Houston’s own Ken The Man just dropped her latest project What’s My Name? via Asylum Records. The 10-track project pays tribute to her stage name and proving to the world why she really is “The Man.” Approaching this project with a spitfire delivery, KenTheMan isn’t playing any games on this new project.
In our exclusive interview KenTheMan discusses how her interest in poetry sparked her interest in writing music and how growing up she sang in choir but never imagined that she’d one day be a rapper. KenTheMan had planned on being a therapist in the hopes of helping people, but the universe had other plans. While in college Ken began singing in girl groups and rapping. In 2015 Ken began dropping freestyles and in 2017 someone on Twitter challenged her to make an original song and the rest is history. KenTheMan shares with us that when she first created her now popular stage name that she didn’t put much thought into the name, it was just a handle she created to be able to release music. Over time the name began ringing bells and started growing on her, not only that, KenTheMan opens up about her close relationship with her father and how he heavily influenced her perspective on life. Ken was raised by her father and always felt she had the ego of man because she was brought up seeing the world through her father’s eyes. In many ways Ken has always been “The Man” and she reminds her fans of this on her latest project What’s My Name?
In addition to telling us about how she got started in music, Ken also shares what it was like creating her first viral hit “He Be Like” while delivering food for both DoorDash and Uber. KenTheMan is excited to show her fans how she’s leveled up in her latest project and also reflects on what it was like partnering with Asylum for this release. Check out more from our exclusive interview below.
The Knockturnal: How old were you when you started experimenting with music?
KenTheMan: I was 18-19 maybe.
The Knockturnal: I know in the third grade you started out writing poetry. Did you ever imagine it would grow to become what it is now?
KenTheMan: Never because I was in choirs and it was never rap. In third grade I didn’t know I was going to rap but I knew I would do something musical because I enjoy singing and writing.
The Knockturnal: When did you start taking music seriously?
KenTheMan: I would say around 2017. I would freestyle, I was still testing things out. I didn’t know for sure that I could really do it. I just thought it was something fun. I didn’t know it was something I would take as a career until I realized I really like rapping, so I was trying to make original songs. I remember this guy on Twitter who saw my freestyles but was like, ‘can she make a song though? He put me to the test because I made a song, and it went viral too. The first song I ever made, and it went viral.
The Knockturnal: How did you go from studying psych to rapping with your best friend?
KenTheMan: I always wanted to do therapy in some kind of way. I’ve always wanted to help people and I knew I couldn’t do blood and nursing stuff. So, I thought about what was another way to help a person so I wanted to be a therapist because my friends would come to me for advice. I was taking it up in school. I just stumbled on knowing how to rap. It’s like nobody knows when they picked up a pen and was like let me try to write this down and even poetry too. I really can’t tell you what made me just do it, it just came to me.
The Knockturnal: Where does the name Ken the Man come from? I know Kentavia is your name.
KenTheMan: It was a SoundCloud thing. It was when I first put out my freestyles, so Ken wasn’t available, like my actual name so I just put “the man.” It was nothing serious like I created my stage name, it was just something I did to drop music and then the first feature I did this guy said, ‘you go by Ken?’ and I was just like ‘KenTheMan’ because it rang a bell. I just thought about it and people were saying it was dope and they were calling me that anyways. It started growing on me. I always knew that my ego was not that of a woman’s, it was always bigger to me, more masculine and I was raised by my dad, so I was literally brought up through life through a man’s life and feelings of how a man told me how I’m supposed to feel. I just learned everything from him.
The Knockturnal: Is it hard to balance being a parent and a rapper?
KenTheMan: The hardest part is missing him. 2-3 days I have to see him because I miss my baby. I prep him for the weekend. It’s not hard and he’s at the age where he understands that it’s work, and he understands that it’s not neglect. I think it’s a little bit easier that at his age he can make his own stuff. I’m glad we communicate all the time. He picked up on Michael Jackson, I got videos of him moonwalking and he studied it. I had to buy him a hat, jacket and gloves.
