“I Look at Life as a Response:” An Interview with Kalan.frfr

Will Schube talks to the L.A. rapper about playing football, catching robbery charges, and his burgeoning hip-hop career.
By    January 24, 2019

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Kalan Montgomery fell into a trap. While on a football scholarship at San Diego State, Montgomery was busted for robbery charges, an admittedly dumb plan he was forced to execute because, you know, college athletes don’t get paid. Football was his ticket out, but it was still too early to cash in. In shame and anger, Kalan quit the football team before they could kick him out.

He finished school, but had to resort to the sort of activity that got him in trouble in the first place in order to pay his lawyer fees. He moved to Atlanta, trying to build a rap career that had a few bright spots, thanks in large part to an earlier single with Rich The Kid, “21,” recorded under his rap name, Kalan.frfr. He would fly back to L.A. every month to meet with his lawyer, who painted grim prospects of jail time. In the fall of 2017, he moved back to L.A., having flamed out in Atlanta.

Early in 2018, he recorded a mixtape called Hurt over the course of one day. It was released the following day, and immediately put Kalan.frfr on the map as one of L.A.’s bright young rap singers. In July, he doubled down with TwoFr, a hyper-melodic perfect summer record that mirrored the Atlanta singing of someone like Young Thug, with the slapped-out g-funk bass of his L.A. contemporaries.

Arcs rarely feature redemption like this, especially for people systematically confined to the fates that Kalan successfully escaped from. Having found an alternative to football (he’d still play it if he could), Kalan has tightened his crew. He’s still afraid to get in cars and is generally skeptical of leaving his house, and all this reminds you that no matter how much good you do, it’s terrifyingly hard to escape the cycles you’re placed into. Even when you do, the demons often come lurking back.

But for now, Kalan has his head down. His “Hot N Ready Freestyle,” released two weeks ago, shows a side of Kalan he’d been reluctant to show after the success of his sing-song focused mixtapes. Mainly, he raps with speed and ferocity. He’s mad, and he has every right to be. It’s still too early for Kalan.frfr to feel comfortable, but it’s far better than being lost. — Will Schube

Where were you born?

Kalan.frfr:I grew up in Carson, Compton, LA period. I’ve lived all over LA. Gardenia, too.

Did you grow up with any siblings?

Kalan.frfr:Yeah, I’ve got a lot of them. Between my biological father and my step-father I have six siblings.

And where do you fit in age wise?

Kalan.frfr:I’m the baby. Well, I was the baby until a couple years ago when my biological father had another son.

What was it like growing up as the youngest in a big family?

Kalan.frfr:It’s crazy. I’ve got one sister who’s just a year older than me and then all of my other sisters are so much older than me. I was the only boy until my little brother.

Did that toughen you up early on? With so many sisters?

Kalan.frfr:Kind of, but there wasn’t really any pressure because I have nieces who are closer to me in age than most of them. The sister I’m closest with is my sister Jasmine. That’s really my dawg. She used to pick me up from school and taught me about girls growing up [laughs].

Was football your first love growing up?

Kalan.frfr:It was between that and music. I’ve always been in love with music, whether it was listening to it or playing it. I didn’t really get into rapping until I was a little older. But I got introduced to football early because I had a cousin who played football at La Salle and then played at Oregon before playing for the Vikings and the Seahawks. That’s all we knew growing up. We just played ball.

When did you first realize that you were really good at football?

Kalan.frfr:Probably around high school. In Pop Warner I was playing, but I wasn’t really a standout guy. I was good, but I didn’t stand out until high school. It was probably around tenth grade when I started taking it so much more seriously. I realized it’s what I had to do. I had to take care of my family. That’s the only option. You’re either gonna be in the streets or pick up the cleats. You gotta do something. I started at Lakewood but then went to Dominguez, it was once I was there that I really focused up. My uncle was telling me that I could go to college, play D-I, and be someone because I had the body type for it. He told me to take the shit seriously. He’d pick me up from school everyday and take me to workouts two or three times a day. He changed my eating habits, everything.

Did viewing football as a way out for you and your family put pressure on you?

Kalan.frfr:Yeah. There was a lot of pressure. I think playing sports in general brings the most pressure of anything you can do. Everybody says that anybody can do it, but that’s not true. Not everyone is gonna be able to make it. It’s not easy to do. You can love it so much, but it won’t always love you back.

You can say the same thing about music, too.

Kalan.frfr:Yeah, you can. It’s like, what are you gonna do to be different? But more than that, you can’t really control it. That’s all in God’s hands at the end of the day. It’s just how you respond to it whether you’re successful or not. I look at life as a response. It’s not about getting knocked down, it’s about how you get up.

You played a little bit of college football, right?

Kalan.frfr:Yeah, I played for three years.

You went to jail. Are you cool talking about that?

Kalan.frfr:Yeah, I’m not shy about that no more. That happened my junior year.

What happened?

