I was an hour late meeting NYC rapper Kahiem Rivera at Bushwick cocktail bar Left Hand Path. But it turned out my timing was perfect. As I sent apologetic emails and cursed the MTA, Rivera was on the phone with his manager finally confirming the release of his debut album.
“It’s actually good you were late, I just got off the phone with my manager before you came here,” Rivera tells me as I rushed in sweaty and disheveled. “Things are in the works—I have a full-length album that’s done and probably going to come out like the first week of April.”
Kahiem Rivera ft. Jafé, “Smokin’ Weed with the Devil”
Kahiem Rivera, “Throat”
The Brooklyn-native only has several singles and two EPs—Be Quiet, Pt. 1 & 2. We enjoyed a glass of wine to celebrate the news.
Rivera said the album is more sinister than his previous releases and includes a live band.
“My first two EPs are dark too, but then I released a couple of bangers as like one-offs and, of course, they do so much better than the dark stuff,” he says. While his fun singles “Booty Call” and “Wanderlust” were hits, he thinks his more morbid themes will resonate during the Trump-era. “There is this perpetual anxiety that we all have right now, which has always been there for me, but I’m glad that it’s relatable now,” he says.
His latest single “Good Winter,” featuring Italian artist Birthh, will be on the album—making it the first taste of Rivera’s full-length debut.
Bursting with synth and electronic samples, “Good Winter,” feels uplifting, but still reveals Rivera’s pessimistic side. “I don’t give a shit if you don’t get my flow, I’m not compromising,” he sings during the chorus, then raps about existential crises, heartbreaks, pollution, male egos and more.
As we sat at the back of the bar, Rivera pointed to the line “fuck your ego and give all your homies hugs,” which grew out of his belief that hip hop is too hung up on appearing masculine. “There’s not enough tenderness in rap,” he says.
With Rivera’s writing, nothing gets held back. He only tells the truth. “I don’t like being lied to, especially with rap, because it’s just so confessional,” he says. “I’m just trying to be as honest as possible and have these songs be like a time capsule, which can sometimes become unbearable later because you’re just not that person anymore.”
Kahiem Rivera plays Baby’s All Right Feb. 16 with Yaasss, GIFT and a secret headliner. Listen to tracks by the rapper and the entire in-person interview on this week’s episode of The Music Meetup.