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Kenny Mason Doesn’t Need to be Saved

By Donna-Claire Chesman on

Kenny Mason loves dogs. “They survive on loyalty,” he says. The Atlanta rapper, singer, and DIY-spirited genre-blender employs the “pup” motif across his visuals, his writing, and his relationship with his fans. You could say it’s his calling card—but Kenny stands out so starkly in his Atlanta scene, his markers are multiple.

Inspired by grunge bands, Tupac, and classic R&B, the breadth of Kenny’s talent should not be surprising. Though he formally debuted with Angelic Hoodrat in April 2020, Kenny had been making music for over a decade, with traceable content going back as far as 2014. Before his smash “Hit” foretold a story of an artist to watch, Kenny was releasing collaborative mixtapes with the very people who would go on to keep him grounded during his rise.

Almost a year to the date later—Angelic Hoodrat released April 15—Kenny Mason returns with Angelic Hoodrat: Supercut, home to 12 new songs and features from Denzel Curry, Ambar Lucid, Freddie Gibbs, and more. For those who fell in love with his personal and often harrowing Atlanta vignettes, Supercut offers a broader look at Kenny Mason’s story. The writing is sharp and at times painful (“Breathe Again”), and the raps are a reminder that Kenny is a titan (“Rih,” “A+”). “43,” in particular, likely recorded in the same session as “Pretty Thoughts,” is a barrelling opener where Kenny Mason hits the heart with the precision of a trained marksman.

A rock star with no taste for fame, as he mentioned to me a year ago, Kenny does not pay attention to conversations about his being “up next.” He sees himself solely as a musician doing what is in his DNA. With a deep desire to be known for being himself, the release of Supercut feels like Kenny doubling down on his multiple musical identities coalescing to be his singular identity. From stoney bars to bellowing howls from the abyss of feeling, he remains one-of-one—an angelic hoodrat, unshakeable and always in service of his pups.

Let’s start with dogs. What is it about dogs that enchant you? Their loyalty?

It’s something interesting about them being engineered to be loyal to you. They survive on loyalty. It’s for real death over dishonor. And their ability to make people happy. A lot of people scared of dogs, so there’s duality in that. I always loved dogs my whole life, but I got chased by a dog in high school. It’s the complete spectrum of love and fear.

I got chased by a dog when I was little, and it was a small dog, so we were the same size.

It ain’t about the size—it’s about the intimidation. They got the type of attitude that will mentally tear you down.

I got chased by a dog when I was 14. I used to have to walk to and from school and come through this cut to get to my house. I cut through there one day, and it was a dog—the fence was open. It was an all-black pitbull. It just ran after me, bro. He didn’t give a fuck. I didn’t even have time to calm myself down. I take off running. And ain’t nobody around to help me! Even to laugh. Even if somebody was laughing, I would feel better. I just hopped on top of somebody’s car until [the dog] went away.

That trauma definitely influences the music now, though.

Definitely. Me and my friend was watching this documentary on Netflix. The dude was bitten by sharks and shit. That traumatic experience somehow pushed him to try to save sharks. It pushed him to be a huge advocate for preserving shark life.

The thing that almost kills you becomes the thing you love?

This is a big metaphor for all these emotions being on the same spectrum.

How does that influence the way you make music?

It creates less limitations. Genre, too. Or mood. It allows for more fluidity. I could go in and try to make a scary song, or whatever that would feel like, but then… I could be talking about some trauma in my life, but I could remember during those traumatic moments how much I was laughing. Or, how much fun I was having right before, and how those lines get blurred. It breaks the limitations on creativity if you’re able to identify all sides of your emotions.

You have a very passionate delivery, and your writing can get really painful. How do you keep yourself level enough to push through a song?

I really be detachin’. Aside from the actual performance of it, it’s not a big emotional thing for me. Performing, that’s the therapy for me. I got a general detachment when it comes to overly traumatic or emotional events. I’m not proud of it, but you do need a little bit more room to observe.

You have a stone-cold delivery at times, too. And if you’re always in the trauma, you can’t live life, right?

Also, can’t really analyze it, either. I can’t analyze the meanings if I’m too much in it. I’ve re-recorded songs, ‘cause I may have said a line too deadpan or need to tap into the actual emotion versus just getting it out. Also, it’s been some moments where I do tap out. Sometimes, those are demos where I’m not singing no words.

Since Angelic Hoodrat dropped, I’ve seen waves of fans crediting you for helping them get through hard times. Is that surreal? Was that always the goal?

That was definitely the goal, but I didn’t know how intense that shit could get. I was naive about how important it was. I wanted people to be like, “Yo, this shit helped me through this.” I’m intentionally making music for people to cope with their trauma, but I ain’t know that shit gets deep. The shit they tell me [in DMs], I can’t show. It’s hitting them different, for real.

I have to be extremely careful because that shit really means something. I don’t have to limit anything I say, but I have to be careful.

When we talked last year, you mentioned not paying attention to the “up next” conversation. How has your relationship to fame changed?

It’s hard for me to even gauge, truly, how much people like me. Unless I’m performing in front of people. Numbers of followers? I don’t have many compared to [other artists]. I’d be able to gauge it if I was in front of people, if they know the songs. If I don’t see it, it’s out of sight, out of mind. And I don’t really care. I just try to work. I always been making music. I want the quality to get better as far as resources, and my personal standard is always gon’ be very high. I do want them pop hits, though! A few.

Who doesn’t?

I could do that. Not that it’s easy. I’m not trying to downplay it or minimize it. But I could do that.

One thing Supercut proves to me is that making music is your lifeblood. It’s not so much saving you, as it is you. Would you agree?

Yeah, I do. I don’t need to be saved, bruh. I’m not asking nobody or nothing to do that. Not to sound cynical—I appreciate life, and I love being alive and all the blessings I received, but I’m not attached to life. But I do intend on being one of the greatest artists ever. Or the greatest artist I can be.

Photos by Nasser Boulaich.

InterviewKenny MasonHip HopAtlanta

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