The Whole 9 returns with a southern flair, as we chop it up with Charlotte-based emcee Waivs, and Kodiak Soul out of Atlanta. They most recently released a new single
Beside Me, off their collaborative release Daydreams & Nightmares. We go into their beginnings,
the9elements: How did each of you get your stage names?
Waivs: For me, Waivs was a name that stood out to me a long time ago to describe how I approach music. I always felt like I had so much depth that I just never knew how to surface it other than through music. When it does surface, it becomes waves like in the ocean.
You never know what will hit. Not intentionally, but I believe it will keep listeners on their toes. My lane is that I don’t have a lane and Waivs is how I communicate that message. Can be a simple soft-soul song like Beside Me, or a more rap-heavy track that can tell a story or get the spot bumpin.
The spelling, Waivs, came later when my mother suggested it to me and it fit how I wanted to brand my music. Waivs is the denominator to the varying sounds I want to approach, the feelings I want to invoke, and the stories that will be told.
Waivs is an experience that can require patience if you truly want to understand the full scope. The talent lies in the bigger picture as well as in the moment. Waivs was the only way I knew how to describe what goes on through my head and the vision I see for not only myself but in how I want to help others. Ultimately, we are all Waivs.
Kodiak Soul: It all started in my dorm room at UNC-Charlotte. I was lying in my bed trying to figure out something that was unique but also described me as a person. After some meditation, the name Kodiak Soul popped in my head. Kodiak bears are one of the largest in the world and I wanted to connect that to having hard aggressive beats but also with a touch of soul to mellow everything out with a mixture of soothing music. Almost like Ying and Yang.
T9E: What made each of you decide to become artists?
Kodiak Soul: After moving to college I was able to listen to way more music, with new tools like Spotify launching around the time I was in school I was able to dive into so much more music than before. I realized with time and this was something I could also do. I wanted to be able to give someone the feeling of escape from the world even if it’s only for 2-3 minutes at a time. Music is important to everyone I know, I wanted to help make it even greater.
Waivs: I have always wanted to do music as long as I can remember. It was all I ever thought about but I never really spoke on it due to how far-fetched of an idea it was for a kid growing up in my time (pre-social media). I grew up as an emotional kid and music was my escape that made me feel at peace.
In college, I started writing more rhymes wherever I was. They just would hit me, often times while I was partying, clubbin’, or in class. It just was all I ever thought about, plain and simple.
T9E: What’s the first Hip Hop song each of you ever heard? Describe the moment.
Kodiak Soul: This wasn’t the first Hip Hop song I ever heard but the first song that had a impact on me was Tomorrow by Big Sean. Every time I hear that sample come in I instantly get hype. The song just brings me back to a time where nothing really mattered. 17, still in high school just trying to smoke with my friends and be easy. I don’t think that feeling will ever really leave me as I get older either which is why that song means so much to me.
Waivs: I don’t remember the first Hip Hop song I ever heard, but Lil Wayne was my first favorite Hip Hop artist. To me, he is the prototype of a rapper in terms of swag and ability. Dude just made me feel free. I remember I’d keep songs like Fireman and Go DJ on repeat and I was always searching for new releases.
He was my first inspiration for writing raps. When I was young, I would stay up all night to listen to the radio cause the uncensored versions of songs would play sometimes. It was my way of finding that inner rebel that isn’t afraid to test the status quo. On the flip side, Usher’s 8701 was the first album I ever bought and that was my introduction to more of the R&B side but still was important in Hip-Hop culture.
On another note, the first actual beat I ever wrote a full rap to was the 5 AM in Toronto instrumental (Drake). The feeling I had in that moment was as free as I had ever felt. I felt like the world was at my fingertips and I could have whatever I wanted. I believe that’s the feeling of knowing what you were called to do.
T9E: How did “Beside Me” come together? How do two artists who live in different cities go about the process of vibing on a track together?
Waivs: So Kodiak Soul went to the same college, UNC-Charlotte, as me. We met through one of his friends who connected us through music. He started sending me beats and I started writing and rapping to them. He has been generous to me and I have stuck with him. This is why it works. I’m used to working alone and he’s one of the few I’ll actually work with in the same setting as well.
He knows my flows and vibes and I’ve learned to fit his pockets nicely. We keep in constant contact and we are just a team out here trying to help each other reach our goals. So when he’s constantly sending me beats and I’m constantly writing to them then eventually we come across songs like Beside Me. At the time, I already had it in my head that I wanted to do a simple song and let a beat breathe to tell the story.
Once I listened to “Beside Me,” I knew that this song was it and I already knew that I wanted to harmonize with the vocal sample. From there, the rest of it came naturally. I can be a sensitive person and I don’t want to come off as a rapper that doesn’t have that side to him as I strive to stay genuine. This song brought that side out of me.
Kodiak Soul: I remember I had initially found the pitched down vocal sample for beside me and knew it could have a impact. It just had this sense of pain but also some soul. I remember laying down the bass line and thinking the track gives you a wide range of emotions.
Layering something so smooth and airy with trap hats and rim shots just felt like an interesting take on modern day romance to me. It’s like in this day and age of social media we all have the ability to see someone’s every move but we still want that one person by our side.
To me, it’s really easy to vibe with T on a track. We spent 3-4 years up at UNCC working on music constantly with one another. Basically growing and learning together as we each kinda honored our crafts. Our visions align seamlessly with the music we want to make. Plus, with the internet and today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to stay on that wavelength even when you’re not in the same city all the time.
T9E: What are your predictions for Hip Hop music this year?
Kodiak Soul: With Hip Hop taking over as the new Pop I don’t see any decline in the amount of good music that can come out of Hip Hop this year. There seems to be a lot of camps stepping up and bringing new stuff to the plate. Dreamville, in particular, those guys are ready for the takeover. I just hope with the losses of late throughout the Hip Hop community, people practice what they preach and everyone can come together.
Waivs: My predictions for Hip Hop music are tough to gauge. I don’t really try to predict too much or act like I know the future. If I had to say though, then I think many more Hip Hop markets are going to growing locally across the nation. As more people see the possibilities in music, due to mainly social media, more people will find ways to find a niche in something they like to do.
Hip Hop is the only genre that can tell any story using any instruments. The potential is untapped in my opinion of where this genre can now go if steered into the right direction. It’s going to become real interesting traveling to other cities and meeting more and more artists that are so dope in there communities that you may not even know about.