Keanan

Interview: Feargus Kennedy

Photography: Shot By Kieran

Cheltenham rapper Keanan has been making waves on social media with his unique voice and style, in particular his freestyles on TikTok have received millions of views. Some of his hit tracks such as, “Charisma” and “Hungry” have received playing time on GRM Daily and Link Up TV. A truly unique voice in the rap game, featured on GAY TIMES Engayged playlist, Keanan is a name to look out for in the years to come. Keanan s new track is called “Obstacle” and it is yet another great addition to the discography of this upcoming artist.

Hi Keanan.

Hi Feargus, thanks for having me back on Revamp!

As an openly gay rapper, you work in an industry which throughout its existence has had many people criticise it for having homophobic elements to its culture. Can you tell me, from an insider’s perspective, if these seemingly harmful aspects of hip-hop culture are as truly prevalent now, or have times changed and is it a more tolerant environment nowadays?

I feel like as a society, we are moving past those negative stereotypes and assumptions. However, unfortunately the rap industry still possesses aspects of unconscious homophobia that may not always be verbally announced but is behind a lot of decisions. The direction we are moving in is a positive one, but the industry isn’t as open as it should be when it comes to an ‘openly gay rapper’. But that will change with time.

As well as releasing your own tracks you also have a following on TikTok from free styling over other artists beats. How similar or different is your process of rapping one-take freestyles to when you write your own stand-alone tracks such as ‘Obstacle’?

The process is more fun if anything. With singles, I often tend to overthink and plan, but with a remix it feels like complete freedom to go crazy. However, I enjoy the construction of my singles. Creating the concepts and telling the story, from the lyrics to the beat, it’s me!

You were raised in Cheltenham but your name ‘Keanan,’ is Irish - is there any significance behind your name’s Irish heritage, or are there any other origins to your name?

Unfortunately not, I believe my Mum just liked the name. I remember her telling me she used to like the show ‘Kenan and Kel’ so maybe they are the main inspiration...ha-ha! But I like to believe there is a deeper meaning behind it so who knows!

Who would you consider to be your greatest musical influences, and what about these artists’ work appeals to you?

I honestly have so many influences in terms of artists. It would be so hard for me to list all of them. Overall, I will always give credit to Nicki Minaj for inspiring me to create my own raps because the confidence she gives me is incredible and she’s just great! Lady Leshurr for my one-take freestyles. And artists such as WSTRN, Ariana Grande, Burna Boy, MNEK for their use of melodies and hooks. But there are so many to list!

In your new song ‘Obstacle’ you mention many of the tribulations you have encountered throughout your life, what has been the hardest obstacle to overcome thus far in your music career?

The hardest obstacle has been to keep going. Mental health has been a real challenge for me and as an upcoming artist, there are times where I doubt myself. I ask myself, “Am I good enough?”, “will this ever pay off?” and there is no solid answer. This career isn’t guaranteed, and no one is going to hand it to you. I’m constantly learning to believe in myself because this is my dream. Especially coming from a town like Cheltenham, you feel like big dreams are too ambitious and it can consume you sometimes. But ‘Obstacle’ really is my motivation to keep going, keep pushing and I will become the established artist I want to be!

Finally, what sort of impact do you want to have on the music industry, and what direction would you like to see your music career going from here?

I want to be an artist that is remembered and respected for making music that can make a change. To make others feel confident, to connect to their emotions or to just be themselves. I would like to be the role model I never had in rap, and I am already making that difference in people’s lives. And as for my career, the only way is up!

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