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by CHIRP Radio DJ and Features Co-Director Mick R (Listen to his most recent shows / Read his blog)
Rapper, painter, entrepreneur, all of these things are applicable to Chicago based artist JEFF K%NZ but none of them capture his essence on their own.
He’s a distinctive voice in the city’s hip-hop scene, tying together the worlds of DIY music and visual art under a name that speaks to his thoroughly modern sensibilities.
His latest album 2 Player Mode was produced by TheGr8Thinkaz members Rokmore and H.Kal-El (the later of which is actually his brother) and will take you to the next level as JEFF unlocks GOD MODE in this next stage of his career defining campaign.
His style of lyricism is singular and unique, a combination of earnestness, ingenuity and interpersonal insights that will activate the conscious centers of your brain as you jam on his flow. Check out our interview with JEFF below and listen to the full stream of 2 Player Mode here.
Editor's note: This interview was conducted over email on March 3, 2022. It has been edited very slightly for the sake of clarity. Photo credit: Ari Fauna
How did you get your start making rap music?
I started making rap music from following the lead of my older brother, producer H.Kal-El. He introduced me to the craft when I was 11 years old. From there I fell in love.
How did you decide on the name JEFF K%NZ?
My favorite contemporary artists name is Jeff Koons. Since I was in high school I've been a fan of Jeff’s work. It wasn't until I was in college when I discovered that I shared a similarity with Jeff sonically. Some of his more popular works are big, loud, expressive, shiny, and even provocative; I felt like my music was a sonic representation of him as an artist. With my name being Jeff, and me being a painter in my own right, it made sense to take on the persona as a rapper.
You have a very unique flow to your delivery. How did it develop and did you have any direct music influences while crafting it?
My flow just came over time. There were hints of what I can do now when I first started out but I was searching for my sound. I guess you can say it came from an extreme desire to have my own sound in the game. As we all know a lot of rappers sound alike. I come from an era where you had a bunch of different emcees that sounded very unique. On top of that they could rap extremely well. I molded myself to be one of those artists. I was also heavily influenced by Ludacris, Kendrick, Lamar, and Biggie Smalls, just to name a few.
What connections do you have to art outside of rap music?
Outside of rap music I am a visual artist, painter, curator, and entrepreneur. I have a beautiful genuine connection to the art world. I’ve worked in art galleries and painted murals across the entire country, including Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and New York City. I’m the founder of Think & Paint, an event and product line that creates a safe space for community, building conscious conversation and art expression.
As I understand you are very much into crystals. What is the story behind your discovery of their significance to you?
My homegirl Klevah, one of the members of TheGr8Thinkaz and owner of FreshAssMonk put me onto crystals back in 2015 or so. A few years later when she started her business I asked her to make me some crystal wrapped jewelry. When I started wearing them more often I noticed a subtle shift in my energy. It worked for me so I stuck with it.
How do the crystals you wear help you: 1) make your art, 2) navigate and make decisions about your life?
I wear a lot of love quartz, obsidian, tigers eye, howlite, pyrite, and many more. Love quartz helps with the heart, obsidian helps filter negative energy into positive energy, and tigers eye is excellent for focus. When it comes to my art, tigers eye is a great stone for enhancing and admitting the energy of focus which helps when I’m at the easel for hours. Your decisions are solely yours and yours alone. However, when it comes to meditation and attracting certain things you may want I feel they can be useful.
You have some pretty cool tattoos as well. Are there any stories you'd like to share about them?
My tattoos are a work in progress. When I die I want them to be seen as hieroglyphics on my body. When you take a look at the artwork I chose to be one with forever, I want you to get an idea of what kind of person I was without ever knowing me.
What is the story behind the title of your latest album, 2 Player Mode?
It started out as just music me and my producer Rokmore were working on that turned into something special. As I began to write more of the project I realized that I was carrying a certain bravado. It felt like I was reaching a second level in my career and in my artistry. Hence the name 2 Player Mode.
Tell us a little about some of the features and collabs on this album. How did they come about, and why are you excited about them?
There are 5 features on this project in total. I'm excited about these collabs because they were all very genuine and organic situations. That always makes for great music. The project as a whole has a lot of representation from TheGr8Thinkaz - it was executive produced by Rokmore, with engineering and additional production from H.Kal-El, and leading features from Jay Moses and Heavy Crownz. I also had God Body Bingo from Houston, and Chicago-singer B.Lin. Korporate also set the stage with a dope intro and outro to the project.
What message are you looking to convey about relationships on your song "You Wouldn't?"
Simply put, if you truly care about someone you wouldn't treat people a certain way. But, it's also about recognizing you’re not what’s best for your current situation and owing up to that.
What are some of the tensions between the individual and the collective that you are attempting to get at on a track like "Stranger Danger?"
Stranger Danger isn’t about tensions between me as an individual and my collective. It’s about the tensions of living with the fact that you need protection in the world we live in. Whether that be a weapon or a crystal on each and every finger.
Do you consider yourself a gamer, and if so what do you like to play?
I would be considered a gamer but as of late I’ve been focused more on a few games. 2k, Sifu, and Ghost of Tsushima. I’m currently waiting on more fighting games for the 5.
Are there any games that you admire or which inspire you specifically for their art and design, as opposed to simply how fun they are to play?
Oh yea, Ghost of Tsushima is a visually beautiful game. Sometimes I even webswing around for a bit because Spiderman on PS5 looks so good. Oh and God Of War looks amazing also. There are more but those are my top 3 as of now.
What are your plans for 2022?
More Shows, More Murals, More Individual and Collective Growth, More Art Shows, More Love, More Dollars from doing what we love!
Anything else you'd like to add?
Everything Is Gr8.
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