Locals: Khil Datta

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
From the February 21, 2013 edition

A year ago Thursday, Khil Datta left behind a stable job as a loan officer with Residential Finance Corporation and dumped his savings into his budding rap career. Was he nervous? Scared?

“It was excitement. Because I was done with the 9-5 world,” the 28-year-old rapper said, perched in a chair in his E. Gay Street recording studio. “I was ready to make that leap. I’m not getting any younger.”

Datta made that jump with his brother, Sahil, and friends DJ Prospect and Rela Life, who all quit their jobs as well and appear on the Movementality mixtape Khil released late last year. Together, the foursome started the recording studio, Foundation Lab Studios, as a way, partly, to get the mixtape recorded and released. Now, they’re branching out, seeking out other artists who might need production work, in turn providing themselves a more stable financial, uh, foundation.

Not quite the career Khil and Sahil’s Indian parents had in mind when they moved to America.

“At first, I think they were a little worried. They sacrificed everything to come here in hopes I’d become a doctor or a lawyer,” he said. “Now, they’re more supportive, seeing some of the success we’ve had and the fans and how they react to our music.”

Fan reaction to the mixtape, which is bolstered by appearances from Ohio’s Machine Gun Kelly and M-1 from Dead Prez (Khil more than holds his own), has been positive, Khil said.

“The biggest hurdle is getting the project out there,” he said.

To combat that, Khil’s hitting the road for a series of shows, mostly in the Buckeye State, but spreading to Kentucky, West Virginia and even California for a few stops, too. “We’re trying to go wherever we can; pretty much whoever will have us.”

One show (March 8, Stanford University in California) illustrates one of the group’s strategies for breaking out: crossover success between the traditional rap market and the Indian hip-hop scene, where all four got their start.

“We’re pretty much gearing toward the point where we’re trying to make crossover records,” Khil said.

In the meantime, they’ll keep grinding till, as the single with M-1 says, they’ve created the life they want to see.

“We were tired of waiting for our big break, so we put everything we had into creating our big break,” Khil said.