The Kundalini Kids Collective
When we began speaking with Durty Chin (also known as Lil Durt, and Jabari English), we thought Kundalini Kids might be just like other rap groups—that is, that it might simply be a group of rappers who enjoy performing and writing together. It quickly became clear that Kundalini is much more nuanced than that.
“Kundalini houses a bunch of independent artists and groups. It’s more of an umbrella than one specific group,” English says. Active artists currently under this umbrella include Durty Chin, Poet Spitta (Kory Bruister), J3 (Jordan Jamal Johnson), and Xanni (Zachary Ryan.) And aside from their rap chops, each artist in the group has multiple—and might we add, very impressive—skill sets. Some members write lyrics, some produce beats, some are in charge of sound engineering; the list goes on. One of the purposes of forming Kundalini was to give each of the members more opportunities to use these skills and collaborate. “If there’s one thing about Kundalini, everyone has made music all by themselves at some point,” English tells us. Bruister agrees: “With all of us coming from different places, it allows us to be really versatile with our sound.”
Back when The Tron Collective had a dedicated space, the Kundalini Kids spent much of their time there. The Tron house was a multi-purpose space where artists could explore basically any project they wanted to, and having that kind of environment was inspiring. The house was essentially the birthplace of Kundalini.
“We were all making music independently," English says. "So we thought, why not do it in the same space?” The way he describes the house’s atmosphere is almost as romantic as something out of the distant past: when the group was there, someone might get in a recording booth, someone would hit record, and if that person got distracted with a different project, they might just leave the room. The place was full of spontaneity and possibility. Although Kundalini is a little more organized now, that spirit was very important to the group in the beginning. The way English tells it, “Someone could be in the other room painting, someone making a song in the other room, someone taking pictures—it was just a big creative space.”
Despite the fact that the Kundalini Kids no longer have access to a shared collaborative space, the group has stayed close. It helps that everyone under the group’s umbrella has known one another for a very long time. English met Johnson years back when they were coworkers. At the time, English was just producing beats, and even though they were both musically inclined, they didn’t work together at first.
“I was living in my homie Stephen’s living room…I was distraught. I had just dropped out of UNT,” Johnson says. But Johnson got back on his feet, and about a year later, English made some beats for one of Johnson’s tracks. Bruister and Johnson are childhood friends, and Johnson pitched the idea for a collective to Bruister. “He called me and asked would I like to start a group with this young talented producer and artist, and of course I was down for it,” Bruister says. The group met Ryan before Oaktopia a couple of years back and they hit it off. At some point, everything just clicked. Kundalini was born.
Each group member’s sound is a little different, as everyone cites different influences and inspirations. Bruister’s initial inspiration came from his brother, who was an artist in California who rapped with their uncle. “They taught me how to write my metaphors and how to tell a story,” Bruister explains. He looks up especially to 2Pac, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Nas, and NWA, among others. Johnson is influenced by rock and new wave hip-hop and listened to Lupe Fiasco and Andre 3000 a lot when he was younger.
English excitedly rattles off several names: Tyler the Creator, A$AP Rocky, Famous Dex, and more. He really admires Gucci Mane’s collaborative spirit—“Your favorite rapper is probably on a track with Gucci Mane and you don’t know it,” he points out. Johnson describes Xanni’s beats as being “the lowest, volume-wise,” but that doesn’t detract from their fuzzy, almost psychedelic power—Xanni does some truly innovative things with sound bytes and effects. (For your listening pleasure, we’ve embedded Kundalini’s collaborative SoundCloud page below. You really should listen to everything they’ve got on there.)
The group has some truly admirable—and lofty—goals. The first is for everyone under the umbrella to become successful in their own right. “Jordan wants to become a show host. Like he wants to have a hosting company and be able to put on bigger shows,” English explains. The group has put on shows in the past with Gitmo and Monocle, but less recently since so many of those groups’ members are now involved with Oaktopia and other pursuits. Kundalini wants to revive that. English says that each of the members has now completed at least one major project from start to finish, which is also commendable—Johnson even recorded a music video, called “Mortal Love,” a few days ago in Denton. Bruister is getting ready to release a project he’s calling “Little Weapon.” For English’s part, he wants to get to a point where he’s making all of his money in music production. “I just want to make beats,” he says.
Kundalini’s biggest goal is much more complex, and a pretty big undertaking: several members have designs on completely changing the Denton rap scene. English feels very strongly about this. “I think the state of rap music and contemporary art in Denton needs a reform. We have all these venues dying, and even before the venues were dying, a lot of them were hesitant about putting on the kinds of shows we were putting on in the past. Crazy stuff would happen. I think with all of that being said, there’s potential for a new golden era.” He reminisces on Denton’s rap scene and what it was like just a few years ago: “I remember when Blue, The Misfit. was playing out in Denton. It was a totally different environment. Gitmo and Wild Bill, Pudge [Brewer], Ritchy Flo—they were really putting on for the city.” But English also thinks that it’s time to make way for a new wave of people. “There’s a new rapper or artist in Denton every day. Those people deserve to play a show out here, to know where you can go play a show.”
Although not everyone in Kundalini still lives in Denton, it’s close to the collective’s heart. English is grateful to call Denton his home and credits the place with helping him grow his art. He is originally from New York, and if there’s one thing he misses about the city, it’s the power of the underground scene there. He describes a secret Lil Yachty show he attended a few years back: the line wrapped all the way down the street and around a city block, and when the rapper showed up, the crowd took over the streets completely. “People were going crazy, standing on top of cars. And this is an underground artist,” English says with a smile. We can’t argue with the allure of that kind of energy—and the possibility of similar outcomes in Little D.
Make sure you catch Kundalini at Oaktopia when they perform September 23rd at The Labb.