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After Gladwell’s Blink, Kenna’s new dilemma

October 16th, 2007 Posted in Books/Magazines, Business, Events, Film/Television, General, Music

Recently, MTVU, the university station of MTV, organized a visit by best selling author Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking) and Ethiopian-born American musician Kenna to a University of Pennsylvania sociology class. The class was in the process of studying the chapter “Kenna’s Dilemma” from Gladwell’s book Blink and the two men made an appearance to discuss the dilemma Kenna faces as an artist who, though heralded by many in the music industry as the next big thing, has yet to connect with a large enough fan base.

If you haven’t heard Kenna’s music yet, I encourage you to get familiar. Kenna, born Kenna Zemedkun, makes some of the most inspiring left of center music today. As a member of the Neptunes production duo’s (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) extended StarTrak family, Kenna’s sound is not what you’d expect pop music to be. Though his previous album New Sacred Cow, the subject of Gladwell’s chapter, had a creative video for the single “Freetime” and gained a 3 star review from Rolling Stone Magazine, it has not made Kenna the superstar he needs to be. Not one to be deterred, Kenna returns this time around with a new marketing strategy for his new cd Make Sure They See My Face. As with similar African-born western-raised artists such as K’Naan, Akon, Somi, and Chosan, Kenna’s comfort with balancing his African and western identities make his music uncategorizable for many. This time around though the combination of re-newed interest in ’80s-style music and fashion, the growth of the popular black nerd trend (Pharrell, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West) as an alternative to the blinged out hip-hop stereotype, and Kenna’s own growth as an artist and business man, position’s Kenna and his music for better commercial success. Kenna’s image and music adds another dynamic to the growing Afropolitan demographic. As Kenna and the Afropolitan demographic grows more confident in his/her own identity they are exerting incresing influence on popular culture through their art. Hopefully the only dilemma Kenna will face this time around will be how to live with his celebrity. I’ll be watching his rise, and so should you.
NPR on Kenna’s career

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