Kenny Fame isn’t another pretty face in NYC waiting to get ‘discovered’. He’s a talented and hard working artist and poet who’s gift for writing has already been published and now he’s turned his words into song. And not the type of songs you’d expect from someone whose skin color is mostly associated with hiphop. Mr. Fame’s mission is not only to help break those stereotypes but show the world what can happen when two worlds collide into non-traditional art. His musicical influences span from country to jazz and so much more, so make sure you check out this interesting read…
Skope: Tell us a little bit about you, who is Kenny Fame and what do you do?
Kenny: I am Levi Wise Kenneth Catoe Jr. A kid from Paterson, NJ, that grew up in a two parent household along with my sister. We were known as Angel & “Lil Kennis” because my grandmother was from the south & couldn’t pronounce Kenneth propperly. We both attended Catholic School but I was forbidden to watch TV or even play with toys; which only fueled my instict for creativity, by forcing me to create my only visual’s, audio’s & poetry. I grew up wanting to be Woody Allen: for one because he sounded Jewish to me (Allen Stewart Konigsberg), and so did I (Levi Wise), but he was and I wasn’t; and two because he acted, directed & starred in his own movies yet he wasn’t very attractive to me & neither was I. Who Kenny Fame is, was actually a mistake. I was doing a lot of writing in multiple genres: fiction, poetry, playwriting & I could only submit one submission per journal per entry. I decided to choose different names per genre & Kenny Fame was the name that I used for my poetry entries, because Kenny is my family nickname and FAME is what I desired; kind of like “Billy Idol”. I told myself that which ever entry got accepted would be the name, that I use as my pen name for everything; and Steel Toe Review accepted and published my very first submission; so poetry became my focus from that moment on for better or for worse. I sometimes regret choosing that name though, because I think some people hold it against me. Some folks feel as if I got some balls assuming “Fame” and I feel as though — I sure do.
Skope: What can you tell Skope readers about your debut “The First Album”?
Kenny: Well “Kenny Fame: The First Album” is meant to be NYC: gritty, raw, diverse, leaving a lot to be desired; hence the album’s cover art. Most of those vocals were scratch vocals. At the time I wanted to create a CD that I wouldn’t mind hearing reinterpreted; in the form of a DJ remix, or a live acoustic version, cover versions. I wanted all of the songs to feel undone — incomplete & to me they all are. The First Album was also indicative of the fact that there would be a second, third and beyond. All of the songs started with the letter “A” to indicate “beginings”. The album is the “First” album indicative of “beginings” also; it was all very deliberate — very mind mapped, that’s the fictionist in me & unfortunately the control freak.
Video: “A Different Day”
Skope: Your songs go in alot of different directions, how would you describe your sound?
Kenny: My sound is to redefine how people label music. I find it unsettling that everything sounds the same on the radio these days. Music has become so segregated; in a way. I personally grew up loving white artist, not knowing they were white artist, and believing they were actually black artist. When I first heard Pink’s debut single “There You Go” every kid in my school–including myself was like “yo… she white?” and we loved it. I thought that it was incredible that music, unlike most things in life, could actually be completely colorless; not anymore. Now there is a color to music and a race to music and its called “genres“: you must either be “Pop“, or you must be “Dance“, or you must be “Rock“, or you must be “R&B“; I’m like but why can’t I “be” everything? Why can’t I “do” every-thing and not choose one single box to be placed in and judged against.
Skope: Would you consider yourself a pop artist?
Kenny: I consider myself to be an “artist”. Anybody can be a pop artist nowadays — Justin Beiber’s a pop artist, but I wouldn’t call him an “artist”. He’s not very creative in terms of originality.Rhianna’s a pop artist & she sounds like a cat in heat & her new collaboration with Shakira sounds like something the cat wouln’t even drag in; yet BBC Radio 1 loves it; & don’t even get me started on “Timber” Pitbulls collaboartion with Kesha. Who ever it was that chose to extend Pitbulls fifteen minutes of fame, needs to get an extended fifteen minutes of a lobotomy. What does pop music even mean anymore?
Skope: Do you perform live? What are some of your favorite venues to play in NYC?
Kenny: No I have not played live yet, as a singer; but I am currently putting together a band for an upcoming show; which has proven to be a whole nother animal. I can’t answer the rest of that question yet; but as an spoken word artist my favorite place to perform was my former college CUNY/Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, NY; don’t judge me.
Skope: Speaking of NYC, what is the scene like for the type of music you do?
Kenny: I love NYC. It is the center of my universe. It’s a melting pot of cultures, sounds, smells, textures–NYC makes the universe go round. In terms of what I do musically, the city can be tricky. Nightclubs in this city no longer feature performers, largely due to the fact that they are too busy booking bottle service themed parties; but when they do book acts its usually reserved for ratchet Hip-Hop acts & I’m not a Hip Hop act; nor am I ratchet. Its hard for me to perform in venues down on Ludlow Street or the Lower East Side, where I would like to be performing because I don’t have a permanent backing band & guitarist for hire can be unpredictable; but musically I do it all — everything but, sing on subway trains & subway platforms. I mean I do refer to myself as “Kenny Fame”. I actually love jazz, country & soundtrack music. At some point I would love to do that especially jazz & country; hence “Another Man’s Woman”.I’m just a different kind of artist. I mean are their even any “Black” country singers anymore other than Darius Rucker? Whom I still love even though he did defend that Duck Dynasty idiot.
