When Jack Donoghue of electronic “witch house” outfit S4LEM found out that Lawless Inc. rapper and YouTube sensation Katie Got Bandz was his friend’s little brother’s best friend’s cousin, he was hyped. Having made no secret of his admiration for the young star, whose popularity has increased exponentially since she began posting tracks online last year, he admits to being an early follower. “I Need a Hitta” – Katie’s first track and now a viral sensation – was still at 2000 hits when he was heard shouting at his computer, “The fuck is this?”
It is no surprise then, that when Dazed asked Jack to give us a quote on Katie he raised the bar and said he’d rather interview her in person, and take some photos too. Here is the upshot of that unlikely meeting. Katie is still a recent high-school grad, but despite that, she’s already regarded as the “first lady of drill”, a style of rap exclusive to Chicago, where both artists were born, raised and still live.
Jack Donoghue: When did you get into music?
Katie Got Bandz: My producer, Block on Da Trakk, used to DJ back in the day and made tracks, and I used to say, ‘Put me on the track, man!’ And they used to be laughing, thinkin’ I’m playing, and they didn’t like the lifestyle I was living or whatever. Blockhead called me one day last summer and was like, ‘I need you to stay off the streets, I need you to stay out of trouble. I got this beat for you, come over to my house when you get a chance.’ And I was laying in the bed like, ‘I ain’t got nothing to do today, it’s raining and it’s hot.’ It was the day before my birthday last year, July 21, and I recorded ‘I Need a Hitta’.
Jack Donoghue: What did you want to do when you were younger?
Katie Got Bandz: I wanted to become an anesthesiologist.
Jack Donoghue: An anesthesiologist?! Why?
Katie Got Bandz: Because when I lost my grandmother and my auntie, they both had diabetes and were real sick. I was helping my mother out with them and my auntie, she couldn’t go through no surgeries because they take forever, and she had gangrene on her fingers and her feet and it started to spread to her body. I saw people working in the hospital and thought it was interesting. I’d also like to help people.
Jack Donoghue: What neighbourhood did you grow up in Chicago, and who with?
Katie Got Bandz: I grew up in the Bronzeville area with my mother. My mother raised me and my two brothers, my father is incarcerated.
Jack Donoghue: What is your dad in jail for?
Katie Got Bandz: Murder. He’s been in jail in Vienna (Correctional Center) since I was two. I go see him and I write him and I call.
Jack Donoghue: So now are you fully committed to music?
Katie Got Bandz: I wasn’t at first, but I am now. My fans and my family made me motivated and consistent. When my ‘I Need a Hitta’ video dropped, I was incarcerated or whatever, and when I got out...
Jack Donoghue: For what?
Katie Got Bandz: A gun case. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time in a car with the wrong people. It was in the glove compartment and the police searched the car. No one manned up to it, and there’s a law stating that it belongs to whoever’s the closest to it, so they put it on me. Then some months later I violated my bond and they put a hold on me for 32 days. I went back to court and the judge reinstated. I’m still fighting it, but it’s looking good.
Jack Donoghue: Now you can show that you’re doing productive shit.
Katie Got Bandz: They know. I keep my judge and my pre-trial probation officer in tune with everything. Like, when I was in school, they knew about it, and before I sang with Lawless they knew about me working at McDonald’s.
Jack Donoghue: Do you still work?
Katie Got Bandz: No, I quit it. You do what you gotta do, but at the same time I had to work and go to school in order not to go to jail.
I’m gonna set a trend for female artists, because people always think you have to sell yourself if you’re a female. I respect myself because I’m a young lady before anything
Jack Donoghue: So how did it feel when ‘I Need a Hitta’ dropped?
Katie Got Bandz: I got out and I had a fanbase. People was just telling me like, ‘I never thought you had it in you, I thought you was playin’ when you said you wanted to rap.’ So I got back in the studio, Block called me and said he had another beat, and then that’s when I came up with the ’Middle Finger to Da Ops’ song.
Jack Donoghue: You made one song people fuck with, that could have been luck, but then you made another song and another song. That’s talent, you know what I mean?
