We met Khao at an entertainment industry networking event call The Mixtape Mixer (it’s the brainchild of Speech Thomas.) It’s a biweekly event that allows spiritually-minded artists to connect, learn, and express themselves through their art form. Khao was a featured speaker one night. He gave the audience a brief overview of his Bridge Da Gap education program. Bridge Da Gap is a curriculum that uses Hip Hop to teach key character strengths designed to help kids overcome some of life’s challenges. I was immediately drawn to his passion for young people. When you meet Khao, you feel his sincerity. This is a Grammy-nominated producer, who after making platinum hits and countless dollars decided to take a break, at the height of his career, to get through to young people. I was excited to meet the type of woman a man with such integrity would be attracted to. And Mrs. Cates did not disappoint.
Kimiko: I was a senior at Alabama State University and I was bar-tending in Montgomery. So when he came in the door, when I saw him, I told myself, he might have a girlfriend, but I like him. I don’t know what it was. Call it love at first sight. He came over to the bar and bought a drink. He told his friend ‘I think I want get her number and ask her out.’ And his friend was like, ‘nah, not her she’s tough.’
Khao: Oh man, I remember clearly. When I saw her, it was the same thing (love at first sight). I was like, ‘who is that?’ and my friend was like, ‘don’t even worry about that. If you’re going to get with that, you’re probably going to end up having to marry her.’ And I’m thinking in my mind, ‘OK.’
Khao says he has always been a “relationship guy.’ He likes and embraces relationships, but he hadn’t had many relationships because he says he was petrified of rejection. But he overcame his fear to give her his number. After a couple of dates where Kimiko stood him up (she says she misplaced his number) and another one where Kimiko says she changed her mind about going out with him (because she was afraid he would be like her cheating ex), they finally started going out.
Kimiko: Basically, when told me ‘You’re my girlfriend now’. I was like, ‘Oh, I thought we were just dating, we’ve been only on a few dates!’
Khao: It was defintely spiritual in my eyes. Because I wasn’t looking for anything. And I think when you’re not looking and it just comes out of the blue like that, I just kind of rolled with it. And I liked how it felt! Because before our relationship, I was celibate and not seeing anyone for at least two years. I was a workaholic. So I had to get used to it again, but it felt good. And it was a part of me that was missing it (having a partner).
When Khao says he was a workaholic, it’s a bit of an understatement. At one time, in addition to making and producing music, he had a title loan business, a tax business, and uHaul storage facility. And through it all, Kimiko supported him. She says she always believed in his dreams.
The eventually moved in together in Montgomery, Alabama. Khao, was back and forth from Atlanta pursuing his dreams of making it in the music business. And he says it was during a trip to the A on Valentine’s Day that he decided to ask Kimiko to be his wife.
Kimiko: I thought we were just going to have dinner with other couples.
Khao: I did something reall cool. The day of, I had us all take pictures together and we went shopping. And I had the pictures developed in the little mall while they were shopping. And I had gotten a picture frame customized and on the bottom of the frame it said, ‘The Day She Said Yes’ and the date. So at dinner, everyone said something about their date and then I said something to her being my everything and then I gave her the bag. And she opens it and sees the picture and says, ‘This is from today, what’s this?’ And by the time she reads it and see it, I was on one knee.
Because Khao was always a family man, the couple says marriage didn’t change much. Kimiko was 6 months pregnant with their first child when they married. They married also around the time when Khao’s career was really starting to take off. The couple moved to Atlanta. He had begun to work with T.I. and Grand Hustle. But Khao was ready to be a father and husband. Both agree his success didn’t change the marriage.
Khao: But one thing i can say is that I learned a lot. Just because you get married, you have to learn to be a husband or a wife. I am a family man. I had been taking care of my mom and sisters since i was 15 years old. I was working at nightclubs, paying all the bills, and being a provider back then, so that’s all knew.
And for Khao and Kimiko, the fact that all the money and success didn’t change Khao’s desire to want to take care of his family started to become a bit of an issue. When family in Alabama would call needing money or time, Khao was there for them, even at the risk of neglecting his new family, Kimiko and the baby.
Khao: When you get married, it’s all about us now, but I believe that you have to grow into that roll. You know it just doesn’t happen. For a long time, I was still me, raising my family (in Alabama). And I had to realize that it aint about my family (in Alabama) anymore, it’s about the new family and I need to put this first.
Kimiko: It was VERY hard for them to let him go! LOL!
Khao: I have to claim my wrong in the situation. As the music thing was taking off and the money is coming in, I’m thinking, ‘Ok, she’s good. She can go shopping. She can do this. She can do that.’ So I’m thinking everything is good. But my mom or anybody (family) that hits me up, I can take care of that too. I was wondering what she was trippin’ about because we’re good. But like I said, I hadn’t quite understood what it meant to be married. And I actually made it worse, because I was the one that allowed my family to think it was ok to call and ask. I created that monster. I should have set the rules from the beginning. And my family wouldn’t have blamed her.
Khao says it was growth that made things better. He says Kimiko was patient with him. And he also says he finally listened to her advice and warning about certain people he had around him. But he says it took time. A long time that Kimiko patiently waited for him to see, to grow and to change.
Khao: God broke me down and I was able to look and see what I was doing wrong, and it wasn’t hard once I saw it and it wasn’t hard for me to fix it, because these are things I need to work on. Then I startred to do it not by talking but by action, and she just started seeing a different me.
The Cates are going on 9 years of marriage, 3 children and say through all their trials, they’ve grown the most in their communication. They advise all couples thinking of marrying to go to marriage counseling. And they also say to make a marriage thrive, you’ve got to take it seriously.
Khao: I think I would tell them, first off, realize that this is a job. You know everyday, you have to put in work on both sides. Sometimes when a side grows further than the other, you can’t be impatient because that person doesn’t see where you are at the moment or vice versa. The way to deal with that, I’ve noticed, is just bettering you.
And from Alabama to Atlanta, they are still partners. Khao is still the big dreamer and Kimiko forever by his side supporting and believing.
Kimiko: Basically, he is an awesome guy. I look forward to our future growing, enjoying our kids, and basically taking over the world.
Khao: I would want her to know how much of a role she plays in the success of everything that’s going on, because sometimes when the spotlight is on me for something, it’s not like she’s there. She is my partner, my other half, although there’s not a light shinning, just know that I know that you’re my partner and without you, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.