Skope: Are there any plans to tour across the country to promote the album?
Kenny: I would love to tour across the country. I love America even the Republican states… but I don’t have any plans to do so yet. I need to conquer New York first in a very Frank Sinatra kind of way.
Twitter – https://twitter.com/68Levi
Skope: Do you play any instruments as well as sing? Do you have a live band?
Kenny: I used to play keyboards. I studied drums, guitar, and I took vocals instruction, which is also an instrument; perhaps not a musical one. I don’t like playing any musical instrument anymore though. I don’t really like doing anything that I’m not really good at; and I’m not really good at playing any musical instrument; I’m only barely passable. If I cant be kick ass I’ll leave it alone. I guess that’s The Sagittarean in me.
Skope: You’ve been described as being part of the ‘rebirth of disco’ yet your music is much more than that, from acoustic ballads to electronic. Tell us about your approach to songwriting and who is Jona Carson?
Kenny: Yeah I guess from a genre perspective I’m not at all “Disco”. I think I mentioned that once to industry people, as a way to make people take notice of me. Disco was a musical period that most people would like to forget: its use of synthesizers, the backlash against it, the connection to gay culture. I associated with it (Disco) not because I was “Disco” but because I had the nerve to. My approach to writing music I hear is different, because I don’t write to music. I hear lyrics & melodies in my head, and then I record vocals. Once my scratch vocals are recorded, I meet with producers and develop chord progressions to the song that I sung into the recorder. Its sort of like a DJ’s remix approach to creating music; but I did actually write “A Different Day” & “Another Man’s Woman” to music that was sent to me by a country songwriter from Long Island named Dan Damaina. Jona Carson is a very talented musician that I met from Sweden. He produced my songs “Ain’t No Biggie” & “All Across The Nation”. He is the most talented person that I ever met. I am no longer in contact with him, but he was musical soul mate. He could literally finish my musical thoughts. I would send him a scratch vocal & not even tell him what I was vibing on musically & where I wanted to take the song but I never had to, because he already got it, and created musical compositions that I found spectacular & completely along the lines of what I was thinking but far better. His songs without me sound like shit though; again I said soul mate, it took us two to make it work–well at least for him it does.
Skope: In addition to being a pop artist, you’re also a respected poet in NYC. How did you get into poetry and what is your correlation between poetry and music?
Kenny: I don’t really see myself as a pop artist but my label made me choose a genre, and I felt that pop, would be the most assessable. I also never felt like a respected poet in NYC, I was just simply the best poet in NYC. The other poets hated me, but I was the one getting published worldwide & winning all of the relevant awards, while they were out teaching poetry workshops by day & doing NYC coffee shops for finger snaps by night. NYC is a very competitive place, I don’t think that anybody respects you until you start trending & I’m not trending yet; but I will be. Everybody in NYC from the: poetry circuit, club circuit & etc, wants to be a celebrity, but nobody wants to — or even knows how to play the game anymore. I work hard. I make music constantly. I focus on individuality, not on sounding like everything being played on NYC radio,I listen to BBC Radio 1, 2 & 6. I began focusing on poetry in college because I was an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing. The correlation between poetry & music to me is the lyric.I was very interested in traditional poetry forms rather than “free verse” because everybody does “free verse”; or they do “slam”. It took a lot more discipline to stick to form, so I did it and I did it a lot. There is a rhythm to poetry if you follow traditional forms: Ghazals, Villanelles, Rondeau’s, Pantoums, Triolets; you begin to hear the music after a while; Langston Hughes style of poetry were perfect examples of that. I think for me transitioning into music was an obvious transition, because I stuck to traditional forms; which in fact made me unique in New York especially, because I went against the trend of “slam poetry”. The poets in NYC only seemed to want to be bigger than New York, or they only wanted to be as big as New York; but I wanted to be bigger than God! People tend to be hate you, when you are honest enough to admit that.
Skope: Your single “A Different Day” is getting alot of views on YouTube. What is the song about?
Kenny: It’s actually a correlation between poetry & music. The song began as a poem. The chorus “Dingy white lines on subway walls covered up in graffiti” was the opening line of one of my published works. I chose to approach that particular song in the same way I would attack a poem using figurative language & more specifically metaphors. In poetry you’re taught to not write a poem about love because its all been said before. Your mission is to show not tell. Create a visual using imagery without actually using the word “love”. That was how I approached that particular song. The white walls was a face being defaced with bruises. The graffiti were scars. Dingy walls could be any color you wanted it to be–not necessarily white. I’m 100% against abuse & not because its politically correct to say it, but because abuse is just wrong. I hope that I answered all of your questions in as clear, and as concise a manner, as you would like; and I hope that you enjoyed discovering my music, and if not stick around, I seem to grow on people. Just call me Kenny Fungus!
Check out Kenny Fame’s “The First Album” and visit http://kennyfame.com.
Douglas Garnett – firstname.lastname@example.org