K-Rino is far from being the most famous rapper in Houston. He sure isn’t the richest. You can still find him in the same hardscrabble South Park neighborhood where he’s always been, and he’s got no plans to move. For the past 30-plus years, K-Rino has had to get by instead as the most respected rapper in Houston. Unparalleled in his lyricism, independence and old-fashioned truth-telling, the Houston Music Hall of Famer known as “The Wizard” takes a backseat to no one in the talent department. He first made his name slicing and dicing fools with the rhymes in the hallways of Sterling High back when rap barely had a name. Then, he just never stopped.
Never even slowed down; if anything, he’s accelerated. You see, K-Rino also happens to be the most prolific rapper in Houston. At last week’s count, he had 30 albums of original material to his name. This week, he dropped seven more.
Yes, on the same day.
Is it a world record? I’ve never heard of anyone doing it before. Can’t say I even considered the possibility. And to hear K-Rino tell it, that was mostly the point.
“I’m an underground artist,” the rapper says. “I don’t have any major-label backing; I don’t have major marketing and promotion or a machine behind me like that. My goal as long as I’ve been in it is to try to think of what I can do that has never been done in music, period, regardless of the genre. My first idea was, ‘I’m going to drop 100 songs at one time on iTunes’ or something like that.”
He set to work, but 100 songs proved a tall task, even for a crazy person like K-Rino. He “settled” on 84 songs, instead, which fit neatly into seven albums — a number that appealed to his spiritual instincts. This week, he put them out, setting a high bar to clear for the next guy to try a stunt like this.
If anybody else can.
“I’ve been going around asking different people, and nobody’s been able to come up with any artist that’s done that many,” K-Rino admits. “Just to be honest, I think that if it has happened or if it was to ever happen after I do it, it would pretty much have to be an underground or independent artist. Major labels are not even going to allow an artist to do that. They want to drop an album, nuke that album, promote it, market it, and do all that. So, if it ever happened, I think it would be an underground guy that would do it.
“So, here we are,” he adds.
Getting here took a while. K-Rino doesn’t mess around with his music. He didn’t just lay down a bunch of freestyles and call it seven albums.
“I would suggest and prefer that people listen to them in order, simply because I have some continuations of previous stories that I’ve done over the years,” K-Rino says. “I’ve got a saga that I’ve been messing around with for almost ten years now, and the continuation of those stories take place on three of the albums. So if you were to skip and go to seven or five before you did two or three, it would throw you off the storyline, if you’re familiar with it — which a lot of my fans are.”
Most of those fans are familiar with the Wizard’s writing process, too. Every rhyme he spits on record is thoughtfully written out ahead of time, and K-Rino scribbles down a whole album (or two) before he records it. This time out, he planned out and wrote down seven records’ worth of material before he stepped inside the booth, and he didn’t hurry, either.
“In December 2015 I started, and I was writing all the way up to as late as September, still putting songs together and tweaking stuff,” he says. “It took almost a year to put the whole thing together.”
Might take a year to fully digest it, too. K-Rino has a lot to say about a lot of different topics. From the rap game to the political game, from love to war, and from a street education to the teachings of the Nation of Islam, K-Rino recorded the news the way only he can. Down there in South Park, inspiration has never been hard for him to find.
“I think that an artist has to be very observant of their surroundings, to always be tuned into topics,” he says. “You have to always be concept-oriented. If your antenna’s up, you can see stuff that other people don’t catch. I think that’s what happens with me.”
As he focused on consistency, album after album emerged from his notebooks: Universal Curriculum. Conception of Concept. Enter the Iron Trap. The Wizard’s Ransom. American Heroes. Welcome to Life. Interventions. They’re all available now on iTunes, or you can hit up K-Rino himself on Twitter for a copy. Don’t be shy; his handle is @TheRealKRino, and he’s got 37 albums to hustle.
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The rapper says he’s got plans for a listening party for the new stuff at some point — even then, it’s probably not feasible to get through all seven discs in a go. It’s only slightly less impossible-sounding than recording and releasing them all.
“Somebody asked me the other day, ‘What if somebody sees what you did and decides to come out with eight or nine?’” K-Rino says, laughing. “I say, they can have it! This kicked my butt, just doing it. It was the biggest challenge that I’ve ever placed upon myself. I almost quit two or three times.
“This will probably be my crowning achievement as an artist, creatively and work-wise, unless something else comes along,” the Wizard adds. “But I won’t ever try anything like this. If I top this, it will be in another form of music. It will be something else I do.”
Don’t think he won’t try.