Rising to the surface

CX Kidtronik's first offering was a long time coming and worth the wait

November 30, 2006|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun Reporter

CX Kidtronik has been part of the underground hip-hop scene long enough to be certified vintage.

Since starting out as a DJ in 1985, he has cut tracks and performed with and DJed for a number of artists, including poet/rapper Saul Williams.

But until this year, the veteran Atlanta producer and DJ had never released a solo album of his own songs. His frantic, dirty debut KraK attacK, which dropped in May, pays tribute to one of the byproducts of women's low-rise jeans - not the drug.

"The K-R-A-K," Kidtronik said in a phone interview from Pittsburgh. "The iller thriller - the killer. It's the divine line. It's the new cleavage, it's official. I had to salute it - someone had to."

Most of the album tracks are straight '80s. Kidtronik made most of the songs with old drum machines, keyboards and digital sound effects that sound like they belong in early arcade games. He shies away from laptops - both in the studio and live.

"I keep it knobs and buttons," Kidtronik said. "I don't like computers - they break way too easily. If a drum machine breaks [during a live show], it will probably sound pretty good. That will be part of the music. If a laptop breaks, there will be silence."

One of the reasons Kidtronik waited so long to release an album of his own was the way the songs kept sounding coming out of the studio. He and cohort High Priest came up with the concept as far back as 2000, he said.

Over the years, he's said he's spent plenty of time trying to re-create the sound of his home demos and live shows in big studios across the country but could never fully capture the feeling.

To make KraK attacK, Kidtronik laid down beats at home, burned them onto a CD and took it to a studio where he and other MCs would rap over top of it.

Hooking up with the right record label was also a struggle. Kidtronik was supposed to record KraK attacK for High Priest's label Antipop, but it fell apart before he had the chance. Kidtronik wound up releasing the album for Sonic Ink over the course of a year and a half.

Sonic Ink gave Kidtronik free studio time, and he used it in short sessions - once a week for about four hours. Some of the songs have been around so long they're already starting to wear on him, he said.

"It is a lot of old stuff," Kidtronik said. "Some of it's painful. I don't like some of it because it's so old and down-tempo."

Kidtronik said he has already started tinkering with new tracks for a follow-up album that he tentatively calls KracKer JacK 2: BacK KraK with a Vengeance. He plans to play at least one song at tonight's performance at Sonar.

"I've got this crazy new crocodile hunter song called `Irwin's Not Merlin,' which I'll be doing at the show," he said. "It's a monster. It's a monster."

A cover of the Nine Inch Nails song "Mr. Self Destruct" will also be on the album, Kidtronik said.

"When I was on tour with Nine Inch Nails, they would open up with that, and it would blow my mind," Kidtronik said.

Kidtronik and NiN founder Trent Reznor are collaborating on the track and on others for Saul Williams' new album. After he finishes the tour with Zion I, Kidtronik will join Williams in Australia for New Year's Eve - where he will not play "Irwin's Not Merlin."

"I will be keeping that on the DL," Kidtronik said.

Usually, Kidtronik's live shows are anything but toned down. When he plays the single "Big Girl, Skinny Girl," he puts on a mask made from a KraK attacK T-shirt and sometimes saunters into the crowd for some mayhem.

"I've never washed it," Kidtronik said. "It's not white anymore, it's kind of yellow. But I only wear it for one song, man. It gets hot."

CX Kidtronik opens for Zion I tonight at Sonar, 407 E. Saratoga St. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door. Call 410-327-8333 or go to sonarbaltimore.com.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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