Katie Got Bandz: But that’s because every time I get in the studio, or if Block or any producer give me a beat, I always think of making something that everybody will rock with. I go to sleep and wake up with a hook in my head. If I’m not in the studio I’ll just call somebody and say, ‘I got this hook! (sings) Do you think it sounds right?’ And they tell me ‘yeah’ or ‘no’ or they’ll tell me what to take out and what to add in, and then I go on my notepad on my phone and put it in there. You rap about dudes the way guys talk about a girls... I love dreadheads, but before I made ‘I Need a Hitta’ I was already in a relationship with a dreadhead, (laughs) and I’m still with him now. But I’m not a soft person. I’m soft in some ways but I’m not a soft female, and you can tell with my music. I’m not selling myself and I never will.
Jack Donoghue: Who do you like from Chicago that’s current?
Katie Got Bandz: I’m rockin’ with Lil Mouse all the way.
Jack Donoghue: And the city, it’s pretty violent, right?
Katie Got Bandz: It’s the murder capital. I gotta go to four funerals this week. I lose people all the time.
Jack Donoghue: Motherfuckers hide in their house because it gets so cold you can’t even do shit really, and as soon as it gets hot everything just breaks loose.
Katie Got Bandz: In Chicago you know who’s into it, so you should know where not to go. I used to hang out on the block a whole lot, just kickin’ it, drinking, having fun and stuff. Now I’ve got something to lose and I don’t want to take a loss like that, because nine times out of ten it’s somebody they didn’t come for that gets killed. The buzz is getting higher here. But one thing that I don’t like is people always kissin’ butt, and instead of rockin’ with people who got a higher buzz, everybody should just come together because that’s what they do.
Jack Donoghue: No it’s true, if everybody supports each other it makes everything better.
Katie Got Bandz: Everyone goes to each other’s concerts and does all of that. But I’m gonna set a trend for female artists, because people always think you have to sell yourself if you’re a female. I respect myself because I’m a young lady before anything, and a lot of DJs and producers are saying, ‘I don’t listen to female artists, but when I came across Katie I had to fuck with her music!’
Jack Donoghue: How is it being a girl in the music industry?
Katie Got Bandz: When I first started, people was trying their hardest to get me on tour with other female artists. I stepped up and was like, I’m not about to get on tour with nobody because, for one, that ain’t gonna do nothing but help their fanbase and crews, so instead I would just let people diss me or say whatever they wanna say.
Jack Donoghue: People in Chicago or...?
Katie Got Bandz: Whoever! These people that I don’t even know, never even met, never saw. It don’t matter, they’re fans, that’s what I call them, cos how do you know all of this if you’re not tuned in with my music?
Jack Donoghue: Is there anything that scares you?
Katie Got Bandz: Well, lately I’ve been having this dream, probably because I Instagrammed a lot of money and put it on Twitter, but for the past week I’ve been dreaming that someone close to me set me up, got me robbed and shot me in my head. I don’t fear nothing, everything happens for a reason, but I don’t wanna take no loss like that. I don’t wanna die over no money.
Jack Donoghue: Do you listen to your dreams a lot? Do you have dreams and feel they influence you?
Katie Got Bandz: Since I had that dream I haven’t really been rockin’ with as many people. Since I don’t know who the snake is I’ve been trying to distance myself away from a lot.
Jack Donoghue: Have you ever had a dream that you feel came true, like a warning or something?
Katie Got Bandz: Well that’s the crazy part. I went from dreaming about $10 million. Every day I used to wake up tweeting, “I’m waking up thinking of a way to get $10 million.” But I never tell nobody how much money I got in my pocket, because people be knowin’ I havin’ money.
Jack Donoghue: Have you encountered much jealousy now that people know who you are?
Katie Got Bandz: They love you then they hate you, then they love you then they hate you, then they love you then they hate you. I put the love and the hate together because people can love you and hate you all up in one. They can not like you, hate your guts, but they’ll still be listenin’ to your music.
Text and Photography by Jack Donoghue