I’m not even going to lie and pretend I didn’t grin cheekily upon hearing the news that fellow Northwest music blogger Kenny Fresh of FreshSelects.net was shutting down his blog. An amazing guy and huge advocate for Portland’s hip-hop scene, I was equally bewildered as to why my peer quit and what the vacancy left by Fresh Selects would mean for WOHM.
After a little digging, I found that Kenny was actually starting a record label, and my interest peaked. Kenny is starting a label? Who’s getting signed? Are they going to get matching chains? I had to get the scoop.
So one day, just before it got cold, we met up at Muu Muu’s in Northwest Portland for a bite and some banter. Kenny quickly learned how fast I could make a mess of a root beer float, and I learned that Kenny does in fact eat with the top button of his button-ups famously fastened. At some point he also put me onto the Haribo Hamburger gummies which he said, “taste like play dough, but I like them!” More importantly, Kenny and I chatted about a number of topics from his new label to personal development, and from up-and-coming artists to goofy spelling conventions.
I can honestly say that I’m very interested to see what all Mr. Fresh has up his sleeve. In the meantime, check out the interview below. Happy Friday!
Mac: Starting off then I guess, let’s just talk. So why are you going to stop with the Fresh Selects blog?
Kenny: For me, it’s not even necessarily an issue of stopping, it just seems like the right move as far as natural progression and growth. Like, this past August was the 5 year anniversary of Fresh Selects. I started it back in 2008. You know, each year it’s kind of grown; or just sometimes, even like kind of transformed. For a minute, it was like a local concert series and then when I brought it back, it was more about original releases, where before it was just kind of like exclusive tracks and singles and debuts. Then I just started doing original releases, and then now it just made sense to just… I’ve been doing this since I was like 17, working with other labels and stuff like that. I’ve just seen what works and what doesn’t work. It just hit me like, “I can do this; now’s the time.” If I don’t do it now, then when, you know? So yeah, it was a number of factors, but it was mostly just growth.
Sounds like transformation, even with the blog. It’s seen so many iterations and that’s always dope. Going to a label, that’s a whole different thing – and then it sounds like it’s not gonna be hip-hop per say – so how did that come decision come about?
Just naturally. Like if you were to hang out with me, or if I were to pick you up in my car, or whatever, it’s just… I don’t really… like rap isn’t the number one genre of music I listen to on my own. But I’ve kind of become known as “the hip-hop guy” in Portland or in some other circles too, just ‘cause it was just readily available for me and what was within arm’s reach. And I do love hip hop too, don’t get me wrong, and I do really like everything that I worked with. That’s always been something I’ve maintained, I don’t work with music that I’m not into. But, there are other genres that I’m more into or just more excited to work with right now just where I’m at, personally.
But yeah, so the kind of sonic theme of the label is more instrumental, beat tapes – which has always been more the side of hip-hop I’ve always gravitated towards anyway – so it still is kind of hip-hop, you know? And then, I don’t really know what to call it, but like… alternative, R&B and soul stuff that I’ve always written about on Fresh Selects, but the way that that genre and those artists work is just different than hip-hop. There’s less readily available content to post about so I couldn’t post about it with the same frequency because they just weren’t churning it out like that. For one, it just takes longer to record, but it’s also just those artists are a little bit less motivated to do their own music videos and all that. So that’s really where I saw like, let me be the home for all these artists. Let them just record the music and let me handle all the marketing and content.
So are you going to be handling any local artists we can keep an eye out on?
Not at the moment. I don’t have a local artist or a project signed – well… I have talked to, uh… I’m trying to think if we should put the cat out of the bag. I mean there’s local producers I definitely want to put out beat tapes by. You know, like Tope. He’s done two already, we talked about doing a third, he already sent me some tracks for it. Trox, Notti, Stewie… All the usual suspects, by all means. As of right now there’s nothing on the release schedule but I’ve put the bug in all of their ears and they are all working on it while they are working on other projects. Also, I got a single with four Portland rappers over a beat by a veteran producer that’s not from here that we’re putting out, probably (at) the top of the year. So I’ve got singles and collaborations and stuff, but no like straight up projects.
Gotcha. It’s still early in the game.
Yeah, but I have plan in place. The way I’m working it with local artists, I’m using my resources to enable them…
Just then the waiter interjects, carrying two giant burgers on hoagie rolls, “Who had the Muu Muu burger?”
“I had the bigger one!” quips Kenny, and awkward laughs ensue. As I bite into my Muu Muu, Kenny gets right back on task.
Yeah, but I’m trying to use the resources that I have – or that I’ve created for myself – to give other local artists, specifically rappers, their own label. So far, like Myke Bogan, I’ve helped re-release his projects that he’s put out for free download. I put him on through my distributor to get him on iTunes and Spotify and all that. And then other artists, if they have a project that’s ready, I can hook them up with my art department, my engineer, marketing. And they can just hire all them out and just kind of work it like that. So as I make my own moves with my own sound and stuff that I’m going for, I’m trying to bring everybody up with me. It won’t have the Fresh Selects name on it, ‘cause I just want it to be a very specific sound. I feel like every great label – (has) maybe not just one sound – but they just have a couple of sounds. So I’m trying to really define that, right out of the gate. And then later I can redefine that and experiment, but as of now… That’s the sound. So all the people I work with and want to support that don’t fit that sound, I’ma set them up to be their own label.
