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


This week's featured Rise & Grind artist has a stage name that will make you do a double-take. Known throughout the music industry as KenTheMan, the rising Houston artist, who has made waves over the years with viral singles such as "Deserve" and "He Be Like," employs a pseudonym that is simultaneously a clever misnomer and a reflection of her artistry. Although KenTheMan is indeed a woman, she prides herself in being able to rap circles around her competition — whether they are male, female, or non-binary.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CU-o3MAlp0A

Last summer, KenTheMan dropped her debut project For Da 304s (a.k.a For Da Hoes) as an independent artist, and in the time since its release,  she has worked with artists such as Chase B, OMB Bloodbath, JoeVille, and Kali. Recently, the rapper and mother of one also formed a partnership with Asylum Records, a label that has a history of working with legendary Houston Hip-Hop artists like Scarface, Geto Boys, Paul Wall, Z-Ro, Bun B, and more. Months after announcing the partnership, Ken returned this past weekend with an impressive ten-track EP titled What's My Name, proving once more that she is definitely an artist who should be on everyone's radar.

Get familiar with Houston's KenTheMan by reading the full transcription of her Rise & Grind interview below, lightly edited for length and clarity.

Stay tuned for a new installment of Rise & Grind every Monday.


kentheman rise and grind interview

Image provided by the artist. Photo credit: Cameron Perry

Stomping Grounds:

I’m from Houston, Texas. I've been rapping for eight years. I started in 2014, just freestyling in cars with my friends and getting high as a kite, and then I started getting good. I can’t really remember what made me start writing them down, but [after] my first drop, everybody from my high school started fucking with me. I just was like, “Damn, I guess I can kind of rap.” It was a real blessing how I started rapping in my city. The city just started booking me.

Zodiac Sign:

I’m a June Gemini. I really do relate with [my sign], but some of it be off ‘cause they be lying on us. I feel like the boys gave us the bad reputation.

Top 5 DOA:

2Pac, Eminem, Drake, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne.

Biggest Accomplishment:

I feel like my biggest accomplishment was not an actual thing; it was a movement. I feel like my biggest accomplishment was doing everything people told me I couldn’t do as an independent artist. They made it seem impossible, so being 100% independent, ssing the money out of my own pockets, and getting geniuine support without having to pay for it was big for me.

Studio Habits & Essentials:

Having nobody in there. I feel so awkward. I’m scared to do adlibs or rap a certain type of way in front of people. [When] it’s just me and my engineer, I feel the most comfortable. Even with my friends there, sometimes I get nervous. Now, I can rap in front of my closest friends, but usually it’s gotta be empty in that b*tch. And I can’t rap about love in there! I feel so awkward rapping about my feelings.

I need my phone. I need some happy drugs. And I need my engineer, Bigg Cuz. He’s my producer, too. We just started cooking together, and he’s literally the first person who made me comfortable.

On "He Be Like":

Not much thought [went into it]. I’ve noticed that the stuff that I think about the least is the stuff that pops the most. It’s so strange. I was just riding in the ca,r Doordashing in a rich ass neighborhood, and I said to myself, “Let me put on some beats.” So I was just passing by and delivering people’s fucking food to their mansions, and I was like, “Uh-uh! I need to be rapping while I’m doing this.”

When I’m in the car, I write my best music, so I put the beat on. I don’t know why, but I just said “Oooh fuck” once. Then I was like, “Damn, what if I just moaned on the whole beat? I ain’t never heard that before.” I did it, and it just went [up]. I knew it was going to because when I posted the teaser on my Instagram, I had never gotten that many interactions before. People really liked this little simple ass song when I had been giving them bars for years.

On 4 Da 304s:

I usually think of titles first before anything. I’m really good at creating titles for some reason. When I was nine or ten songs in, I was thinking “Damn, my project’s almost done, and I still ain’t got a title”. So Bigg Cuz asked me, “What do the songs make you feel?” I was like shit, “I feel like this one's for the hoes!” Then [I realized] that’s what I should name it, but I had to make it sellable because you don’t usually see titles with curse words in them. Since I didn’t want it to be overlooked because it was so raunchy and ratchet, I just thought of For The 304s, and people loved it.

