Rise & Grind is a new editorial series, meant to introduce and dissect new, buzzing, or underground artists.

Kenny Mason is one of the most eye-catching artists currently coming out of Atlanta, and his genre-bending sound has immediately set him apart from his contemporaries across the city. In the final months of 2019, the talented upstart gained widespread attention by notching millions of views onto his music video for "Hit," and by the release of Angelic Hoodrat on April 15, 2020, it became evident that Kenny Mason was a musical tour de force.

As an artist who doesn't shy away from experimenting across genres, Kenny Mason made a profound statement on his debut project last year, and ever since, the rising artist has been featured on Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, DJBooth, and countless other music publications as one of the most daring Hip-Hop artists out. Drawing upon his alternative rock influences, Angelic Hoodrat was a dark 14-track effort that embodied an up-and-coming artist's hunger and expertly showcased Mason's ability to hop from an awe-inspiring lyrical performance to a full-blown rock ballad at a moment's notice.

One year later, Kenny Mason has doubled down on his critically acclaimed project and extended his Angelic Hoodrat era by treating fans with Angelic Hoodrat: Supercut. Days prior to releasing the impressive 12-track follow-up, Kenny Mason linked up with HNHH to discuss who he is an artist, his newly released project, and his desire to achieve longevity in the music industry.

Check out our conversation with the talented Atlanta artist below and stay tuned for a new installment of Rise & Grind every Monday.

kenny mason rise & grind

Image provided by the artist. Photo credit: Nasser Boulaich

Stomping Grounds:

I'm from Atlanta, specifically. The Westside/Southwest side. I grew up for probably half of my life there. I moved to [Zone 3] when I was a teenager. But as a kid, I was raised in Zone 4, which is like, complete Westside, all the way West. And those two areas were kind of like textbook inner city, black neighborhoods. So it was a lot. It was real community based. It could get violent, you know, but I learned a lot about being a man in those areas. I experienced a lot of stuff that forced me to be a man in a good way. 

From Zone 4, I believe Polow Da Don. He's a producer, but he was one of the big names as far as like repping that area. I think Earth Gang. I feel like they from over there if I'm not mistaken. But as far as Zone 3, everybody know Young Thug like the big dog that come from that area. Oh and Lil Baby. Most of the Atlanta rappers that's not from Zone 6 cuz you know, everybody know Atlanta for Zone 6. They're most likely from Zone 4 or Zone 3.

Zodiac Sign:

I'm a Sagittarius. I was born in December.

I feel like a good part of me relate to it as far as some of the stereotypes — like a Sagittarius not knowing when to quit something, like being I guess real stubborn. So I can be like that when it comes to stuff I want to do. I like to travel. That's what I heard about it. I don't know like too much about it. My homegirls told me that she got like a full chart. It's a bunch of signs. And I got a bunch of different like-- I can't remember off the top my head. But like, we got a bunch of different signs in it. I guess I got a lot of Sagittarius traits, but I also got a whole bunch of other stuff, apparently.

Top 5 DOA:

This is super hard and this is not going to be permanent, but I think today, I feel I gotta say... Well Jay Z is somebody that's always gonna be [there] — his music hits me in a very spiritual way. His mindset. I feel like I got a real similar mindset to him as far as how he attacks writing. I'm saying stylistically, I'mma always say Jay Z. I think he is Sagittarius too, so shout out to him. Bankroll Fresh is somebody that I'm always inspired by because he was just so Atlanta. Rest in peace to him, he was so Atlanta. He bled it, like he wore it all the time. He really, to me, was one of the fyest rappers to come from the city. I'ma say, I feel like Earl Sweatshirt would be in my top five.

I 100% put Kendrick. Then I'ma split. I know it's wack to do this, but I'ma split Three Stacks and J Cole, I'ma split them.

Biggest Accomplishment:

I think for me it's people DMing me every day or talking to me every day, saying how my music is changing their life. I think that's like the fire that-- I don't care too much about ever getting awards, looks or publicity, lights and stuff like that. It's neither here nor there for me. People like telling me how my music’s changing their life. That's like my main goal. So to know that I'm actually doing that is extremely rewarding.

Studio Habits & Essentials:

[I've] got to have independence. I like to have it when I'm working with [Julian] Cruz, one of my main producers. I just like to be able to play the game. I have spurts where it's like I'm writing and then he'll be doing his technical producer stuff. It's just a block of time where it's like, he's really like, zoned in and focusing on that. And I got to sit and wait on him so I like to be able to play the game when I'm not doing that. But it's not so much of that when I'm at home and I’m recording myself.

I like to have almonds as far as like a studio snack I guess. Probably my phone. I gotta have my phone because when I'm writing, I'll fact check stuff and look up samples, all that. No social media when I'm recording, but I like to have my phone just to Google and fact check stuff.

