Connecting the dots of Fred Durst, Duran Duran, and the Neptunes into a coherent musical picture isn’t an easy task — but the Ethiopian-born synth-funk artist Kenna finds some way to piece them together.
After first being signed to Fred Durst’s Flawless record label (he’s since been dropped), Kenna has moved his debut recording into the production studio of Chase Chad of Neptunes and N.E.R.D. fame to put a groovealicious swagger into his funky interpretations of Duran Duran-like new wave. But through New Sacred Cow‘s disparate musical puzzle pieces, Kenna acts as the sonic superglue that mends divergent genres from hip-hop to synth-pop to funk into an effortlessly smooth blend.
However, no matter which musical path Kenna swerves your mind through, it’s clear that he’s studied the discographies of every artist from George Michael and Depeche Mode to Basement Jaxx and Outkast. As a testament to his influences, Kenna’s fine-tuned his funky synthesizer tunes to dismantle the previous mentioned genres and mangle them into a new hybrid. “Freetime”, for example, thumps with a bass beat that only a Neptunes alum could generate, while sugary melodies pour all over the track’s bubbling synthesizers circa the new wave of ’85.
Although Kenna operates from a similar template for the majority of New Sacred Cow‘s material, it’s when he deviates that he most often delivers. “Vexed & Glorious” works its magic around the track’s hip-hop-like groove that throbs and thuds in the most hip-shaking, dancefloor-ready way. Although such a song is clearly aided by the production of Chase Chad, the more subtle moments of funk and groove is when Kenna is at his best.
“Hell Bent”, a track that’s been circulating on MTV2 and file-sharing programs alike for the better part of two years, showcases Kenna working from a downtempo perspective and an introspective view. As the track pleasantly flows from ambient keyboard lines to subtle, shapeshifting beats, Kenna is simultaneously at his most mellow and most impressive. Located in midst of New Sacred Cow‘s material, “Hell Bent” offers you a moment to rest your dancing shoes and hang up your new wave fetish in favor of a track that aims for contemplation and reflection.
As New Sacred Cow continues — and as synth-pop and hip-hop continue to merge closer together — Kenna carves out still more memorable tunes. Among them, the title track acts as a modern day Stevie Wonder, replete with vocal harmonies and sticky synth lines to bring its classic melodies into our world of contemporary music.
Kenna, through the ups and downs in moods and styles, never misses a beat or loses his groove. That’s an even more commendable feat with New Sacred Cow‘s genre mishmashes and stylistic diversity in mind. Despite this album only being Kenna’s debut, he’s clearly the forerunner in the genre of new-hip-wave-synth-hop. Okay, so he’s probably the only one in that genre.