K-$ on Queer and Coloured Representation Plus the Value of Self-Love
K-$, real name Kalo Canterbury, is a Cape Town based DJ, activist and style muse who also works in artist management. Dubbed as the Yaadt King, K-$ has quickly made waves as a DJ, not only in Cape Town but in other major South African cities. His distinct style and personality has made him an internet sensation, also recently making him the pick as Young and Lazy's style muse for the brand's SAFW collaboration with Woolworths Re-denim.
Other than your upbringing, what else has cultivated your interest in pursuing a career in music as a DJ as well as working in artist management at Black Major?
Just my overall love for music. I’ve always played instruments and had a love for a broad range of genres. When it came to DJing… I guess I was frustrated that there wasn’t someone who looked like me, identified like me, spinning the kind of music I like the way I like, until I realised that I could be that person, you know? I guess I just wanted to see someone that represented the same things I do making the jol rik, not just your typical cishet men from the “DJ Boys Club” that seemed to have a hold on clubspace for so long. In terms of working in artist management, I never thought to pursue it until my homie (now colleague too) Jakobsnake suggested I complete my internship there when I was doing my postgrad in marketing. I loved the team and the work we did together and I ended up sticking around and becoming a part of the family.
You opened up about your identity as queer a few years ago and then transitioned as a trans male, last year, what has been the most challenging part of your journey? And what would your advice be to someone on a similar path to finding their authentic selves?
Yeah, I’ve always been queer, but came out when I left high school. Then I came to terms with myself as a beautiful bouncing transboi and had to come out again and socially transition, and although no one should HAVE TO come out, I felt it necessary to do so for representation. The most challenging part is definitely having to face constant misgendering and hate from bigoted naaiers. It’s hard to not stoop to the level of your aggressors, but we gotta just wys and keep it moving… There is so much more love than hate. My advice to everyone is just to be honest with yourself as much as possible, and once you’re comfortable in your truth, don’t be shy to show it to the world. Your journey is no one else's and you have a responsibility to yourself to be happy. Fuck what other people think.
What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions that society has about trans people?
There are SOOOOOOOO many, but I’d say the biggest one is that all trans people want to “pass” or conform to boring cishet standards. Nah fam.
You are quite vocal about coloured representation, why is it important to you?
My whole life I’ve watched first hand how coloured people struggle with identity. I feel like in the past, ever though we are such a diverse community, that diversity wasn’t highlighted enough to the point where some of us are okay conforming and being reduced to stereotypes and that’s upsetting. I want coloured people to embrace our diversity and celebrate it for ourselves and realize we are important, and we can be anything and everything.
And do you feel that coloured identity and culture is represented enough in South African society? Or are young people such as yourself still trying to carve out spaces and representation for yourselves and others?
Not yet, I think we have a long way to go. There’s a lot of internal shit coloured people have to work out amongst ourselves, bring to light all the problematic shit. But yeah, I do feel like the homies are really carving out those spaces, and I want to make sure that I can be someone other trans kids and young artists in our community look up to, the way I look up to my friends doing the most for brown, queer and trans representation.
Your DJ sets promote a specific genre of music called Yaadt music, please elaborate on the genre and where its name originates from and what type of sounds encompass the genre?
My DJ sets are in a place of evolution at this point, I’m trying a lot of new shit in my spare time and getting to a point where they simultaneously educate and entertain, and where the education is just as gripping as the entertainment part, but yes… I am the Yaadt King. I’ve always said Yaadt is an umbrella term used to describe various subgenres of music… Mostly house like Chicago house, New York house, some commercial classics, but not always. It’s a sound that you feel. If you are a POC you’ll understand. That’s my impression of it, but that’s also open to interpretation. I don’t think it has a specific origin story, but I have my own myth when it comes to the name. The popular track “Work” by Masters at Work ft. Puppah Nas-T and Denise is a quintessential yaadt song, and the opening lyrics are “I want to you to take your broom and sweep my yard”... Yard = yaadt. Plus how I grew up… That’s the kind of music you’d play in your yard on a Saturday for a house party. You know?
What does 2018 have in store for K-$?
I have a tour coming up with my friend DJ Doowap, some big shows, more cool merchandise, more transparency regarding my transition, more amazing music. My best friend Luke Bell Doman recently came on board as part of my management and he’s a creative powerhouse, and we both have big ideas so expect general cool shit coming from K-$. Looking at some dope collaborations that I’ve been wanting to work on for a while with other friends too. And obviously, more of me being outrageously good looking
You are a self-taught DJ, what is your advice in creating a sustainable career as someone who is self-taught? And what do you attribute your ongoing growth and success to?
Being self-taught cuts out the middleman. It gives you freedom to explore and create your own understanding of your craft that isn’t typical, and also gives you a certain responsibility to do things yourself. In this DIY generation, I think it’s gonna be the norm more and more with the unlimited amount of resources the internet provides us with. So my advice is just stick to your guns every step of the way with that same hunger you had starting on the learning process. That’s what still fuels and inspires me.
Your online persona is often described as braggadacious and overtly confident, how instrumental has it been in growing the K-$ brand and do you feel that it has helped or hindered the growth of your brand?
Good. Because that’s what I am. I know people have always seen it as a persona, and I have too, but it’s really just the part of my personality that exploded when I finally found the confidence to be myself. I really struggled with self-love as a queer teen not really knowing where I fit it, until I realised I never will fit in… And how dope is that? That no one will ever come close to being ME. That self-love and confidence grows everyday and why shouldn’t I brag about and embrace everything I am? I’m a talented and gorgeous Daddy and wow I’m gorgeous. I just want others to fuck with themselves as hard as I fuck with me. I don’t think it will ever hinder the brand because at the core of everything I do is love. Love for me, love for music, love for all things dope, love for you xx
Photography: Svenja Trierscheid
Interview: Phendu Kuta