Kishaun Bailey finished his junior year at Garfield High School this week, but the 17-year-old's biggest highlight hasn't involved academics or sports. He has emerged as underground rap sensation Key Nyata of the Raider Klan—a loose collective of young internet-based rappers and producers staging a lo-fi revival of dark '90s Southern and West Coast underground mixtape music.
Though the "Klvn" (substituting vowels with Vs, Xs, and other cryptic "glyphs" is part of the crew's gothic aesthetic) was started in Miami by producer/rapper SpaceGhostPurrp, the Seattle teen was brought to the forefront of the Raider movement when Purrp himself posted the video for Key Nyata's Gangsta Pat–sampling, Memphis-style ridin'/smokin' track "Get Fucked Up 1994" on his YouTube channel this January. As of last week, the locally shot DIY video had more than 58,000 views. Since then, his Phonkilation mixtape has made its rounds on the internet, earning Key Nyata mentions from taste-making outlets like Mishka NYC and major rap/hiphop players like Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire and Tyler, the Creator.
Key Nyata's explicit, warped rap psychedelia is in line with that of his Raider affiliates—'90s babies using '90s music and album imagery as reference points. His unapologetic lyrics are full of weed and fellatio puns, his mixtape covers and online profile pictures laden with skulls, black Cadillacs, bandannas, pagers, and gold teeth. But his beats, echoing elements of N.W.A's West Coast gangsta and DJ Zirk's dirty South tape hiss, are where Key Nyata truly shines. Producing much of his own work, he uses volume swells and abrupt tempo and pitch shifts as spacey, throwback atmospherics that give his songs a distinct quality, best described (in Raider terms, at least) as "Tha Phonk."
Online buzz is intangible, and YouTube plays don't pay the bills, but Raider Klan founder SpaceGhostPurrp managed to translate heavy 2011 internet hype into a deal with UK label 4AD, which recently released his first "official" album, Mysterious Phonk: The Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp. With Key Nyata's long-awaited Two Phonkey mixtape set to drop June 20 and talks of live dates in the works—he performed his first show at the Vera Project this April, and rumors are circulating that he'll share a Seattle bill with Purrp in July—he might get his own chance very soon.