city. It's grown from artist-based to showcasing hair designers, fashion designers, a wide range of dope female artists because there are so many talented ladies in the city; and not only that, how do we come together? How can the older, more established female artists help the newer and upcoming female artists? It doesn't have to be a competition, I feel like that's how it was when I came out as a female artist in Milwaukee. I felt like people didn't want us to coexist. That was my way of breaking that competition cycle. Let's all come together to do this for the greater good, because we can create a greater impact together.

I'm glad I can be that big sister, because I didn't have anybody showing me anything when I first started. I was out here fending for myself, trying to find a way. Like all of us. Don't be that one to hold information, if you can help somebody it's best to help. It lifts us all up.

Kaylee Crossfire | Photo by Champ Robinson

5. Backline has been supporting you in a similar way, can you talk about your experience?

Backline has been a phenomenal program for a lot of artists. When I got the info and signed up, I didn't think it would happen but I thought, "Let's just see." Then by the grace of god I ended up getting it and going through the process. Everything has been super phenomenal. Honestly, working with everyone at 88Nine and Backline really are giving us the dope connections and resources, they're helping us with mental health components, helping us through things to get us ready for the future. That's what I've taken out of the program. Everyone is going to come in and take out something different, but me, the mental health piece is really showing me and teaching me how to get through life with the issues and problems that were deeper, that could trigger something. I don't want to build this career only for it to crumble because I'm not equipped to deal with certain things. I feel like the program has equipped me there and the connections and resources will equip me in a different way.

Obviously having the funds to properly fund my career has been amazing, because I have been self-funding the whole time. Having the freedom to know how to handle this. That's a lot of stress too, wanting to get something done but you can't. Shout outs to Mag [Rodriguez] and Brian [Lynch], too. They've given great help and advice.

We just got together to discuss the rollout of my new project that I've been working on. New music coming soon, actually I will be dropping a single this month. I'm gearing that up, I have my EP I'm working on. These are things the program has been able to do for me. I have been able to work towards a whole new project. I'm getting my ducks in a row for that. I'm working on my EP, videos, photoshoot.

Doing this for Milwaukee artists is just phenomenal. That's the reason why a lot of artists leave the city, they feel like they don't have a lot of support and resources here. They leave the city in search of these things and I appreciate 88Nine and Backline bringing those things here. The goal is to keep artists in the city and all thrive together. Female Takeover and Backline all tie in together, I've been able to introduce a lot of artists to Backline who didn't know about it. These workshops they throw are super, super helpful and they're free! It's knowledge all artists should know. Even that's amazing. I appreciate they are trying to bring it here. I can't say anything other than "it's amazing." We need more things like this.    

My job now, being in the program is to let my community know. If you're serious about being an artist, these things are beneficial to you.

Kaylee Crossfire will release the single "Baddie Alert" on July 19, 2019

Watch the video for "Damn Daddy" by Kaylee Crossfire below:

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

You Should Know ZED KENZO

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milwaukee rapper zed kenzo

ZED KENZO, Photo courtesy of the artist

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: Go Psycho"
RIYL: aliens, hip-hop, Tumblr

Five questions with Zed Kenzo

1. Did you grow up in Milwaukee?

I grew up here. I was raised primarily on Milwaukee’s North Side, 26th and Chambers, 25th and Locust, 19th and Cortland, 58th and Villard, 7th and Vienna…

Did you go to a lot of different schools?

No, we moved a lot, but I only went to two schools. MSIS the Spanish immersion school for elementary and then I went to Milwaukee School of Languages for both middle and high school. So yes, I’m bilingual, I speak Spanish but I don’t really use it anymore. It’s still there. Don’t worry, I’m definitely going to incorporate more Spanish into my music.

2. What are your current musical projects?

I’m working on releasing my singles. Currently I’m working on new music, but I’m dropping an EP in April. That EP is going to be a collection of songs I’ve worked on since the summer, possible collaboration tracks. I want to make it a big deal. My birthday is in April so I want to tie those two together and throw a big party or something. I’m hoping people will want to come to that. People have been paying attention and listening to my music, so it’s exciting to put music out and know people are looking forward to it.

3. People might not know you produce a lot of your tracks. Do you produce all of your tracks?

I do produce all of them, but I do have a couple of songs on the EP and possibly one or two singles I didn’t produce. But for sure the EP is going to have some other production as well as mine. When I produce, no one can tell me what to do, I get all my money from it. It’s nice to have control, as a girl especially. Hip-hop, rap, the music industry in general—I like to have as much control as I can.

