3 questions to Hicham Kochman, aka Axiom, rapper, producer and CEO of KEAKR
Orange Pop: Let’s start from the beginning. How did the idea for KEAKR come about and please tell us about how it was developing it then launching it.
Axiom: I though about creating a platform that would bring together the creative minds of Hip Hop and by extension urban music a long time ago. Quite early on, I realized that there was no digital representation for us. This future platform therefore had to allow us to expose our contents but also to connect with people. As time went by, the idea of social media had become obvious. Then, the form of an app came naturally to me, following the many meetings I have held in the community, with the youngest, in writing workshops or on the street, But also with developers.
Development has been difficult, finding the right formula and finding the right people takes time. When it comes to the launch, it was done by word of mouth, crisscrossing small events that bring together the Hip Hop community. Sounds simple, but Hip-Hop community can not be fooled. It only works with people whose activism and values it respects.
After launching an initial life-size test, we were quickly overwhelmed by the number of registrations. Stabilizing an application is a no mean feat. Now we are technologically ready to communicate on a larger scale and can rely on a truly international network that keeps getting bigger. It is a real victory, especially since only a few people – close friends and some clever visionaries – believed in us in the beginning. One of the first lessons I learn from this is that it is important to be balanced and well rounded when you engage in this type of project.
O.Pop: KEAKR is both an application serving urban cultures and “hip-pop” culture, and an innovative start-up that rides on new technologies and tools for sharing and communication. How do you marry these two aspects? Also, what are KEAKR’s sources of income and opportunities?
Axiom: The application is called KEAKR, which means “Kicker”, a rapper who “throws his lines, his rhymes”. It has become a word for “genius”. For example, you can be a kicker in math. The design is by HB District, a renowned graphic designer who has made my album covers. Although it’s bigger and more mature now, I usually work with the same team as I did in the beginning. The link between Hip Hop and start-up is therefore quite natural. Creativity has always been played a huge part in Hip Hop culture. Given the international reach of digital technology, the difference is reflected in the size of the markets. With the sole francophone market, the opportunities are endless. Other factors include the dual nationality of many of us, but also our American culture which we’ve gained after watching legendary trajectories like Michael Jackson’s, Michael Jordan’s, and also Dr. Dre’s (and his story with Beats). We’re also inspired by Frenchies such as Booba, Maître Gims, Dawala or Stromae in Belgium. Kenzy of Secteur A was already a reference in the matter back in the day.
KEAKR’s potential sources of revenue are numerous, but our main goal is to continue developing with the community that has been there from the beginning. It is with it that we will define the future business model. The idea is to remain faithful to the same approach that I have always taken as an artist or producer. This intelligent and philosophical environment is now global. It is not just dance or music. It is a culture in its own right.
O.Pop: You talk about connecting people, bringing communities together through KEAKR. Can you explain how it works?
Axiom: KEAKR was first released in France and Belgium. Its principle is simple:
- You chose the type of music you like (Boom bap, trap, cloud, trip hop, dancehall, jazzy, electro, etc.) or the a capella mode
- You chose a filter for your video
- You record your video
- You chose a voice effect
- Once the sound has been automatically mixed and mastered, you post it on social media
- Your video is hosted on KEAR under the « Street » category. People can now comment your video and share it
- You can also challenge the other users into a battle via the unique « Battle » option
The community is already there. Talents have already been revealed. Deals between beatmakers and rappers or singers have been signed already. Punchlynn, a young rapper, has recorded with MK-Zoo, one of the most talented French beatmakers. Mixtapes and joint videos have been made unsing the application. And in less than a month!
Rappers like Seultou, Seultou, Sado MC, Jack Ardi or the rapper A2N were able to show their performances. Most of these artists are releasing videos and even albums, like The Original K for example. We got more and more beatboxers. The triple world champion of Hip Hop dance, Sofiane Felouki, has performed on KEAKR. But also DJs, like DJ Wars. Beatmakers aren’t represented enough in France, with KEAKR they have a platform.
All these artists have talent. Most do it for fun, others try to live off their art. These are all issues KEAKR is trying to address. It is not just a platform or a simple application, but a laboratory.
Put simply, KEAKR is Us.