It’s impossible to listen to every rap song these days. Trust me, I’ve tried. That’s why every other week, I will highlight an up-and-coming artist you might have missed in the constant barrage of new music. Some will be just starting their careers, while others will have been around for some time but haven’t received the attention they could—or maybe should.
Perhaps no city in America has continuously influenced the sound of mainstream hip-hop throughout the years more than Atlanta. From Outkast to Waka Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane, to Migos, Future, Young Thug, 21 Savage and JID — the city has been a hotbed for premier talent and inventive sounds.
Between the production chops, versatile array of flows and youthfulness, 25-year-old Kenny Mason has the potential to be Atlanta’s next budding star. After releasing intermittent SoundCloud singles over the past three years, such as “Nike II” and “4Real,” Mason delivered his debut album “Angelic Hoodrat” on April 15, 2020. Spanning 14 songs over the course of 42 minutes, the album touched all the right notes, featuring a blend of punk-rock and rap.
Mason never strays far from the autobiographical. He talks about his diverse group of friends and how they keep him grounded and motivated. Mason’s introspection is deeply rooted in the connection he feels to the streets of Atlanta; he seems intuitively aware of how his city has shaped the way Mason views his life.
Mason belongs to a small group of arctics who both sing a rap. Rap and sing. The diverse sound isn’t a surprise; after all, Mason told Complex it was Lil Wayne who was a 12-year-old Mason’s primary influence in his decision to start making music. Wayne might have been his favorite, but Mason’s vocal about his wide ranging musical tastes and influences. Wayne and other rappers such as Kid Cudi influenced Mason’s style behind the mic, but alternative rock bands such as the PIXIES and Smashing Pumpkins influenced the album’s ever-changing tone.
“I didn’t want to limit myself,” Mason said in a recent interview with Complex. “I don’t ever want to take one form or one shape… [There’s] some crazy shit on there. I was trying to figure it out, and these songs are the best versions of me figuring it out.”
Mason’s versatility doesn’t just show in his modes of delivery. It shows in his sound too, which isn’t necessarily as unique as it is multifaceted. I can’t think of a rapper who prompts more comparisons to modern-day artists both in terms of flow and pitch more than Mason. His breakthrough single “Hit!” showcases a number of different styles. After a 20-second skit opens the track, he comes in with an uptempo, enunciated flow akin to that of fellow Atlanta rapper JID. Then, following a simplistic, yet catchy, hook, employs a more sing-songy sound reminiscent of Portland rapper, Amine, eventually wrapping up with an even quicker take on his earlier JID-esque flow.
It doesn’t end there, though. There are countless points in which Mason’s style reminds me of a particular industry star.
On “Firestarter,” Mason boasts shades of Top Dawg Entertainment’s Isaiah Rashad with a tastefully muffled sound, giving the impression it is being played through a radio. Meanwhile, “Metal Wings” embodies a more aggressive, almost Denzel Curry-like tone and he dreamily floats on “Lean.” “Pretty Thoughts” and “Anti-Gravity” introduce us to an entirely different Mason: one who sings like a rockstar enveloping the listener in a more alternative sound. He even incorporates Wayne’s growl voice.
I highlight these examples not to disregard his styles as the makings of an impersonator, or unoriginal artist, rather to convey what makes him so special.
Don’t let his recent introduction to the industry fool you, Mason knows his stuff. His polished talent for rapping, singing and producing shines through in his music. It carries an emotional heft not usually present in young artists.