This is what KillaTooma has to say about his latest project, “Vision Builds Kingdoms” (VBK). Jacoy Brathwaite, also known as KillaTooma, is a 30-year old lyricist from the Virgin Islands who has been rapping and writing since the age of 16. KillaTooma started his rap career with a former local group, V-ET-NOM Soldiers. Despite the group disbanding, he continued writing and recording music and is now one of the founders and artists signed with Wolf Pack Entertainment. VBK was recorded and mixed by the Wolf Pack team: Michael “TurnMeUpJKav” Kavanagh and DonTaé “DonzPressPlay” Hodge, along with mastery by Precision Productions of Trinidad.
KillaTooma spoke to VI Life & Style about VBK, which according to the rapper/entrepreneur, is his “most personal body of work” to date.
L&S: Tell us more about VBK – what’s the overarching theme?
KillaTooma: It’s based on time and the different ways it is perceived and managed during the pursuit of our goals. The songs are written from a reflective standpoint, drawing parallels between myself and the listener. Various lyrics voiced are of direct correlation to my life; others aren’t, and I think that’s what makes the album engaging.
L&S: What’s the meaning behind the name – VBK?
KillaTooma: The album title, ’Vision Builds Kingdoms’, was quoted from “Street Legends”; a favourite on my last album, ’The Third Pillar’. The verse recalls, “Father Time brings wisdom, vision builds kingdoms, with legit income, your personal dominion”. This is the ability to see past your current circumstances with a strong belief that whatever your endeavors are, they can come to fruition with hard work and dedication. Most people tend to give up on their dreams because they seem far-fetched. The title VBK is a reminder to never give up or lose sight.
KillaTooma: It’s a funny story. It started with the name “Tooma,” which snowballed during my time at the BVI High School. I told my peers about an extra growth on my left thigh bone, which I typically used as an excuse to avoid contact. At the time, I always referred to it as a benign tumor, but I later found out that it wasn’t a tumor at all. It’s a bone condition called ’osteochondromas’ which is an overgrowth of cartilage. As a result, the nickname ’Tumor’ blossomed. However, since that spelling carries a negative connotation, I changed the spelling to ’Tooma’. ’Killa’ actually stems from one of my favourite hip-hop artists, Cam’ron, who goes by the moniker ’Killa Cam’ He was so influential to me at the time, I decided to be known as ‘KillaTooma’.
L&S: Is VBK only a hip-hop album?
KillaTooma: The album consists of 20 tracks and represents a blend of multiple genres; it’s what I like to call ’Island Soul’. On many of the songs, the lines between hip-hop and reggae are blurred. To explain, many of the drum patterns are predominantly hip-hop, but because of my West Indian upbringing, I was able to incorporate hints of reggae. In the Virgin Islands, we also have an emerging style of rap that harmonises our accents or ‘twang’; this style is also used throughout.
L&S: The writing for the project began right after Hurricane Irma in 2017. Was that the inspiration?
KillaTooma: There is a song on the album describing the devastation of Hurricane Irma, but the heart of the album is not predicated by the event; it is more about a prevailing story of moving past the catastrophe and rebuilding. VBK was written to reflect on the experience and to impart wisdom and encouragement to other life-altering situations. Take, for example, the COVID-19 pandemic; VBK is a guide that gives reassurance that this too shall pass.
L&S: What makes you most proud about this project?
KillaTooma: I am most proud that my dedicated team/business partners Michael and DonTaé, are able to create such a meaningful body of work. It’s tough getting ten tracks to fit together with a cohesive storyline and theme, let alone 20 tracks. It was a lot of work, and we’ve experienced setbacks at times, but we have delivered what I believe to be timeless music, which makes it worth the hassle.
L&S: Is this project very different from your last project, the ’The Third Pillar’, and if yes, how so?
