After more than 20 years in the music industry, Kawan “KP the Great” Prather is still excited when first experiences arise.
The artists-and-repertoire veteran for LaFace Records, Columbia Records, Sony Urban Music, Def Jam and Atlantic Records toured through Western North Carolina in the early 1990s alongside Big Reese and Mello in the group Parental Advisory, part of the Dungeon Family collective that also includes Outkast and Goodie Mob. He’s also been through Asheville managing such touring artists as Alabama rapper Yelawolf, but when he opens for longtime friend Big Boi on Sunday, June 3, at Salvage Station, it will mark his local debut as a DJ.
Prather calls his DJ show “a self-esteem set,” after which listeners should “feel better and that much more ready for Big Boi to come on stage because your energy is there.” He and the headliner went to high school together and have been friends for roughly 30 years.
“All of us knew each other before there was a music business in Atlanta, so the bonds were made through all of us working to get all of us to this place. It’s a legitimate family. The Dungeon Family is a real thing for us. We really all slept in one house on floors, making records in the basement made out of red clay,” Prather says. “We made it to this point, and our crew is still all alive, we’re all still here. We haven’t had tragedy. We had problems and setbacks, but we haven’t had things that took anybody yet, so we’re really excited to be able to still be out here doing this stuff and at the level that we get a chance to do it.”
Throughout his illustrious career as an executive, working on such Outkast albums as ATLiens, Aquemini and Stankonia, signing T.I. and John Legend and producing tracks with Malay for Big Boi (“Something’s Gotta Give”), Legend (“Green Light”) and Fantasia (“The Thrill is Gone”), Prather has always lived in Atlanta. He views the relaxed way of life in the Georgia capital as a major reason behind his multidecade success.
“The culture here, the pace here, the ability to have space to create without every eye on you — there’s a freedom here that you don’t have in L.A. or New York, creatively,” Prather says. “I like being able to duck off and be here to just make the music and do the experiments, and then you can leave Atlanta and show everybody.”
Since 2015, Prather has been head of music for Pharrell Williams’ creative venture i am OTHER. The two were friends with a mutual respect for each other’s professional doings before they started working together. Prather says they talk every day about anything “from kids to Cardi B.” Consistent with those conversations and his varied resumé, Prather wears many creative hats in his current position and says the balance between his roles comes naturally.
“It allows me to connect people that don’t always get to connect because I’m in so many different rooms. I feel like my job is to take that light and spread it around so that the light stays in the places that’s beneficial for us as a culture,” he says.
“I get to take artists like Kap G on the road with me when I DJ. I also get to write with Pharrell from time to time, and that’s worked out as well. The synergy of all my lives kind of just go together right now, so it doesn’t call for the compartmentalizing of what’s more important any more because it’s all music-related — it’s all entertainment, it’s all art.”
Among those collaborators with Williams was Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 track “Alright,” which won the trio a Grammy the following year for Best Rap Song. Though Prather is reticent about delving deep into the creative process and assigning credit for each artist’s specific contributions, he says that without all three of them, it would have been a vastly different record.
“Pharrell was in a session, doing some stuff. He had an amazing track and part of what I guess we would normally look at as a hook,” Prather says. “I was able to come in and gave an idea that made that hook what it came out to be. And Kendrick was able to take what was there and expound upon it in a way that neither one of us would have ever thought. … When the track was created, it was maybe two to three years prior and no one had a feeling for it. Kendrick heard it and brought an actual point to it.”
WHO: Big Boi with KP the Great
WHERE: Salvage Station, 466 Riverside Drive, salvagestation.com
WHEN: Sunday, June 3, 7 p.m. $25