The hip-hop beat, April 2009 

Kayo has been doing his own thing in the Indy music scene for a while, carving out a unique niche and connecting with the right people. Nowhere is that more true than with his latest project, the Kayo/Mayer Experience. Here, Kayo has built an emotionally open hip-hop album entirely from John Mayer samples, chronicling the rise and fall of a relationship with brutal honesty. While this idea may seem strange, the album plays out quite naturally, perfectly matching Kayo's style. Most of the tracks on the project are produced by Rhymefest collaborator Animal House Productions, and are too original and well-produced to be labeled "mash-ups."

The project is available on Kayo's Web site for free, and has been racking up thousands of downloads and heaps of praise from Naptown rappers and Mayer's fan base. Kayo has been working with a band to perfect the live show, and will debut it at the Vogue April 9. Here's an e-mail interview I conducted with Kayo to get a little more info on the project.

NUVO: Can you briefly explain how this project and these songs came about?

Kayo: Well, it was a natural process, really. Between me and Animal House Productions, we try to stay ahead of the curve and do things that other artists aren't doing. We were all inspired by different genres, and in trying to find a new sound, we decided to do a whole album, sampling all previously released and unreleased John Mayer songs. We thought that, with us having relationships with people in John's inner circle, this could be big. We did the whole album: production, songwriting, recording, mixing, mastering and everything in about five weeks. It came together real easy! Ron Miner then took the album to DJ Logic, who is John Mayer's DJ, and the rest is history.

NUVO: Obviously, with John Mayer in the mix, you are exposed to a new audience. Have you found the reverse to be also true? Do you think you've opened up some hip-hop fans to Mayer's music?

Kayo: Yeah, I definitely think we have exposed each other to new listeners, for sure. I know for a fact I've had people respond to the Kayo Mayer Experience that would never usually listen to any artist outside of the rock 'n' roll genre, and vice versa, I believe, for John. A lot of the blog sites have comments from people in the hip-hop community saying how they had always heard of John Mayer but never really heard his music - and now they love him!

NUVO: You show no fear in saying things others shy away from. Have you always been so emotionally open with your music or is it something you had to arrive at?

Kayo: Hmm. My No. 1 priority now when making music is not trying to make a song that sounds like whatever is popular on the radio at the moment. Instead I focus on making honest music that anyone can relate to. Hip-hop, especially, is in dire need of more artists that have individuality. There's no way that, with all these big rappers, none of them have had anything in their lives happen with the opposite sex or with family that makes them vulnerable. We all do! These rappers just need to learn to talk about it in their music more. But nowadays, I just say screw it, and I root for them to all be clones and talk about cars, jewelry and how much swagger they have. That way, I'll stand out even more. They're making it so easy to stand out - it's like an assist! I'm not doing anything left field really, just talking about honest relationships. But because of all the bullshit that's being put out, the Kayo Mayer Experience sounds like it's from Mars!

NUVO: Have you heard any comments made directly by Mayer?

Kayo: As long as you don't ask me if Jennifer Anniston is nice in person or if I've ever met her! I've been asked that question so many times, it's crazy! I've started just messing with writers for these Web sites and I'll say, "Oh, she's pregnant but really happy," or whatever else that seems juicy enough to make them act like 15 year olds. But yeah, John really likes the Kayo Mayer Experience. People from my team and people from his team talk regularly and everyone is excited about it.

The Kayo/Mayer Experience is available as a free download from

Or here: "I Believe" from the Kayo/Meyer Experience.

T. J. Reynolds is an artist, educator, poet and musician in the band The Philosophy.

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