Krept & Konan
Courtesy of Krept & Konan
The UK rap music scene has grown from its underground roots to artists featuring heavily in the national music charts. I met with Krept & Konan, the talented rap duo taking the country by storm. The MOBO award-winners’ success is well recognized, having made the UK’s highest charting independently-produced album (for which they were recognized in the Guinness Books of Records), selling out the iconic O2 arena last December and have their hearts set on building an empire far beyond music.
The Making of Krept & Konan
Casyo “Krept” Johnson, 29, and Karl “Konan” Wilson, 30, both from South London, often ran in the same social circles but officially met in 2005. At the time, Konan was already well known in the local area as a rapper and Krept had just begun his music career. They met again at an “area link-up”, where various local rappers and creatives came together to perform, and the pair, along with some other artists, shifted their music production into recording studios. “Many of the friends who were at that link up have now gone on to do amazing things in their own right, both in and outside of music” says Krept.
At that point, there was no intention for the pair to officially form a group, however, on the release of their first formal mixtape in 2009, titled “Red Rum by Krept & Konan”, the name stuck. Their second mixtape “Tsunami” released in 2010 gained significant traction, after a video was released on Jamal Edwards’ SB:TV. “SB:TV at the time was on the come up and it’s great how we have been able to grow together” Krept recalls. The mixtape charted on iTunes, a rare occurrence for unsigned artists at the time, and was the catalyst to the pair taking their music to the next level.
In need of capital to fund their next mixtape, they began selling merchandise, which raised impressive funds and the third mixtape titled “Young Kings”, released in 2013 is “when everything changed”. The album entered the UK charts at number 19, to the surprise of the major record labels and Krept & Konan signed with Virgin EMI in May of the same year. This success was a pivotal moment for UK rap, as the duo’s success shed light on British hip-hop and opened the door for other independent artists, many of whom were eventually signed by major record labels in the years that followed. Their first album released under Virgin titled “The Long Way Home”, entered the UK album charts at number 2 and earned the rap duo the accolade of highest-charting UK rap album in history at the time.
As music careers were thriving, Krept and Konan consistently thought about their potential beyond music. Konan quotes Sean “Diddy” Combs, saying “music makes millions, but business makes hundreds of millions”.
Krept & Konan Performing at Alexandra Palace
Courtesy of Krept & Konan
Krept & Konan’s Take On Business
Today, Krept and Konan’s business endeavours span across various industries. The pair co-own their own events company “Play Dirty Party” as well as host the BBC television show “The Rap Game”. However, one project that took many of their fans by surprise is their restaurant, Crepes & Cones, which opened in May 2018. As the name suggests, the Croydon-based eatery serves a variety of creative desserts, as well as delicious soul food and cocktails named after popular rap songs and artists.
The concept for the restaurant came about when Krept sent out a tweet in 2014, stating that he and Konan were considering opening a dessert chain restaurant cleverly named “Crepes and Cones”. Whilst there was no serious intention behind the playful tweet, there was significant support on social media, so the pair trademarked the name with the hope of starting the business sometime in the future, stating that they “thought the idea could work, but didn’t want to attempt it until [they] could afford to fail”. As their music careers flourished and other entrepreneurial endeavours grew, they eventually had enough seed capital to pursue Crepes & Cones seriously.
The first step was to learn from those already in the restaurant business. Krept and Konan became eager students of the industry, speaking with other restaurant owners, whilst carefully crafting a plan of execution. However, irrespective of their musical success, starting up the restaurant proved challenging. The business ran into numerous problems, with suppliers and tradesmen taking advantage of their celebrity status and either under-delivering or overcharging. The restaurant renovations took a year to complete and the total cost far exceeded their initial estimates.
Tragedy struck when, on their opening week in May 2018, their business partner and friend Nyasha “Nash” Chagonda, who had managed the entire set up of the restaurant, sadly committed suicide. Before the tragic incident, Chagonda had ensured that the business’s main functions had been properly set up; everything from payroll to staff headcount and training and inventory. Both Krept and Konan had to step in and manage various areas of the business in order to go ahead with the opening a few days later, whilst grieving the loss of a dear friend and partner.
On the grand opening date and in the weeks that followed, many customers assumed that their daily presence at the restaurant was purely for PR purposes. The reality was that they needed to be on site to support their staff and “ended up managing payroll and even interviewing chefs”. Additionally, given their fame, customer demand was unusually high from day one and the restaurant came under harsh scrutiny. This was magnified due to social media, where a single complaint could go viral, despite thousands of positive customer reviews.
Krept serving food at Crepes & Cones
Courtesy of Krept & Konan
Eighteen months later, the restaurant is a success and whilst both Krept and Konan acknowledge that it has been a tougher journey than expected, it has been worth the struggle. The restaurant has not only thrived commercially but has given the pair the ability to give back to the local community in which they grew up. The restaurant provides meals for the homeless and offers job opportunities to young people who have had difficulty securing employment. Krept and Konan feel proud that they are creating an “urban London dining experience that the community can be proud of”.
The Future for Krept & Konan
Juggling the management of their various business endeavours, alongside their music commitments, is challenging and requires excellent organisation. Krept & Konan credit their associates and partners whom they trust to oversee their ventures. Krept states that he would “rather own 70% of something that I don’t have to spend any of my time on, than 100% of something that takes all of my time”. This management arrangement allows the duo to pursue multiple projects at once and, most importantly, brings them both closer to their goal of “financial freedom”. Over the last few years, they have noticed the benefits of a diverse income portfolio, as their earnings have been stable and consistent despite slowing down the speed of their music releases. They agree that asset and business ownership is key to this development and is “something we really need in our culture if we’re going to get ahead”.
As I wrap up the interview, I ask both Krept and Konan what they have set their sights on for the future. As expected, they mention a variety of things including the increased engagement and traffic around their events company “Play Dirty Party” and, more recently, both rappers have been looking into property investments across London. The pair have set up a charity called “Positive Directions Foundation” and, through the organization, hope to work with schools to teach young children and teens valuable life skills and keep them off the street.
Krept & Konan have set their foundation for a legacy that they, and their families, can be proud of and are inspiring artists and entrepreneurs alike, yet have so much more they wish to achieve.
This article is part of a series featuring diverse people making a difference. You can find more articles here and if you have a story to tell or want to be updated as soon as new features are released message/follow me on Twitter @TommyASC91