They say a journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step. What if, though, that first step is into a brand-new, foreign land? For Virginia-based Rapper Karl Anthony, it’s been a tumultuous journey – one that began with a 10,000-mile trip, and with an end yet to be written.
Born in Cameroon, a disparate country in central Africa, Karl’s early misfortunes would later help catapult his rhymes into impassioned pleas of survival. “The circumstances I was born under – my parents weren’t married. At the time, in that particular culture – it was controversial…my mother had to drop out of college, and she tried to find work – which wasn’t promised as it is here.”
A move to Boston at age nine, while a better situation for the family, put Karl on the early defensive – at an age which otherwise would be spent in relative innocence. A native French speaker (France once shared Cameroon’s territory with England), the upheaval to an English-speaking land provided what could only be described as a massive culture shock. “It might have been the toughest part of my life,” he recalls. “You go from speaking freely with people, to a place where you don’t identify with anyone. You’re an outcast. Nobody could relate to me being from somewhere else – so hip-hip was a common ground.”
Also dealing with a father he’d see sporadically for weeks at a time, Karl turned to music as his own form of expression, communication – and acceptance. With hip-hop as the anchor, Karl’s influences of 50 Cent, Michael Jackson, along with his native African tones & drumbeats, allowed him to finally open his sphere of influence – and he hasn’t looked back since.
“From the time you wake up and start your day in morning, when you pop a CD in your car, you’re really trying to get ready for the day ahead of you – it’s personal therapy,” Karl says of his music. “And that’s something I try to reflect – music is an escape route.” Karl’s years of perceived jilt have also given him the gift of virulent observation – in the vein of Eminem and Joe Budden before him, he has a knack for championing the underdog.
Now nineteen, one more sudden move, this time to Virginia, gave the young poet a forlorn trip down déjà vu lane – this time, though, it was abound with musical benefits. As Karl reflects: “My most personal songs are based on my life, my conditions, and my surroundings. I want people to connect with my music, since it’s rooted in honesty. I feel like this age, where I’m at – it’s a transitional phase, and I try to capture that.”
With a rigorous work ethic (over 400 songs written over the past year), Karl’s ambition far exceeds the miles his voyage has covered thus far. As his musical journey begins, his life’s travels are finally coming full circle. With a return trip to Cameroon planned for later this summer, Karl’s honesty remains unrelenting. “I started off talking about ‘I got this, I got that’ – when in reality, I didn’t. It was just wishful thinking. Now, I feel like I’ve learned so much, and I just hope to have a larger platform – for the world to hear my music, and even more importantly, in some shape or form connect with my story.”
Karl Anthony’s debut mixtape, entitled Foreign Exchange, will be released later this year.