How did you get started producing beats? 

It started with me writing songs. I took myself seriously writing in middle school because I was classically trained in piano, composing songs at that time on the piano. That turned into me writing songs with lyrics and pairing with the piano.

Then I thought, “How do I make this easier and get this recorded instantly?” Then, the MacBook came out with GarageBand. Pretty much every producer got started on GarageBand at some point in their youth. I was making a lot of beats on GarageBand in college. Then, I moved to Ableton when my ex-boyfriend pushed me to take my music more seriously.

He said, “You’re really good, you should learn how to make beats on Ableton.” So, we sat down and did a little tutorial together. I’d say one of my first actually well-produced songs was “Linda Blair” back in 2015. I’d say that’s when I started actually learning how to make beats and get good at doing it.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

You Should Know OQ

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OQ by Kelly Anderson

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Song You Can Dance To"
RIYL: Irish folk music, David Byrne, nature meets a polyrhythmic industrial future-past

Five questions with OQ

1. Did you grow up in Milwaukee? When did you start making music?

I grew up outside of Milwaukee in Oconomowoc. That’s strangely enough how I met Cole [Quamme]. I grew up with Matt Pappas who is in The Fatty Acids with Cole. I was living in Portland and Matt and the band came out and stayed at the house with me and we hung out. Then, I moved back to Wisconsin after a few years and started the band Holy Sheboygan and we played some shows with Fatty Acids and that’s how this whole thing started.

I was writing music really young. My parents didn’t know what to do with me, neither of them were musicians. My mom had a friend who played for the Milwaukee Symphony, so I started going into Milwaukee for composition lessons when I was 11. My mom is a writer and my dad is a painter and also an engineer. They were artistic, just not musical. I was taking lessons and writing funny, thematic movie-music type stuff. The Milwaukee Symphony ended up playing one of them when I was 14.

2. How did you transition composing for the symphony to the indie-folk of Holy Sheboygan?

I was going to school for composition and by the time I was in school it was less movie music and more minimalist inspired like Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Steve Reich. That led me towards folk music. I love repetition, that stuff all comes out of pop and folk music. I’m always doing music, and it’s always a little different every time.

3. Listening to your EP, I feel like your album art does a good job of describing it—equal parts natural/organic and then you have this tangle of electrical cords with cement and grass.

It’s really Cole’s brainchild. Three years ago he started making these world beats and sent it out to a bunch of folk musicians around Milwaukee. It was originally going to be a compilation that he was going to put out as “Cole Quamme.” Everyone else flaked on him. He saw me at a Holy Sheboygan show and said, “I really want you to make a song to these beats.” So I took it home and within a month I sent him a completed song, which was the first song on the record. He was like, “I love this! Now we’ll just wait.” We waited a year. He was my neighbor so I said, “Hey dude, what’s up with that compilation?” He said nobody got back to him. Then we decided to just go for it ourselves. As we got deeper into the process, we realized it was a lot of fun.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

You Should Know Saebra & Carlyle

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Saebra & Carlyle

Saebra & Carlyle by Anna Rodriguez

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Burt Cocaine"
RIYL: garage rock, Shannon and the Clams, Ennio Morricone

Where to see them live:

Wednesday, January 23 at Cactus Club.

Five questions with Saebra & Carlyle

1. When did you get started in music?

Choir every year since sixth grade. I really like to sing, I really like music. When I was 21 I lived in California and somebody gave me an acoustic guitar and I just started messing around on it. I wrote my first song there and everything just came naturally. I played acoustic because I couldn’t find anyone to play with me, so I would say, “I just gotta do this by myself.” I have always liked writing, I've always like performing. I moved out to California to be an actress but nothing clicked. Finally, with music I get to use all those components that I love—creativity, performing… I love music so much.

I lived in California on and off since I got out of high school. I moved right at 18. I didn’t make it long, because it’s hard to make it out there if you don’t have a good support system, I was too young. My dad asked  me to leave the house because he was moving in with his girlfriend and I didn’t have anywhere to go. So I said okay, I might as well do what I want to do. Then I came back, then I moved back out there at 20. Then I came back for a man…

For the first time in my life, nothing gets in the way of music anymore which is nice.

