A technology-driven KC music start-up was recently given the seed money to grow by a local nonprofit whose mission is to help Black-owned businesses in low-income areas.
The Kansas City nonprofit G.I.F.T., which stands for “Generating Income for Tomorrow,” has poured more than $1.5 million into businesses in an effort “to help bridge the racial wealth gap” in KC, says G.I.F.T. co-founder Brandon Calloway. They offer business grants with the hopes that these businesses will then also create new jobs and increase economic opportunities.
Founded in 2020, the nonprofit has spent the last three years raising money and reinvesting it into underserved communities east of Troost Avenue.
“We were born and raised—and have seen firsthand and experienced the large racial inequities—on the east side of Troost. We have seen how it’s an economic desert while the other suburbs of Kansas City are booming economically,” Calloway says.
The nonprofit has grown exponentially since its inception three years ago. It’s awarded twenty-one grants and, in 2022, opened a seven-thousand-square-foot business center on Prospect Avenue. “On average, we have seen 300 percent business growth in these businesses,” says Cornell Gorman, co-founder of G.I.F.T. “The impact we wanted to see, we’re seeing it.”
Each year, G.I.F.T. allocates a handful of grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 to a variety of businesses. Ear House Records, an innovative artificial intelligence music business founded by local artist Krizz Kaliko, was a natural for G.I.F.T.
Kaliko is a familiar name in the Kansas City music scene. For more than two decades, he has been working closely with Tech N9ne. After writing the rapper’s hooks for years, Kaliko decided to step out on his own. “Tech is my brother forever,” Kaliko says. “Seasons change, and this is just me spreading my wings and doing my thing one hundred percent.”
Kaliko’s new record label, Ear House Records, uses AI software to mix and master music. His idea is the first of its kind in the music industry.
“Take, for instance, a Beyoncé song,” Kaliko says. “You’ll be able to take a Beyoncé song and our technology will analyze her song and mix your song just like it.” Mixing and mastering music is a time-consuming process, but Kaliko’s company can do the job in minutes.
Kaliko has been working on his billion-dollar idea for the past few years in his basement studio, and he recently received a $25,000 grant from G.I.F.T. to give him a boost. “I never even thought this was a possibility coming from this area,” he says.
Ear House Records is about more than just music, though. “I’ve been very vulnerable in my music, and I just noticed that me doing that was helping everybody else,” Kaliko says. Spreading love and words of encouragement to those who need it has been a big part of Kaliko’s message, and there is hope Ear House Records will continue to do that for new artists.