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Over the years, people have come up with countless creative ways to describe sex. You have coitus or copulating, if you’re feeling clinical. Bumping uglies or doing the nasty, if you’re feeling cheeky. Shakespeare referred to it as “making the beast with two backs” in his tragedy “Othello,” and Kevin Gates has an equally poetic name for the act—if it’s anything like his soul-baring anthems, we have a feeling it’s going to catch on. “I like to call it spiritual unification,” Gates says. “It’s a very spiritual act, and people use ‘sex’ objectively, but it’s two souls uniting. It’s supposed to be sacred and I look at myself as sacred. My masculinity is sacred.”

Gates’ atypical approach to sex extends beyond renaming the act. He’s taken on an exceptionally unconventional approach to sex as a whole and, frankly, we’re not quite sure how he does it. “I practice semen retention,” Gates says. “I’ve been on this journey for maybe three and a half years. When you release semen, you release bone marrow, hair follicles, blood—you release all of your vitality and your life source. You’re just giving it away for no reason.

“When I do want to have sex, I take that energy and sexually transmutate it into something else,” he continues. “It’s all about energy and where you focus it. When I do engage with a woman, I pray. I don’t look at sex like ‘kiss kiss, bang bang,’ it’s a special act. If a woman can’t feed me intellectually and give me intangible wealth outside of sex, you can keep your pussy. That’s very prevalent in my life and I could have any woman I want, if I wanted.”

Photos by Chad Griffith

Photos by Chad Griffith

Gates’ mindset toward sex stands apart from other artists in the hip-hop genre, and its reflected in his music. He doesn’t stray from talking about love and lust in his work, but these songs take a noticeably different tone than the bedroom songs of his peers. “My message has always been the same, even with the songs I’ve made about sex,” Gates says. “They’re so detailed because I take that sexual craving and put it into my music. With my songs, I want to make women come and I want to make them experience sheer ecstasy. I put that into my music and you can feel it when you listen to it.”

This attention to detail makes its way into Gates’ latest body of work, his third full-length studio album “Khaza.” “Khaza” comes three years after Gates’ last project, 2019’s “I’m Him” and includes a ton of new material. However, he’s also throwing it way back to 2013 with “Thinking With My Dick,” a single he first released almost a decade ago. Gates initially dropped this song on his 10th mixtape “Stranger than Fiction;” however, after it gained popularity on TikTok, he made the decision to re-release it for a brand new generation of listeners. “It took the world from 2013 to 2022 to catch up,” Gates says. “I’m so ahead of the curve, I’m advanced. It’s a beautiful thing and it lets me know to stay the course. I’ll just keep going toward the future and they’ll catch on later.”

Photos by Chad Griffith

Photos by Chad Griffith

Gates made “Thinking With My Dick” one of the album’s promotional singles, alongside new songs “Bad For Me” and “Big Lyfe.” He couldn’t have chosen two better songs to show his versatility, both in style and subject matter. With “Bad For Me,” Gates touches on his personal struggles and the hardships of dealing with a toxic relationship. He’s no stranger to spilling his soul over a hard-hitting beat, as he’s become synonymous with confessional-style raps that touch on some of his darkest moments. This has proven to be a source of healing for Gates, and in return, a source of healing for his fans.

“Five or six people walk up to me a day and cry,” Gates says. “They tell me, ‘Your music has saved me from committing suicide.’ When I made the song ‘Fairytale’ about being sexually victimized, people related to me and thanked me for being so transparent. They almost look at me like a beacon of hope—like there is light at the end of the tunnel. I come from straight negativity and I was able to turn my pain into passion and positivity.”

From the jump, Gates wanted “Khaza” to have peaks and valleys. “Bad For Me” explores negativity and the tragedies he has experienced, while the triumphant “Big Lyfe” basks in the glory he’s earned for himself. Out of everything he’s made so far, he believes “Big Lyfe” is going to be ahead of its time, just like “Thinking With My Dick” was. “It’s so big that it’s not even being received properly right now,” Gates says. “It’s timeless, it’s outta here.”

Photos by Chad Griffith

Photos by Chad Griffith

Like his music, Gates’ tattoos encapsulate the highs and lows of his life. Gates is easily one of the most tattooed artists in hip-hop, and that’s quite the feat. He highlights the pain and suffering he’s experienced through his tattoos—notably the two teardrops under his left eye and the portrait of his older brother Joseph, who was murdered. On the other hand, he also has portraits of his pride and joy, his two children Islah and Khaza—for whom he named his first and third albums. Every tattoo on his body holds an important meaning, and over time, the process of getting tattooed has become just as significant as the pieces themselves.

“It’s spiritual,” Gates says. “I sit with my shaman, we sage, we burn palo santo and we pray. We do all of those things before we do the tattoo because it’s a very spiritual experience and we put beautiful energy into the tattoo. That’s why all of my tattoos are beautiful in their own right. I live with my tattoos for a while and when I’m inspired again, I put on something new. It’s a journey and I’m going to live with what I put on me for the rest of my life. So I’m going to make sure I do the best I can do.”

Photos by Chad Griffith

Photos by Chad Griffith

Gates may be running out of room on his own body, but his fans certainly haven’t reached that point. The mark of a true legend is having your fans get tattoos of you, and Gates has reached millions of potential canvases through three full-length albums, 17 mixtapes and a handful of EPs. And he’s truly humbled by the fans who choose to honor his legacy with tattoos. “It’s really beautiful to me, and I didn’t know this, but there are more people with my face tattooed on them than Tupac,” Gates says. “He’s a super great artist, so for people to have more tattoos of me than him, it made me say, ‘Wow, I must be doing something right.’”

Kevin Gates is truly one of one. He lives by his own rules, whether in the studio, the tattoo shop or the bedroom. That unwavering individuality cements his legacy and will undoubtedly make “Khaza” a body of work to be reckoned with. Just you wait. 

Photos by Chad Griffith

Photos by Chad Griffith