Killa Ko | CEO | Artist | Painter | Shoe Designer
Art is something that you live and breathe. You grew up as an artsy kid and you've always had a knack for creativity. Where did everything start off for you?
For me, it's all about self-love. Regardless of the things that I had and didn't have, I always had that self-love and appreciation for myself so that's what made me want to stand out and be different. Whether it was with music, painting, or dance, that was always the goal. When I was younger, my mom always had me in some type of art school. I was in choir, band, and dance. I was literally in everything! That's how I started being a creative, by just being in all types of courses and classes that would help me enhance any of the talents that I had. And I was good at everything too.
As far as me getting into sketching and drawing, when I was in elementary school, I wasn't really into it forreal. I was more into the music and dance stuff, but with me getting my work done in class really quickly, I was able to draw during that extra time that I had. Coming up, I couldn't afford Jordan's but I loved them, so I would draw pictures of them. I still got a lot of the pictures too. I never thought that I would be doing what I'm doing now, and looking back, it was just crazy to me how I always had this in the back of my pocket.
So what happened after high school?
After high school, I was up in the air. I went to culinary school just to do something different but I wasn't really into the college thing like that. I said I'd rather get a job so I worked at The Detroit Yacht Club, Footlocker, then VILLA. With me being around shoes all the time, and seeing everybody wearing the same releases, I wasn't trying to look like everybody else so I customized a pair of shoes for myself in 2014. I got a pair of 6's that came out the same day as the Raptors did, and I made them like Yeezy's and it just went from there. I started doing Timberlands too, and once people saw what I did to those, that's when people starting reaching out which became the birth of Kameko Kicks.
How important is it for the arts to be in the public school setting, seeing that you grew up with all of this unlimited access to art?
It's no individuality nowadays and in Detroit Public Schools, I feel like I'm 130% behind putting the arts back into the schools because out of all of the cities and states, Detroit is one of the coolest when it comes to individuality. When you start trying to do your own thing, you end up getting bashed for it. It's a wave-riding city. But the arts being in schools is what made me. I had the want and desire to be whatever, but it had to be put in place for me to actually do those things. Arts needs to be in every school because kids could be doing whatever now, and times are different. They 10, 11 years old already trying to smoke weed and stuff. Kids need to have their creativity and individuality praised and enhanced. It needs to be an everyday thing. The arts will keep the kids out of trouble.
What's the easiest customization that you've done?
The easiest thing for me to do is the little splatter. [Laughs] That's so fun to me, and its easy because I get to pick whatever color I want.
And what about the hardest shoe that you've ever customized?
Nothing has ever been too hard, but the shoe that I've been the most tedious about is the shoes that I did for Andre Drummond only because he wore a size 18. I was just wondering how was I going to customize this shoe because it was a lot of shoe and I didn't want it to look like it was too much going on. I wanted it to be just right and I wanted both shoes to look identical so I was very careful with the details. I was up all night working on those shoes. I've never sketched any shoe out that I've ever done either so it was coming from a fresh place.
As 90's kid, to see you holding a painting up that you did of The Lox was crazy.
Aw man. It was crazy. But like I said, I've worked at shoe stores before and me and VILLA just had a great relationship because they respected my creativity while I was there. I started doing custom pieces when I worked at VILLA so when I would do my first few pairs, they would let me put them up in the store, so it was always a great business relationship.
So how did The Lox situation take place?
On that particular day, they were doing a meet and greet at the Grand opening of VILLA on Grandriver and Greenfield. One of the managers reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to paint so I ended up painting with Terry because I never did any collab work before, but I saw some stuff on Twitter that he did, and I asked if he wanted to do it. While I was painting shoes, he was sketching them on the canvas and I had everything set up. What's crazy is, Styles P came over to the table first and started asking about everything, and I told him that I did the majority of stuff that he saw, so he took four of my business cards. Then Kiss came over and dapped up Terry, and from there, the tour manager came over and said that I should paint at their show that night so I ended up painting backstage and I gave them the piece. It was crazy man.
Talk about some of your upcoming projects.
As you know, I do "Painting with a Kick," instead of painting with a twist at VILLA. You get a blank shoe, we sit, chill, eat and just have a good time while showing them some of my skills. I'm looking to have another one in April which will be the three year anniversary since I've been painting. I'm going to drop some more shoes, and I have a coat that I did which I'm going to wear in my music video. Be on the lookout for that.