Every caboose needs an engine in order to make its way down the train tracks. Rapper Kaboose is no different. God serves as Kaboose’s engine, allowing the Minnesota rapper to follow faithfully behind.
Now aligned with independent powerhouse Syntax Records, Kaboose (a stable on Syntax’s Night Owls releases) is set to unleash his dynamic debut album, Excuse Me. “I’m trying to weave through and move forward,” Kaboose says of his career trajectory and how that ties into the album’s title. “I’m trying to make good music for people. Another way to look at it is, ‘Excuse me. Are you listening?’”
Rap fans will certain pay attention to “Going Outta Control.” The lead Excuse Me single features Kaboose and Royce Da 5’9’’ trading rhymes with braggadocio overtones and spiritual heft. It’s a fantastic merger of chest-thumping and thought-provoking material, a nod to Kaboose and Royce’s skills as artists. “Royce is one of my Top 3 favorite rappers in the game,” Kaboose says. “Stylistically, he’s a cat that I look up to. For the album, we were looking for one big guest and I think we hit it on the head.”
Kaboose mans much of the rest of Excuse Me on his own. Aided by a soulful guitar progression on “Precious Time,” he addresses how people — including himself — should strive to live life to the best of their ability. “In our society, we accept mediocrity when there’s so much more,” he says. “We could use this time to build, grow, learn and actually strive for excellence, not just what we can get.”
Kaboose knows first-hand what it’s like to be in a setting that does not breed positivity — or excellence — on the paternal side. He was raised in an abusive home environment for some of his childhood and uses the moving “Simply Broken Down” to urge people to look at the repercussions of having a child without accepting the consequences of how fractured parental relationships impact children.
“I grew up seeing the wrong ways a man should treat a woman and how a relationship should start,” he says. “Now, I feel we have a fatherless generation in our society. People are hooking up and having kids, but they don’t want that responsibility so they leave or don’t try to further that relationship. So, you have this kid that’s stuck in the middle and wondering, ‘What did I do wrong? Why is this happening to me? Does my mom not like me? Does my father not like me?’ We need to step up and be responsible for the choices we make. Just because you’re in that situation doesn’t mean that you’re any less than anybody else. That’s just the hand that you were dealt and we can get over that.”
Growing up bi-racial (Native American, white), Kaboose endured additional strife and pain as he bounced around from house to house with relatives from both sides of his heritage. The brilliant social examination “Two Sides” features Kaboose exploring the prejudices he experienced from his Native and white friends toward the other group.
As heavy as much of Kaboose’s material is, there are also plenty of upbeat selections. For instance, the club-ready title track features Kaboose recounting an experience with his wife when he was too apprehensive to dance with her. His wife was also the inspiration for “Don’t Go To Bed Mad At Me.” On this piano-driven song, Kaboose offers apologies to people he may have slighted, from his wife and children to God.
Elsewhere, on “The Land Of Lakes” his salutes his home state. “I wanted to show love to my city and my state,” he says. “On a national level, other than the Rhymesayers, there really isn’t a whole lot of hip-hop coming out of this area. But I know a lot of cats who are talented, especially in Northern Minnesota, and I want to show cats from my area that it’s possible to make it in the rap game.”
Kaboose knows what it’s like to need a nod of affirmation. His parents divorced soon after he was born, and he moved with his mother to San Jose, California. There, his mother experienced verbal and physical abuse at the hands of his stepfather. Fortunately, Kaboose’s mother was not broken, and pushed on with her life, all the while serving as a positive influence on Kaboose. As a young child looking for something to lean on during this dark period, Kaboose found solace in rap music. Introduced to the genre by a cousin, Kaboose was smitten by the groundbreaking work of the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC.
“Hip-hop was like an escape,” Kaboose recalls. “When times were going bad and I heard my mom and step-dad getting into a fight, I could put my headphones on and escape to a different place. It felt like it was a place for me to fit in. It was a place where I could hang out and be accepted.”
Kaboose later returned to his native Minnesota, and it felt as though someone had hit the emergency brakes. Things went from breakneck speed (sports, music, etc.) in California to a painful crawl in his native state. That slowdown was only exaggerated when, at 17, Kaboose suffered a mild heart attack, forcing him away from his beloved basketball. But Kaboose used his newfound spare time to pursue one of his other passions: rap. While in his second year of college, he started writing lyrics. Two weeks after writing his first rhymes, he performed a three-song set to rave reviews.
From there, Kaboose connected with other Minnesota hip-hoppers. Through his self-generated buzz, he met the Syntax Records team and developed a relationship with the imprint’s executives. Impressed with Kaboose’s musical output and his work ethic, Syntax featured Kaboose on its Night Owls series, paving the way for Kaboose to sign with the label.
Now with Excuse Me, Kaboose hopes to make a difference in his listeners’ lives. “I wanted to make good music, but also have a good message behind it,” he says. “I wanted it to hit home, so that when somebody is listening to it they would really enjoy it, but also give them some truth and something they can take away from the album.”