CENTRAL WEST END – In the small neighborhood, on Cabanne Avenue, night has fallen and time is edging closer to a house party taking place.
Several cars are parked on a narrow road with more looking for an empty spot. People socialize in front of a house with red hues glaring through two small windows.
A sample of Ying Yang Twins’ “Salt Shaker” surges through the ears as you slowly walk from the driveway to the door. Once inside, the sample transforms into the energetic “Girls Gone Wild Part 2,” and you’re bombarded by the massive number of black bodies chanting the lyrics or twerking in front of the live stream camera.
There’s not much the red lights can capture, showing only the silhouettes of a crowd in motion and the pieces of Power Ranger-themed art hanging on the walls of the house.
KVtheWriter, formally known as Kayla Thompson, is in the middle of the madness with a red dress, gold grill and long black hair, embracing a moment that took years of strength, pain and a little ratchetness to get to. This was the listening party for KVtheWriter’s latest project, “The Ratchet Tapes,” a five-track EP full of heavy bass kicks and powerfully explicit lyrics.
The project is a yang to her previous EP’s yin, casting a completely different persona compared with the vulnerable and intimate perspective of “Love Sucks.” However, both projects spotlight KV’s versatility as a musical artist as well as a writer, a goal that she wanted to achieve since she started making music.
Originally planned to be a three-track EP instead of five, “The Ratchet Tapes” was Thompson’s test to make music across the board, from twerk anthems to house music. When she saw some of her producers’ and engineers’ reaction to the intro track, “B.A.N,” she knew she had something special.
“I was like, this is going to be the project that make more people outside of my circle listen to me,” KV told the NorthSider. “I don’t want them to listen to this and go back to my old stuff and expect that same stuff, and then go to my future stuff and expect that, because you’re not going to hear that.”
The “Love Sucks” EP was Thompson’s first step into the musical realm, a leap of faith after an odd breakup at the Snow Factory on Delmar Boulevard. Fortunately, her debut was critically acclaimed and manifested a slew of sold-out shows across the city.
“The Ratchet Tapes” came out fairly quickly afterward because some of the songs had been made during the creation of “Love Sucks.” The momentum created a wave of excitement across St. Louis’ culture scene.
“Girls Gone Wild Part 2” is a certified club hit, Thompson was nominated to perform at A3C (All Three Costs) Hip Hop Festival in Atlanta, and many of the people who collaborated with her for both projects, from their production to the photo shoots, have continued to grow through other projects.
The Thompson family is well known in the area. KV’s grandmother, Betty, was a state representative and an activist. Her father, Tyrone, was chief of police in Pagedale and a mentor to many. Her uncle Kwame ran for mayor of University City at age of 22 and opened the now-defunct Isis nightclub on Washington Avenue long before the area was redeveloped.
“Now, a lot of people are about social justice, but that stuff was ingrained in us,” Thompson said. “Now that I’m older, learning about all these things that they did … I’m like wow, you couldn’t even imagine.”
While KV’s early years were filled with loving memories, pain followed. Thompson was attending Hampton University in Virginia when she found out her father had been killed in a robbery. She returned home and attended Webster University to earn her degree.
“It was really hard; it was my first time experiencing death that close,” Thompson noted. “I had to find something to kind of stay afloat, for real.”
She lost her brother to the same series of events six years later almost to the day.
It took some time for her to find therapy to heal herself, and writing helped. From writing about the effects of her father’s death, to relating the character Harry Potter to depression, Thompson became known for poems and blog posts. Her poetic book “Of Magic & Madness” won first place at the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards in 2017. She documented her life behind a computer screen.
Now, she hopes to become a songwriter. Thompson is taking her talents to Atlanta with the hopes of writing for artists such as Rihanna, SZA and Drake.
“Don’t put KVtheWriter in a box,” Thompson said. “I’m going to go into writing plays, movies, novels – I’ve written a novel. Look out for more stuff like that, not just the music, that’s a plus.”