Kevin “Kereal” Walker and Tommy “Tgunnz” Piccirilli have been rapping together for the better part of a decade.
The duo — known as KT Borderline — have their fair share of stories about day jobs and failed label meetings.
But it looks like they're about to turn a corner. Their song “Fresh In The Club,” uploaded to YouTube in February, has become a hit. Sure, it's got its share of hip-hop cliches, but did we mention it's got over 2.2 million views?
Considering that they lack label backing, that's pretty impressive. We asked them their secret.
On originally linking up and reuniting
Piccirili: We met in Nashville, Tennessee originally. We were on a construction site and we put together a group called NorthSouth Finest. But we ended up having some problems with a couple guys in the group so we split up. I wound up moving back to Philly and Kevin moved to Jersey. We lost contact for like five years. We didn't even know each other had moved back East. So when we ran into each other [in the Hamilton mall in Jersey] in '05, we took that as like fate.
Walker: We've lived all over. I used to live In Pasadena. All my family's there. I was born in Atlantic City but I moved to Cali when I was like five. I moved back 'cause I thought the cost of living was too expensive but I'm trying to come back. We're going to go back to Cali though.
On the online success of “Fresh in the Club”
Piccirili: We've been working for years before this. But this song right here is one of the only songs we own out right and did properly. A lot of songs we did back in the day were mixtape songs and covers and things like that. But with this project, we learned the business. We learned all about the business before getting into this one. We put like 10 Gs into the video, probably like 10 to 12, something like that. Our director shot “Snapback and Tattoos” and that song really took off. He's done stuff with Three-6-Mafia and Waka Flocka too. It was real important for us to have someone with those credentials working with us on this.
Walker: To be honest with you, we want to push this single out to the world. Hopefully, we want to get a budget from a label and let everyone hear it. Get it on radio, MTV, VH1 and the whole thing. Everybody's thinking we're a success because we have two million videos on YouTube. To me that's not success. I'm happy but I'm a humble dude. We don't have that label co-sign yet to have a big budget. You got to have a budget! Budget, budget, budget, budget. If you don't have a budget to shoot videos, you can't. I don't have money to shoot videos like “Fresh In the Club” every day. All we can do is create awareness, polish ourselves and, hopefully, get ourselves a budget from a label to shoot more videos and get out there to the world.
On the importance of promotion and marketing for independent artists
Piccirili: We learned how to promote and market our song. It's real important to promote and market every project. If you don't have the money behind it or if you don't have the PR, it's not going to go nowhere. We learned that through trial and error. 'Cause we put out a lot of songs before, and we thought it was all about talent and shit like that, but it's really not. It's a business. We had to learn that from the ground up.
Walker: It's all about promotion. It's not about talent. [Laughs.] I basically learned how to do Search Engine Optimization. I got real good at that and learned how to use great key words. I know what words work for this and what words don't for that. I just ran with the punches from there man. You can [of course] go on YouTube and upload your videos, but there's 1000 other websites you can go on and upload your video. I have our video for KT Borderline playing on over 40 different video sharing sites besides YouTube. Videoo sharing is very important. Go on Facebook, Twitter, the blogs and all that to create awareness. It's not just about music, for anything to be successful, you need to promote it. YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world. I told myself this: I don't have money to travel to Japan or Los Angeles or wherever. But I can travel the world with my fingertips. The internet is our best friend for that.
On the importance of having a day job
Walker: He got a job, I got a job. We still got jobs to this day. I feel like that's very important. I mean we got money saved up. But we also have money coming in, so not only do we take care of our families with that, we're able to promote and market ourselves with that. We can buy ourselves beats with that or studio time or if we need to travel, we can do that. Independent artists, it's important to have that money coming in. You got to have a budget man.
Piccirili: It lets you do it yourself man. Learn it and do it yourself.