Kaya Kenyatta. Whether you’ve heard the name before or not, nothing is going to prepare you for the fire in his all new music video ‘Time Ain’t Up.’ After listening to the track and smashing the repeat button over and over again we have come to the conclusion that this is a music video you won’t want to miss out on. However, before we touch on what makes this music video so riveting, an introduction to the man behind the torch is necessary. Kaya Kenyatta comes straight out of Belgium and is an artist on the rise. He started his musical endeavours at a young age when he gained insight into the world through his experience at both English and International schools. His musical influences growing up come from other well-known artists such as Dr. Dre, 2Pac, Ice Cube, and the forever inspiring Bob Marley. In his years as a young adult, Kaya began spitting bars of his own before moving to Canada where he evolved to producing his own music. Now, Kaya Kenyatta is lighting up the UK with his sound and won’t be slowing down anytime soon. If you’re a fan of the Marshall Mathers side of Eminem then Kaya will be an impressive new artist to start adding to your playlist.
‘Time Ain’t Up’ is a song about the robotic ways of life, money and how people are so easily sucked into the void of what the American Dream can be or rather how we’re also accomplishing someone else’s “American Dream.” The lyrics also portray that you’re not out of the game and it’s not too late to do what you want as long as you’re still breathing because your time isn’t up yet. The rhymes Kaya drops into the mic run smoother than a hot knife through butter, and you can feel the emotion and passion for his work in every bar.
There is so much creativity poured into the music video for ‘Time Ain’t Up.’ Not only does it go along with the themes of the song, but it also tells a story of three men burning (figuratively) an employer for his injustices and corrupt acts. You are sucked entirely into every scene. The music video opens up to these masked men breaking into a corporate man’s home, knocking him out, and holding him captive until he pays a large amount of money to a charity. The music video is shot in high definition and plays out like a movie with the storyline being told backwards. At first, it leaves you guessing as to why these men are tying up the businessman, who they are, and what their relationship is to him. Then slowly but surely, the truth begins to seep through in every scene to show that the masked men are the real good guys and the corporate dog is the criminal.
EXCLUSIVE Q&A WITH KAYA KENYATTA
Who is Kaya Kenyatta?
I’m an MC and Producer. I make Hip-Hop and Rap music with elements of EDM. I come from an international background, having been born in Belgium to English and Belgian parents. I have lived in Belgium, England and Canada (as well as attending an American/International school in Belgium). Because of this, I don’t sound like a traditional London MC, more of a mix of an English and American MC.
My rhyming style is more lyrical than punch-line or the mumble style rap because I prefer using wordplay, metaphors and focusing on content in the songs I make. As well as writing and making music, I also enjoy doing the artwork for my EPs/albums (including the logo) and producing my own music videos (directing, storyboarding, editing etc) among other things.
Tell me about your new track and music video for ‘Time Ain’t Up’ and how
the visuals tie in with the lyrics?
The title ‘Time Ain’t Up’ is basically a statement reaffirming that your time isn’t up until you’re six feet under, and how you should not let others prevent you from pursuing and achieving your goals. This is emphasised in the first line of the chorus where it states ‘Time Ain’t Up, so the Game ain’t over’.
The track was inspired by the 2007/2008 financial crash and the effects it had on people’s lives and the economy. It was around this time that I was made redundant, losing my opportunity to qualify as a solicitor. The song discusses the concept of the ‘American Dream’, which one could argue has been adopted by European western society, whereby the ‘Dream’ aspect is put into question.
(To give you a bit of background, you may or may not know that James Truslow Adams originally came up with the term ‘American Dream’ in 1931 in his book The Epic of America. He stated that the American Dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement…” and this would be regardless of class or circumstances of birth. However, he felt that the American dream was in danger in the 1920/30s stating that money and materialism had become more prominent than the quality and spiritual values of the American Dream. He also warned that ‘in our struggle to make a living’ we were essentially forgetting to live.)
