Words & Photos by Gregston Hurdle
…that’s why I do it, for them. Even people that don’t listen to hip hop they can listen to it and be like, “Wow hip hop is good, there’s actual artistry in hip hop, there’s actually artists out there who put some time and method into their music.”
Vulkan the Krusader is a character almost as enigmatic as his name. A self-described “medieval brute,” chivalrous, and valiant with a mantra of “Decadence and Class,” Vulkan emanates his aesthetic whether in conversation or in his music. Love, an ever-present theme in his songs and albums, looks to be his muse this time again. Exploring the tenets of love, its ups, downs, and ultimately its benevolent power, Vulkan takes inspiration for his latest project from the animé series “Robotech,” which culminates with a love song that proves to be the final blow in a dire attempt to preserve the chastity of the galaxy.
I met Vulkan outside at a quaint flat in Palm Beach, FL and was greeted with open arms and a full plate. Over a delicious Nicaraguan dinner we caught up and talked about New York, the city we both call home. Vulkan briefly recounted his past in the New York underground club and music scene. Old friends, new enemies, the current state and a hopeful vision for the future of rap. He also explained the focus being down in Palm Beach provides; a necessary solace he needs in order to get his latest project done. That latest project being VX-13 Do You Remember Love, a sonic roller coaster with features from Sean Price, frequent collaborator DJ Buttamilk, and a select few others. We sat down to discuss his influences and inspirations for the album all while listening to a preview of the animé space knight beats that create the next chapter of his opus to love, VX-13.
Mass Appeal: So off top, you have to explain this series you’ve been telling me about, “Robotech,” and how it helped to shape this new project of yours VX-13.
Vulkan: It’s called VX-13 because when I was little there was an anime called “Robotech.” It was the first anime I saw. It was like a drama. It implemented relationships with people and it was like a love triangle the whole time. It was this really sexy shit because these niggas was in these fighter planes that turned into robots and everyone wanted to fuck. All of them were really searching for love but the one thing they really loved was fighting those goddamned planes and killing . . . y’know, being the winner. My favorite plane was called the BF:1S – the “Skull Leader” – which is why sometimes you’ll see a skull in my artwork. That’s why the album’s title is what it is. VX-13; “V” is me, times 13 songs, and “Do You Remember Love” is the first movie of that series. They had a whole series of episodes, you can see it on YouTube if you want, and you’ll be fucking immersed in the world.
They basically put that whole series into one movie called “Do You Remember Love?” And if you watch “Do You Remember Love?” they fucking destroy the enemies with a girl that’s fucking part of that love triangle. She starts singing this song and the enemy gets like “What is this? Oh my God!” [That’s crazy] to me, that just exemplifies everything I am. When people think “Why is this nigga’s music so loved?” When I say “her” most times in my music, this is the underlining tone to it. When I talk about “her,” I’m talking about what Common Sense is talking about, talking about hip hop. I love her. I want to cherish her. I want to taste her. I want to make her feel good. And that’s what the music is, it’s basically based off that: I make music because I love hip hop. I’m not like a lot of hip hop artists who say they love it, but I think there’s a lot of financial gain to it or an image they sell and maybe just a machine behind them. For me, it’s complete devotion with no machine behind me. That’s where my music is coming from.
MA: That’s what made me gravitate to it because with regular rap shit, you talk tough like, “I’m doing this better than whatever, whatever,” but your joint, it was a real, like you were saying, it was a real relationship with the music.
V: Even when I listen to my stuff, I step out of my shoes and I’m like “What?” I’m still waiting for my big chance to get put out there on a grander scale. Because I feel that I have the same capabilities that Kanye West did when he first came out with those first three albums. I feel this is the first one that’s like that, in terms of the influence it could have if it’s put in the right places.
MA: One thing I like a lot about your music is how you piece together all of the references… you’ll throw in the anime, you’ll throw in a sports reference, or throw in an old movie reference, pop culture reference and it all ties together.
