On borrowed times
Kid 606 keeps it real, even if that's illegal
Bringing a punk rock sense of humor to a genre founded upon generations of stone-faced artistes and über-nerds isn't the most conventional way to win friends and influence people. But there isn't too much that is conventional about Kid 606. Since the early 1990s, the Venezuela-born Miguel Depedro has eviscerated and reconstructed everyone from Missy Elliott to the Misfits with cartoonish, industrial fervor, all the while receiving accolades and disdain from friends and foes alike.
Being the subject of heated debate is all in a day's work for Kid 606, who now lives in Oakland, Calif., where he operates his Tigerbeat 6 imprint. His latest offering, The Action Packed Mentalist Brings You the Fucking Jams, violates U.S. copyright laws too many times to count as it denigrates electronic music's standard rules of commercial/underground etiquette. But for this action-packed mentalist, stepping on toes at every turn is the way of the walk when kicking out the jams.
Kid 606's recorded output is an enigma, a collection of recordings that absorbs glitch, IDM, noise and hip-hop sounds and regurgitates them in a series of distorted movements. His back catalogue resembles a record collection belonging to a schizophrenic with a short attention span and a penchant for mischief. In spearheading a remix album of N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton, Kid 606 embraced the hip-hop influence with which he works. But he also pokes fun at it with song titles like "It'll Take Millions in Plastic Surgery to Make Me Black." The mixed message is one many listeners don't appreciate — much to his chagrin.
"I get hate mail every day," says Depedro. "I get these bitchy e-mails from kids complaining about how I have no respect for hip-hop. The underground hip-hop world is very reactionary, and I don't try to understand it. However, I do love hip-hop — but equally as much as I love metal or industrial music."
Equally unsettling to electronica listeners is Kid 606's non-committal approach to style, following up P.S. I Love You's serene wash of IDM with Down With the Scene, an album rife with digital dementia and chaos. Despite the complaints, Kid 606's record sales are strong enough to foster his own label, Tigerbeat 6, on which he releases material by playful hip-hop and electronic acts such as Cex, Gold Chains and Blectum From Blechdom.
In perhaps his most irreverent move, Kid 606's latest offering is a dance record that uses extended samples to create a mega-mix of immediately recognizable sound bites from a laundry list of acts, including the Buggles, a-ha, Black Sabbath, Radiohead and many others. Clearing the numerous samples would be next to impossible here in the U.S., so Depedro simply launched a new label in New Zealand, Violent Turd Records.
"When I did [The Action Packed Mentalist], I didn't want it to be an open-ended statement about sampling laws," says Depedro. "If it were, I would have included six pages of liner notes with it. I just wanted to make a kick-ass party record. I wanted to steal from pop music the way it's always stolen from underground culture, and no other label would release it in a million years."
It's hard to say whether fussy electronic enthusiasts and hip-hop purists will ever accept Kid 606's m.o. — and Depedro is fine with it.
"I don't care what other people think about my music, but I do care what I want to do and where I want to go with it," he says. "With glitch, hip-hop, IDM, punk and whatever else is out there, you really have to take a step back and make a conscious effort to do something different. Otherwise, things will come out very boring."