Pain and Perseverance are pillars to the story of Koran Streets. The Berkeley, CA rapper has seen a lifetime's worth of tribulations and he's only in his late 20s. While a big part of Koran's story revolves around tragic events that resulted in severe burns over the majority of his body, Koran has found ways to channel his pain into poetry.
Koran Streets is now back to tell more East Bay stories on his second album, Late 20s. Looking for authentic street music over classic west coast production? You know he got it. We caught up with Koran right before the release of Late 20s to get more insight into his life now, the genesis of his acting career, and channeling the ills of the East Bay into multiple creative outlets. Read the full interview with Koran below.
Ones To Watch: Tell me about your first rap alias Killa Ron.
Koran Streets: He was Impressionable and longing to fit in. He was also head first in the street and angry.
What are you grateful for?
I'm grateful to be alive. I've been in so many situations where I could have lost my life and had to fight for my freedom. It's taken so much for me to just be here so I'm grateful for life itself.
Besides being burned in a fire as a kid, what were some of the things you faced growing up in Berkeley that shaped the person you are today?
I was always poor. I didn't grow up with money or a consistent sense of security. I didn't always know where I was going to sleep every night. So the shit that tested me at a young age was robbing. Pimping and gun violence, among many other bad things, are prevalent in the East Bay where I grew up.
Was music a form of therapy for you?
I've been rapping since I was nine years old - like really rapping and understanding how to construct songs. So my love for it is probably different than a lot of people rapping now. As I progressed and watched the industry progress, I saw that people were really out here making money so I wanted to combine making money and loving the art. When I was younger, I didn't understand it was therapeutic to me. My first solo song was "block music." I was 15 years old and rapping about being in the shelter. As I got older, I realized it was therapeutic every time I dropped something. I was taught that rapping was telling your story and that's what I've been doing. I don't understand how people go in the studio and make shit up. That's not how I do it. I've been through a lot. I sold dope because I didn't have any money and yeah I slept on the floor sometimes because I had a big ass family but those are true stories.
How did you get into acting?
I've been acting since I was seven years old. My mother runs the only African-American theatre in northern California called the Law Abiding Players. She's been doing it since 1990. She takes old plays and modernizes them and put me in them so I learned how to act very early on.
How does acting affect your approach to music?
I'm a student of the game. I used to watch videos like Mariah Carey's "Honey remix" video. I loved cinematic videos like that so when I started acting, I started to understand cinema. I realized that I didn't want to make videos with 30 dudes on the corner surrounded by women and an eight of weed (laughs). I want to bring back videos that have a beginning, middle, and end. I want to tell stories.
What's one of the biggest life lessons you've learned now that you're in your late 20s?
Don't wait on anybody. I was in groups before and I was always waiting on everybody else to do a verse, show up to perform, etc. After a while, I realized that I was the talent and when I stopped waiting on people. Things started to take off.
Lastly, who are some artists from the Bay you're listening to?
Caleborate, Rexx Life Rajj, and ALLBLACK
We're fans of Koran Streets here at Ones to Watch and with Late 20s being out, we wanted to recommend 5 must-hear songs off of the project:
This is an honest depiction of street life. From production to lyrics, the texture is dark but feels oddly comforting.
The intro draws you into a subtle west coast vibe. Koran narrates the daily routines coming live from the dope spot.
This is another laid-back west-coast vibe that's meant to be aspirational. Take the lessons in this song if you want to survive in the East Bay.
"Everything I got, I got it in the streets"
"Rock The Party"
This is a west coast banger to be played at an extremely loud volume in the car.
If you liked those songs, you can listen to the full Late 20s album below.