Black Kenn is a rapper who was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, a state so racially strained that the NAACP issued an advisory warning people of colour their civil rights could be violated if they travel there.
This is the culture Black Kenn was socialized in. And when his basketball dreams fell short, he turned his attention to music. He’s been revelling in his rap development ever since.
Back a year ago on “Wintertime Interlude” we have some rudimentary but potent drum machine work, soft vocals drowned out by 80s-horror synths, and the mix comes across a bit repetitive. But what’s most memorable about how cold and distant it sounds. The elements don’t quite work together, but still a depth to it. Meaning behind the shock cheeseball horror reminiscence of the synthetic elements, you know there’s some dank bars to unearth.
We start to see that come into being on the Gas & Instrumentals Album from 2018, where a bit more complexity results in harder hitting tracks. The confidence of the assault means you start to suspend your disbelief. You start flowing with the cadence, such as on single like “No Pad No Pencil.” This fits perfectly within the canon of modern gangster rap. You might not be a huge fan of hearing a rapper rhyming “phone” with “phone.” But this is where we are as a society. “Get money” music is in, and Black Kenn has been mastering the sense that the darkness it takes to bring that to life.
He manages to drop nicely constructed choruses that are catchy — but, you know, not too catchy. The droning beat goes on and on. And you start to believe there’s no escape. And that’s what we saw with Digital Trappin’. This is sickening shit, and that’s just how you want it. It gets inside your head with brooding, intentionally unpolished hustle flow. With this release beats have becoming more pronounced. The swagger comes into its own.
Now with the "Chippi Chippi Freestyle" we get another journey into the heart of darkness.
It’s founded on a beat from Miami-based producer Redda, previously used by Sheck Wes in his song Chippi Chippi, on the MUDBOY album. Wes has said that Chippi Chippi is when you’re “leaving a place in a state of anger, with intentions to get high.” It’s obviously a situation Black Kenn understands and wanted to add his own take on.
By the way.. the video is definitely worth checking out, since it make it looks like he’s in a video game level in the UK. It’s expertly shot, the VFX are rad, the colours are amazing, and his yellow jacket is awesome. But it’s the content that stands out. “I’m comin’ for your head” he barks. You can’t help but enjoy how he rhymes Chippi with Mississippi, in a way that sounds consequential. While Sheck Wes, thought to use the Mississippi rhyme in his own Chippi Chippi song, he definitely missed the prime opportunity to use the underused gem of the English language “jiffy.” Black Kenn didn’t miss the chance. And now I want to put peanut butter on a banana. Thanks a lot Kenn.
While Sheck Wes’s verses reflect more of a high-end international travel vision, and a musician who’s in the mainstream crosshairs, in a way Black Kenn’s is more interesting. That’s because it reflects a street-level grind giant artists crave the chance to embody. In the song Black Kenn revels in having that vantage point. But if he keeps improving at the rate he has been, he might find himself, too, cradling a colourful basketball on a deserted island. Under blue skies by day and beside a fire at night.
Listen to "Chippi Chippi Freestyle" here and get to know Black Kenn in out interview below!
Great to chat with you! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
What’s the word! It’s Black Kenn checking in an I’m all about dividends. I’m a young entrepreneur out of St. Louis Missouri trying to make the world a better place.
How hard was it for you to let go of your dream of being a professional basketball player?
Very hard. I’m still low key holding on to it. I haven’t fully let it go but it definitely was a challenge for me. It was something I dedicated everyday of my life to.
What was it like growing up in St. Louis, Missouri? For those who might not know, what were some of the challenges and opportunities for the average person there?
At first growing up was cool in St. Louis but now the city is a lot different. The vibe just ain’t how it use to be. From my position, opportunities were limited and we have to be different in order to stand out. I guess that’s why I am the way that I am.
What do you think was the biggest factor in your recent development as an artist?
Trusting myself and not second guessing myself. At the end of the day I had to do me and not care about what others say or think.
Sheck Wes said Chippi Chippi is “leaving a place in a state of anger, with intentions to get high.” What does it mean to you?
Its exactly the same thing but I am being more particular about the strain which is Cookies. I was smoking cookie at the time, chips ahoy is a cookie, so its basically my twist on Chippi Chippi.
Why was it important for you to put your own spin on the Sheck Wes’s Chippi Chippi track?
I really wanted to get back to what some of my favorite artist did and that was freestyle and rap over other artists beats.
What do you think the best part about being a rapper is so far?
I really don’t care for the attention, but the best part for me is that I can have a voice and an influence on the world!
What's next for you?
More music. More shows. More merch. More businesses. But the sky is the limit so shit who knows.
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