KillaTooma: They are different in many regards. Firstly, while ’The Third Pillar’ was in some regards an explanation of the ‘street life’, VBK offers the belief of leaving that life behind for a bigger and better tomorrow. Sonically, both albums have heavy drum patterns and rhythmic sequences, but on VBK, I challenged my vocal abilities as opposed to the T3P album where I was much more reserved. Though all of the verses are predominantly rap vocals, most of the more melodic choruses were sung by me. They vary in pitch and tonality depending on the mood or subject matter being conveyed. I also believe that those who loved T3P will love VBK even more. I see VBK as a continuation of T3P, simply explored from a different vantage point. I believe they will appreciate the growth and the unusual perspectives compared to what was articulated within T3P.
KillaTooma: Yes, I would love to get into producing music. It is not to be confused with a beatmaker, but someone with an ear for quality music who can also curate for other artists. I would also like to help artists become the best versions of themselves by guiding them through the business aspect of the industry with an ethical approach. I find that so many artists neglect the ethical part of the equation, which usually becomes detrimental for them later on in their careers. To help with this goal, I’ve decided to pursue a degree in the music business. This way, I can have a clear understanding of the music industry and how to navigate it effectively.
L&S: Tell me more about Wolf Pack. The team has been in place formally since 2016, but it started as a group of friends; let’s hear more about how that friendship developed into an entertainment partnership.
KillaTooma: Wolf Pack is a brotherhood that stems back to high school, and we’ve built on that foundation and expanded to Orlando. We function as a unit and conquer everything together. One evening we visited the cinema to watch “The Hangover,” which led to us comparing ourselves to the characters. In the movie, there was a scene that referenced the characters as ’The Wolf Pack’. This influenced us, and the rest is history. We are all artists in our own rights because, interestingly enough, that’s how we all began. However, our goal is to perform within our strengths, which also allows opportunities for team members who aren’t vocal platform performers to tap into their creativity. Our goals are simple – To be the change, we want to see and be a voice for the artists who are perceived as the ‘underdogs’.
L&S: Any more projects/artists coming from Wolf Pack?
KillaTooma: In addition to myself, we are also working with ‘TravP’ and another artist that hasn’t been made public as yet. You can expect some sort of project from them in 2021 as well. Stay tuned!
L&S: Let’s talk about the VI Music industry. Right now, KillaTooma is on the Apple Music Top 100 Songs played in the VI (8 tracks); why do you think people listen? What do you think gravitates listeners to your music?
KillaTooma: I believe that I am able to articulate my thoughts and ideas in such a way that it becomes relevant to listeners in many different ways. Whether it’s my storytelling abilities while incorporating double and triple entendre, my flow and presence, or even my beat selection, I don’t think it’s based on one aspect but rather a cohesive blend. Regardless of the reasons, I wholeheartedly appreciate their love and support.
L&S: What’s your favourite track on VBK and why?
KillaTooma: Asking that I choose a favourite track is equivalent to asking which of my children do I favour the most, but if I must, that track would be ‘Vision’. It is the title track of the album, and the song encompasses the premise of the entire project. The song’s chorus reiterates a biblical scripture, Proverbs 29:18; “Where there is no vision, the people will perish”. This phrase was also commonly used by the late notable Hamilton Lavity Stoutt, my great uncle, who was a visionary in his own right. He used the phrase as reassurance that we must see the intangible before it can become tangible. In other words, Vision Builds Kingdoms.
L&S: What artists did you work with on VBK?
KillaTooma: VBK features a host of incredibly talented artists. In total, there are 12 features on VBK in comparison to five on The Third Pillar. The features include Banco Bizmol; who has released a project called ’Route 88’, Priceless; an international superstar, local legend; IYAZ, David D. Archer Jr.; the Deputy Governor of the Virgin Islands, NJAR, Alyssah, Timo of R. City, King Jedi, Shine I, the multi-talented and faceted; Brent Hoyte, and the incredibly gifted; J. Latoy. There are also a few songs that feature the voice recordings of my mother, who has helped to fill in details of the story woven throughout the project. I’d like to take a moment to personally thank every artist who graced us with their presence and lent their voice to VBK. I believe my supporters will thoroughly enjoy all the features, as some of them are elements of surprise.