V: I just throw it in. For example, I put all the lyrics on Rap Genius before I release a song just so it could get a noise. I’ll break it down for you: “Word to Docky,” that’s a friend that I used to chill with. “I chilled with Whitney,” cuz I did. “I sniffed some Bobby,” when I used to do that. “Trained with Rocky,” which is a double reference you know, the boxer and the rapper and shit. “Top seat in the tournament,” I think I’m like the best nigga, if you rank me, “I’m trying to make that permanent, No one’s really heard this,” because I’m really a brand new MC, and “I’m changing up the current events, King Vizzer, the mightiest, the feistiest, and priciest. Diciest, veins iciest, but look how fucking nice he is” All that shit right there you will miss it if you don’t fucking pay attention. It’s really a tongue twister, that’s what I made it for. When I made this song I was like, “I’m going to tongue twist the shit out of my words and see if anyone could catch ‘em.” It would be like R.E.M’s “End of the World.” Have you ever heard that song? That’s the biggest tongue twister in the history of rap.
MA: Yeah . . . I think so.
V: Yo, Michael Stipe made one of the illest verses of all time. You could give that shit to Twista, and that shit is hard as fuck to rap. I tried to not make it that hard, but that was the purpose of this, I guess you could say, exercise. Verbal exercise.
MA: Another thing about your music, like, that diversity on one track. The beginning starts out with you melodically singing and the second half is rapid fire, just spitting your shit, man.
V: No one’s ever seen an artist. I don’t think so. Even me being a Spanish guy doing the shit I do. I know what I have, I hear it, because I listen to it myself every day, so I know it’s good. I’m very… You see on my Twitter, I’m always critiquing because I’m so critical of shit which leads me to be so critical of myself. That song took me over 40 takes.
MA: 40 takes, I feel like that’s kind of unheard of or rare. Why 40?
V: I like imperfections in my voice. Like, if I do it too perfect, I’m like “Nah” and I erase the take. Imperfections, to me, in someone’s voice like Macy Gray… I fucking love Macy Gray because she’s so imperfect when she does her music, and I saw a couple videos on YouTube how she was recording and, um, like my big influence with my singing is Depeche Mode, so that’s where I get all my melody from, from those guys. I hear the way they sing and I try to copy that to be honest. The guy on YouTube said, the fucking lead singer, “Don’t fucking worry too much when you record, just fucking do it and if it sounds good to you it doesn’t matter if it’s the best take, if it sounds good to you that’s all that matters,” and that’s the way I record.
MA: Word, I’m sure that same selectivity also carries over when you pick out your beats as well. Can you talk about that for a bit?
V: Yeah that’s another thing, when I pick beats I go for the most cinematic shit. Anything that reminds me of a movie, when you’re listening to me and you’re just witnessing a movie in your mind, that’s the type of shit I really fucking like. Beats that just make you visualize the scenery…this shit just does that.
MA: What’s your motivation for making music?
V: I do it for any hip hop listener. Even people that don’t listen to hip hop they can listen to it and be like, “Wow hip hop is good, there’s actual artistry in hip hop, there’s actually artists out there who put some time and method into their music. Even with my persona, which is like this medieval brute that I showcase, that’s kind of compelling in itself. Even being a Spanish man…
MA: What do you mean? Expand on that a little…
V: There are no ill Spanish people in hip hop…I don’t know who you’d consider…Bodega Bamz is not ill to me, just being real, he’s a good person and I met him and he’s real nice, but to me that’s not… it won’t cross boundaries. People always say, “Oh, you make music for the mainstream?” I’m like “Nah, I don’t think about the ‘block’ because the block doesn’t pay for hip hop.” The world pays for hip hop.
MA: Oh, okay. I see what you’re saying…
V: People that really appreciate music are not on your block. To me that’s my goal, is to transcend out of hip hop. Kind of have the influence that Kanye, Pharrell, those guys do because even production-wise I want to be that guy, like in ten years I want to be that producer, like, “Yo man, Vulkan the Krusader man…like ten years ago was fucking amazing!” “Where’s he at now?” “Oh he’s producing everyone’s shit, he’s making movies now.”