Kenny Mason Makes Mood Music

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Kenny Mason Makes Mood Music

“I’m as Atlanta as you can get while still being as weird as I prefer,” Kenny Mason explains of his edgy Southern ethos.

Born, raised and still living in Atlanta with “no plans to move anywhere else,” the enigmatic artist has mastered the art of infusing his music, which he believes is nearly impossible to categorize, with a mixture of influences and emotions – while still ensuring it’s evident he’s from the South.

Now 29, Mason’s favorite childhood artists included Lil Wayne and My Chemical Romance. While everyone around him was tapped into the hip-hop scene, Mason flew solo in his passion for heavy metal and hardcore music. “I kind of liked that no one else was really into that scene.”

The rapper has since found his niche in the undefinable, relying mainly on the melange of hard rock and rap influences. 3, released in March of 2023, explores Mason’s expansive sonic scope, serving up three wildly different tracks that tap into even influences of hyperpop and electronic sounds.

Last June’s 6 took a more focused approach, arriving as the prelude to 9, with six tracks drawing from a bevy of different hip-hop sounds. Mason dropped 9 – which sees features from Veeze, Toro Y Moi and BabyDrill – in March before heading out on his Route 9 Tour.

Aligned in aesthetic, each album’s cover art features a black-and-white image of Mason’s chains, a reflection of the rapper’s authentic personal style. “I like simple sh*t,” he notes of his taste in fashion and design.

His sound, however, is far from simple. Riddled with industry-wide influences, 9‘s masterful medley is grounded by one of the most important things to Mason: “personality.”

When did you start rapping?

I started writing lyrics when I was 12 years old. I listened to a lot of rap music and was trying to emulate what I was listening to. I didn’t tell anyone or do it in front of people until around the 10th grade when I found it as a way to separate myself. People seemed to like it. The girls liked it. In high school it became my “thing”, and I ended up falling in love with it. It was my own way to express what I was going through. Sort of like my version of playing sports.

What were you listening to at the time?

Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III was the big rap album of my middle school era. That was actually a huge turning point for me. It felt historical to see a rapper be that entertaining and influential. I thought he was the coolest person in the world. My dad also played a lot of old-school rap – 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me was a big one.

What else, outside of the rap sphere, were you listening to?

I was big on alternative and rock music. My favorite band was My Chemical Romance. They sent me down a real emo rabbit hole. Any obscure band adjacent to MCR, I was listening to. I was the only person in my neighborhood who was really in that world. That was cool for me. I was super into hardcore stuff. In the early days of YouTube, people would make these anime edits with hardcore music in the background. I got heavy into Deftones because a lot of videos had Deftones playing.

“My sound is the full human spectrum. It supersedes genre and is more about mood.”

How would you describe your sound?

It’s hard to describe. I have a full range of human emotions and my music mirrors that. My sound is the full human spectrum. It supersedes genre and is more about mood.

How are 3, 6 and 9 connected?

I knew I wanted to do an EP that waterfalled into a full-length album. On 3, I wanted to show off my range in just three songs. One is heavy rock, another is melodic R&B and the other is hyper-pop-influenced rap. I wanted them all to be as different as possible. For 6, I wanted it to be a bit more concise – more of a journey, like a short album. When it came time for 9, I actually had to push it back about six months because it didn’t feel right yet. If my team didn’t force me to wrap it up, I’d probably still be working on it right now.

What about the aesthetic of them all?

I like black. It’s a powerful color. I like simple and clean design. I wanted all three of the covers to feel connected. It feels and looks like a saga. It’s similar to my style.

Could you say more about your style?

I’m not big on designers or high fashion stuff. I see what I like and I wear it. Whether it’s from a thrift store for $15 or a fashion house for $1,500, it’s about how it looks and feels on me. If it looks good, I’ll buy it. I like simple stuff, though – a lot of flannel and denim.

How did you choose the featured artists?

Everyone on the album I genuinely listen to on a day-to-day basis. I actually sampled Toro on “Fasho” from my 2021 project.

Which song of his did you sample?

I sampled “Mona Lisa,” one of my favorite songs by him. I sampled the tail end where the beat does this weird chord change. I was always too intimidated to ask him to ever work together, but after years went by, and I started working on 9, I finally built up the courage to ask him. He responded back and said he was actually going to ask me to be on his album. So we swapped verses, which was fire.

What do you look for in a beat?

It’s kind of an aesthetic for me. When I make beats, I shoot for a sound that has its personality.

“I’m as Atlanta as you can get while still being as weird as I prefer.”

How do you infuse your Atlanta roots into your music?

It’s part of me naturally. It’s in all of the stories I tell. My personality was crafted in Atlanta. It’s just infused in my DNA. I’m as Atlanta as you can get while still being as weird as I prefer.

So many artists have tapped you lately. How does that feel?

It’s a bit of validation that I’m heading in the right direction. It also inspires me to be more of myself. I’m not super social but everyone who I’m cool with is insanely talented and also so different, which is what makes me want to be me.

How do you not let the pressures of the industry or going “viral” affect you?

Trying to go viral feels like a redundant thing. I try to make a good song. I try and make the best song I can every time I make a song, but I’m not trying to do anything. It doesn’t make sense to me to try and do that. I have so many real fans that genuinely like my shit. My expressing how I feel helps other people express how they feel, and that’s all that matters to me. I don’t care about accolades or any of that shit. The most rewarding shit is putting something out and seeing the community of people who listened to it buy a ticket to come see you.

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