Kenny Mason Is  Aiming to Become the Biggest Artist in the World  [Q&A]


Photo: Nasser Boulaich

If you're a fan of Radiohead and Young Thug, then we have the new project for you. You probably already know about Kenny Mason, whose synthesis of shoegaze, hip-hop and grunge made headlines last year following the release of his debut album  Angelic Hoodrat.  

This week, the Atlanta rapper returns to us with Angelic Hoodrat: Supercut,  a twelve-track spiritual successor featuring some of the most dynamic and abrasive hip-hop tracks seen this year. Coinciding with its release, fans are also being treated to a visual for Mason's new track "Much Money" with Freddie Gibbs.  

Angelic Hoodrat: Supercut  makes an incredibly strong case for Mason's spot in the Atlanta hip-hop Hall of Fame. Whether rapping with a steadfast intensity on ethereal cuts like "Fasho" or singing on the genre-breaking "Breathe" with Ambar Lucid, Kenny Mason's risk-taking performances are consistently at the top of his game. Pulling from a wide range of influences like Princess Loko, Koopsta Knicca, and Tommy Wright III this time around,  Angelic Hoodrat: Supercut might be Mason's boldest project to date.

Mason's approach frequently resembles a swarm-like onslaught of syllables delivered over an infectiously chaotic mix, with the end result being a masterfully-crafted bout of hard-hitting lyrical genius. If you missed his debut last year, now is the perfect chance to become a fan. Joined by guests like Denzel Curry and Freddie Gibbs, Mason's  Angelic Hoodrat Supercut is not a project to mix.

Prior to the release of Angelic Hoodrat: Supercut, I was fortunate enough to sit down and talk with Kenny Mason. We discussed our love of live shows, the insane past year he's had, and everything in between.

Ones To Watch: This week you're giving fans 12 new tracks, but the album is called Angelic Hoodrat: Supercut. What relationship do you feel this new record has with the one you released a year ago?  

Kenny Mason:   A lot of the songs on this record we made during the sessions of the last album, so they have the same energy. It's not that these were the ones I didn't pick, I knew that we were going to do a deluxe, but we kept making songs throughout the pandemic. So it was like, "I like all of these, even the new ones, and the ones with features on them. We're just going to do a whole Supercut and make it separate," because stylistically I don't really like having a 30 song tracklist. But it is truly a deluxe, just separated.  

I'm glad that you brought up features, because this time around you host a wide range of guests - Denzel Curry, Freddie Gibbs, Ambar Lucid, Angel White. What was the creative process like making this record, especially when it came down to the collaboration.  

Ambar Lucid came to Atlanta for a minute, I met her and she worked on the song. Angel was in the studio with me too, me and Angel have been friends for a minute, and I've always really liked his music. Their features were more in-person, but Denzel… he's been fucking with me, so I already knew that I wanted to have a song with him. People had been asking about it, but I originally released "A+" on YouTube. Everybody was kicking my ass about it not being on streaming, so that was the last song where I was like "Oh this has to be on the deluxe, because people are going to be upset." Freddie Gibbs came out of nowhere, my manager sent my song to him just to show him - I don't even know if it was intended for him to get on the song - but bro got on it. Freddie Gibbs is one of my favorite rappers so that shit sent me!  

In collaborating with Freddie Gibbs you've had a pretty insane year. In some of the press you got around the time of Angelic Hoodrat's release, you mentioned that the 'Angelic' denoted your desire to make music for the people who needed it, and 'Hoodrat' meant wanting to be big, wanting to be a star while still being yourself. With this year being so fucking weird, do you feel any of that has changed?

My purpose definitely has not changed. Regardless of my success, or what people project my "success" to be, I'm still going to make music and it's always going to be therapeutic for me. In turn, I believe this is what makes it therapeutic for other folks. I think it's always going to be that way, despite the numbers or the other shit folks care about. I think that I have - and want - more of a responsibility to really take things to a new level, and challenge myself. I work with some real talented folks, and they amaze me and I want to be bigger for them, and I want to be the best I can because they're going hard. I'm indebted to them. I still feel I can be the biggest artist in the world and I can help people with my music. I'll always feel like that hopefully.  

