We’re making an early call for ‘Artist To Watch in 2021!’ While the nation’s music industry may have seemed on hold during quarantine this year, Ypsi’s Kenyatta Rashon recognized this time as an opportunity to stop worrying about the compulsion to hustle, and instead to start crystallizing every facet that distinguishes her as an artist.
Heading into last winter, the Ypsilanti-based hybridist of R&B and hip-hop had gained considerable momentum, releasing a flurry of dynamic singles. One might presume that a shutdown would stir up a restlessness in an artist eager to advance and elevate, but Rashon exhibits a clear-eyed down-to-earth-ness that isn’t always common among aspiring musicians.
“Realistically, we can be the microwave kids,” Rashon said, referring to the generation of artists who came up in an Internet-era. “We want to see things happening and we want to do stuff right now, and if we don’t — we get kinda lost, or we get distracted. But I’m here to tell you that I’ve been doing music for a long time, and my time is still coming… For now, I’m still very active, still very encouraged. I just feel like everything’s going to happen at the right time. But what I’m not doing is slowing down. I’m not stopping.”
Rashon, born and raised in Ypsilanti, has been singing since she was 7-years-old. While she looked up to icons like Aretha Franklin, Beyonce, and Amy Winehouse through her teenage years, Rashon identified her brother, a twin brother actually, as her most formative influence and inspiration — the pair of them discovered their respective talents for music together and would bond over experiences of performing together, and encouraging one another.
When you seek out the latest songs by Rashon, you’ll encounter an empowered individual able to express herself confidently on issues of self-respect, vulnerability, boundaries, and ambition. With a composite of R&B’s melodic tenderness and hip-hop’s confrontational cadences, she’s able to bridge the sensibilities of both genres and come with an authentic voice in whichever stylistic realm best suits the mood and message of the song. “I call myself ‘The Inconspicuous Girl’ ‘cuz you kinda never know how I’m coming…” she said. But she’s also quick to add that that confidence had to be earned.
“In high school, I was trying to find myself, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be, or who I was becoming. I auditioned and got into choir class, and the instructor said that my voice was actually standing out from everyone, so I was encouraged to audition for the musical. And, I was young — I was scared! I was a sophomore auditioning against some heavy-hitting seniors, and when I got the part, I was like: what? Me? Really? I didn’t know how to feel about it, but I realized that in that moment I had to rise to the task, and from that point on, I knew — (music) is my life.”
Rashon admits, early on in our interview, that even if she exudes and embodies confidence now — and even if she’s gotten into a groove with lyric writing — those were all things she had to develop. She didn’t jump off the stages of high school musicals and presume that all the rest would come easy, she appreciated the discipline required in honing those skills. She’s drawn upon her natural talents for poetry, for performing, and even for acting (in the musicals), and infused those into her modern day musical signature with tracks like “Push,” “Love Me,” and “Fvck Boi.”
“I am very humble,” said Rashon. “But it’s a certain kind of ‘humble,’ that I embody that says a lot to people.” She doesn’t want anyone construing “confidence” as a ‘hey, look at me..’ sort of trip, but for Rashon, the shift is toward: ‘Hey, look at US!’ “…when I get on the stage, my whole point is to be sharing the confidence; I want you to want more — I want you to take any of this confidence and apply it to your life. A lot of my fans are younger women — and I know when I was growing up, I didn’t have this confidence; I didn’t think I was able to do the things that I’m able to do now. So, in my music, and when I’m performing, I want to show that to people, that they can be everything they want to be and go that extra mile.”
Rashon may be the ‘inconspicuous girl,’ but lately, she’s also being lovingly referred to as ‘the backpack-killer,’ meaning she’s traveling with a lot of musical materials already stored up. She has several of her own songs that she’s hoping to release when the time is right, as well as a couple of features in collaboration with other local artists. So, suffice it to say, her momentum is going to be maintained.
Meanwhile, she recently performed with a full band for Grove Studios’ monthly VIP ACCESS series — a safe, socially distanced outdoor event that is also live streamed through the local music collective’s social media page. Meanwhile, she’s coordinating with contemporaries in the local scene to host a new annual music event called YPSI JAMS. “Ypsilanti deserves a lot,” she said, eager to champion her local scene. “And I’m starting to see where I can help — where I can pull myself up as an artist, but also help others climb — and just continuing to do that — pulling others up as I climb.”