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Kris the $pirit Showcases a Rougher Side of Montreal on The Kings of Dog Town

The defiant hip-hop heavyweight re-emerges to claim his crown with his first album in six years. 

by Adriel Smiley

Photos by Rosalie Fortier, Laurence Ouellet, Jeremy Hughes

Over the past decade, Kris the $pirit has cemented himself as one the most elite lyricists from Montreal’s underground hip-hop scene. His smokey timbre is distinguishable as he guides listeners through his reflective journey.

The Kings of Dog Town is his first album in six years, and it’s one that he calls a more well-rounded offering, referring to his initial projects as more one-sided. 

The Montreal MC sat down with RANGE to talk about personal growth, a new sound, and some of his favourite verses on what is easily his most personal body of work to date.

Do you have a favourite verse from the project?

I love every verse. If I had to pick a favourite I would say the “Raindrops” first verse. It just takes me back to when I was out there, 16 years old, tryna get to it. 

What was the first song you recorded for the project?

The first song I recorded was “On & On” ft. LOLLY D. It was just a quick freestyle from hell, and the story goes.

Can you give me some insight on the second verse of “Get Money”?

The second verse, and the album, is like a flashback to how all of this rapping stuff even came about. I was just a young kid from poverty with a broken home, tryna figure life out. It was definitely a bumpy road. Montreal is like a big mountain; my neighbourhood growing up was at the very bottom, climbing up that hill daily, and seeking a better life as a kid. I just wanted to give people that feeling of what it was like. The whole album is almost a narration of my life growing up til this point. And the shit I seen. 

Is there anything left to prove to yourself? 

Yes of course there is. I’m still having fun and getting better. Every time I reach a new level and new insight, I want to see where I can take it. There’s a couple things I would like to see come into fruition. 

What is off-limits for you to put into your raps?

Nothing is off limits.

Why did it take so long for us to get this project?

I’ve been tryna come up with a sound that I can make my signature. For a while, nothing was really sticking, and at one point I was like ‘Wow, I have no music right now.’ Everything I have been putting out previously was basically super old tracks from three to four years or more prior. I was spent, looking for that signature sound. 

At the same time I was kind of feeling that my music hasn’t truly reflected my story, so that became my focus. To get something out that’s more personal, and to get to that depth writing-wise. I was able to take my foot off the production pedal, and I linked up with VNCE Carter (producer) and we started to cook and create a soundscape that can be the foundation of the story telling. Albums shouldn’t be taken for granted, that is why it took so long. It was forming itself. I was just in the total wrong space at first. 

What has been your biggest growth personally since THE PRANA ?

When I did that project I had just come out of retirement from music. I still didn’t really have an ear for quality; it was just show up, rap, leave. I’m just much more skilled, and way better at storytelling. That’s what I wanted to go for with this album. Going in deep about my upbringing, and the soundscapes reflect the quality of the writing. Those older projects were for sure one-sided, and messy. I’ve had exponential growth since then. 

How do you define success for this new project?

For me it’s a success that it was created. We won just by getting this project together. The small hurdles we went through, and the life that was lived to provide this content. That’s life and death right there, so already that’s successful to me. 

Now I’m just happy to share it with the world. To whoever finds it, and finds me, I hope they can find some motivation in that. People that grew up like me can look and see they’re not alone and we can live and be up out here. 

The Kings of Dog Town is the new album from Kris The $pirit (out Feb. 22, 2024)