K. Fisha's Intergenerational Wisdom
K Fisha’s beats have a kaleidoscopic, otherworldly feel to them.
The producer, who goes by an abbreviated version of his government name Kyle Fischer, is best known for his work with fellow Californian Larry June, a gruff, deep-voiced rapper from San Francisco. June has become a regional legend over the past half-decade for his sober, no-frills storytelling — while popping up on the occasional Post Malone track. Fisha’s body of work with June is anything but poppy, though. The keys on Larry June’s “Slow Motion” sound like a honky-tonk keyboard refracted through an old jukebox, and Fisha layers them with trunk-shaking drums. “Early Bird,” another standout collaboration from the duo, is a nest of low-passed saw synthesizers that slither in and out of the mix, never reaching above a whisper but still remaining omnipresent.
The restrained chaos in Fisha’s instrumentals is balanced out by the fact that beyond drum programming and sampling, he actually has serious chops as a musician. “I play bass and keys primarily,” Fisha explains. “When I was a lot younger, I got a scholarship to Berklee College in Los Angeles to study Jazz bass, and I played for a couple years. I’ve studied pretty much all rhythmic instruments, though, and I grew up around music so I’m able to connect with almost any musician.”
That last part is a serious understatement. Fisha didn’t just grow up around music — nearly every member of his immediate family has their own area of musical expertise, and a result, Fisha practically breathed it in from infancy onward. His father, Andre Fischer, was the original drummer for Rufus, the Chicago funk band best known for launching Chaka Khan’s career, and later went on to win an Album of the Year Grammy for producing his then-wife Natalie Cole’s comeback album Unforgettable. His mother, Yolande Howard, worked extensively as a background singer and session musician, working with everyone from Giorgio Morodor to Luther Vandross (“Power of Love”). Howard later married Fisha’s stepfather Ricky “Freeze” Smith, a multi-instrumentalist who produced records for Janet Jackson and Babyface and currently tours as the bassist for the Prince-founded group The Time.
Fisha isn’t the only one of his generation to enter what is effectively their family’s business; his younger brother Yori has also carved out a niche as a producer, and works with an array of emerging and established artists, both from Los Angeles and Detroit.
Ultimately though, Fisha attributes his inspiration to God, not just his training and the creative environment he grew up in. “My foundation in music and life is ultimately my faith. Before I could play any instrument, my mother put me in the children’s choir at the West Angeles Church of God In Christ, which is a powerful pillar in the community of South Central Los Angeles. That’s where I first developed my ear, and without that none of this would be possible.”
We caught up briefly with K. Fisha to talk about his eclectic influences and how his family’s intergenerational knowledge has helped guide his path as a producer.
Right now, your most important creative relationship is with Larry June, who you’ve produced a number of tracks for since 2014 as he’s become somewhat of a California legend. How did that relationship come about?
I actually went to high school with Dom Kennedy, and Larry was a huge fan of him, which led him to reach out to my brother Yori and I in 2014, after I produced for Dom’s self-titled album. We sent a few emails back and forth, and then we met in person and became friends, but it was important for him to have that point of reference. I love working with Larry; he’s such a prolific, talented artist. I’ve always respected how he balances an authentic street heritage while also promoting financial education and freedom, pursuing creative side-hustles while being an independent artist, and the importance of good health in your quality of life.
Besides your brother, you of course come from an extremely musical household, where everyone’s been in and out of that space their whole lives. Tell me a bit about what you’ve observed that it takes to survive and thrive as working musicians.
I’ve seen that it really depends on your situation, and everyone's gonna have a different experience. I got a lot of insight and encouragement from my pops that really helped, though. He's been a person who moved out at 16, joined Curtis Mayfield's band, ended up playing in Rufus, and then never looked back. He's worked as a music director, worked in the business, and he would always nudge me when he saw I was lost and working a myriad of jobs that weren't taking me anywhere. He'd say 'oh, another job huh? When are you going to do the shit that really matters?' That helped light a fire under me.
It seems like you've had the opposite push that a lot of artists get from their families – where they reach a tipping point, and their parents say you need to go get a job instead of sticking with that passion. You had this huge family influence pushing you out of the typical path, towards something that speaks to your soul.
Exactly, exactly. I could definitely say that. Mom Dukes was the opposite, though. She was the one who told me to always keep a regular job, to stay in school and she always kept me grounded. But my pops' path was the one that always inspired me. He didn't get a degree, but they gave him an honorary degree and he teaches at major universities all over the country.
That’s really impressive. That contrast in your parents’ perspectives must have challenged you, even though you’ve ended up closer towards your father’s path.
It really did. It’s interesting to me how we value people who have pertinent experience, that actually do things and inspire people in their community. What I’ve learned now is you don't always have to go by-the-book, and depending on what you want to do, a degree is sometimes just a piece of paper.
I feel that. I’ve forgotten so much from my degree even just one year out from it.
Yeah. I'm not discrediting higher education or regular jobs, and the pursuit of more knowledge is important, but it's not right for everyone. It wasn’t right for me in the end, and I’m still finding my way but right now, I’ve got no doubts that I’m going where I want to go. I have a ton of new projects I’ve produced for dropping this year, and I’m working hard everyday. With faith and keeping God first, all things are possible.