Photo by Estevan Oriol
Brian Collins is hardly the little-known, indie producer he used to be. After cultivating a rabid underground fan base, Collins, better known as Kid Ink, signed with RCA Records last year and has since claimed a top 20 hit with his Chris Brown collaboration “Show Me.”
Part of the challenge for indies-turned-major is maintaining their artistic integrity while still trying to expand their audience, something Collins is now very familiar with.
“Fans sometimes want to keep you in this box,” he explains, sitting in the green room before opening for Ludacris in Austin. “It’s the downside of the hipster culture. They are behind you when you’re underground, but then it’s like, ‘You trying to be a radio artist or something?’ And I think, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.’ I appreciate the fans who support me, but I’m not trying to just be cool, I’m trying to be successful.”
In just a short amount of time, he’s already achieving certain levels of success, having claimed his first platinum record with “Show Me.” But Collins admits he’s still got a long way to go.
“I feel like I am in the middle ground right now,” he says. “Not indie anymore but I still feel like an underdog in some ways. I’m just trying, I’ve got so much work to do. But at the same time, I have been able to do a lot. Maybe next is platinum.” He continues, while opening a York Peppermint Patty: “But I’m just trying not to take anything for granted.”
Part of what Collins says keeps him grounded is the unpredictability of the path he’s followed so far. Even his Chris Brown collaborations, the aforementioned “Show Me” and his newest single “Main Chick,” weren’t really planned out.
“I came to the studio and I played him about five records from the album,” Collins recalls. “I just let him decide which one he wanted to work with and he ended up choosing both ‘Show Me’ and ‘Main Chick.’ Then we worked on something brand new, from scratch, so we got three records out of that session. One maybe for the future.”
“Main Chick” was first featured on Brown’s X Files mixtape last year, with no intentions of including both DJ Mustard-produced tracks on Collins’ newly released My Own Lane album. But that all changed when fans heard the song. “The people spoke,” he says.
With a lot of the negative headlines surrounding Brown lately—in addition to being a generally polarizing figure in music, Collins says he was prepared for backlash from some listeners. But the opposition was tame.
“At first, there was the—being scared of the negative sides, just with everything he is going through,” Collins remembers. “There’s a lot we see and hear about him, yeah, but to be able to have the Chris Brown records, that’s a big deal. I think everyone kind of just respects the good music at the end of the day and aren’t really putting it towards anything, we just have the songs. I know it’s easy with Chris’ situation to get really wrapped up in all the bad things we hear. And he’s had his struggles of course. But I think music always just overtakes the negative stuff, as long as it’s good music.”
Ultimately, that’s Collins’ focus, making good music and being able to deliver it to fans on a regular basis. “That’s probably one challenge with being on RCA, the planning and the timing. And I’m not one of those artists who wants to put out an EP and then album with all the same songs from the EP.” But the perks outweigh the obstacles, according to Collins. “I feel like I get more support from my peers now. Once people knew I was getting those [RCA] checks and I could get airplay, they knew they weren’t wasting their time. It helps getting more features and getting in the studio with more people.”
He also believes while some fans may cry “sellout,” most of them support his current rise. “They’ve been grinding with me for so long, and they get to see that it wasn’t for nothing. And to really get that respect, like, ‘he’s not an underground artist anymore.’ I can actually make the music that I wanted to make, that might be a little more commercial. I didn’t want to be an underground artist forever. It works for some but not everyone.”
As for what’s next, Collins says he’d love to grab a session with Swizz Beatz or Timbaland. In the meantime, he’s scheduled to tour through at least June. And then “getting back to the music. Summer’s coming up again and I want to have something out for the summer, some new music.”
For Kid Ink’s tour dates, go to kidinkmusic.com.
(Updated - Original story stated "Show Me" had become a gold record; it has since gone platinum, surpassing 1 million copies)