The American rapper and beat ’em up fan on keeping the energy in the room and landing hits in everything he does
Kid Ink (AKA Brian Todd Collins) began his full-time music career at 22. Since 2012, he’s consistently hit the upper echelons of the Billboard 200 chart, reaching the top 20 with debut album Up & Away. His third album Full Speed charted in the UK Top 10 upon release in February. He will play the Wireless Festival in London on June 28, with a full UK tour in October. Here, the rapper talks playing to psyche himself up for recording, and tattoo death moves. What kicked off your interest in games? I’ve been playing since I was five years old. Super Mario, Street Fighter, Sega and Nintendo took up a lot of my time as I was growing up. I was always competitive and games appealed to that side of me. I cut back as I got older, when I wanted to go out, meet girls. But I’ve always been into it. Do you play games in the studio? I’m very competitive, and really into fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Whenever I play those, it’s always win after win. But if you lose, no matter how many times you’ve won before, there’s always got to be a rematch. You get to thinking about when you lost and that’s distracting. It’s the energy. I can’t lose. And if you’re winning, it’s a real boost to your ego and confidence. It can get a little distracting, but if it’s more fast-paced I can go through rounds with people and then be like, ‘I’m going into the [vocal] booth real quick,’ and then come back out.
I‘ve tried to play Madden in the middle of the studio and that doesn’t really work — that takes about an hour out of every day, whereas you can get a fighting game done in 30 seconds. You can have those moments where you can clear your mind real quick, get a boost to your confidence before getting in the booth. When people don’t hear you sounding like you’re confident, that you believe in what you’re saying, they can’t feel it. Sometimes you can say less and people can feel it more than if you’re saying a bunch of words and you don’t sound confident. Does that scale up to helping you succeed in the music industry? It’s the same thing, you know? I feel like I don’t like playing videogames by myself as much as I like playing with other people. More so, I don’t like being the only person out making music too, or not have anything to compete with. It’s dope to have a lot of songs on the radio, to be at the top of your game, but I feel if there’s not enough competition it slows artists down sometimes because they’re not feeding off other people, they’re just feeding off of themselves. If you weren’t making music, would you want to create games instead? I wanted to make videogames at one point. I wanted to go to a school and learn how to make ’em and make some crazy shooting and fighting games. I always wanted to make a celebrity fighting game, like Celebrity Deathmatch but with a realer, Mortal Kombat- like status. They came out with different ones with rappers, but that was more like wrestling. I think we need to make a Mortal Kombat game like that. If you were to feature in that kind of game, how about a special move? Oh, I’d probably have a move where my tattoos come alive, like one of them jumps off my body and kills you or does something crazy. So, if someone makes this character in a game, you know where it came from! And what about your favourite game? I just love fighting games – Mortal Kombat and Tekken, but Street Fighter’s the one. Ken’s my man; he’s number one. Guile is my number two, Ryu’s my number three, and I think Chun-Li is my number four. But I’m one of those players who plays and learns so much that I can play with pretty much anyone. I’m big into tactics. I don’t like just button bashing. I go through all the tutorials and learn all I can. When I use Ken, it’s all played between the Hadouken and the dragon punch. I always try to make sure I’m not the guy where they say, “Oh, you’re only good with this one person.” There’s never just one guy. I think that throws people off, because I think they always want to try to learn your [character]. As soon as somebody’s learned that, I just switch over, because I know the same person they keep using, and I’m all good.
“I wanted to make videogames at one point. I always wanted to make a celebrity fighting game”