2. What do you think of the Milwaukee music scene?

The Milwaukee music scene is equal parts amazing and frustrating. We’ve got a music scene—there is music all over the board here. A lot of great musicians doing amazing things. It’s also frustrating because a lot of the bills are male-dominated. I just want to bust up the bills a little more than they are. There’s so much female talent but it’s like, “Okay,  it’s an all-female bill.” But no, we need to bust up all the bills. Put all the names in a hat and draw them. Those should be the bills, a diverse mix. It gets tiring seeing all these dudes. We need to mix it up a bit. It doesn’t have to be the same people all the time. But that’s getting out there and knowing your music community, supporting each other. Me and Carlyle told each other if we do this, we’re going out to shows, we’re seeing what’s out there and supporting people in our community so we can receive that same support back. That’s what it’s about, it is a community.

Saebra & Carlyle at 414Live

3. If you could collaborate with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?

Oh, god… Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams. She’s the voice of our generation. On her first tour 10 years ago, I opened for her. Steve Look put on the show at a speakeasy venue where we weren’t really allowed to have music there, but we did anyway. I opened with my acoustic music and ever since then she’s been really cool with my music. Every time she comes into town she says, “I’ve got a guest spot for you.” She’s always the sweetest. She’s coming to Madison with her solo album which I think is the greatest thing to hit our generation.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

You Should Know Nickel & Rose

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Nickel & Rose by Amanda Mills

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Americana"
RIYL: folk, protest music, roots music

Where to see them live:

December 22 at Anodyne Coffee Roasters on Bruce St. with Sista Strings.

Five questions with Nickel & Rose

1. What were your early influences?

Johanna: Growing up, my dad always had Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Merle Haggard, Ernest Tubb, Lead Belly, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and other country/ folk/ blues playing throughout the house.  At the same time my uncles on my mother’s side were playing Summerfest and local clubs with their '80s rock bands. In high school I started going to punk shows. Now I probably listen to more of what my dad was playing, but I like a lot of different music.

Carl: as long as I’ve been playing music I have been exploring and enjoying just about every kind of music I could find. Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell made me want to write songs and Jason Becker made me want to practice guitar.

2. How do you describe Milwaukee to out-of-towners?

Carl: We tell people that there’s great music coming from Milwaukee but we don’t gloss over the negative parts of the city, or life in America. We make a point to talk about the good things but since we both grew up here, we understand that the city has some serious problems.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

You Should Know Mic Kellogg

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Mic Kellogg by Kali N Richardson

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Keep Lovin'," "Hideout," "Boathouse"
RIYL: hip hop, going "up nort," good vibes

Where to see them live:

See Mic Kellogg live at High Noon Saloon in Madison on Friday, December 7. Get more info here.

Five questions with Mic Kellogg

1. How did you get started in music?

I always had a love for music. How I got started on a more serious level, was right at the end of high school. I went to high school in Madison and I had this class called Hip-Hop Studies my senior year. It was the first hour of every single day. We would walk in and make beats, write music or just learn about hip-hop. It was pretty crazy. Our final was to put on a hip-hop show. Everyone produced their own songs. That’s when I got introduced to the production side of things. Pretty much every song I have out right now is also produced by me. I spend a lot more time on production that a lot of people know, actually. That’s one of my main loves, producing. I play the background part for a lot of different artists. That’s how I grew my own sound; I started making beats for all my friends that were around me. Slowly I started to shape what I wanted my beats to sound like.

I was doing hip-hop shows back then, but I wasn’t that serious about it. I didn’t have any music online. I shaped my producing craft for two or three years after high school. I moved out to Colorado right away and I was just a ski bum out in Breckenridge, CO. Working on music a bunch, but still not putting anything out. Finally, my friend Damien [Blue] lived with WebsterX in 2014. I knew Webster was about to put out a project and we didn’t really know each other, but I decided to move back to Milwaukee and pursue music more seriously. I lived with WebsterX for a year and Damien and we created and created. That kind of started everything for my first project, “Breakfast.”

2. Do you have a day job?

I do right now, I wait tables. It’s very flexible, I can take off when I need to and go in the studio or do shows. I’ve also done that my whole life, I grew up in a restaurant. My aunt has a restaurant in Madison.

