The South Carolina hip-hop scene already knows Kris Kaylin. As the host of YouTube series NextUp Charleston, Kaylin shined a light on the hip-hop community in the Lowcountry, filming personable and down-to-earth interviews of some of the city’s most talented rappers. Over the last three years, she interviewed Megan Thee Stallion before “Hot Girl Summer” broke her into the mainstream, interviewed Kanye West without pissing him off during his presidential bid and became a radio host at Z93 Jamz (WWWZ-FM).
But, she also uses that platform to push for tangible changes in the city, calling for the boycott of local businesses who have been accused of racism and helping fundraisers like one to purchase masks and cleaning products for the residents of Joseph Floyd Manor.
“I was born and raised in Charleston,” she said. “I’ve seen Charleston turn, I’ve seen gentrification and things like that happen. But, also in the same sense, the Black community is very strong. We have a presence, we have a power.”
Kaylin’s ability to shift her platform between education and entertainment has always been hidden in her programming, stretching back to NextUp Charleston.
The interview series still acts as an archive of Charleston hip-hop during the mid-2010s, a time when it forced its way into the spotlight. Kaylin questions how integral she was to that evolution, but said that it’s humbling when people suggest she helped put Lowcountry rap on the map. “It might just be me being humble and not thinking about it like that,” she said. “I see everyone moving across the state. I see how everyone moves and it falls into place, but for people to think that, it’s very humbling.”
Although NextUp was dormant, it will return soon, Kaylin said.
In 2018, Kaylin’s voice got a big boost when she became a host on hip-hop and R&B station Z93 Jamz. “My time at South Carolina State really prepared me,” she said. “I had the opportunity to intern at the radio station there, so I learned how to do everything as far as editing music, chopping it down, cleaning music, all of that stuff.”
Working on the video series also allowed her to practice her interview skills for the radio, she said, but the move to the airwaves has given her the opportunity to connect with big music names like Kanye West.
“I just want to be prepared, ask the right questions and hopefully don’t piss them off,” she laughed. “So far so good.”
In the last two years, Kaylin has used her platform in the music realm to speak out on important local issues. She used her Boycott King Street campaign to confront systemic racism after the May 30 protests, raising funds for Joseph Floyd Manor residents and was one of the first to speak out about a local company that named its jewelry line after Black people killed by police.
It wasn’t necessarily her plan to branch out in social justice work, but Kaylin continues to use her voice to benefit the Black community in the Lowcountry. “I wouldn’t call myself an activist, but I will definitely use my platform to speak about things,” she said. “I’m a Black woman; I see racist things happening and I feel like, in this city particularly, it’s covered up a lot. You don’t hear Black voices the way Black voices should be heard.”
In many ways, Kaylin has put Black voices on the forefront for most of her career. She keeps important messages alive, for the Black community and Charleston as a whole, and the significance of her platform isn’t lost on her. Kaylin added that she has a responsibility as a Black woman in 2020 with her audience.
“I realize that whatever I post is being looked at, is being examined with a fine-toothed comb, so I have to be careful of what I’m doing,” she said. “But, in the same sense, still being authentic with who I am and authentic with myself.”