I first came across Karnage Kills (real name Karnell Murray) and his music in the summer, when a friend told me about the insanely catchy, extremely filthy ‘Hoe Diaries’ (I challenge you to not sing along!). What struck me was the confidence, poise and authenticity to be himself in a world where grime music thrives on a specific view of masculinity and what it means to be a grime artist. Karnage is literally fucking it up and aside from his cutting, laser like lyrics, he is championing LGBTQ visibility in places you wouldn’t normally imagine.
Raised in London (and born in Middlesex like yours truly), he began making music about 2 years ago in his characteristically energetic, yet unapologetic style. So you can see why I was so excited to talk to him, and why his story is perfect for colourfull 🌈.
21, male, gay and of Jamaican descent.
Life Right Now
My music is becoming bigger and keeping me busy! People are hearing about me and I’m starting to get out there more and more. It’s been insane how my music is being picked up. I’ve been doing a lot of gigs, getting noticed by the mainstream grime scene which is building my profile. It’s great, and is a result of the hard work I’ve been putting in – plus people can’t deny my talent (I wholeheartedly agree). As people hear my story, and how I challenge the way a grime artist looks (Karnage embraces his femme qualities), people are intrigued. And my music is coming!
I’ve always known I was gay as I never genuinely liked girls in that way. When I was younger, I would keep up appearances and pretend. At school though I never came out, I would pick fights to avoid being picked on myself or bullied; I didn’t want a target on my back.
I would look around at the male figures in my family, and see how they behaved and go along with that. But I knew deep down that I wasn’t into females. My first sexual experience was when I was in Year 9 (15 years old) with another guy. As I became older, I started to experiment more and knew what I preferred.
My Family & Culture
I’m so grateful my family accepted me for who I am, although I’m such a strong character, it wouldn’t have broken me if they didn’t. I’ve had some family members who I don’t speak to now for not accepting me, but my Mum and my close family have been great. As a whole, we’re a strong family unit and it all worked out fine. We’re extremely loyal to each other and can be inseparable. (Karnage pauses to tell his little brother to get back inside because it is now dark!). As I mentioned before, growing up, I was exposed to a stereotype of what a black man should be: masculine and strong. As I grew up, I focused on who I wanted to be more and more because frankly, I don’t fit the Jamaican stereotype, nor do I fit a gay stereotype.
I’m proud to be Jamaican, I feel connected to my culture through my food, my music. It was always a part of growing up, not in an oppressive way. However, been Jamaican and gay here is different to being in Jamaica, where you could be killed for your sexuality. That puts it into perspective. So, I’m just very grateful that I can be my full self with them!
I remember lying in bed with my Mum, watching Law & Order. She’d just had my little brother (who is now 5 years old). She’d known that I was different, unique maybe, so she asked ‘So, do you not like women?’. I couldn’t lie to her, and so we cried and hugged in that moment. I was raised to tell the truth and speak my mind, and in that moment I really did. My Mum is a strong woman and I love her very much; after we cried it out, she was instrumental in telling my close family about my sexuality and her acceptance led to their acceptance such as my Nan and Uncles.
Firstly, I think LGBTQ people are amazing. They are so generous and accepting, which has meant that I’ve been able to be playful with my career, from being flamboyant and experimenting, to adding some zest. I’m naturally fiery and outgoing, and tapping into my music and speaking about anything also makes me feel sexually liberated. I know that I have the talent to do well, and push myself to achieve it. By being who I truly am, I’m able to express myself as a gay man in grime. And it helps me to stand out because it’s unique on the scene.
There are days when it’s not moving as quickly as I would like and I doubt myself, and ask myself what’s the point. And then I remind myself that I’m lucky that I have a voice and a platform, not everyone does. It helps me pull through and build up my belief again in that moment. And it’s insane when I’ve done a gig and can see how it affects people in a positive way. The messages I get where people thank me or call me an inspiration always helps me through.
Love, Dating & Relationships
At the moment, I’m married to my music! My career is my focus right now and I have to stay on track. It does mean that right now, relationships are not my priority as I want to make sure my music is a success. In relationships, I’m a nice person, but can be very headstrong. Any guy who I’m with will know that my career is important at this moment and understand that.
I do believe in love. It’s great being in a relationship when two people are in it together. Sometimes I think we have one true love, and I’m waiting to meet him. I’ve felt like I’ve been in love in the past, but it’s easy to confuse that with lust.
It’s where I started and what I call home. People really turned out for me, and they are some of the nicest people you can come across. I think we support and lift each other because we have a shared pain, we know what it’s like to feel hurt and abandonment for being different. Because of this, we’ve all been broken in some way and can lift each other up, spread love and good energy. I just don’t understand it when I hear there is racism within the community, it doesn’t make sense.
As a whole, I think we need to continue informing others about queer people of colour issues – and importantly, not getting upset when people don’t get it. It takes time to make a shift, and we have to use our platforms and opportunities to inform people and make them aware. Ultimately, we’re all trying to be ourselves and be queer.
Words of Wisdom
Continue going – it may be hard, but keep on moving towards loving yourself and reaching that place
Always be yourself and authentic – it’s not always easy, but it’s when we give ourselves self-love by doing so and challenging any shame
Surround yourself with the queer community – they can lift you up and help you get to a better place
After speaking with Karnage, I remained impressed by his poise, positivity and self-belief. In a world where we can often lose hope and the light begins to fade, it makes me so happy that the next generation of talent like Karnage burn brightly and remind us all to be unapologetically real. And by virtue, live our most colourfull 🌈life.
Photo Credit: Siana Photography