Dro Kenji has experienced hell, and he wants to guide you through its fire and brimstone. He’s a messenger for the brokenhearted, radiating positivity and comfort. Eat Your Heart Out, Kenji’s latest effort and follow up to 2020’s Race Me To Hell, is an 11-track collection of songs meant to sever any ties to heartache and trauma. Kenji’s music captures the moment you said goodbye to a lover. It’s the feeling of crippling loss—it’s watching your Rome fall in a single day.
Born in Virginia but raised in South Carolina, Kenji’s household had the sounds of Atlanta’s new trap architects in Future, Young Thug, and Rich Gang rattling the walls thanks to his father. His father, who also serves in the Navy, further expanded Kenji’s horizons through country music and a deep appreciation for Adele.
The Internet Money rapper first became inspired to make music due to friends around him pursuing the craft. Though he didn’t fully fall in love with music until recording his first demo, finding his wounded voice was easier than expected. Kenji’s music draws inspiration from the late XXXTENTACION and Juice WRLD, blending elements of rap, emo, and country. Once he selects a beat, the melodies and lyrics flood over him like an epiphany. The result is raw and heart-sinking music, meant to be a guiding light to fans.
On “Useless Feelings,” the first track on Eat Your Heart Out, you mention there’s no telling what thoughts will creep in your mind when you’re high. What thoughts do you usually have that weigh on your mind?
When I’m that high, I’ll be thinking about life: our life, before life, [the] afterlife. I’ll think about everything, which sometimes is not a bad thing but other times it is. I’m sure you know. Thinking too hard all the time is never good.
What’s one of the things about life that is constantly on your mind? As in your current life.
I always think about the next step I might take, the next direction I might go. Always thinking about my music and where I’m going to take it, and what I’m going to do with it. I always think about relationships between me and regular people, and me and girls, whatever the fuck. Those things, in some weight, form, or fashion, twist it all around.
What messages are you trying to communicate to your listeners who may find comfort in your music?
That you’re not alone no matter what you’re going through, no matter what you’re involved in. Somebody else is going through that, and nine times out of 10, they feel the same exact way about you when you don’t know what to do about that particular situation. So you’re never alone truly. And I preach that in a lot of my songs, too.
Much of your music deals with the pressures of love and relationships. “On & On” features lyrics pleading for a lover to save you. What do you need to be saved from exactly?
Hell. A lot of the times, when I say stuff in my songs, I don’t particularly mean that thing. So in this instance, when I said, “Bae, come and save me from this hell,” hell is like the inside of my head. So come and save me from this hell. When you’re around, I’m not in hell because I’m not in my mind.
When it comes to love and relationships, what was the hardest lesson you had to learn?
That not everybody is as genuine as they might perceive themselves to be, and that people also have a hidden agenda.
What could be done to take artists’ mental health more seriously?
I think too much internet gets to a lot of people sometimes, and if you’re in a position where you’re already feeling down and depressed about something and then you go on Instagram or whatever, that shit affects you. So I would just say take breaks from shit. Take time out to be human, too.
How do you feel social media played a role in how people cope with anxiety and depression?
Social media definitely influenced that in a way. I feel like people who go through things like that often use social media as a way to decompress and vent. If you’re feeling that way, you want other people to know you feel that way because you don’t like feeling that way all on your own. So you go and post.
What happens when the art blurs into reality?
The line was never there. This is what’s always been going on, but it’s now being put into music. People talk about what [XXXTENTACION] was feeling and what he was going through, but to fans, it’s just music, and they might not think about it that hard all the time. He’s been expressing his feelings, his emotions, his struggles, and all of this through his music, and you all are just now deciding to pay attention now that he’s passed away.
Do you feel like your music is an outlet for coping and positivity?
My music overall is meant for you to feel and relate to and be happy and not feel sad and not think like, “Yo, damn. Why was I not good enough for this to happen? Why was I not good enough for her to fuck with me?” No, when you hear my songs, I want you to be like, “No, fuck that, fuck them. We’re doing great. We are happy. We are living.”
Photos by Joseph Morrison.
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