Putting out an album is one of the most fun and trying things a musician/artist can do with their music. You get to capture, for eternity, the thoughts and grooves created during a certain time period of one’s artistic endeavors.
John Kuester, who is also known as Kid Millions, has done that process over and over again as an artist and as a label head. The guys knows a lot about music in general, so if you see him out, buy him a beer and ask for his opinion on something…I bet you will learn something important.
Recently he established Dope Folks Records, a label that seeks out extremely rare, out-of-print, or never existed material for exclusive releases and re-prints. With this move and vinyl sales continuing to rise, it was time to hit up the man with the answers.
The past two years have been pretty interesting for you. As Kid Millions you released Recession Proof Rap, a well-received album with a very solid single in “Victim To The Beat”, you’ve transitioned from being a record shop owner to selling rare records on the internet, and you’ve started a record label to re-issue rare out of print rap records from the 80’s and 90’s. Is making new music on your radar right now?
Right now I’ve been focusing on different things but I’m sure sometime I will get the urge to make more music. I usually have a solid 2-3 year gaps in between releases!
Years and years ago I sold you hundreds of records when I was trying to liquidate to cover some credit card debt, and now you just went through a huge scaling back by selling your store and essentially going in house with your operation. Was that a hard decision to make since records are like an extension of who you are? How is the online grind going?
This was pretty much the easiest decision I ever had to make. We kept the store open for 9 1/2 years and never relied on local business. Things were so inconsistent that we took our operation online around 2003 and never looked back. When it came time to close the store, all we really had to do is split up a bunch of records and move out. Overall everything is still fantastic because I work for myself and I’m not breaking down boxes or tucking in my shirt!
The downside is I miss the barbershop atmosphere of just kicking it with random people and drinking way to much coffee!
Since you are a record head, I have to ask you the stereotypical question about vinyl product versus CDs. Why in the world is vinyl selling and continually on the upswing?
Because people like artwork and liner notes with their music and want to feel that connection with the artist. Now since all new music is practically impossible to sell, people are switching to fancy packaging and nice art.
On the back of that vinyl boost, you and a friend have started a record label when record labels are falling by the dozens each year it seems. What drove you to get Dope Folks started when there is such a paradigm shift going on in music?
This is just an extension of what we were doing with Lotusland Records. We were also a Modern Soul label that had about 12 different releases over the past few years. It just made sense for me to start up a new label with Chris and keep it in my comfort zone (rap music).
To sell records in 2010 it is important to know where your audience is and to have something different to offer them. If you look at dopefolksrecords.com you will not see anything about my music for sale. This is a real small group of dedicated people looking for a certain sound.
Now that you’ve released that first record, how was the experience? How was the party and how is the record doing?
The response from Mixmasta D was incredible. All of our releases are limited to 300 copies and we sold over 200 on the first day! We did a party in Bay View at a local bar and it was a blast! Luckily we had lots of local coverage and online promo.
The next project that you are going to put out is unreleased music from the Milwaukee group Stranj Child that was doing their thing in the 90’s, even catching an opportunity to have one of their songs on the TV show Party Of Five. How did that all come together?
I was introduced to KUMAYS of Stranj Child back in 2000 and we have kept in contact ever since. About 2 years back he came by the record shop and played me the entire unreleased album and I was stunned that it never came out. Now that the label is in full swing I figured it was good 2nd release for Dopefolks.
With all the knowledge that you have the music industry from so many different perspectives, have you ever considered tapping somebody who you thought was insanely talented to try to manage their career?
No because I don’t think I could offer them enough experience! Maybe in a few years when I have a better understanding of the industry.
Kind of on that topic, since you are a guy who has been around for a while and knows so much about the past and present of Milwaukee Hip-Hop, how do you feel about the scene and it’s artists right now?
I think the scene has more talent than it ever has. Too bad Milwaukee has a 200 year curse on it.
Any shout outs?
dopefolksrecords.com, fifthelementonline.com, House Of M, Dana Coppa, JC Poppe , Def Harmonic, Rusty Ps, Kid Cut Up, A.P.R.I.M.E., Stricklin, Raze, Frankie Flowers, KHB, DNA, Chris at Dopefolks, Listening Party Records, Prophetic , Adlib, and Uni.Fi, and all the other dedicated labels and artists.
Check out the Stranj Child vinyl release party Sat. Oct 16th at Burnhearts in Bay View…NO COVER , 10-CLOSE.