How Vince Staples and Dominic Fike’s producer Kenny Beats took center stage
Kenny Beats wears many hats. He’s an in-demand multi-genre producer, gifted multi-instrumentalist and, for the past few weeks, a critically acclaimed solo artist with a debut album Louis it is an intricate homage to his father. But the music star is also moonlit as the most successful yerba mate seller in the world.
“Right now it doesn’t sound that crazy, but in 2018 it was mountain bike fuel. No one has ever used yerba in any studio,” he says of the energizing herbal tea. But Kenny likes been doing it for years and started sharing it with his fellow musicians during sessions.”I was drinking so much. Kehlani put it on its rider, I was in a Schoolboy Q session and his album teaser had my can of yerba. Smino started drinking it and matching his outfits with it and stuff. I take all that credit.”
Kenny’s effectiveness in disseminating the highly caffeinated drink to music trendsetters is testament to his particularly high approval rating. In these divisive times, the 31-year-old producer, born Kenneth Charles Blume III, has become a rare point of consensus, making great music with Gen Z idols (Joji, Dominic Fike, Omar Apollo), darlings rap critics (Vince Staples, Freddie Gibbs, Rico Nasty), and a growing number of rock and pop groups (IDLES, FKA Twigs, Benee). He stands over six feet tall and his arms are covered in distinctive tattoos, including a recent one referencing Louie. In conversation, Kenny exudes a warmth and kindness that one can easily imagine energizing performers in a studio session. There’s definitely a sense of polish about Kenny, but it seems like an organic manifestation of his naturally optimistic personality, as opposed to a craft persona.
Hailing from Greenwich, Connecticut, Kenny first rose to prominence at the end of the EDM boom. As part of festival circuit favorite LOUDPVCK, he played top shows like Lollapalooza, released an EP and remixed hit songs by The Chainsmokers. During the group’s run from 2012 to 2017, he produced a handful of hip-hop tracks for Smoke DZA, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul, but admits he felt he had missed his moment when the duo split. is dissolved.
“I think I reached a point at 25 where I was like, ‘I’m screwed, it’s over. I haven’t done it yet, I haven’t had any big songs. I did a Kendrick beat when I was 19 and that was my peak,” he says.
The momentum began to shift to Kenny when Atlanta rapper Hoodrich Pablo Juan not only worked with him on the gripping dark south mixtape, but insisted that Kenny co-headline. (“Pablo really just said, ‘I’m going to put your name on the cover. I’m going to wear the hoodie of South Park which Kenny wears on the cover. It’ll be Pablo and Kenny,” he recalls.) Kenny’s friend and manager, Mike Power, realized that these collaborative projects were a more effective way to get his name out there than sporadic record placements. major record labels, and they offered Kenny a rare level of creative control and input.