This track discusses the importance and power of believing in oneself when faced with adversity and how the actions of those with power should not determine whether or not we succeed. When the crash happened, the majority struggled, but some benefitted through their reckless behaviour, potentially contributing to the cause of the problem without facing up to the repercussions. The story in the music video taps into this inequality from the perspective of the underdog where a top executive of a firm, who is purely looking out for himself, treats 3 employees unfairly by exploiting his position for his own selfish means. The 3 employees standing up for themselves is essentially a metaphor for not allowing the actions of others prevent you from pursuing your dreams. If people cannot see the value in you it’s their loss, not yours and maybe the experience was actually a sign to wake up to the reality of the situation and help you reassess if the path you chose is the right one. This is illustrated in the last line of the song, which is: ‘Even though you think you got the best of me, it’s clearly not my destiny, rather be footloose and fancy-free, don’t foresee me to be your prodigy.’
Earliest music memory?
It was probably when I was a young child listening to music on long car journeys with my brother and my parents. My parents would always play music in the car, whether it was on the radio or from their personal collection. It was always a mix of genres.
I also studied the piano for 4 years when I was around 8 years old.
In relation to rapping, I remember at around 10 years old doing my first rap with a friend for a school project.
Who/what is influencing you musically at the moment?
I tend to be influenced by things that grab my attention and stick in my head.
For the forthcoming album (including this single) I was influenced and inspired by the beats in Trap music and also elements of Dubstep and other variations of EDM.
I really like the sound of an 808 in beats as well as Dubstep drum patterns and it was something that I wanted to experiment with. Some of the more recent producers like Mike Will Made It, DJ Mustard, and Skrillex were artists that caught my attention.
From a lyrical or rhyming standpoint, I always adapt my flow in accordance with the beat and the tempo, flowing with it as opposed to just rhyming over it. The great thing is, when I experiment with making different types of beat, the production switches up my flow in order to adapt to it and it helps me grow as an MC.
You were training to be a solicitor, how did you make the transition into music?
When I was deciding what to study at university, I always thought I would go to art school or study some form of art. However, I was reminded that the life of an artist could be tough. So I decided to study something more ‘stable’ knowing I could always do art in my spare time.
So I went to university and studied law because it interested me and I thought I would be able to help people whilst making a decent living. It was here that I became more heavily involved in music, which continued after I left university. I would try and get jobs in the legal field as a 9 to 5 and then work on music in the evenings and weekends. I recently decided it was time to focus solely on the music and so I decided to take a sabbatical from the legal profession.
Incidentally, I also recently watched a speech that Jim Carrey gave for the Commencement Address at the Maharishi University of Management. In his speech, he talked about his father and how he could have been a great comedian but he chose to take a safe job and become an accountant. Unfortunately, when Jim Carrey was 12, his father was let go from that job and one of the lessons he gave Jim Carrey was that: you can fail at what you don’t want so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love. This statement rang true and really resonated with me.
You are influenced a lot by old-school hip-hop – who do you listen to today?
The great thing is that a lot of the old school MCs are still around today making great music. The Artists who were big in the 90s are still rocking the Mic today for example: Nas, Eminem, Snoop, Redman and Method Man, Immortal Technique, Jay Z, Vinnie Paz etc so I continue to listen to them.
Having said that, I do also listen to newer acts too such as J Cole, Wiz Khalifa, Hopsin, Kendrick Lamar, MGK, Rae Sremmurd, G Eazy, etc.
You are very much involved in your music process from writing to editing to designing your artwork – what do you enjoy doing the most and what do you find more of a challenge?
It’s difficult to say what I enjoy the most. I choose to be involved in all the different aspects of the music process because I really love doing them. I would say the ‘creation’ or ‘artistic’ aspects are the parts I enjoy the most. For example, I love making the beats, writing the lyrics, recording the songs, making the music videos and doing the artwork etc. Its the feeling you get when you’ve created the right melody for the drums or when you write a dope line for a song or when you see your storyboard come to life on film, all these aspects are equally enjoyable in their own way.
