Interview 4080 - Kipp Stone on Cleveland, the Power of the Internet, and his Biggest Influences

Words by Frank Fernandez

For the next installment in the series, Interview 4080, I sat down with East Cleveland's own Kipp Stone. Since signing with Closed Sessions last December, Stone has continued to drop heat and represent for his hometown, while also remaining fairly unknown to fans of Chicago hip-hop. That shouldn't last long, as Stone seems destined for big things. I talked with him about being a part of Closed Sessions, making bangers with substance, and why people hate on Cleveland. 

It’s clear that East Cleveland, where you grew up, has had a big influence on your music and style. Can you tell me about that and what kind of role it’s played?

It would probably be the fact that I grew up there and I loved living there so much that I didn’t even realize it was the hood. I saw a lot of shit growing up, but I never really questioned it until I got into high school. That was when I first realized like, “Damn, this is some real shit going on out here.”

Do you think that Cleveland doesn’t get enough appreciation from the hip-hop world, or really just the world in general?

I definitely don’t think Bone Thugs N Harmony get enough love. That’s one of, if not the most, influential rap groups ever and I don’t think they get the national or worldwide respect they deserve. As far as Cleveland though, we don’t really have our own sound, so it’s hard to get noticed above the rest of the industry.

What about just the city of Cleveland? Outside of the Cavaliers winning the Finals this year, it seems like Cleveland has always been seen as a down on its luck city, do you think there’s any truth to that?

Yeah, it’s definitely like that… most definitely. Not that I’m trying to shit on the city I love, but it’s absolutely like that. People who live in the city feed off that ‘down on my luck’ type shit and just have a loser’s mentality, it’s pretty terrible. I did an interview not too long ago and I told them that I’m trying to put a face to Cleveland, and someone commented “We already got three losing teams, and a shitty this and a shitty that” like damn dude, that’s really how you going to be? That’s just how a lot of the people are, so I’d say there’s truth to the down on our luck mentality.

You mentioned Bone Thugs, but who are some other artists, old and new, who influence you and your music?

I really just be looking to people my age to influence me. Obviously, Eminem is the reason that I started rapping in the first place, so he’s a big one to me. Young Dro I’d say is my second biggest influence, he’s a beast. Then I’d say a lot of people in my age bracket and level of stardom, not necessarily inspiring me, but motivating me to make myself better.

You dropped Late Xmas back in March, and since then I know you’ve been talking about a project titled The Grand Design, is that still in the works?

We on and off with it, you know what I’m saying? We haven’t necessarily decided on a name or a release date or anything like that, but right now, we’re just building. I’m trying to keep making banger after banger after banger and then try to put together a cohesive project from all that.

What is it like to be part of a label Closed Sessions with so much young talent that you have to work with?

It’s dope! It’s a lot like what I have back in Cleveland with L.I.F.E, it’s essentially the same thing. We don’t have the same prestige as a Closed Sessions, but I’ve always been a team player. When I came over here it was just like, this is cool as hell.

How do you feel about the internet and its ability to allow anyone to share their music? Do you think it’s really helped you spread your music?

Yeah, a dude that don’t get no spins on the radio, a lot of people might look at that like “Aw man, you ain’t never going to make it unless you get on the radio.” Now, the internet is bigger than the radio, so I’ve never really sweat it. However, it’s a blessing and a curse. Some stuff slips through the cracks and you just have to listen to some stuff for what it is. Some things are temporary and some are meant to stick around forever, but despite what people listen to and what they may say, people know who will have longevity in the rap game. A lot of people in it could be doing some illegal shit if they weren’t making music, so even if you aren’t making the best shit, at least they aren’t out here knocking people over.

You mentioned before how you make bangers, but your songs also have a lot of substance to them. How do you find that balance between the two, since it seems most ‘popular rap’ focuses a lot on turning up with no real meaning behind the music?

You know, it’s like I said before, it’s all about what people like to listen to. I listen to some of the turn up stuff to party and shit like that, you know. The fact that he [points toward producer Blokhead Johnny] just makes slappin’ ass, bangin’ ass beats and I got something to say and can rap, it just kind of comes naturally. It’s nice to have that kind of charisma, you know, where I can just blackout and throw some gems in there like some real lyrics. That way people can hear it and turn up, but also get something from it. It’s the perfect balance.

When people hear the name Kipp Stone, what do you what them to think of?