Angelic Hoodrat: Supercut:

It started off as-- I was really just supposed to do four or five more songs for a deluxe version of "Angelic [Hoodrat]." It honestly started off in that. We locked in. I went to Tennessee and made a bunch of songs. I just had been making a bunch of songs throughout the year. And we was all like, we need to put a lot of these out, not just four or five. It turned into like, 'Okay, I'm gonna put out a super long thing.' Then we all realized like, Damn, that's kind of tacky to do or whatever. So this would just be like a separate project. It's still a deluxe, but it's separate from the original. But, I wouldn't consider it like a new album, album two, or nothing like that. I would just consider it an extension or like, or a removed deluxe.

It’s 12 tracks. Some of them are just songs that I released throughout the year, but, you know, people have been begging [me] to put on streaming services. Because it was just be on YouTube or SoundCloud. And motherf*ckers would be bullying me everyday like, “Put it on Spotify, put it on Apple!” So it's for them too.

I think these songs showed a lot of growth in a year. They really wrapped up my full ideas that I had originally going into "Angelic Hoodrat." The original version was real experimental, you know? And I feel like I got to a point on this one where it's like, these are just songs for people to enjoy and not think too hard about a narrative or a concept. This is just the sound that I want to have. I just want to have a solid list of songs for folks to enjoy.

First Bars:

I think I was like, probably eight or nine years old. And my older brother, he rapped and I found his rap book and he was the coolest person in the world to me. So I probably just tried to write some shit on a piece of paper, you know what that's like. That was just something. But I think when I actually started trying to rap, I was probably like, maybe 12 or 13. I don't know it was probably some shit about some guns. I don't know. Probably just me trying to be like Lil Wayne, bro.

First Show:

The first time I ever performed like anything in front of a crowd of people was eighth grade, and I did a performance to this T-Pain song. I forget what song it was, but like, I was dancing and shit it was so whack. It was so whack. I had a rap verse in it too.

Clocking Out:

Probably just video games. Like probably just Grand Theft Auto. I play that shit a lot. Yeah, it's pretty much like a guilty pleasure. I [also] watch movies, stuff like that. I like superhero movies. Except for like, I'm not watching the Justice League sh*t. That shit is too long, and I didn't really see the first one. I really like mysteries, too. Just anything with really good acting performances. I like just real fire acting performances. If the acting is not fire, it's gonna just take me out of the story.

Up Next:

I'm not gonna stop after this. I'm gonna be releasing more songs after "Supercut" like singles and stuff like that. And I'm definitely doing another "Ruffs" where like I drop my rough singles on YouTube and SoundCloud and stuff like that, like free sites. I'm not stopping at all.

kenny mason new interview

Image provided by the artist. Photo credit: Nasser Boulaich

HNHH: In past interviews, you've said that Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, and alternative music, in general, are sources of inspiration for you. What other sonic pockets are you really into that you haven't experimented with in your own music yet?

Kenny Mason: I really like chill wave type sh*t. Yeah, like Toro Y Moi and heading into Vaporwave and all that type stuff. I'm really interested in that and making it translate with my swag as well. That's something I'd be working on, and it's a long process. I'm trying to figure out that, but I like that type of stuff. I love older, like 70s soul and late blues, and even the beginnings of rock and roll because a lot of people don't give credit to a lot of those Black artists that started rock and roll. I get inspiration from them too.

Fans have heard you get on songs from Denzel Carey, IDK, and Deante' Hitchcock. Moving forward, are you going to have more collabs on the projects that you release?

Nobody's on Angelic, but I got a few features or Supercut. In the future, I definitely wanna have more focus on my stuff. I think it's just the pandemic, it limited a lot of features that I could get done because it would have been way more in 2020. A lot of people reached out and [there were] a lot of people that I intend on reaching out to, too. 

Everybody was locked in the house, but I think I'll be able to collab with more folks like how I want to soon. I like challenging myself, like having songs with really, really, really, really fire people and seeing if I can bring my A-game.

On "Angels Calling" from the original Angelic Hoodrat, you mentioned getting shot. Have any similar major life events happened to you since the release of Angelic?

Yeah, not similar as in something happening to me, but loved ones, definitely. It has been tough, just in general for the pandemic for a lot of people in my family. But also I have lost family members, and I had to deal with it. I had to take time and deal with that personally, and, you know, cope with that stuff. I'm still like coping with it. But I like to think that everything happens for a reason. And when someone passes, I don't think it's the end of them. I think it's just a transfer of energy, you know, they become something else. So I'm not like, extremely sad about it other than just me missing them being here, but they still here. I'm getting through and I always got music to be my therapy, you know?

After making such a grandiose album and receiving so much praise, where do you go from here?

Somebody gave me some really great advice. My homeboy, he was just like, “You know it's all about being in the present moment and being right now. Trying to look around too much and look at the scoreboard too much, it takes away from how well you play the game.” I want to play the game the best as I can while I'm here. I'm not paying too much attention to people thinking the album is great, or even people who don't like the album. I'm not thinking about any of that. I'm just trying to be the best I can, and I think that the best music, the best content, the best art is gonna come from me being present for every moment, and not worrying about all the other stuff. I do want to keep going, bro. I want this sh*t forever.