K.I.N.: Still Atlanta's original oddballs, 20-odd years later

Featuring alums such as Saul Williams, CX KiDTRONiK, and Sol Messiah, no one in Atlanta’s emerging, early ’90s hip-hop scene was stranger than K.I.N.

No one in Atlanta’s emerging, early ’90s hip-hop scene was stranger than K.I.N. Formed at Morehouse College, their shows featured a shirtless, dreadlocked guy who clutched an axe and stood motionless in the middle of the stage, and a white, would-be Klansman who smacked the group’s black members with a whip. Something of a cross between Public Enemy and Fishbone, K.I.N. was a rap early bird, and its alums are still influential.

The group was founded in 1990 by rapper Andre Henderson, who went by E=MC2. Originally paired with three other collaborators, he broke off after meeting producer Christopher Davis, a card-carrying Nation of Islam member who called himself Christopher X but quickly abandoned his bow tie for a mohawk and combat boots. K.I.N. also included beatmaker Sol Messiah, a backup dancer named Saul Williams, and King Esseen, whose sole duty was to hold the axe.

Their sound was punk mixed with hip-hop of the politically-driven, East Coast variety, but their message wasn’t always entirely clear. Sol Messiah says he has no idea what the title of their popular song “90,000 Days and Nights” refers to, and found their moniker — which stood for “Knowledge In the Name of the ancestors” a bit confusing. “We were like, ‘That’s a lot of letters. Where is the ancestors part?” he remembers with a laugh.

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