Kalan.frfr:I can’t tell you exactly what happened but I went to jail on a burglary case. I was only in jail for a few days, then my mom bailed me out. Fighting the case was the hard part because I couldn’t play football anymore. I didn’t tell my team I went to jail, so if they found out they would have taken away my scholarship, so I withdrew from the team myself.

Do you view that as a turning point for your music career?

Kalan.frfr:Yeah, after that I was at my lowest point. That was the worst time of my life. Looking back on where I’ve been, after I was in jail everything went downhill. I totaled my car, I didn’t have insurance, I had thousands of dollars worth of damages. I was on the drugs heavy, just doing dumb shit. I was depressed. On top of that, I thought I was gonna get kicked out of school. I didn’t do all of that school to let my family down. I did all of this and I won’t graduate? What would they think? Also, since I’m still in school, stressed out about getting kicked out, paying my lawyers, I still had to do hood shit to get money. It was nerve-racking. I was trying to keep my grades up on top of that.

When you’re down it seems like everything piles up.

Kalan.frfr:For real. I wasn’t even worried about music. I stopped making music during that whole period. I had to sell all of shit. My mom tried to help me but she had shit going on. She had a big ass house she had to take care of and everyone was always coming to her asking for help. My case was like $20,000 between my lawyer and going to court every month. I had to pay a retainer just so I could stay in school.

Did you end up graduating?

Kalan.frfr:Yeah, I got my degree.

What does your mom do for a living?

Kalan.frfr:She’s a social worker.

Did you spend most of your time growing up with her?

Kalan.frfr:I didn’t really have any relationship with my father until I was 18. I don’t have too much to say about him because I don’t know him. I can’t tell you nothing about him. My step-dad, that’s my dawg. That’s my pops. Can’t nobody discredit him, take nothing away from him. That was my father figure. Him and my mom aren’t together, but when they separated, he was still like my dad. When I got kicked out, I went to his house. Like, that’s my dad.

Were you making music while you were in school?

Kalan.frfr:Yeah, I started getting into music in high school. I had a little group that made some noise around LA. It was cool. We’d do dope parties and stuff. When I went to college, though, I stopped doing music because I had to take the football shit seriously. But the bottom fell out of that, too. Shit like that happens.

Do you follow the NFL? I know some of your teammates are now in the league.

Kalan.frfr:Naw, that shit’s depressing.

Even as your career as a musician is taking off?

Kalan.frfr:Yeah, because I’m one of those people that I can’t give up on it unless I try and fail. I just want to know what it would have been like to pursue that dream, or been able to make it to the NFL and play against these dudes. Because I feel like I could! I feel like I can hang with the best of the best. I shoulda been there, but I got in trouble. That was the only reason why it didn’t work. I’m not saying I would have been drafted in a high round, but I would have been in somebody’s camp and been able to fight for a spot.

Can any amount of success in music erase that, or will that be with you no matter what?

Kalan.frfr:Naw, that’s always gonna be a void.

Does that push you in some way then?

Kalan.frfr:Definitely, because you gotta do something. You can’t be no punk. I can’t stand a n***a that’s a punk and don’t do nothing. Whatever you do, you gotta be one of the best at it. You at least gotta strive to try and be the best at it. You gotta give it 100%. All my friends, my real friends that are in the NFL … you don’t want to be the guy that doesn’t do anything. I’ve got real successful friends that I’ve met over the years and when they go do stuff, it hurts when you can’t do that. I wanna be able to live life. I don’t wanna take no risks to do it.

When did you get back into music after you left school?

Kalan.frfr:I walked the stage in May of 2017 but I didn’t finish my classes. Fighting my case, I missed so much time and failed a class. I was three classes behind because I had a whole year left of eligibility to play football and go to school. I graduated lowkey early, technically. I did summer school, so I didn’t even leave until July. From there, I moved to Atlanta.

Did you begin working on Hurt out there? What was the first record you did?

Kalan.frfr:I was just recording. My roommate had transferred out of San Diego State and went to Georgia State. He’s from Atlanta so I moved in with him and another close homie of mine and we were just trying to make it work. There was a DJ who really gassed me up. I had a meeting with Atlantic. It didn’t go anywhere, I didn’t have too much success, so I just swallowed my pride and chalked it up as a loss. I stayed out there and ended up meeting my manager. I was doing engineering, just moving around the city meeting people. I met producers, artists, all of them. I just started working. But I had worked with Atlanta artists before.

I had a song with Rich the Kid, I was on blogs and stuff. So a few people knew me but those songs were so old because I was still playing football at that time. I didn’t have the chance to give it my all. When I was in Atlanta, I was really just trying to figure it out. What better place to bring the music out than in Atlanta? We were just working and then I’d come to LA once a month to go to court. My lawyer was telling me it didn’t look good and the minimum sentence I’d get was a year.