L&S: Tell us about the cover art; it tells a story.
KillaTooma: The cover art for VBK is a depiction of process, progress, and the way time transcends, from a tree with bare branches to a tree filled with life. From an image of myself with low groomed hair to an image with growing twists. From a caterpillar to a matured butterfly. All these things signify the passage of time. The team gave local graphic designers Quame Campbell and Christopher Kissoon the idea, and they integrated our ideas and far exceeded our expectations.
L&S: What feedback have you gotten from persons in the VI about your music?
KillaTooma: For the most part, I’ve always gotten positive feedback about my music, and I’ve also welcomed constructive criticism. I would never want to be an artist that thinks everything they produce is flawless. It is possible to miss the mark; the key is to return to the drawing board and continue to create. Then there are those who believe that it’s not possible to become widely recognized within the industry if I’m not riding the wave of other cultures; I’ve constantly challenged this notion. I believe that authenticity is the key to recognition in anything we do. I always reference the Reggae and Afro-beats genres as examples; what if those artists weren’t true to themselves and their culture? I don’t think they would be as prevalent as they are today.
L&S: What do you hope to see happen with the VI music industry? Feel free to share your dreams.
KillaTooma: I believe that the Virgin Islands are bursting with talented musicians and poets alike, but we must first start with being recognized and appreciated locally. We have to understand that we are stronger united than we are individually. I know that my team and I are on the cusp of global recognition, and a twinkle ago, this all seemed impossible. With the constant evolution of the internet and the ability to market ourselves on a global scale, we can be heard in any corner of the world! I don’t believe the question has ever been whether we can provide quality music, but whether we could reach the ears of the masses. We are doing just that, and we do have the potential to create a whole new genre; and based on the statistics and metrics, I am making an impact in other parts of the world. I am continually played outside of the Virgin Islands, especially in Anguilla and Antigua, and in parts of the US like Miami and Atlanta. This means global impact is possible for artists within the Virgin Islands.
L&S: What else can we look forward to from KillaTooma in the near future? What can we look out for? Is there anything you can share?
KillaTooma: As the project’s name and premise describe, we are constantly looking towards the future for opportunities for growth and ways to continue building upon our vision. Our main priority now is sharing VBK with the world, but we’ve already begun brainstorming a few ideas for another project that commences later in the year. As I mentioned earlier, one of my goals is to continue growing my artistry while helping to mentor and provide a platform for talented and ’hungry’ artists. So we’re planning to continue working with Wolf Pack Entertainment signee, TravP on an upcoming project as well.
L&S: Any words of support to other VI artists? Also, as an artist, how can the community lend more support to VI artists?
KillaTooma: Believe in yourself and remain authentic to who you are. It’s often easy to feel compelled to conform to the expectations of others, but the most courageous thing we can do as people and as artists is to be ourselves. Once you have entirely embraced this concept, it will be heard and translated. Music is a craft, so in addition to being authentic, keep working on your art, reading books, studying the greats, whatever that looks like for you. Keep investing in yourself because you can’t depend on supporters or fans to do what only you can do. Lyrics from one of my songs from VBK titled ’Dreams’ stands out to me concerning this; it states, “You can do anything you dream! Just stick with it, pursue it by any means!”.
Non-Artists can lend their support to VI Artists monetarily by purchasing our music or merch and attending our shows, and also through liking and sharing our social media content. Artists in the Virgin Islands don’t lack talent or creativity; we lack exposure.
“We can only continue to put the entire Virgin Islands on the map if we do it together.”
Vision Builds Kingdoms will be released on all major streaming platforms on April 23rd, 2021. Stay up to date with KillaTooma by following him on social media @killatooma and via the website www.killatooma.com. For bookings, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.