When Lance Kisor assembled the songs to use in his recent greatest hits compilation album, he couldn’t help but think of his progression as an artist.
“It could be almost a ‘goodbye,’ too,” he said. “It could be my last joint. I’m not throwing in the towel. I’m just saying this is kind of a winding down period. I wanted to show what I’ve done for the last few years.”
Known in the Sioux City hip-hop scene as Kisor Flowsay, the 36-year-old rapper pulled select tracks from some of his major projects released throughout the last decade or so and revealed the final product July 12 on Bandcamp under the name “Classickness… a greatest hits compilation” – the same day as Kisor’s birthday, which, if stylized by numbers, matches the Woodbury county area code 712.
In a sense, the collection serves as Kisor’s resume, showing everyone what he’s capable of. He had been looking to release a project equipped with his strongest songs from past albums like “Siouxer Life,” “Grown Man Bizness,” “Reality Check” and other works for quite some time. Producer and engineer J-Smalls re-mastered the recordings Kisor had picked out, giving the tracks a glossier and fuller sound.
“I picked out the ones that I feel fit the best sonically, sounded the best and what I got the most response from over the years,” he said.
“Classickness” highlights the various styles, themes and topics Kisor tends to explore. The Sioux City hip-hop artist recently sat down with The Weekender and broke down some key tracks featured on the album:
Track #1 “LIFE MUSIC”
Propped up by a piano-inspired beat produced by Jordan Rand, Flowsay raps about his hometown of Sioux City, a place where “the summer’s hot and winter’s cold” and there isn’t anything to do and everybody is miserable. Despite the digs to his Midwestern roots, he clearly has love for Sioux City. It’s a topic he revisits often.
KISOR: It’s about taking pride in where you’re from and who you are as a person and what made you a person. Not to talk bad about anybody, but when certain people would come out of New York like when down South started taking over, a lot of people started to sound like they were from down South. You’re not from Atlanta; you’re from New York. Why are you talking with a Southern drawl all of a sudden? So really my focus is not to put Sioux City on the map, but it’s more just the hometown pride. I’m from here. I was raised here. My brothers did music here and have done great things. There is real hip-hop here. We don’t have to copy you or copy this dude – we can be influenced but it’s about being ourselves and not trying to copy anybody. I write about what I know.
Track #3 “PAY ME”
This song was recently used in a Flowsay music video directed by Taylor Grote. The slow and funky beat was produced by Big Vern and allowed the Sioux City rapper to play around with harmonies on the hook, declaring a statement most DIY musicians can relate to: pay me. Flowsay opens a window into his personal life (“I got two kids, a lady”) while also showing us a jarring outlook on his career (“And people like, ‘Oh you an MC from SC expecting to get paid for music?’ / So I gave up on that dream”). He further highlights the domesticated life many Siouxland hip-hop artists experience while in search of success.
KISOR: It’s just the grind, I guess. There are some people out there who just want to do it for a living and some can try to do that. But around here there just isn’t a big enough following to go out and do shows and kind of tour and stuff like that. Some guys are doing that – shout out to Rev. It is a grind. You work your job, come home, cook dinner for your kids and if you gotta hit the lab, you hit the lab. Even if it’s 9 o’clock at night and wait until the kids are asleep. If it’s what you love and what you want to shoot for, then you gotta do it.
Track #5 “SONG FOR YOU”
Flowsay is willing to expand his range and get personal. “Song for You” is just one of many tracks on “Classickness” that shows a vulnerable Flowsay spitting verses on family life and loved ones. Whether the subject is his wife, his children, parents or grandparents, Flowsay opens up and acknowledges that he isn’t perfect and wants to make adjustments (“I’m making changes to my life / rearrangin’ /getting closer to my family because I’m sick of being strangers”).
KISOR: There’s definitely love. I grew up in a pretty good family. Family growing up was a big thing but everybody gets older and you kind of have to start your own family. I do miss ‘em. And I miss those old times. When the vulnerability shows, I’m thinking about stuff like that. The ending line on “Song for You” is talking about my grandpa, the ashes are still watching over us. Love and trust.
Track #11 “MINOTAUR”
“Minotaur” marks a stylistic shift in “Classickness.” We’re given a much more aggressive Flowsay; someone who is boastful, self-destructive and relentless. The bumpin’ and buzzin’ beat reflects this. The verses are delivered with such a high intensity that the song almost sounds like Flowsay is in the middle of a rap battle. His voice cracks and growls and crunches over the rough-around-the-edges beat. Like he said, he’s a “lyrical mythical beast.”
KISOR: It’s very mixtape-y. It’s a YouTube beat. I just felt like getting some frustrations out and just kind of like -- grrr -- let the beast come out a little bit. And I think at that time too I was listening to a lot of Tyler, The Creator. I just wanted to growl. It’s really not one of my “best” songs but I just wanted to show some versatility. [The braggadocio] stems from battling and being an emcee. Straight hip-hop. If you don’t have confidence in yourself as an emcee, get out. There’s an aggression inside me that wants to unleash sometimes and I think that’s where a lot of it comes out.
Track #13 “IT’S ABOUT TIME (ACT RIGHT)”
If you listen closely to a couple Flowsay songs, you’ll get the feeling the rapper is fairly outspoken and isn’t afraid to share his two cents’ worth and then some. In “It’s about Time,” he shares his respect for hip-hop while also showing his displeasure with the amount of people calling themselves rappers when, he feels, they don’t have the skills to back it up (“Too many emcees, not enough skills / a million microphones but nobody ill”) or try to be too much like mainstream rappers.
KISOR: There are dudes who are talented in this city. But I’m talking about the saturation. Like, “Oh my cousin raps, my little brother raps” – all this. It’s the writing process. Some of these dudes just put their voices on a hot beat and think it’s going to be the most amazing thing ever. It stems down to honing your craft. You can be a little talented and have showmanship, but if you want to be a real emcee you better put that pen to that pad. This one goes out to the kids that act right. The ones selling CDs out the back of their Pinto -- that’s just how I started, selling CDs out of my own pocket. Hang with your people and just do good music, basically. Stop trying to emulate bigger cities and just be yourself. Keep it hip-hop. Stay fresh.