I hate not knowing. Hate it. As soon as I see that someone's hiding a truth from me, I get obsessed. It's an addiction and I don't know how to stop.
For months now we've known that TDE, currently arguably hip-hop's best label, had signed two new artists but they taunted us truth seekers, only referring to them as “John Doe,” which of course set off waves of speculation online and inside the DJBooth offices. Could it be Kembe X? He seemed like a smart bet. Terrace Martin? Ash Riser? JaVonté? All solid guesses, but nothing more than guesses. But then the days passed, more days passed, and I found other truth-telling obsessions.
And then yesterday we learned that one of those mystery artists is Lance Skiiiwalker and I felt the fire again. I was going to figure out who the last John Doe was or
die get kind of trying. I dug into Google, Twitter and Instagram searching for clues, but I also hit up my various music contacts hoping that someone, somewhere, would know, and one name that came up a couple times was KR.
While no one was willing to go on record, understandably not wanting to jeopardize any relationships, and even anonymously no one could say for certain, I heard a couple studio sessions stories involving KR and TDE. It certainly seemed plausible. There was the L.A. connection, and we know that TDE has been “courting him” since at least January of 2015. The music seemed to loosely align with the TDE mission as well, lighter and more up-tempo than usually associated with the house of Kendrick but you could hear it fitting in alongside the label's new generation of artists: Isaiah Rashad, SZA and now Lance Skiiwalker.
KR was an enigma from the time he first tentatively stepped onto the scene in 2014, rarely granting interviews and keeping his social media channels cryptic. Certainly not the kind to broadcast high-profile relationships regardless of if they involved the usually tight-lipped TDE or not. And then, about two months ago, KR went through an almost complete revamp around the release of his latest EP, And It Begins. His sound was now far more R&B-tinged, and he erased much of his old internet presence; his IG currently only has four photos, all posted within the last few months and all showcasing a more refined, cleanly branded image. It's the kind of move that on the surface looks merely like a young artist attempting to find his place in music, but to the more conspiracy theory minded (like yours truly) it suggests the hidden hand of TDE guiding him towards a career relaunch.
I have absolutely no firm proof beyond some whispers, rumors and the stray tweet linking KR to MixedByAli, really nothing more than a gut instinct. We reached out to both TDE and KR's management, but haven't heard back yet. Even if they did reply and denied it, I think I'd be too far gone to believe them. Still though, I've become too obsessed with figuring out the identity of John Doe to just walk away without going on record with a prediction, so I'm shooting my shot. Mark my words, KR is TDE's.
I recognize this is the kind of consequence free “journalism” I hate. If it turns out I'm right I'll look like a genius, if I'm wrong I'll just hope every forgets I ever wrote this, or do some sort of one sentence “update” to the original. So let's introduce some consequences. If it turns out KR isn't TDE's other new mystery signee, I'll make a donation to the Compton non-profit PeaceForKids and gladly endure all the deserved criticism that gets thrown my way. And if it turns out I'm right, I'll make the exact same donation to PeaceForKids, except I'll also do some “told you so” bragging on Twitter. Deal? It's a deal.
And it begins…
By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter. Image via Instagram.