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Rapper K-Riz returns to the stage, finds peace and purpose after cheating death

In June 2020, hip-hop artist K-Riz was working his day job in a rural area outside of Edmonton.

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He was on a delivery for Amazon, driving on a dirt road when a deer ran out in front. He lost control and his car sped into a tree. K-Riz broke his back, underwent surgery and spent months recovering. Before the accident, he had completed work on a full-length album called Peace & Love, but the release had been delayed due to COVID-19. As he lay in hospital, he realized that some of the songs didn’t seem to resonate anymore, even the ones that tackled darker subject areas such as breakups, heartbreak, forgiveness and family strife.

“When you’re lying on your back 24-7, there is a lot of thinking and a lot of things you can reflect on and put to bed,” says K-Riz. “When you’re near death, none of that stuff matters. All of that stuff becomes little.”

By mid-September 2020, he had begun recording five new songs that better reflected some of the more life-and-death, elemental issues he had been reflecting on since the accident. The Room was released a few months later. But, thankfully, he has since decided it was time to revisit Peace & Love. It was far too accomplished a record to stay on the backburner.

“I wasn’t even going to put it out,” he says. “But I had people in my corner saying ‘You have this music. It’s good. Put it out into the world.’ ”

The 14 tracks on Peace & Love were recorded between 2017 and 2019 in various studios with various producers and a long list of collaborators. It is far from lightweight. On the silky Save My Life, which features Calgary singer Kaeyae Alo, K-Riz dips into forgiveness and childhood trauma. On Drowning, he reflects on heartbreak and the end of a relationship, which also figures into the mournful but verbose Lost In it and the confrontational but soulful I Don’t Trust You.

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“It was more like a time-stamp of where I was in my life,” he says. “It’s like a chapter of a book. Going back through that chapter, I’ve definitely grown a lot since that. Even harsh subjects and hard things to talk about, like my relationship with my mother growing up, have changed dramatically over the last little bit. So it was difficult to rehash those feelings, especially when we had so much progress in our relationship over the years.”

Still, K-Riz now realizes his supporters were right and the songs deserved some time in the light. The album was released last month. If there is a thin silver lining to all of this, it’s that he has plenty of new material for his return to performing. He is scheduled to play the King Eddy on Nov. 6, a show that will draw from both Peace & Love and The Room.

There have been other changes in his life. Born and raised in Toronto, K-Riz would often visit his DJ father in Edmonton before finally moving to the city in his late teens. But he recently moved again, to Calgary. Peace & Love was one of the first releases for Mo Gravy Records, which is run by the acclaimed duo Sargeant X Comrade and is made up of a small collective of tight-knit artists.

K-Riz has been part of Alberta’s hip-hop scene for more than 15 years. Growing up in Toronto, his mother would listen to hip-hop. There was a lot of jazz in his home as well. Meanwhile, his uncle performed hip-hop under the name E-Dot in Edmonton before moving to Toronto and performing with Darp Malone in a band called Hero.

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The varying influences have percolated over the years and K-Riz continued to evolve, mixing wordplay and beats with an assured R&B vibe.

“I didn’t really embrace it until Fresh Air, which came out in 2016,” he says about R&B vocals and hooks. “I sang on songs before that, I just never really claimed it because I didn’t think I was good enough and I’ve still got work to do. I compare it to basketball. When you are young, you want to attack the rim. You want to dunk on everybody. That’s like rap. When I was young, I just wanted to rap on anybody’s song and kill it. Over time, you start learning that sometimes you need to be a finesse player. You need to be able to lay up or take a jump shot. That’s the R&B. It’s a little softer, it’s a little smoother. It’s not as aggressive. It’s a whole bunch of different tones and a different way to get the music across.”

While heartbreak may be a recurring theme on Peace & Love, K-Riz is reluctant to call it a break-up album. Still, he acknowledges he was preoccupied with the prickly personal politics of a relationship on its last legs when creating some of the songs. He says it pushed him as a writer.

“It triggered me to dive deep within myself and take from the experience and finally take a look at myself and deal with what I was feeling,” he says. “With any type of music I put out, there’s always going to be a direct message from how I’m feeling at that moment. I think artists, especially rap artists, while some are emotional, few get really raw with their feelings. Even showing emotion in rap music is not normal. I mean, I’m not Drake. But I’m hoping that people that listen and do rap understand that they can be vulnerable and talk about those types of things.”

K-Riz plays The King Eddy On Nov. 6 at 8:30 p.m.

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