Kid Ink (aka Brian Collins) may have been lowkey in 2016, but he’s experienced an eventful year personally. The Los Angeles producer-cum-rapper (reportedly) wed his longtime girlfriend, model Asiah Azante, after becoming a father. And he turned 30. Still, dude hasn’t totally neglected music – airing singles and a mixtape.
Come February, Collins will return to Australia for the first time since 2014, performing sweaty club shows. “It should be really dope,” he proclaims. “I’m excited.” Collins hopes to finally hear some Aussie hip-hop. “When I get in the car, they only wanna play my music!”
The genial hip-hopper has taken those major life changes in his stride – happy to play dad to his baby daughter Aislin. “It’s been dope. I think it’s all about just figuring out how to adjust a little bit – and I’m not somebody who’s against adjustment. I’m pretty adaptable to trying to figure it out. And, timeframe, luckily I can work off four hours of sleep. So I definitely fit in a lot of stuff throughout the day.”
An aspiring producer even in his teens, Collins gave beats to – gulp – Diddy. He belatedly began rapping in his 20s, initially adopting the handle Rockstar. In 2012 the mixtape don, now called Kid Ink, made XXL’s Freshman Class cover alongside our own Iggy Azalea. Aligning himself with DJ Ill Will’s Tha Alumni Music Group, Collins’ 2012 debut, Up & Away, cracked the US Top 20. This led to a deal with RCA Records and Collins dropped My Own Lane – spawning his crossover hit ‘Show Me’, featuring Chris Brown.
In fact, ‘Show Me’ signalled the start of a beautiful friendship. Collins has cut successive tracks with Brown – including ‘Hotel’ off 2015’s Full Speed. They’ve also toured together. Typically described as ‘controversial’, Collins maintains that Brown has another side and is a victim of F.A.M.E. “I think people probably don’t get sometimes how much of a regular person he wants to be outside of being a celebrity – and how that sometimes, being a celebrity early on, too, you kind of don’t really get the opportunity to have fun or just be yourself. Then, once you get a chance, you just let go. Some people don’t really know how to take it at certain points. But I feel like Chris has never done anything negative towards me or anything like that. We’ve always just had a really cool relationship. Inside and outside the studio, it’s always been just love. I can understand where some just high-energy people can sometimes rub people the wrong way. I think he’s just a highly energetic person – but it’s always good energy there.”
Collins is himself a softie. He has worked with PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals) – this “badass for animals” showing off his artistic tattoos in an “Ink, Not Mink” anti-fur campaign. Collins has lobbied, too, against the chaining of dogs in backyards – appearing with his adored pooches Louie and Roxie. Collins is honest about the extent of his commitment to PETA’s platform. “I’m not all the way, like, vegan and going that far, so I have my flaws that they could probably see,” he laughs bashfully.
Collins issued no less than two full-length projects in 2015 – he followed Full Speed with Summer In The Winter, executive produced by Show Me’s DJ Mustard, on Christmas. It looked like the rapper would stick to singles this year. But, then, in September, he unleashed Rocketshipshawty 2 (RSS2) – the sequel to 2012’s mixtape. Collins isn’t slacking. “I’ve been in the studio every other day working on a lot of new music. So I’m excited to just get the new music out and heard. I’m really antsy. I’m trying not to post anything on social media right now ’cause I’m in the studio and I have to kinda turn the phones off so I’m not leaking anything. I don’t want anybody to steal ideas! But I think it’s a bunch of good new music I’m working wit’ – you know, a lotta the same team and a lotta just new team, too, but all hungry people, man, I like in the studio. So definitely don’t look for any exhausted sounds, anything we’ve already done – I’m trying to really make some new waves.”
The West Coaster revels in today’s experimental hip-hop. “It’s not as specific to one type of sound or one type of style or even the fashion itself,” he observes. “Everyone’s in a testing mode – they’re seeing what’s really kinda cool or what’s not really cool. So I think everybody’s trying a lot of different trends out right now and doing a lot of different things to just, I guess, have fun and not really have a structure or anything like that. It’s dope to see. Some stuff is a little over my head – I’m a bit confused, I don’t understand some music sometimes. But there’s a lotta new waves out there that are pretty cool.”
Collins has had his pop moments. He secured Usher and Tinashe for ‘Body Language’ – stamped by Rihanna producers StarGate. His song ‘Ride Out’ (with Tyga, Wale, YG and Rich Homie Quan) was used in the action blockbuster Furious 7. Ironically, one of the rapper’s biggest triumphs came when he cameoed on Fifth Harmony’s ‘Worth It’.
Collins does have unfulfilled ambitions – he wants to transcend his underdog status. “I still definitely feel like there’s a lot of accomplishment through the music, but not as many rewards – or awards – as I would like to have,” he confides. “I still have that hunger and urgency to strive to do those things in music. So I’m still in a position [where] I’m grinding from the bottom and trying to still get up there – even though there’s still a lotta other stuff I appreciate as the successes go. I’m a patient artist.”