The Knockturnal: Has your family been supportive of your career?
KenTheMan: My dad is a very big supporter. He got CDs and put them in his job. I’m all over his Facebook, there’s KenTheMan everywhere.
The Knockturnal: Can you talk about some of your musical influences growing up?
KenTheMan: Growing up I was all over the place with music. I thought my music taste was so weird, I used to have every type of music. I used to burn CDs and my playlist would be all over the place. I feel like my favorite artists, I could say were Eminem, Nicki, Wayne, Tupac, those were my top 4 favorite people.
The Knockturnal: I understand that when you wrote your breakout single “He Be Like” you were working for DoorDash and Uber, tell me what was your headspace like, and did you imagine that, that was the record that would blow you up?
KenTheMan: No, I just knew that delivering in expensive ass neighborhoods was not going to be my career forever. I would put on some beats while doing it because it was a break away job, but when I started DoorDashing it gave me that. I would start writing in my car and put on the beat. I started rapping and it was totally different at first and I just did it. I never thought it was gonna go anywhere. I feel like if I were to write in the car again, I would be deep, deep, deep in my bag. The best things come out when you’re doing nothing in a car. It was a wakeup call for me.
The Knockturnal: What have been the 3 biggest highlights of your career so far?
KenTheMan: I would say everything I did as an individual and an artist. Accomplishing things people told me I would not be able to do without help and I did it, that was a highlight, to chart number 9 on my project and people know me in New York, I go there a couple times a year. The last time I came I had dinner and then a person came up and said, ‘are you KenTheMan?’ and I was like no way. Then signing with Asylum was different, they saw me, and it was cool to be asked what I want and what I’m comfortable with and being able to be a part of something instead of a dictatorship, telling me what to say or do and how to do something. It’s always what’s your favorite song and what you feel, and I like that about Asylum. It’s like we met each other, and it was some way to meet in the middle instead of going all the way. They respect what I’ve done already and appreciate working hard and they give me my credit too.
The Knockturnal: Who has been your favorite collab so far and who do you want to work with?
KenTheMan: My favorite collab I would say is with Kali on the “Aint FWM” song. It was fun because we wrote it together. I would like to collaborate with Summer Walker, Jhene Aiko, and Lil Baby.
The Knockturnal: Can you tell us about What’s My Name? The meaning behind the title and your favorite tracks?
KenTheMan: The meaning behind the title was about me being arrogant and cocky because people are always asking me what’s my name like why the name. It’s such a staple piece in my life for some reason. In the tracklist I wanted to prove why my name is what it is so I feel like I gave a different delivery. I would say my favorite tracks are “Love Yourself” because it’s deep. I love “Onnat” because I’m freaky. I am embarrassed to let people hear it because I feel like they judge me. It’s me but don’t be taking it home with you. Then I would say “Rose Gold Striper Pole.” I never walk away with stuff I don’t like, I have favorites, but I don’t ever just walk away.
The Knockturnal: How was the process different putting out a project with Asylum vs. independently?
KenTheMan: I didn’t bother them; I sent my project to them and they didn’t really have to do anything. We just went and recorded it. It’s so much better to have people helping. It lets us do our jobs instead of everybody’s job.
The Knockturnal: How does it feel to release your debut project with Asylum?
KenTheMan: It feels great. I felt happy. I’m ready to do new music. This is not even a fraction of what’s about to go down I was just ready to let it go. I started focusing on other songs and once I focused on them, I started really liking them. I really just create new things the way I like. I want to see what other things I can make and I’m ready to make more music. They make me feel so good in what I do, and they understand me, they don’t tell me to calm down.
The Knockturnal: What else are you currently working on?
KenTheMan: I want the fans to know that I’m very appreciative always for my crazy mind and where I take my music, they run it up and they are supportive of me telling me it’s a 10/10. So, shout out to them they’re the reason why I keep doing music. I want to put out a deluxe and I definitely want to do a remix, a big one.
Photo Credit: Calvin Schneider