Interview – Kima of Total

Interview – Kima of Total

Back in the 1990s, together, R&B and Hip Hop would join forces to dominate the music charts. An exciting time, in 1993, Sean “Puffy” Combs would form Bad Boy Records, the home of legendary Rapper The Notorious B.I.G., but also, a diverse lineup of talent that included signature singing group Total. Unique to other female R&B groups at the time, Kima Raynor, Keisha Spivey, and Pamela Long would meld a sound that was full of attitude, creating a style others dreamt of. 

Topping charts with hit singles such as “Kissing You,” “Can’t You See,” “What About Us?,” and “Trippin’,” their 1996 debut album would go platinum before striking gold with 1998’s Kima, Keisha, and Pam…so where are the ladies of Total today? All still creatively active in various capacities, Mrs. Kima Raynor Dyson has plenty more to offer, with big plans for the future. Blessed with an unmistakable relaxed and soothing singing voice, her latest single “Luv Me Back ” is out now, and Kima is ecstatic for whatever comes next. Recently we caught up with the performer to talk her time with Total, her plans for the future, plus more. – Back in the late 1990s, Total were one of the hottest and most successful R&B groups around. With a platinum and gold selling record, as well as chart-topping singles, and touring the world, looking back on it all, what was that time like for you?

Kima – That time was a period of growing. We were young, we were experiencing life, it was great! It was one of the best times. – It sounds like a special time and it was a really great period for R&B and Hip Hop in general. That in mind, Total stood out strongly because you possessed an edge others did not have. What inspired the sound and style?

Kima – I would have to say the sound and style was definitely inspired by what the 3 of us individually brought to the group as far as our personalities. Pamela was Hip Hop/Hardcore, Keisha was seductive and sultry, I was laid back and sassy. We just combined that into our sound – with Puffy and his great vision – you’ve got Total, you’ve got Hip Hop R&B. 

Bad Boy Records

Bad Boy Records – Yes, and each of you brought something to the group. Through the years, there has been Total reunions, first with yourself and Pamela in 2014, then all 3 of you for the Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour in 2016. What was it like to perform together again, and has there ever been talk about going into the studio to record some new music?

Kima – First, hitting the stage, all 3 of us on the Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour, God just dropped us right back where he left us. It was like we never missed a beat. It was amazing, it was definitely something I prayed for and I was glad to see it come to fruition.

During the tour, we did talk about getting back together, doing some new music, and if nothing else, touring. It didn’t really come to fruition like it was supposed to be at the time – it is not to say it would never happen, I don’t like to say never. At that time, we just couldn’t work all the pieces together so we decided to revisit it. –That is great to hear the possibility is still there, you never know what the future holds. Individually, you ladies have kept busy, Pamela released some solo material in 2016 and you have a brand new solo track out called “Luv Me Back.” Retaining a smooth, classic R&B vibe, it is really a strong track. What was it like putting this track together and will there be a full-length record to follow?

Kima – Definitely, I have other music that I am releasing. I was just having this conversation, because I don’t get the album thing in today’s market with how consumers are – they cherry pick what they want to hear. I do get it as far as it helps to get your category with streaming. I am learning and I am definitely going to be dropping an EP soon that consists of maybe 4-5 songs. 

When I recorded “Luv Me Back,” for me, the song is about a relationship. It was at a time where it can pertain to any relationship – whether it is your career, a relationship with your kids, etc. It is like you are feeding something and it’s not really feeding you back. At that time, when we were talking about moving forward, and it was not really working out, I kind of felt like that with the situation with “Luv Me Back.” I really want to move forward with all of this – I love Total, I love what the 3 of us all have to bring. I know it’s what the fans want, I understand the business, I know branding, it’s what makes sense. When it just doesn’t really come together, you are just sitting there like, ok. – That is understandable, and it can be a bit frustrating when you want to move forward. That in mind, this song is really good! There is also a music video associated with the song that came out in March. Can we expect some more music videos to be posted when other songs are released?

Kima – Definitely, I plan on doing more visuals. The atmosphere is very different from what I am used to. I just want to make sure when I do put my stuff out, I find the right platforms to release them on. I am definitely planning on doing visuals. Maybe not for every record, but I will probably drop 2-3 more visuals with the next 2 records that come out. – Very cool. The music business has changed dramatically through the years – from the way we receive our music to the styles. When Total was very active, it was a good time for music. It was quite lucrative during the period. 

Kima – It was a great time for music, it was definitely lucrative. I am not going to say it is not lucrative now, I just feel like different genres of music are not getting the support they deserve. Back in the ’90s, all music was supported – Hip Hop, R&B, Dance, Reggae, etc. You had everything. I just feel like if those platforms would still support artistry, it would still flow the same. Nowadays, if you are not fitting in a certain box, you are not getting those big platforms. Back in the day, you would get them because you had a great song. Now you have to fit in a certain box.

