Kari Faux hasn’t even lived in Houston, the third-coast hub for hustlers and trunk poppers, for a year before leveling up. Last night, the Arkansas-born long-time indie rapper announced via Twitter that she’s launching her own record label, Lowkey Superstar, named after her most recent EP. “I’ve been doing music professionally for 10 years with no label support while taking huge financial/creative risks” she wrote, “so I said why not sign myself.”
Her recent Houston expatriation helped influence the push. “Just thinking about rap history here, from Rap-A-Lot to Swishahouse, it’s always like some imma do this shit myself type shit” she told The Daily Beast. But Faux’s been mulling over the decision for almost as long as she’s been a working artist. Eight years to be exact: “I’ve been doing this shit damn near by myself, I mean, of course I’ve had help but for the most part it’s been me tryna figure this stuff out.” The arc of Faux’s career has been defined by intuition and experimentation. And that was both by design and for her own survival in the music world.
As often as her music holds the ear-wormy character of what some would call “internet rap,” the descriptor has always been a misnomer. What Faux has showcased over the course of her career is an equal measure of self-awareness and fun that elides many hip-hop heads who might view their career in bursts, pushing her to make songs that, while catchy, are still narrative-driven, grounded in a down-home Southern thump, with variations on melody and topicality as the music calls. That’s why she can go from rapping about making that ass “bounce like Spalding” on her 2014 breakout smash “No Small Talk” to basking in the glory of solitude on her 2019 soul-leaning single “Leave Me Alone” from her most lucid record, Cry 4 Help.
And though she’s been a bit hesitant to dial into her network of equally artistic contemporaries, on her upcoming deluxe album—an extension of the quick and colorful Lowkey Superstar EP she put out in April 2020—she’s looking to take advantage of her bustling Rolodex with JID, Smino, Jazz Cartier, and Yung Baby Tate already announced as collaborators. “I’m pullin’ in the features for this one. People really f-ck with me.”
Something clicked during the pandemic, though: the realization that the standards and expectations placed on artists aren’t just dehumanizing, they aren’t in the hands of artists—even indies like Faux. “The pandemic took the veil off of this shit, on some Wizard of Oz shit. The pandemic really pulled the curtain back and we were like, ahh bruh y’all been tellin’ us we had to do this shit. Like, think: I put out Lowkey Superstar last April, it’s been a year and a half since I put the shit out. But to me, I’ve had moments where I been scared to put out another project so late because now the industry standard is to put out a deluxe like a week after that shit come out. In the ’90s n****s was putting out a deluxe a year and a half later. So who is actually saying that this is the way this has to be done? It’s all bullshit as long as you have your audience, whether that’s a cult following or you have a few listeners here and there, depending on where you are in your career. But it’s like, are you doin’ this shit because you want your peers to acknowledge you or are you doin’ this because you want to feed the people that f-ck with you and putting money in your pocket?”
It’s taken a decade for Faux to grow into a complete artist, and she’s still in the midst of her evolution. The slow-ish burn has proved instructive to her outlook on enlisting other artists under the Lowkey Superstar banner, starting with herself and naturally, gradually moving outward. “What I’m tryna do now is use myself as a guinea pig,” she says when asked about how she plans to recruit others to the Lowkey Superstar, “to gain the resources to shine a spotlight on another artist.”
The new label is part and parcel to Faux becoming much more methodical about the next era of her career. “This is about me intentionally taking my artistry seriously because I know it seems like, oh Kari you’ve always taken it seriously, blah blah. But I don’t think I’ve always been extremely intentional as far as the bigger picture. With each project I know what I’m tryna do but with an overarching theme, I haven’t been. There’s a throughline with it because everything I do is authentic to who I am, but have I been thinking about taking it from point A to whenever the f-ck? No.”
She’s going to be patient, as she has always been, working on the peripheries that ultimately become central to the culture. “I wanna take my time with this shit. I’m not jumping to bring in other people or sign them into anything. I wanna take my time and build resources to help somebody else. That’s the most important thing to me right now,” she says resolutely. “I don’t have it right now but I definitely feel like I’m onto something. I’m reaching a prosperous time in my life because I’m okay with who I am. I’ve reached the point where I know what the f-ck I wanna do and what I wanna say, so I might as well stamp this shit.”