The most challenging part for me would be the promotional and marketing side and getting the music out there in front of as many people as possible. I’ve never been big into social media, but I know the value of it so this is something I am working on. In addition, the organisation aspect of music video shoots can prove quite challenging. The actual shoot itself I love doing (directing, performing, acting etc) but the producer side of things where you have to organise the cast and crew, locations, timetables, budgets, and costs etc can be quite challenging, especially if a cast member or crew member drops out at short notice.
There is a film being made about your life – who would play you and why?
Interesting question, I’m not sure, possibly James Franco. He is a pretty versatile actor and can play an array of different characters, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect. He nailed the Spring Breakers role, not that I am like that character, but it just shows what type of roles he can play so I think he would do justice to the role.
What can listeners expect from your forthcoming album?
It’s a concept album that explores the darker side of the Collective Unconscious, so listeners can expect conscious Hip Hop laced with Hip Hop and EDM production.
The title for the new EP is ‘A Smudge on the Collective Unconscious’. It’s a commentary about the way in which our society thinks and where its mindset is and the possible effect of Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious. His theory was that the collective unconscious is shared layers of unconsciousness whereby, in addition to your personal and unique identity, you belong to certain shared groups such as gender, cultural background, religious background etc. which all contribute, in part, to your sense of identity, your belief systems, values etc. So in addition to being an individual, you belong to a larger community, the history,
memories, and beliefs of which, are a natural birthright and inherited and play a role in who we are.
So I saw the ‘smudge’ as the darker aspects or bad aspects of the collective unconscious, which can have a negative effect on who we are. So from a western cultural perspective, one could perhaps argue that materialism, the desire for money, fame, power etc could be considered a part of western culture, which may have infiltrated the collective unconscious of western society in a negative way, hence the ‘Smudge’. Therefore the tracks on the Project have this underlying theme running through them.
There are quite a few, if they were alive my top 2 would be 2pac and Bob Marley.
In relation to living artists, I would love to work with:
Redman and Method Man
Lana del Ray
Five Guys and a Duvel beer or two.
Tell me something people don’t know about you?
I’m a film buff and would love to make a film of my own one day. I’ve been into films since I was a kid and was always fascinated by what went on behind the camera as well as in front of it. That’s why some of my music videos have a movie feel to them with a story.
What are the challenges you face in the music industry today?
The promotion side of things. It’s one thing to be able to make a great record but to be able to promote it, get it out there and have it be heard by people is another story. The introduction of the Internet changed things in a big way allowing artists to reach a wider audience. However, I think it’s also a challenge because the market is so saturated with music now, in part due to the Internet and social networking, that you really need to find something to help you stand out.
What lyric of yours is particularly meaningful to you and why?
This is a tricky one but a line that has always stuck with me was a line from a song called ‘Power From Within’ from my previous EP, ‘The Art of Rhyme’.
The line was: ‘For better or for worse, got no thirst to be first, just the thirst to immerse as an emcee on a verse.’
It was basically a line to demonstrate that I’m more interested in making a great song than I am in just doing any old thing for a number 1. The music I make is important to me and needs to be at a level that I feel is required in order to have an impact. I don’t see just following the current trend as advantageous in the long run. You need to find your own voice and not ride on the coattails of another artist because then you will never truly find out who you are as an artist.
Describe a typical day for Kaya Kenyatta?
Since I went full time with music, my days are varied depending on what needs to be done. For example, in May, June, and July of this year, all of my time was focused on the music videos and being hands-on meant doing as much as I could myself. So this would include storyboarding, location scouting, casting, organising the shoot, creating props, directing, editing etc.
I go through stages when it comes to music. So for example, I would normally start off with beat making, then writing, then recording in the studio, going through the mixing and mastering process with my engineer, designing the artwork, then move on to the music videos and so on. My days are varied which keeps things interesting.
After the campaign for this single, I will be releasing two additional singles from the forthcoming EP early next year and then the EP itself later that year. I’m looking forward to promoting the EP, as well as filming the other music videos and performances.