So quick side question then, Fresh Selects is going to be the name of the label as well, right? That’s not changing.
Yeah *mouth full of Mu Mu*
That brand is staying intact. Dope.
And I’m just not really that creative. Anything I do, I’ll just call it that. I think it’s easier for branding, but it’s also that I—I don’t got nothing else.
But about that, one thing I wanna say is I’m bringing back the vowels. That no vowels shit is so played out, so corny… It’s been corny. All this time I thought it was funny. It started as a joke to me… But then it kinda like – I’m not saying it caught on because of me ‘cause I just think it’s a totally separate thing – but it became kind of like a street wear thing and all these other artists… and there are people that did it before me of course, but for me personally it was like a joke. Me and a friend of mine, we used to always pretend to be mad at each other and talk through our teeth with closed mouths like, “You better go get my shit!” And when we were texting, the only way I could think of to spell it like that was to be in all caps with no vowels like, KNNY FRSH, you know? Like that. So I used to just spell it like that, then when I redesigned the site, it just looked cool. But you’re supposed to pronounce it like that, with your mouth closed. But then it caught on and everyone started doing it, or changing A’s into V’s. Like… I want to change my name on Facebook but it’s stuck as it.
Illuminati writing… So label and looking ahead aside, what artists right now are catching your attention. I know I have a few that caught my eye.
Myke Bogan was the biggest discovery for me. (When) I first heard him, it was the video for Kush. I heard that one and I was like… And the videos too. All his videos are super dope…I just think he has a really unique voice and he’s just doing everything right. As far as like career goes and all that, he’s got the right ideas. I think if he’s keeps going, he’s going to blow up.
Who else from the Northwest? Other than that, it’s been like mostly the same people I’ve been down with for years. Myke’s really the newest one in the crew to me. Uh… Natasha Kameto, I’ve known her for a few years. Have you heard her stuff?
I have not. I’ve heard of her though.
She’s super dope. She’s a singer and producer. She’s on the label, Dropping Gems. I really like what they do in general. I met her a few years ago and I was always kind of aware of her stuff and I always liked it but just her most recent album was like incredible. So it’s like a new re-discovery for me. She’s really blowing up too. She’s been getting a lot of love in Fader and XLR8R; she’s been getting a lot of national press.
That’s about it though, other than that it’s just been the homies getting better. Like damn! Stewie was dope, but now Stewie’s like super dope!
Yeah, Stewie’s killing everything right now. So, I think a lot of people associate you with – as well as miss – The Fix. Do you have anything – any plans – on bringing anything like that back? Or having a low-key beat session where all the cool kids get together? We used to have fun at those things.
Man, me too. Like man, I wish. I just don’t see it right now. The economy for shows here – which you and I have talked about in great lengths before – even just besides the whole OLCC and the cops issue… Just the monetary aspect of me being able to afford to bring out artists that I’d want to throw shows… Talking about… not even crazy fees or whatever, just a flight from LA or whatever and being confident I can make that back at the door for tickets or from drinks is just like… It doesn’t financially make sense right now. I would really like to, but until something happens, or I find a sponsor or something… That’s on the back.
There’s no place for mid-range artists in Portland right now and that’s the hardest thing. That’s a lot of the artists I’m working with are people that are dope and they do have a good following, but it’s just not here. So people aren’t really willing to take a chance yet, so it’s like just to even get them here…
The Fix was like lightning striking. We were really lucky. It’d been going for like 3 years before I came in. It was like the first party I’d ever been to. So, you know, they did all the groundwork themselves, before me. But then for me to be able to come in and then bring in new life with a sponsor that was able to provide everything – with V-Tech and everything like that – that was a huge opportunity. But I don’t really expect that. I’m open to it obviously, I don’t want to rule it out, but I don’t expect it either. It was a rare time. Glad it happened.
So just to kind of sum things up, what should folks expect from Kenny Fresh in 2014? What are you looking forward too?
I dunno, for me the big thing about 2013 was finally doing a lot of the things I’d always wanted to do but just didn’t feel like I could money-wise or just logistics-wise. But then I just kind of had an epiphany at a certain point like, “Man like fuck it. I’m going to do it anyway.” And then I figured out a way to make it work. Namely, the two biggest things being that I always wanted to direct music videos. I’ve always been super into film and just movies in general, but I just always wanted to direct my own shit. I just never really had the avenue or the money or a way to do it. But then, everything just aligned and I just kind of like, “alright, I’ll make it happen.” So I got with an artist I’ve been working (with) for years (and) got with a video team I’d known for years, which made sense. So that was a big thing for me, and then of course, starting the label.
So I think for 2014 it’s just more about keeping those two things going and getting better at them and learning and growing with it. Maybe come up with some new shit, but in the meantime I’m cool with those two. Like that’s really what I’m trying to do.
Sounds like you’re following your dreams.
Yeah. I’m trying to… eating more snacks.