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West Philly’s Joie Kathos brings socially conscious rap to I-95 Night Market

A conscious rapper who can really dance? It might seem out of the norm, but Joie Kathos, who produces a lot of her own beats too, is unusually versatile.

It’s not always easy for a socially conscious rapper to pop when tackling often heavy political and cultural issues. Kathos, who will perform at tonight’s Night Market, explained that it has been a challenge in the past, but social tides of this era are making it easier.

“I believe it was Nina Simone that influenced my decision to stay true to myself, which also means valuing my gift to influence on my generation. It’s our duty as artists to speak on the times we live in,” she said in an email. “So, if I know that people from all ages and backgrounds are listening to what I’m saying, and are affected by it, it’s my obligation to use that gift to inspire and empower them to do more for themselves and stay motivated to find purpose in life.”

“Slay,” her latest single, which dropped this summer, is lighter on social messages compared to earlier releases. And still, it pushes a positive outlook and bears lines like this one: “Even when I’m down, I’ll give you a smile.” “Slay” is a flip of Beyonce’s “Formation,” performed with local quartet Good Girl.

 

She says there’s no date set yet for her next album or EP. Her last one, Floaters, dropped last year. Her set tonight will have to hold fans over. This’ll be the first-ever Night Market under I-95. Chill Moody is headlining. Kathos goes on directly before him, at 8 pm. She did note that her new work, when it drops, will be very influenced by the dance community. As this JUMP Magazine cover profile details, a fateful fall off the jungle gym when she was younger left lingering effects that stymied the CAPA alum’s chances at a life in ballet. Kathos is still dancing her ass off, though.

Last summer, she released the EP Floaters. On the intro she explained its title: She had been diagnosed with abnormally thin retinas, which posed a risk of blindness. Floaters, therefore, was a work not only the journey, but on “vision” artistically and philosophically.

She updated Billy Penn on how her eyes are currently in her email: “So far so good. No major complications other than I really need to invest in contacts so my glasses don’t slide off my face while I’m dancing :)”

Joie Kathos

Kathos is 24. She still lives in her native West Philly. To her, the sermons in her music come naturally. I asked her how she decides what to share. That was a silly question.

“I don’t decide,” she replied, writing. “Sometimes, I don’t even think about it.”

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