The Kid Kung Fu Wears His Heart On His Sleeve On Lover Boy

Music holds the capability to be an outlet for the most complex emotions, a space where feelings can exist without judgment. Boulder-based rapper, The Kid Kung Fu, encapsulates this aspect of music on his latest album, Lover Boy.

Born and raised in upstate New York, Isaiah Gonsalves — known by his stage name The Kid Kung Fu — was constantly seeking a way out of his predominantly white town. Being one of the only black kids in his neighborhood was not the only thing that he felt set him apart. Gonsalves knew from a young age that the trajectory of his life would look different than the mainstream. 

As early as freshman year of college, Gonsalves knew that he wanted to make music, specifically rap and hip-hop, despite being steered away from the genres by his father. “My father was an African immigrant. He kind of steered us away from hip-hop. I think because of the negative connotations that it maybe held for a black man,” Gonsalves said. 

Gonsalves continued to explore hip-hop music despite the little exposure he got from his parents. During his junior year of high school, after his father’s passing, he pushed himself to explore his roots, which opened up other avenues of inspiration. “That led me to poetry, like slam poetry and conscious type stuff,” he explained. “And I think that slowly led me into rappers like Common and Mos Def. That was kind of my introduction.”

After high school, Gonsalves continued to pursue music. With loss and heartbreak weighing on his shoulders, he released his first album under the name The Kid Kung Fu in 2016. The album was predominantly the product of a breakup whereas Lover Boy stems from a “happier place,” as Gonsalves explained. 

Listening to the album, the emotional depth that Gonsalves put into its creation is noticeable in all aspects — from the lyrics to the sonic elements that resonate with them. It is apparent in every song that Gonsalves was creating from a place of meaning where he was inspired by his own experiences.

Cover art for Lover Boy. Photo courtesy of The Kid Kung Fu.

With a range of vocal styles, from flowing raps to melodic singing, Gonsalves highlights the complexity of love. He explained that he wanted to explore the different forms of love that he saw around him including, “self-love, black love, family, love, friend love.”

Lyrically, Gonsalves is honest and outright, discussing weighty topics including what he learned about love from loss and the love riots that he has witnessed in response to racism in America. While authentically encapsulating his experiences with love on the album, Gonsalves also pushes his boundaries of musical ability.

Incorporating a variety of vocal styles created a well-rounded sound reminiscent of ’90s rap and hip-hop while also possessing a modern creativity. Gonsalves also presents his talents through a wide range of instrumentation. Electronic elements and samples that are staples of hip-hop music are present while acoustic guitar, piano and synth also make their marks. Gonsalves’ ability to pull from a variety of musical elements showcases how rap can blur the boundaries of genre and bring innovation to the music scene.

Photo courtesy of The Kid Kung Fu.

An immense amount of variables are laid out on the album, but with thoughtful production, there is a cohesiveness present from the first beat to the last. The theme of love shines through in a way that isn’t overstimulating, with beats and vocals that are powerful and raw without coming off as self-righteous.

Lover Boy is an undeniably personal album bred from an intent to share Gonsalves’ own experiences with one of the hardest emotions to convey. The long journey of creating the album allowed Gonsalves to find greater confidence in himself that he hopes to share with listeners.  “I made this because I wanted to make it and after years of having people doubt me, there gets to a point where like, you almost inspire people… in the fact that I’m following a dream. And I think that’s what I want from everybody,” Gonsalves said.