Meet Phoenix Hip-Hop Musician KT Gipson, an Artist Giving Back to His Community | Phoenix New Times

Meet Phoenix Hip-Hop Musician KT Gipson, an Artist Giving Back to His Community

You can see the Detroit native this weekend at a show at Palo Verde Lounge in Tempe.
See KT Gipson this weekend at Palo Verde Lounge in Tempe.
See KT Gipson this weekend at Palo Verde Lounge in Tempe. KT Gipson
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When KT Gipson was 11, he had to come up with something for show-and-tell at school. He prepared a rap verse dissing his teacher.

His grandmother was disappointed, but his father said, "you're gonna be a star, boy," he recalls.

Years later, Gipson is a rising figure in the Valley hip-hop scene, with a show Saturday night, December 17, at an Ugly Sweater Party at Palo Verde Lounge in Tempe.

Gipson's hip-hop roots go deep. He grew up in Detroit, an experience he says "had its ups and downs, but ... my coming up in Detroit definitely made me who I am today.”

The booming music scene in Detroit imbued him with an even deeper love of hip-hop. Though he was still too young to get into clubs, he remembers once seeing Eminem battle at an early age in Hamtramck, Michigan.

His father was another major influence; Gipson says he was "deeply into hip-hop" and recalls hours spent listening to early Nas albums. Gipson's taste in hip-hop certainly seems to stem from the greats of the mid-'90s and early '00s. He takes inspiration from Tupac Shakur, as well as Busta Rhymes, DMX, Twista, and 50 Cent, and attributes his taste for melodic hooks to a long-time fandom of Ja Rule.

After that first taste of grade-school performance, Gipson began to perform at barbecues and battles before making his way into Detroit’s hip-hop circuit. His first organized live shows began in 2006, and by a certain point, he says, “between working a job and performing and going out and promoting we weren't even getting sleep at one point in time ... for years we were doing like four or five shows a week.” He’s since found a healthy work-life balance, but has lost count of the number of performances he’s done.

And a lot of those shows are with some of the biggest names in the business. He’s shared the stage with the likes of Lil Wayne, Slim Thug, Rick Ross, and Twista, and Gipson says his favorite performance is a tie between "Lil’ Wayne and Rick Ross for sure,” he says. “I love Wayne, but Ross was dope because I feel, in my opinion ... our performance murdered Rick Ross’s.”

Hip-hop fans can judge Kipson's work for themselves on his most recent releases. “Down,” “Hold On,” and “Make More” combine his roots sensibilities with top-tier production quality. “Hold On” in particular intends to draw attention to the ongoing mental health crises that KT has witnessed brewing within the communities he’s been close to.

Though he loves performing around the Valley (recent shows include a set at Cornish Pasty Co. in downtown Phoenix and another at The Beast in Tempe), he's happy to find a welcome in other parts of the country. He’s made airtime on FM radio stations here and in Ontario, Canada, where he was recently surprised to find a fanbase brewing. “I was like ‘Man, that’s cool,’' he says. “We’re actually in talks about doing a show over there, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed on that one.”

Atlanta is another place Gipson loves to perform. “They show so much love, they don't even have to know who you are. They just, like, as soon as you touch the stage, they treat you like you're the biggest celebrity in the world,” he says.

Music’s isn't Gipson's only endeavor. He’s currently working with local charity organization Guarded Hope in their Hydr8 program that provides hydration and hygiene kits to homeless communities around the Valley, and their Warm Wishes campaign that provides foods, clothing, and health aid to those same communities in the winter.

That care for the community extends to the December 17 show at Palo Verde Lounge; attendees are encouraged to bring donations of new, unwrapped toys and water for community members in need.

It'll be a "high-energy, fun event that will bring lots of people together around helping our community and listening to some great music," Gipson says.

KT Gipson. 9 p.m. Saturday, December 17. Palo Verde Lounge, 1015 West Broadway Road, Tempe. Tickets are $15 at the door.
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