It's great to hear that you're both in tune with and thankful for the support you get. Touching on your desire to go harder, Angelic Hoodrat had you breezing through a ton of different genres and styles, like rock, R&B, experimental, industrial, grunge, punk, etc. Now we get tracks like "Breathe", which share many similarities to early Radiohead cuts. Did you find yourself stylistically trying to explore other genres this time around, or were you more focused on refining your own personal sound?  

Yeah it was both, and it wasn't purposeful. You mentioned Radiohead, we made "Breathe" after I had listened to The Bends all the way through for the first time. You know I'm young, so I had to go back and revisit that, but we were listening to that in Tennessee where that song was made. I don't think it was purposeful, more natural as a result of me fucking with it - soundscapes and palettes - and it being the same week. Also I had been listening to a lot of Texas and Memphis rap. I didn't do it to be like, "oh this is the new shit I'm on," it was natural because I liked it. Whatever I like I indulge in all the way. It will bleed off into what we make, especially if we all [Skufl and Julian Cruz] like it, then it will come out and be harmonious.

I'm sure you've noticed this, but almost every piece of coverage you received last year around Angelic Hoodrat's release was like "Oh my god, he's a rapper from Atlanta... and he likes The Pixies and the Smashing Pumpkins?!" Why is it such a huge deal that this guy from Atlanta likes the Pixies? Why are The Pixies and Atlanta Rap so incompatible?

Yeah, I feel you. I could have the same reaction, but I understand why. Social shit, in rap music the rockstar aesthetic isn't a thing that a lot of artists use. There's only like a handful of artists that dive into the music - or maybe they do and they just don't vocalize it - but I really just like those bands. People always ask me for my top five rappers but they never ask for my top five bands, and that's just as important. If I had a top ten list of artists I liked, Jay Z would be right next to Nirvana.    

Do you feel like this puts any pressure on you to conform to the Atlanta rapper archetype? Or does it push you to be even more of yourself?

I don't really feel any pressure from either end. I'm going to be me and like what I like regardless of who is and isn't surprised, it's not going to change my life. In turn, it's not going to change what I make. It's good, people being surprised, it's a little culture shock. That's more of what the world needs anyways, culture shocks and breaking down toxic norms. Also plenty of people my age like all types of shit.

You were pretty big a year ago, but I'd say that you're on a whole new level now. What is a piece of advice you'd give to yourself a year ago based off of what you've learned since?  

I would say "go vegan sooner", and just "make more music." I made a lot of music but I could always make more. I can always go harder. I was real blessed during the pandemic, and was able to make music and form new relationships from home. I probably would have done more had there not been a pandemic at the same time, but I still connected with a lot of people. I'm still real grateful for that. I still have a lot to do.

 You've accumulated a ton of really sick accolades and accomplishments since you started rapping. You collaborated with IDK and JID on a song last summer, you've had a viral TikTok hit, and you've gotten press from some of the biggest music outlets on the planet. What do you have your eyes set on next?  

Shows, looking people in the eye, and singing songs with them. I don't care about awards or billboards, that stuff is more or less not in my control, so I'm not really fixated. I want to have huge shows, do really great live shit, and make music that goes hand-in-hand to complement that. Even if it is virtual, I would treat it just the same. Really connecting with people - that's a priority. I can't say for sure what that looks like, but my connection with people is the most important. All that other stuff will be a result of how strong that connection is.  

Talking about shows just makes me realize how much I want to go back to that world.

It's going to be like getting the love of your life back.  

Who are your Ones To Watch?

Ah damn... Skufl, Jelani Imani, and Muddy Mya. I was listening to one of her songs last night. It's hard to choose.  

Listen to Angelic Hoodrat below:

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