It’s a year and some change later, and people are still posting it, still listening to it. That tape is one of the things that’s keeping me popular. Honestly, I always felt like it was never done. I used to keep working on it, and when I finally turned it in, my manager Melissa told me that I was done. Then one day I woke up, and it was number nine on the Apple charts. I was like damn I charted in my sleep with that bitch.

It was [rewarding] because I’m an artist that always thinks they can do better. I really hate that about myself, but my supporters appreciate me for it. They always tell me, “Take your time, that’s why you don’t miss.” I don’t drop whack shit just to say I dropped. I try to listen to my fans and my supporters a lot when they give me feedback. I want to drop what they want to hear, and they haven’t steered me wrong. They be like, “Bitch, I told you!”

First Bars:

Yep, they were on some beat that I can’t remember, but it was so corny. I played it around the hood with my friends, and everybody was like “Drop that shit!” I used to say some little metaphors in my raps, and people just thought it was hard. That was the first thing that I played for people, but I never dropped it.

[The first song I dropped] was "Chiraq Freestyle," and that shit went up!

First Show:

I performed in this hot ass firehouse that people used to rent out for shows. It ain’t have no air in that bitch. I remember my first show, they was singing my shit word for word. It was so lit. I couldn’t believe that shit. It was back in the day before social media really popped. It was like eight years ago, and I only had freestyles out. I did that "Hot Nigga Freestyle," "Chiraq Freestyle," and "Mediocre." That show was what kept me going. I probably would have gave up if they wasn’t fucking with me.

Clocking Out:

I just love to lay down, and I watch a lot of TV, maybe a little too much. I’m watching like four shows at once right now. I just finished Squid Game. I can’t wait for Money Heist and You to come back as well. I started BMF, and I love it. I’m probably missing some, I watch a lot of shit. My peace is really laying in my bed and knowing I don’t have sh*t to do.

Up Next:

I just dropped a project on October 15, and it’s called "What’s My Name." I'm excited because it’s my second official project. This project is totally different from For Da 304s, so I’m excited to hear the reception. I have a lot of visuals dropping, and I’ve got Rolling Loud, the last two cities, coming up.


kentheman houston rapper interview

Image provided by the artist. Photo credit: Cameron Perry

HNHH: What's the story behind your stage name?

KenTheMan: It’s like my alter-ego. I was going to go by Ken — that’s my real nickname — but it was taken on SoundCloud. So I just put “The Man” on there to be funny, like “I’m that nigga!” I wasn’t actually going to go by that, but with the first feature I ever did, the [artist] asked me, “Do you go by Ken or KenTheMan?” I said, “Just Ken.” He said, “I ain’t gon’ lie. I think you should go by KenTheMan.”

Before I even went by KenTheMan, a lot of people was like, “Man, you harder than niggas!” So I was just like alright, I guess I'll roll with it. The subconscious decision I made about titling myself that, it really is my alter ego, it really is me. I’ve never been super feminine. I’ve always kind of been the boy of the group, and I really do possess that dominance. Even though I’m a woman and say things that a woman would say, it’s hella aggressive and vulgar. That’s me.

Since you're not the "girly girl," how do you maneuver through an industry that holds women to a certain look or standard? 

I’m not a girl who snaps up every time I step out the door. It’s a struggle for me to be in front of the camera all the time, but the industry is based so much on image. I’m not on that. I literally make music, and I go home. I just want to rap! I don’t want to be a fucking model.

And of course, we all know that everybody is having this big, negative spiel about us rapping about our pussies, rapping about getting shit out of men, or rapping about our lifestyles. It's crazy because men rap about the same thing, which is their penis, their lifestyle, and their money. They have the same content. We're all human, and we all pretty much experience some of the same things. It's just like everything that a woman does is questioned. Literally, we've got pussies. Why would we not talk about it? Everybody around here fucking! I don't understand that. Everybody's freaked out.

