Californian rapper and singer/songwriter Katori Walker is a sharp observer and adept wordsmith, delivering powerful, socially conscious rhymes about street life, societal ills, and everything in between. While his early material echoed the likes of Drake and Tory Lanez, a life-changing series of tragedies pushed Walker on a more thoughtful and technical path, aligning with emcees like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole on late-2010s efforts Ignorance (2017), 1 Minute of Your Time (2018), and Stubborn (2019).
Hailing from Pasadena, Walker was raised by musically inclined parents, including his father, who was a DJ and producer. He was able to find inspiration from the singers and rappers that passed through his dad’s home studio, including one rapper named Mr. X, whose songwriting and storytelling craft informed much of Walker’s future techniques. His earliest musical project was a hip-hop group formed with his two brothers, which they called the OG3. However, it was a traumatic event involving his siblings that would alter the direction of his adult career.
In early 2017, while at a vigil for a fallen friend, Walker’s brother, Ormoni, was gunned down in a drive-by; the next day, his twin brother was also shot, but survived. Amidst the tragedy, Walker also found out he was going to be a father, giving him something to live for. Thus, after years going the hip-hop/R&B party jam route, he switched up his style and shifted focus toward the topical, employing vivid storytelling with dense wordplay, culturally relevant topics, and various perspectives similar to contemporaries Lamar, Cole, and Vince Staples. Later that year, he released the single “Ormoni,” an unflinching burst of catharsis that notched over a million streams and helped snag co-signs from Mozzy, T.I., and Lloyd Banks. The track landed on his EP Ignorance, which featured frequent collaborator J. Hurt on “Noose.” He followed in 2018 with the concept EP 1 Minute of Your Time, which featured five one-minute vignettes of colorful storytelling that delivered deep messages from the perspectives of the dead, a single mother, and others.
With his audience steadily growing, Walker hopped onto a tour with Staples and issued the EP Stubborn in 2019. Stubborn featured “Run,” which tackled presidential politics and police brutality from various viewpoints, and “Sometimes,” a relationship-centric piece featuring guest Elijah James. ~ Neil Z. Yeung