By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
The members of BLKHRTS — FOE, Karma and Yonnas Abraham of The Pirate Signal — are blazing into the new year with the same fervor and furor that drives their individual careers. The project has great cohesion, which isn't too surprising, considering the three MCs have frequently featured on each other's tracks.
Leaks of early tracks from BLKHRTS' brand-new EP, BLK S BTFL, as well as highlights from The Pirate Signal's latest release, received great reception and gave the masses a taste of what to expect. But Abraham says that the BLK EP is where the audience will be able to fully grasp the sound of BLKHRTS: hip-hop with veins of goth, minus the pretense that generally accompanies the latter. Taking Karma's gritty tone, FOE's dizzying rap lyrics and Abraham's futuristic beatmaking and rapping, BLKHRTS is charting fairly unmarked territory in hip-hop.
On the eve of its release show this weekend, we chopped it up with Abraham about the significance of spelling changes in the group's moniker and how each member's strength is proof positive that really good rap groups do, in fact, exist.
Westword: BLKHRTS has evolved over the past year. In what ways?
Yonnas Abraham: Well, it's still pretty much the same people — me and FOE and Karma — but also Catch Lungs; he's also included. There's sort of like a triangle, if you will, and a family sort of thing, and Catch is next in line.
Why the change in the spelling of the name?
The Twitter got set up that way, and I just thought, you know, that's cool, and I like the way it looks, and the idea of a black heart is not particularly the most original thing in the world. Joan Jett, for instance, has a record label called Blackheart Records. There's black hearts everywhere. I had to do something to differentiate, right out the gate. I just took out the three vowels and the consonant.
What can we expect from the consortium of BLKHRTS?
The EP, it's only six songs, but I think there's something that's kind of expected of us from the two songs we've put out, with the heavy-metal influences, loud guitars and things like that. There's a couple other textures I wanted to explore with these three voices. It's weird, because a lot of these songs may come across as pro-black because of, you know, "Black Is Beautiful" and "In Heaven, Everything Is Black," but it's not about race. We're not talking about race; we're talking about our hearts. This is an aesthetic. I wanted that same aesthetic to come across with those song textures.
What do FOE and Karma bring to the group that supports that aesthetic?
I think just being super great rappers who are willing to try new things, and that's the dopest thing about them, because they're in a different context than they normally may be. Their energy is grounded, because it validly mixes things from here and things from there — this line we're straddling — and it helps ground my own need to pull them into these different concepts. At the end of the day, it's just a really great rap group. They're really good rappers, and it's a really good rap group, first and foremost.