Bad Boy Records

Bad Boy Records – It is very true. It makes it a challenge as well. There are positives to the internet and social media world, but it is also very easy to get lost in the shuffle. 

Kima – Yes, not even music, but someone is dropping content every minute. It’s definitely hard not to get lost in all that traffic. – Absolutely. You have your website and social media sites, so you are keeping yourself out there, which is wonderful. How are you finding fans’ reactions?

Kima – That’s the blessing of it all. Definitely there has been nothing but great responses, everyone loves the record and video. I haven’t had one negative review. It’s been great. I am trying to get used to the social media thing myself with – you have to engage, you have to go live, you have to do this and that. It’s been challenging for me to maintain that on a consistent basis, but we are getting it together, I think we are doing a pretty good job, considering. – Yes, it can be a lot of work. Really, what always stands out is the quality of the music. 

Kima – Definitely, quality over quantity. With that said, I have just been passionately pursuing my personal passion with music. It is just finding that way that you are trying to fit in with what is going on today, then you’re not, it’s kind of hard. – Yes, well, keep doing what you are doing. It will be exciting to hear more music as it is released. You mentioned back in the ’90s different genres of music were a little more accepted, regardless of fitting in a certain box. This in mind, the genres of R&B and Hip Hop have dramatically shifted in the past 10-15 years. What are your thoughts on the modern scene?

Kima – When we were putting out our music in the ’90s, the older people felt “our music was better.” I don’t want to go on that tangent, but I like a lot of the new artists out today. I feel they put out a message, that is not always positive, but their music is ringing to their peers.

It is just, where is the support for our fans that are out there? The fans that still want to hear the R&B music, that still like the chill music, the ones that just like the vibe. Where is the support for that? When you are an artist and doing music, and you are a true artist, you are open to everything. Where is the support for our artistry? – Agreed 100%! Fortunately, there are some platforms out there still supporting that. For example, SiriusXM has the channel FLY which plays R&B and Hip Hop from the ’90s and early 2000s. 

Kima – I have to put that on my list to check out. Again, when you are operating your own engine, you drop some balls, you make some mistakes. I love it all, it’s empowered me. When I do release more music, each effort is going to grow and grow. – Yes, and that is very positive. With new music coming, can we expect to also see some live performances announced?

Kima – I have done 3 live performances since I dropped “Luv Me Back.” It’s getting to that point, I do have do build my personal catalog, because again, I’m known from Total. I have to now build the Kima brand.  

Bad Boy Records

Bad Boy Records – Understood, and it would be exciting to see you do some shows. Since you have been performing such a long time, and clearly have a love for music, what are some of your personal musical influences? 

Kima – Definitely grew up on Gospel. My mother was a Gospel singer, she grew up in that Detroit Motown era where she sang in a choir with Aretha Franklin – she and her sisters had their own group. I remember her telling me a story that she had a chance to make it big, but she got married and had kids. So my mother was definitely one of my first musical influences. So my influences range from Aretha Franklin to Shirley Caesar. I remember my first album was Cyndi Lauper. I also loved Pat Benatar, Whitney Houston, all the greats! – Those are all great selections. There is a lot of wonderful music to dig in to.

Kima – I’ve been listening back to Debarge. Listening to a lot of Gloria Gaynor, getting back into the whole Disco era. Music should be worldwide, that is where I’m at with it. I have always been that type that just wants to makes classic records. Records that can stand the test of time, a record you can listen to 20 years from now. – Absolutely, and that is what turns good music into great music. Last question for you. CrypticRock covers all types of music as well as movies, particularly Horror/Sci-Fi. If you are a fan of these genres, do you have an favorites? 

Kima – Oh my god, that is all I like is Horror and Science Fiction. If it’s not scaring to me to death, I don’t want to watch it. I remember growing up as a child and the original The Exorcist (1973) scared the life out of me. Growing up, I remember we didn’t have cable, so our neighbor would let us come over and watch it on HBO. I remember sprinting home after watching it because I was scared to death.

Another one of my favorites was A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) because I lived on St. Marks Street as a kid, and we would say “A Nightmare on St. Marks Street,” because our neighborhood would remind us of all that. I am definitely a big fan of Horror and Sci-Fi, like the original Alien (1979). I came up when everything was original. Now we have all the remakes, and they are doing a good job with remaking them, but I saw a lot of the original Horror films. – Those are both great selections. The Exorcist is terrifying, right down to the music. 

Kima – Yes! I also remember Phantasm (1979) and Salem’s Lot (1979). You look at those movies now and think, “How did this ever scare me?” A lot of this was original content for what people are running with today.

Warner Bros.

New Line Cinema – Yes, and if you are into Horror, it seems the best is coming from independent filmmakers nowadays. 

Kima – I’m always still searching. It has been hard finding great new Horror flicks. I do like the Insidious series though, that scares me.

For more on Kima: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram  

Purchase Luv Me Back:

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Purchase Total music:

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