Speaking on everyone being freaked out, you had a track on PornHub’s Christmas album last year? What was that experience like?

It was funny because I was in the car with some guys, and Melissa hit me up and said, “PornHub wants you to do a track on their Christmas album. I was excited! I was like, “What the fuck, Pornhub? Like, this is a big fucking thing. Everybody watches Pornhub!” That was the first porn site I was introduced to — shit was free, you know what I'm saying? So I tell the guys that Pornhub wants me to do a song. I said, “Am I really that freaky?” In unison, they were like “YES!” [laughs] Anyways, it was a challenge. Bigg Cuz made the jingle beat, and I wrote about the reindeer “Vixen.” I don’t know how I thought about it, but the shit is a bop.

Your new project has beats from Bigg Cuz and Bankroll Got It, so tell me who your favorite producers are at the moment.

Bankroll Got It, Bigg Cuz, DJ Chose, TrakkSounds, Free, Will No Sleep, and Avo

I know you've collaborated with OMB Bloodbath, Kali, Joeville, and Chase B already. Are there any artists that you’re interested in working with in the future?

I really want to work with some singers. Of course, I want to work with some rappers — like all of the rap girls are hard. I really like Flo Milli, and I love me some Kali. I would really love to work with Drake, Summer Walker, and Jhene Aiko. It’s so many good artists, it’s limitless.

I wanted to talk about being a rapper and being a mom at the same time, and I was looking for backstory about that on your Instagram, I noticed you don’t post your kid. Is there a story behind that?

There is 100% a story behind that. I had my son on my Instagram. I’ve never really just went crazy posting him though because I felt like sooner or later I was going to get a lot of weirdos. So as of three or four months ago, I deleted pretty much everything off of my page because it was this weird-ass girl stalking my post of my son and commenting like demonic sh*t under his posts. I don’t be believing in weird shit like that, but it was the fact that people can see my child's face. I don’t want them to be able to point him out from anywhere. That sh*t scared the f*ck out of me. I want to be able to protect him and his peace. He’s not the one rapping.

Just like I don’t post my dad, I don’t post the personal sides of me on social media. I feel like you got to protect that side of your life because this new day and age of social media people are evil as fuck. It’s unnecessary. That shit really hurt me. I deleted all the pictures, but I forgot about one and then she went to it asking, “Why did you delete all his pictures?” “Why are you being a weird ass, sick b*tch?” is the real question.

That’s why I don’t really post him, but that’s my dog. He’s eight, so he’s been through my whole entire journey of rapping. After I had him, I just turned into a rapper somehow! He came into my room the other day playing my song and singing my lyrics [laughs]. I be like, “Calm down, okay? ‘Cause you don’t need to be singing this.” He loves me, and he be telling me how good I am and how big I am to him. He’s literally my best friend. I just don’t want to share that with people.

I completely understand. Last question: how did you know Asylum Records was the right place for you? Especially considering its history with legendary Houston artists.

I really liked how they came at me. They didn’t come at me like, “This is what you’re going to do, and this is just how it is.” I felt like the label really respected how I felt and my comfort in having a partner. I just really like the fact that they didn’t come like anybody else. I felt safe. I had told Melissa, “We bout to be independent, fuck these niggas. We bout to just kill it by ourselves.” But Asylum really changed my mind and my heart.

After that, I was thinking, “Well, it is some normal motherfuckers out here!” You don’t have to sell your soul to be successful. It is hard doing stuff when you’re a woman and you have to work a regular job to stack up. This music shit is so expensive. They were a breath of fresh air. They’re not Yes Men, but it’s not a dictatorship either. It really is a partnership. I feel like we picked each other.

READ LAST WEEK’S INTERVIEW WITH SAINT BODHI HERE.