INTERVIEW – Houston native Ken The Man has been steadily growing a buzz since picking up a mic seven years ago. But in 2019, she saw rapid growth not even she expected – all thanks to a quick song she wrote in her car while delivering food for DoorDash.
The Keno-produced “He Be Like” has amassed over 8 million streams across all platforms since its March 2019 release and paved the way for Ken’s recently-released 10-track EP, 4 Da 304s. Just ahead of its August 28 premiere, Snoop Dogg shared a teaser on his Instagram Story to help promote the project. Promo from The Doggfather himself is pretty cool, but what made it even more exciting for the burgeoning rapper is they’d never even had a prior conversation before.
“I was shocked!” Ken tells HipHopDX. “We’ve never even spoke! I was just like, ‘Oh my God!’ And he posted the one with the audio in the back. It’s so crazy that he felt like that little clip was even decent enough to just show support and he don’t even know me. And I was just like damn, that made me feel real good. You know, ’cause just to get the recognition for your idea, it just be like … it just makes it amazing.”
The moment also served as a confirmation of sorts for the independent artist, showing her she’s on the right path with her goal of remaining independent.
“I’m an independent artist and I’m a woman so it’s hard for me!” she explains. “I get my way a little more by being a woman, but it’s also like I get looked at like I don’t know shit as a woman. So it’s just kind of like me independently doing my thing, that’s my goal. My goal is to be an independent woman in rap – one of the first ones that’s independent. I want it to be all the way me. I want to show people with good music and good people around you, you can do it.”
Don’t get it twisted, though — Ken’s been taking meetings. Just about every label has been knocking on her door, but no one is talking the kind of ownership Ken wants to see — and she’s prepared to wait it out until that deal comes.
“People always be like, ‘Why is Ken not signed?'” she laughed. “I don’t know why people think I haven’t been in the meetings. I just haven’t found anything I feel like fits. I done came this far by doing me – I’m not going all the way for a shitty deal. That shit’s not ideal.”
Hyper-aware of her peers being short-changed on the deals they’ve signed, Ken uses their experiences as a reminder to stay true to her goal. And having done the work of being her own manager before meeting her now-manager Melissa Keklak (who also manages Blac Youngsta and Los Angeles rapper Problem), the “He Be Like” rapper is confident she knows what she’s doing.
“I hate that a lot of artists do it and that’s why I feel like I’m feeling so much pressure,” she said of signing too early. “And a lot of artists sign a lot of shitty deals! I managed myself for four years before Melissa, so I had to learn a lot of things that probably a lot of other artists may not have learned. I feel like I had a little stepping stone.”
Ken continued, “A lot of people tell me it’s so stupid that I don’t want to sign,” she continued. “You would think you would get more respect about being independent but people really be looking at you like, why? I be like, why not? What I’ve taken from artists is to not sign quickly because I don’t ever see nobody that’s like, ‘Man, I’m in the best label situation! I love it here!’ You don’t really hear that!
“You hear like, ‘Man I wish I would have did this and this different. Now with my buzz going down…’ That’s what you hear the most so that’s what stuck in my head the most. It’s like, y’all want ME. So let’s all bring something to the table, that’s only fair. I just be wanting fairness.”