With the rise of trap and cloud rap, the genre has seen a massive shift in production techniques. Music (in the mainstream) is increasingly becoming more and more simplistic, from the universally used DAW plug-ins, such as Serum to the TikTokification of song production, where artists (in reality labels) want a 30-second viral moment on every single.
Kenny Beats is someone I have admired for some time in the rap game and felt has distanced himself from falling into those aforementioned pitfalls. His solo debut, Louie, was a beautiful ode to his father, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The album was released with a captivating visualizer (which should be watched in its totality), displaying what I can only presume as a time capsule of a young Kenny Beats spending time with his father. Especially with the more beat-focused projects such as Louie - a visualizer was the way to go.
If the IRL visualizer wasn't enough for you, digital artist Sabrina Nichols, animated the entire album in a beautiful painted aesthetic. Each track has its own narratives and loops associated with it.
Aside from his solo work, he has collaborated and helped cement the career of one of the most captivating figures in rap, Denzel Curry. The two have had viral releases from the Unlocked: Definitive Edition (compilation project) or singles like So.Incredible.pkg. In addition to his work with Denzel, he's released several bangers with other artists, including 'Puff Daddy' with JPEGMAFIA, 'Square Up' with Zack Fox, and 'Hit Me Up' featuring Dominic Fike & Omar Apollo.
The last thing I want to mention before getting into the set is his ongoing Cave series, where artists record tracks with Kenny. The Cave is a one-of-a-kind series which gives outsiders (brief) insight into the production that goes into making a piece of music. The season is premiering with Ski Mask The Slump God, on Friday @ 12 PM PST.
With all of that context out of the way, I had high expectations for Kenny Beat's set. I've seen his Boiler Room x Primavera Sound set and expected something similar with possibly more modern pop / rap / trap aesthetics. While most of the sets at Pandemonium felt novelty (incorporating self-aware comedic elements + themes), Kenny reflected his nature as a deep and skillful producer and DJ.
Kenny remained stage center, cycling through some of the hottest sounds in rap from artists like Baby Keem, Chief Keef, Playboi Carti, and Ice Spice. This setlist was more rap-focused than other sets I had heard from Kenny. Kenny's energy was the best of the entire concert - showcases just how vibrant his stage presence can be.
I captured so many images with Kenny smiling, and it was known to everyone in the building he was having a great time on stage.
Full transparency - I could only stay for the first 15 minutes of the 45-minute set since I had to be escorted to and from the stage. This is super common with arena tours, and I was the only photographer there that night (many thanks to Joji & Kenny's MGMT for having me out).
Given how Kenny Blew up in the mainstream with his joint collaboration with Zack Fox, 'Jesus is The One (I Got Depression),' a satire-laced freestyle filmed on his Cave series, many would write Kenny Beats off as just another unserious producer.
I want to strongly discern that Kenny is not only a skilled multi-disciplinary musician, but someone I see as a generational talent. Kenny is responsible for work with individuals that critics and audiences will inevitably hail as some of the best rap artists/music from the 2020s.
It separates itself from those two as a subtle commentary on existence and the fragility of life. The album doesn't have an assortment of long-form articulating narratives in terms of vocals, but careful attention to the beats and rhythms paints this transitory portrait of human nature. Understanding narrative production on this level is something few artists comprehend.
Kenny Beats can fluctuate between states of profound instrumentals, rap bangers, and pop hits almost effortlessly. I highly recommend you dive into Kenny's work because there is something there for everyone.