Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with New York’s Black-Ken. Together we discussed their inspiration, their songwriting process, New York, their newest single “Frenzy”, and much more!
1. Mustard is thankful to have you here. How are you doing?
I’m maintaining brody. Can’t let the right know what the left is doing. Can’t let the ops know my next move.
2. According to your Instagram profile, you don’t want next. You want it right now. What do you want now?
It’s kind of like when you pull up to the blacktop. You know, you been waiting on the right day to hoop all week. And when you pull up, there’s two types of people: There’s dudes who pull up and basically like, introduce themselves like, “I got next!” And then there’s other dudes, who everyone already knows their face, they already know what time it is with them. And let me ask you this, what type of dude do you want to be?
3. Your music takes inspiration from classic 90s hip hop. Who are some of your favorite emcees from this era? How do they influence your work?
I got a better question to answer right here. Okay, So I’m gonna give you my top 5 in order and you can decide? 1. MF Doom 2. Jay-Z 3. Tupac 4. Biggie 5. RZA … I said what I said
4. Is there an album you can listen to from start to end with no skips?
Mustard you crazy because no one really makes albums anymore. As an artist I would almost say its a waste of time because people are too A.D.D. these days. It’s sad, but hey, I came to give you truth, not comfort.
5. Who (or what) influences you?
My older brother Jungo Gem really influences me more than anything else. He used to take me to the studio with him when we were younger, and now, whenever we talk, it’s really just a grounding force for me. He has this single out right now called “Before I Go”, and it’s really just so fire! And it’s so Harlem for real.
6. New York has an incredible hip hop scene. How does the scene help influence and inspire your music? Is there a certain area you like to go when it comes to writing?
Maybe you’ve seen those lame a** “New York or Nowhere” T-shirts and stuff. I truly hate those things but theres an element of the message there that really rings true. I could hardly see myself living anywhere else. Maybe like Seattle, or Chicago… But I don’t know… Definitely not L.A. When I’m riding the subway downtown, or up to Harlem, just like, thoughts, and lyrics, and images come rushing to me. I could never leave. It’s almost like Stockholm syndrome because it’s honestly such a tough place to live.
7. What is your songwriting process?
Well, if you looked at my voice memo and notepad apps on my iPhone you would probably have me committed for clinical insanity. I’m an anywhere, anytime kind of artist. I don’t know if you know this but I make all my own beats, I do all my own cover art. I’m kind of an Actualist. I really believe in becoming the thing that you are doing. So anytime you listen to my music, or you look at my art, or you wear a piece of clothing that I designed, you are really partnering with my experience.
8. You get the chance to join a cypher with your favorite emcees. Who else is in the cypher with you?
Hmm, I suppose I’m taking Taylor Swift, YNW Melly and Kendrick Lamar in no particular order.
9. In 2018 you released “Worst Lie.” What was the inspiration behind this single? What is the worst lie you’ve ever been told?
You did your research. Have you seen the music video? It’s beautiful. “Worst Lie” is a classic, way ahead of it’s time. If you listen to that song you can kind of see the direction that music is headed in now. Not just hip hop! But music generally speaking! The worst lie I have ever been told? “Time heals all”. It doesn’t. There are still things that happened that I’m still salty about. Like when Arizona’s stopped being a dollar. Or when velour stopped being in style. Or when my cousin passed away. Certain things just gonna feel the same whether it’s, this week, or tomorrow, or next week.
10. A human is visiting New York. What are some New York values they should know?
Man, that’s another classic. If you listen to a single, with harder bars… Better production… That is all around smoother than “Rock The Ship”, you let me know Mustard! I’m dead serious! I swear I will actually answer the question this time though… What are the most important New York values? Umm, never eat those hot dogs they sell in central park… Staten Island is not a borough… You don’t need to see Times Square, you can just google earth that sh*t, it’s nothing that special aanndddd, the best pizza in New York is Sal & Carmines on West 102nd st… RIP Sal.
11. “Frenzy” is your latest single. Could you share more about Frenzy? What gets you into a frenzy?
Believe it or not, the first line I wrote of that song was “Friends, friends… We should be friendly”… Because I really believe that. What really gets me into a frenzy is rude a** people. Like in my heart, I really believe people should be friendly. But then I really think about it, and I’m like “wait… I’m kind of a rude a** person more often than not”… Like, the disconnect between what shouldhappen, and what does happen is deep. That is what “Frenzy” is about.
12. A human gets an invite to see you perform. What kind of show can they expect?
That’s what I live for. When I’m up on that stage I think of the olden days when people would perform theater, and if you weren’t good they would like throw old, moldy ass tomatoes at you, and sometimes even kill you! Did you know that? That’s real sh*t. And I really think about that. So whenever I hit the stage, I’m ready to die for my art.
13. What is next for Black-Ken?
What’s coming next for me, no one could ever predict. Truly some major sh*t. My price is about to go up Mustard. I’m gonna be doing interviews with Olive Oil and Caviar soon.
14. Where can readers listen to your music?
www.black-ken.com don’t forget to do the dash!