I was preparing to go to jail so I just started recording. In October I did “Fine Ass,” but I was just playing, I wasn’t gonna put it out because I had never sung on the uptempo stuff. That didn’t work in Atlanta. I thought the singing stuff was actually pretty hard, but I still didn’t fuck with it. I sat on it and sat on it, then I went home to finish my case out. I thought I was about to be locked up, everything was downhill. The DA said that even if they got rid of the burglary case, they still had to get me for felony invasion. I didn’t know what was gonna happen so I just dropped “Fine Ass.” It just started going! I’m getting buzz, the majority of my fanbase was coming from random ass places like Minnesota, San Diego, and Ohio.

Why there, do you think?

Kalan.frfr:Most of my best friends are Somalian, so the people that really started listening to my shit first were Somalian people. For a while that was my biggest fan base. Like, my homies? You couldn’t tell them I’m not Somalian. I’m one of them. I got to experience their culture, how they move, I appreciate all of them. It’s dope.

When did you move back to L.A.?

Kalan.frfr:In November of 2017. I just started recording songs. I had no inspiration of a project or anything like that. I was just recording. I recorded most of it at my crib. I did most of it in my room and garage.

The tracks on TwoFr are mostly old, right?

Kalan.frfr:Yeah. I wasn’t gonna do nothing with those songs, because I wasn’t gonna do no uptempo LA-type shit. That wasn’t the plan. They were songs I was just messing around with. A lot of the songs just sort of happened. “Right Wit It” with Chris O’Bannon came outta nowhere. I’d known Chris for a while, he’s a great producer and rapper. We were just in the studio, I had some beats, and I played it. Chris liked it, but I was scared because it was too LA. I didn’t know how to rap over that. But we ended up doing it and the next day I met G Perico. I played it for him and he fucked with it. I knew it was hard but I didn’t know it was gonna be a heater like that. But I didn’t know any of this was gonna happen. I couldn’t picture any of it.

How do you explain it? All these unreleased tracks have made you an up-and-coming name in the LA scene.

Kalan.frfr:It’s just God, bro. I don’t think too hard about it because I don’t know. Nobody really knows. You just gotta put it out and wait. It just happened. With “Lil Bit” and “Right Wit It,” I sent ‘em to my homies and people were sending me Snapchats and Instagram videos dancing to it. People would hit me up, ‘Ay, that your song?’ I’d be like, ‘How’d you get that?!?’ TwoFr was finished in December, early January.

When did you find out you weren’t going to jail?

Kalan.frfr:January or February. My lawyer pushed to get me probation. They offered me a deal, but I was like, “I’m not going to jail, I got shit goin’ here.” I put “Fine Ass” out and I started doing features. Everything was going smooth. I wasn’t going to jail now! Music was how I was eating. I don’t try to think about how it happened too hard, but I got probation and a felony. After that it was go mode, I didn’t think I’d get the opportunity again. I broke up with my girl shortly after, and that’s when I did Hurt. I did that whole mixtape in one night. I was arguing with my girl on the phone, we had broken up a few times already. One day we was just arguing and my homie was making beats, and I just recorded. After we left my house, we shot a video that night, too. I dropped the record the next day.

When did you link up with the 1Take crew, AZSwaye, Blueface, those dudes?

Kalan.frfr:I’ve known 1TakeJay for years. We played football in high school. I played with Swaye, too. Swaye’s smoked at my house, all types of shit. If you go back on Twitter, you can see us chopping it up years and years ago. We just tried to push each others’ music. We just retweeted all day long [laughs]. In LA, everyone knows each other from somewhere. The only person I really just met is Rucci, but I still knew who he was. We just hadn’t kicked it yet.

What’s it like now that everyone’s blowing up?

Kalan.frfr:It’s crazy because it don’t feel like nothing. We’ve all been looking at each other like, “Damn, you blowin’ up!,” and someone else goes, “Damn, you blowin’ up!” We be so close that we don’t think about it. We’re all doing the same shit, we’re all going up at the same time. It’s amazing. We all cool. It ain’t weird. Other eras of rappers, n****s was beefing. We’d be in the studio, all 15 of us. It’s the whole crew. That shit reminds me of watching old Snoop Dogg documentary, when there’d be 100 n****s in the studio and they’d just knock songs out. Everyone’s having a good time, we’re all getting involved. It’s genuine. N****s really care about each other. It’s love.

Have you had to tighten up your crew since being on probation? Does it affect the way you move?

Kalan.frfr:Yeah, a lot of my homies don’t fuck with me no more because I don’t wanna fuck with them. They put themselves in positions that harm me, so they don’t give a fuck about what I got going on. There are certain n****s I can’t hang out with on a day to day. I knocked that shit out. Getting in the car with somebody is one of my biggest fears right now. I ain’t gonna snitch on no one, I got too much pride. So we both go down for some blow that none of us gonna claim. Everyone I ride with is now low-key. I don’t even like to go to many places because I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t know what n****s’ agenda is.

Especially as you get more successful.

Kalan.frfr:Exactly. I ain’t scared of no n***a, but I’m not putting myself in a situation where I gotta fight for my life. I’ve worked to hard, but I ain’t done nothin’ yet. I want kids. I’m tryna get married. I can’t let this shit stop me from that.

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