Introducing Kenny Mason, the Atlanta rapper you need to know
On his new album Angelic Hoodrat: Supercut, the rapper teams up with names like Freddie Gibbs and Denzel Curry to create powerful alt-rap.
Judging from conversations we’ve had in the last few months, Atlanta rapper Kenny Mason is one of those ‘if you know, you know’ types. For those that do know him, Kenny is amongst their top-tier list for 2021; an under-rated genre-masher of a rapper whose hybrids of nostalgic alt-rock and glaring hip-hop constantly stands out. It’s not hard to convince those who don’t know him to get on board either, considering his collaborations with heavyweights like Freddie Gibbs and Denzel Curry, and the appreciation that comes his way from almost every other rapper under the sun.
A lot of this love stems from his 2019 breakthrough single Hit, which introduced his reflective lyricism and the often energetic productions his words live alongside. It was named one of Pitchfork’s Rap Songs of the Day and applauded from almost everybody in the know, ushering in a break-out moment for the rapper who would soon eclipse many of his Atlanta contemporaries. From there, his forward-thinking take on alt-rap has only grown: 2019’s Angelic Hoodrat single being one that would still define the project even two years later, while guest slots on work by Denzel Curry and IDK (with J.I.D.) would bring crossover success, drawing in those infatuated by Kenny’s flow.
His debut album, last year’s Angelic Hoodrat, was a 14-track collection of songs that introduced Kenny Mason as a person as much as it did as a musician. It explored the linking of long-time influences in The Pixies and The Smashing Pumpkins with the intensity of hip-hop; a melodic take on Atlanta’s well-known DIY rap scene that felt like nothing else coming from the city. Then, were the lyrics he would weave in and out of the swelling productions; introspective and upfront with its discussions on mental health and the world around him.
“The goal was for it to be an introduction,” he told CLASH Magazine with the album’s release last year. “That’s more important than me having a hit song on there or rapping better than anyone, I just want people to feel like they know me. I can build a foundation off of that.”
If Angelic Hoodrat brought the foundations, then its updated take - Angelic Hoodrat: Supercut - commences the building of what goes on top of those foundations. It’s an entirely new set of tracks (no, it’s not as simple as a nicely-branded deluxe edition of the original album) that keeps the Angelic Hoodrat story continuing, whether it be in a literal sense - “Some of the songs that came from the original Angelic Hoodrat sessions are on Supercut,” he told Rolling Stone - or in a metaphorical sense, in how the lyrics and sounds of the two records intertwine amongst one another. “The ultimate goal of it is to draw people back to the first project. I’ve got a lot of new people finding out about me, wanting to support, and being interested in the Kenny Mason world,” he continued.
There are nods to Angelic Hoodrat amongst Supercut’s inner core; the record again spotlighting the darker, personal songwriting of its predecessor, and how he brings it to life with the energy of bands whose hey-days would’ve been decades ago - Radiohead being one that has a particular influence on songs like Breathe. At times, his work feels like a bit of a culture shock, especially when he blends together sounds you wouldn’t typically expect to hear side-by-side. That’s the whole point of it though, with Kenny Mason breaking down those expectations throughout the course of the album’s 12 tracks. “That's more of what the world needs anyways, culture shocks and breaking down toxic norms,” he tells Ones To Watch.
Supercut, however, has many examples of how it’s different. The most obvious difference is in its features, some of which being genuinely impressive for someone still floating amongst the ones-to-watch crowd. There’s the long-time friend Denzel Curry - who enlisted Kenny for his UNLOCKED 1.5 remix package last year - on A+; Ambar Lucid on Breathe Again; Angel White on Titan. Hell, even Freddie Gibbs - someone whose guest features feel meticulously chosen - makes an entrance, via one of the album’s highlights in Much Money.
“Freddie Gibbs came out of nowhere, my manager sent my song to him just to show him - I don't even know if it was intended for him to get on the song - but bro got on it,” he told Ones To Watch. It’s something worth celebrating too; the rapper’s addition to a song being somewhat of a co-sign of brilliance, as shown through his work alongside Tom Misch, Injury Reserve, Danny Brown and even Flume. “Freddie Gibbs is one of my favourite rappers so that shit sent me!”
It’s a record that, when held comparatively against Angelic Hoodrat, shows a tremendous amount of evolution and growth - even if it’s just been a year. This time around, everything feels a little more concise and focused, from the guest featured adding their respective touches to Kenny Mason’s distinctive sound, to the way that sound in itself has become a little more in-touch of itself and rounded. This time around, Kenny Mason knows exactly what he wants - and knows exactly how to pull it off.
It’s not too difficult to see how an album like Supercut may recharge the trajectory of a musician’s future, and that’s especially true for Kenny Mason. It’s a reminder of the detailed craft from his debut, and an extension on everything he’s already brought. Now, after rounding out the Angelic Hoodrat story, he’s able to look forwards as to what’s next. “Shows, looking people in the eye, and singing songs with them,” says Kenny Mason, asked what he sees as his future. “I don't care about awards or billboards, that stuff is more or less not in my control, so I'm not really fixated. I want to have huge shows, do really great live shit, and make music that goes hand-in-hand to complement that.
“Really connecting with people - that's a priority. I can't say for sure what that looks like, but my connection with people is the most important. All that other stuff will be a result of how strong that connection is.”
Take a dive into Angelic Hoodrat: Supercut below.