More about: kennyhoopla
KennyHoopla is bringing his world to life through scribbles and aching open-heartedness. It’s his time, and after ruminating in the background, the Wisconsin-born artist is ready to debut his vision. He’s still making sense of it, but recent EP how will i rest in peace if i’m buried by the highway?// - plus Travis Barker collab 'ESTELLA//' - demonstrates the one-of-a-kind delivery and versatility of the multi-hyphenate. Weaving through genres, from DnB to pop punk and trap stylings, the colourful narrative offers a glimpse into Kenny’s mind.
We caught up with Kenny to talk about his journey so far, where things are heading, and how he’s using his struggle to advance his art.
Gigwise: Can you tell me more about your introduction to music - where did the fascination with it begin?
KennyHoopla: I feel like I could give ten different answers but I’m just going to speak from my heart: I’ve struggled with insomnia and mental stuff and the only time I felt safe was when the sun was up. So I would wait every morning until MTV or VH1 would come on at 5am, staying up until music videos came on. I guess it was kind of comforting.
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GW: What kind of things were you into?
KH: I think that’s the thing: it was everything. Enrique Iglesias to Blink-182. I didn’t really have a lot of friends so I would just kick it in my room and listen to the radio all day. And then I think I just learned how to form songs through listening to music all the time.
GW: Growing up between Wisconsin and Cleveland (Ohio), what were the local music scenes like? Was there much going on?
KH: No not really. So I was in Wisconsin more, but now that I get out here I keep meeting more artists from Cleveland and I get mad that I didn’t get to spend more time with them - these people are more like me.
GW: What are your experiences growing up in both like - are there any memories that especially stand out for you?
KH: It’s been a mix of everything. I’m in Wisconsin which is where I spend most of my time - I’m visiting my Mom right now. My high school’s up the street which is so weird; it’s just so much culture into one that I’ve had to balance forever. Going to Cleveland and being Black, going to school which is predominantly white and my best friend was Asian. It was like every kind of colour from every background. I think I was just very aware of everything.
GW: What’s it been like recently to revisit these spots?
KH: Something I keep laughing at is that I got a job at Domino's for a week right out of high school - my Mom was being a mom and just being 'you gotta be successful'. Moral of the story, I worked at Dominoes for like a week and then I got fired and every time I come back around here, I drive past it and it’s just hilarious to me. I don’t know...because I made it.
GW: Do you think growing up in Wisconsin & Cleveland has influenced you - sonically and who you are as a person?
KH: It’s not that I even love this place, or anywhere. I honestly feel like I’m from nowhere exactly. Something I’ve struggled with growing up is my identity and my ethnicity: not knowing the other side of my family too much. But I think I’ve just always been able to see the beauty in the escapism of how everybody wants to get out of everywhere.
Growing up, I had a feeling that everywhere was the same and that everyone’s the same. It’s just the world that you make in your head that defines the way your heart walks.
GW: You mentioned you’re visiting L.A. tomorrow: how do you feel about the more traditional music-oriented cities. Do you see yourself moving?
KH: Ah no, I don’t really like L.A. or New York. To be honest I don’t really like anywhere. I feel like I don’t really want to be anywhere; most of the time I just want to disappear or I want to be everywhere at once.
I’m always grateful to be in both of those places but I don’t think I could live in either of them. L.A. makes me too chill and then New York is such a big city: loud, hella dirty and not comfortable. But I guess I’ll have to see if I ever get rich or wealthy if that changes anything.
GW: You’ve talked about always having this pull towards music, but it wasn’t until the past three years that you really dove in. Did you explore any other outlets before music?
KH: Yeah, I used to skate and do photography. I used to be really into poetry too - still bad, I’m not very good with my words. But, I really think life was my outlet. Like even this conversation blows my mind, and I think maybe my outlet is living.
GW: You mentioned before about the poetry, is the process kind of similar to how you’d go about writing lyrics?
KH: l think the majority of stuff that I’ve made has just been a capella songs that I’ve made in my head, or they’ll just be a hook I came up with from a different instrumental and I’ll be like 'okay let’s turn this into a rock song' or more trap leaning or something like that. Even with writing lyrics I’ll delve back into my notes of stuff and then I’ll put it in the song.
GW: When you jumped into music, how did you know it was the right time to?
KW: Everyday I’m inching to make the world in my head more elaborate and more visual. You know when you close your eyes and you see an image but it's still not like extremely clear - it’s in fog? I’m just trying to somehow transcend, be the best version of myself that can be and try to get that picture full, whatever that is.
It was just like 'okay, this is time now'. But also everyone was making music and I felt corny [saying] I’m trying to make music too. Also just with the recording, I was in poverty. But I’ve just always felt like if you’re honest, the universe will return that energy to you if you’re being authentic. That sounds so cringey but like by being myself, as much as I could be, the universe would return that energy and take care of everything. Just meeting faith halfway.
GW: When you talk about faith, what do you mean by that?
KH: I guess I believe in God: I grew up praying. Of course it’s still confusing to me, but I think the thing is believing in something that isn’t there, that’s one big thing. I was just praying to God every night that he would get me out of my situation. I was more so praying for a good work ethic and I wasn’t asking the universe to hand me anything, I was just saying that I was ready and I understand the consequences and the sacrifices that come with it - truly being an artist and living authentically.
GW: Have your intentions with music changed since you began?
KH: I think I just wanted to make my own world. Everyone has their own world: all these artists, all these painters. they all have something that holds special to them that they can take to the grave. Whether it be an album or just something they can identify their soul with. That’s what I’ve been working for my whole life.
At the end of the day I’ve just always wanted to live forever really, I guess I’ve just always struggled with death my whole life. I think the only way to not die was to live forever.
GW: What’s been the biggest challenge along the way?
KH: Trying to stay alive [laughs]. I shouldn’t have laughed after that. Yeah, just trying to stay alive and trying to keep my heart pure and not letting myself get cliqued in. I feel like everybody wants to identify with something or someone or especially something from the past, and I’ve just always been super big on being myself.
That’s been a challenge because everybody wants to take that and everybody wants to morph you into something and give you a new life. But I think the reason I’m in this place is because of my most pure, pathetic, exposed heart, and not letting anything from my situations change me and remembering the true feeling I guess. I try not to be grey: life just makes you grey and I’m just trying to bring the colour.
GW: In a Pigeons & Planes interview you said you can’t make what you’re trying to make yet. Has that shifted since the EP’s release?
KH: Nope, I feel like I’m just not good. I didn’t grow up making music, I’ve only been seriously doing this for three years now so I'm confused, still like learning how to just play the guitar. I’m still not there, but the heart is.
GW: How has it been gaining traction and a community behind you?
KH: It’s super fire because I’ve been the crazy one forever. Not that I was even trying to prove myself, but finally I don’t have to. I’m just getting more wise every day. I guess nothing has changed because I’ve been trying to do this since I was like 11. It’s just always cool to see again what you saw when it wasn’t there - to be in it. It’s beautiful to see everything come together. When the dots connect it’s just cool.
More about: kennyhoopla