Kenyatta Rashon explores "The Art of Keeping It Real" on her accomplished debut album
Rashon has a distinctive singing voice, both expressive and powerful. And her songs are uniformly strong, with memorable melodies and vibrant lyrics. “YoFi” and “W.rong” express regrets for lost love, while “I am” and “H4L” are anthems of self-empowerment. The single “Free” establishes a great summer listening vibe over wistful and wise lyrics: “Some things could change and some things could not / But I made peace with the things I got / I’m free”
Rashon answered a few questions about the album for Pulp.
Q: How and when did you start getting involved in music? When did it become a focus for your career?
A: Well, I’ve been invested in my craft since I was about 19, just a different focus. Music and singing have always been a part of my life ever since I was 7 years old; however, at 19 years of age, I began singing lead in a live performance band. After six years of learning and developing my stage presence and vocal ability, I took my talents into my own hands and began to focus on myself.
Q: Did you teach yourself to sing, or have you had formal training?
A: While I do believe practice makes perfect, I will say that I have a lot of history in formal training; from high school choirs to starring in musicals, as well as private vocal training, I’m always open to perfecting my craft.
Q: How long has this album been in the works? Were there any challenges for you creating an album during the pandemic?
A: The Art Of Keeping It Real was released June 18, 2021, and creating it was definitely a moment in time. I was pregnant through the entire process from writing, recording as well as shooting the music video. There were some days I wasn’t interested in doing anything, but it had to be done.
Q: What inspired the title of the album?
A: My son Harlem, and my new journey becoming a mom.
Q: The songwriting on the album is really strong. Are there one or two you’re especially proud of?
A: Thank you, I have teamed up with some incredible artists on a few songs, but I definitely take pride in writing. My favorite songs are “W.rong” and “I am”—very personal and transparent.
Q: “Free” strikes me as one of the standout tracks on the album—great choice for a single. What’s the story behind that song?
A: “Free” was a collaboration with an artist named Mellot Mellow. The story behind the writing is giving the OK to breathe. Every day we face something that either weakens us or makes us stronger; I’m simply saying it’s OK and to keep going, and I’m an example of that.
Q: You’re one of the first recipients of the Amplify Fellowship. What did that mean to you?
A: Truly honored for the opportunity! It came at a time where the world was experiencing a lot. Many artists felt their backs against the wall because we were extremely affected by the pandemic. So with this platform, I felt anew, felt like I was given a chance to “get my shine on” before I started to feel the darkness.
Q: Has it been difficult not to be able to perform live during the pandemic? How have you coped with that challenge?
A: Horrible. Hated it. I thrive off of live performances; that is my comfort zone, my way to connect with my audience. My coping mechanisms were to become more active through virtual platforms and take advantage of live digital performances.
Q: Do you have anything upcoming you’d like people to know about—any live shows planned, or future recording projects, or anything else?
A: Look out for some very creative music videos for songs from The Art Of Keeping It Real! But also follow all of my social media platforms to keep up with Kenyatta Rashon.
Bob Needham is a freelance writer and the former arts & entertainment editor of The Ann Arbor News and AnnArbor.com.
"The Art of Keeping it Real" is available on Bandcamp.