Kenton Dunson: A True “Outlier” in the Evolution That Is Hip Hop

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

Hip-Hop was built on storytelling. Not just any kind of storytelling though — I’m talking about compelling stories with substance. In recent years, hip-hop or at least mainstream hip-hop has taken the form of less guts and more glory. There is less attention placed on the dynamics of lyrics and more focus placed on making ‘hits,’ which has resulted in a lot of ‘one-hit wonders’ like a Trinidad James or even a Bobby Shmurda who’s signature ‘hat toss’ went viral in just minutes after it was released to the public.

Hip-Hop has appeared to become more about making the next major ‘club’ banger when it used to be about rapping from within, sharing your struggles and your life with the hip-hop audience. After all, isn’t that why we love rappers like Jay Z? Jay might have watered down his music since his “Reasonable Doubt” and “Blueprint” days, but he still aims to give you his emotions and his perspective through his music. That’s what the legendary rappers like The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Nas, and DMX prided themselves on.

Today, we’re able to get a taste of that old hip-hop sound thanks to artists like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake. These artists pride themselves on being lyrical in their music, but sometimes it can look lonely for those guys. Then, you have your underground rappers like Big K.R.I.T., Dom Kennedy, and Bun B. These artists are lyricists in their own right.

The point that I’m trying to make here is that hip-hop was built on substance and today it’s substance that it lacks and that can be depressing for true hip-hop fans. This is why it’s always special when one comes across a new artist who also takes pride in making music that exemplifies substance and takes on the old school storytelling approach. That’s who Kenton Dunson is and that’s why his music is worth listening to and supporting.

The “everyday subjects and sentiments” expressed in Dunson’s music comes from his journey, which consists of “poverty, to college, to the corporate world and back to the struggle.” It’s this journey that gives Dunson an authentic compelling story for his listeners.

I encourage you to dive right into our interview and find out for yourself why Kenton Dunson is one of the future pieces of hip-hop history.

The Interview 

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Q. What did you learn about yourself during your transition from a career in finance to a career in hip-hop?

A. During my time in finance, one of the most important concepts I had to grasp was risk and reward. After a few months as a struggling full-time artist, I learned that risk definitely comes with a consequence. The fact that the instability and turbulence didn’t scare me back into a corporate job taught me that I am unconditionally diligent and dedicated to my vision.

Q. What was it like recording “Creative Destruction?” What went well and what did you realize had to be better for your next project?

A. Recording ‘Creative Destruction’ was a wild time. I shut all forms of contact off, grew a beard, drank a lot of whiskey and created without limitation. It was amazing…the first time I started flowing without writing my lyrics down…taught me a lot about the importance of expression within your lyrics. After awhile, I felt I could use better hook writing and song structure, so that came later in my music.

Q. Your latest mixtape “The Investment” received over 100,000 downloads. Did you ever see yourself being able to reach so many people with your music that soon in your career?

A. I didn’t aim for a specific number with ‘The Investment,’ but I knew that it would hit a good wave based on the success of the first single from that project, ‘Count On It.’ There are billions of people in the world, so even though 100k was a great achievement, there’s a lot of room for growth!

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