So, "Breakfast" isn’t too far off 

No, it’s not too far off. Plus, my last name is Kellogg, so it’s always been a staple in my life. My dad has a big collection of vintage and antique Tony the Tiger things of that nature. I’m in my studio right now and I have a Tony the Tiger clock... it’s fun to get something with your name on it.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

You Should Know LUXI

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The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Stranger Things," "Yaaa Glitch"
RIYL: video games, Massive Attack, dreamy electronic pop

Where to see them live:

Album release show with Dashcam and Immortal Girlfriend on November 1 at 9 p.m. at Cactus Club

Five questions with LUXI

1. When did you start making music and when did you get into electronic production?

It's hard to pinpoint the exact time I started making music...I was very young when I started. My mother was a folk singer and guitarist, which was probably my first exposure to making music. I know I wrote my first sheet music around five years old because my mom (my grandma who raised me) recently found it in one of her cookbooks.

In high school, when I wanted to record my songs to be able to send them to friends, I started experimenting with different free programs on the computer. It eventually evolved into getting the next best program every couple of years. The next tool I used was GarageBand, then I found Logic and started using that, until finally landing on Ableton Live, which I've been using since 2011. Since then it's been a long evolution of just trying to get better and reach my full potential.

2. Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you.

I'm sure there's a lot, [laughs] but probably the biggest thing is that I was raised by my grandparents who I call mom and dad. I think it definitely shaped who I am as a person now and it helped teach me to be a more compassionate person. It's probably why I have the intense need to create and express myself.

3. Do you have a day job?

Currently I'm pursuing my art and music full time. Recently I opened a small online boutique and still haul my art out to the fairs during the summer. I also do small mixing projects for artists who find me online, so I've been able to piece together an income through multiple sources.

It took a long time to get there, my last place of employment was a sign company that I was doing design work for. I also used to work at a place doing vinyl decals on cars. I also previously worked at a video store and a roller skate rink.

When I was working full-time I worked 16 hour days or more. I'd work for eight hours at a job then come home and work for eight hours more on my own business and projects...for at least two years. It was intense. There were many days I'd go to bed completely depleted and wake up crying having to go to jobs that I didn't like. It was very unhealthy, but the work I put in has been worth it and I'm glad I did it. I'm very grateful to be where I am now and to be able to pursue my passions full-time.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

You Should Know Klassik

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The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Seasons," "Boogie," "Never Belong"
RIYL: hip-hop, R&B, Sylvan Esso

Where to see them live:

October 23 at Cactus Club with Oxymorrons (NYC) and Bonelang (CHI)

5 Questions with Klassik

1. How did you get into music?

Through my dad, he was the artist. He bought me my first saxophone. I played jazz all the way through high school. I was 11 when I started playing sax. My background is heavy in jazz, which I’m trying to get back into. I use it aesthetically and vibe-wise it always has that feel, but it definitely formed much of my sound and career.

You went to High School of the Arts, right? That place seems so cool…

Yeah, everyone asks, “Is it like ‘Fame’?” Kind of, actually… yeah. People were playing music in the hallway; dancers were dancing; artists were painting, rehearsing, singing in the cafeteria.

2. As an artist you work across disciplines – is that something you carry with you from that experience?

Absolutely. It’s a big reason why I try to be involved in as many youth programs and anything that has that kind of cross-pollination and exposure, because those opportunities I had when I was in school don’t even exist or are greatly diminished from what they were.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

You Should Know Amanda Huff

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Amanda Huff by Noah Witt

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: “Gravetalking," "Only in Dreams"
RIYL: Kate Bush, Strehlow, Angel Olsen

Where to see them live:

September 22, at 8 p.m. as part of the AlleyWayz Concert Series held in Black Cat Alley 2122 N. Prospect Ave.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

You Should Know Devil Met Contention

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Devil Met Contention frontman Ehson Rad has a distinctive mournful croon that is powerful, but also aches for something more. The band's new single, "Take a Chance," expands the Ennio Morricone leanings of its previous efforts with more texture and layers and leans more on studio effects and synths than their Americana tools of accordion and violin. You'll still find the roots rock influences of Springsteen, but with the help of producer Daniel Holter, the sound is cast in a more modern light. Which, according to Rad, is closer to what he's always envisioned for the group. While you may have recognized the group from their matching suits that suggested a throwback sound, they've cast them aside in favor of embracing the future.

Ehson Rad of Devil Met Contention by Kelly Bolter

The basics

Where they’re from: Milwaukee, WI
Songs you’ve heard on 88Nine: "Take a Chance," “Used to Be"
RIYL: Bruce Springsteen, pop-rock, David Bowie

Performing in Milwaukee:

You can see Devil Met Contention perform at Cactus Club on June 19 and at Summer Soulstice Music Festival on June 23.

5 Questions with Devil Met Contention

88Nine Radio Milwaukee