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Chicago Rapper Kidd Kenn’s Lollapalooza Debut Is “Better Than Yours”

Written by on August 9, 2023

South Side Chicago native Kidd Kenn joined Vocalo’s afternoon host Nudia Hernandez backstage at Lollapalooza to discuss his first set at the festival, plus his BET cypher, “Kenn” doll at Target and more.

At 20 years old, Kidd Kenn has already spent years establishing himself as a rising star in the Chicago music scene. A self-proclaimed Barb, Kidd Kenn derives much inspiration from Nicki Minaj; in some ways, he’s the “Kenn” to her Barbie persona. He first appeared on the scene at 15, remixing tracks from fellow Chicago rappers — like FBG Duck’s “Slide” and G Herbo’s “Never Cared” —  with his own lyrics over the beats in middle school. In the years since, Kidd Kenn has gained popularity as an openly gay rapper and has collaborated with artists including Rico Nasty, cupcakKe and Baby Tate. Kenn noted it touches him to know he’s a positive role model for his fans, especially those in the LGBTQ community who hope to pursue music

“I get all types of DMs from people telling me about how I inspire them,” Kenn said. “I don’t feel pressured … It’s just me being me.”

Kidd Kenn with his “Kenn” doll, a collaboration with Target. Morgan Ciocca/Vocalo Radio

In 2021, at only 19 years old, Kidd Kenn was the first openly gay artist to perform for the BET Hip Hop Awards Digital Cypher — a yearly cypher for the awards featuring new and upcoming artists. He performed alongside Symba, Toosii and Lakeyah.

“For my first cypher to be BET was so crazy!” Kenn said. “I just freestyle because it’s fun. But for the cypher … I just went in there being myself.” 

Kidd Kenn is also the first rapper to have his own doll at Target. This “Kenn” doll was released on May 5, accompanied by a pink splatter vinyl record Best Of Kid Kenn, featuring some of his most popular tracks. The dolls are made in Kidd Kenn’s likeness, featuring a temperature-activated version of his signature colorful airbrushed hair. The doll hit shelves following the 2021 release of his song “Good Day” in collaboration with TargetxNY Pride in 2021. 

Kidd Kenn released two new singles this summer, “Everywhere I Go” on June 23 and “Coming” on July 28, and performed an unreleased song at Lollapalooza sampling Kelis’ 2003 track “Milkshake” (which he said may be dropping soon). Backstage at Lollapalooza, Kidd Kenn and Vocalo afternoons host Nudia Hernandez discussed his partnerships with Target, Lollapalooza debut, inspiring fans and more. 

Nudia Hernandez: Hey it’s Vocalo Radio, Chicago’s only urban alternative. Nudia in the Afternoon, backstage here at Lollapalooza 2023 with the amazing, the incomparable Kidd Kenn. Hello! 

Kidd Kenn: Hey, my darling. How you feeling?

NH: I’m doing so good. You look good! I knew I was gonna to see you so I was like, “Okay, I gotta be painted to the gods!” Painted to the gods, yes. 

KK: Yeah, yeah, as you should.

NH: So I have to say, I caught your set yesterday. I forgot I was at Lollapalooza, I thought I was at the club!

KK: As you f***ing should, period! That’s just what I give. 

NH: I was loving it. And now, did I hear you correctly? You said you did an unreleased song. 

KK: I did. 

NH: Was that a “Milkshake” sample I heard?” 

KK: It was. 

NH: I died. Okay, I was dying. I was like, “Is it Christmas? Because it’s giving.” It was giving. 

KK: Yeah, yeah. Thank you. 

NH: It was giving everything! Okay, when are we getting the song? What is it called? I don’t even know what was happening! 

KK: It’s called “Better Than Yours.” And it really depends, when do you guys want the song?

NH: I think we want it, like, now. I think everyone needs it for hot girl summer.

KK: Oh, okay. Okay, I’m gonna really put that in the front of my mind. I promise.

NH: Okay. I love that. Because … I started looking for it. I was like, “Oh, it’s really unreleased.” I was like, I thought it was a joke! I was like, it was not a joke. It’s unreleased.

KK: It’s looking for “Better Than Yours,” because it’s better than theirs! 

NH: Our digital producer, Morgan, right there. She was getting it. And she doesn’t get it unless it’s giving.

KK: As she should, because she’s giving! Period.

NH: It was such a fun set to see you, and everyone had the cardboard cutouts of your face. So you are only 20 years old, at Lollapalooza performing. You’re a Chicago native. How does that feel?

RELATED: Chicago Sun-Times – Chicago rapper Kidd Kenn set for Lollapalooza debut

KK: When I say this s**t be feeling so unreal, I be feeling like I’m in a dream. Like, I be having to pinch myself and notice, like, “Oh, no, this is real life.” It’s like, me being from Chicago, and I always wanted to be an artist and doing things like this, I just feel like I’m living my dream. And I just want to inspire everybody else that want to do the same.

NH: I love that! Because you’re so young. I mean, you’ve been working on your music since you were around like 15, right? So in those five years, did it ever get hard and you were like, “I don’t know if I’m meant to do this”?

KK: To be honest, no, because I looked at the people I looked up to, and I listened to what they said, and a lot of them said you got to grind for it, everybody’s story be different. But you got to put that work in, you got to grind, you got to stay consistent. That’s the only way you’ll get what you want. So I always keep that with me and know my time’s gonna come, my time is here. Everybody got their time. I’m shutting down right now, it ain’t even really my time, but it’s my time! For real. So I’m just really blessed to be here, and being able to have an audience to really just look at my craft and take it in.

NH: And so being from Chicago … everything I read, a lot of it talks about being an openly gay rapper in Chicago. Was that scary for you?

KK: No. Why would it be scary? The boys coming to the yard!

NH: I mean, like pressure-wise, did you ever feel pressured to be a role model for other people? I’m sure, do you get DMs from kids about your story?

Kidd Kenn chats with Vocalo’s Nudia Hernandez following his set at Lollapalooza 2023.
 Morgan Ciocca/Vocalo Radio

KK: I do get DMs, I get all types of DMs from people telling me how I inspire them and my music inspires them, and it really touches me. What was the first question?

NH: I forgot, but that was the answer. It doesn’t even matter what the question was, because that was the answer! No, I was just saying, that’s what I meant by scared, like the pressure to kind of be a role model and not let people down and be successful.

KK: I don’t necessarily feel pressured. I just know I am. I know I’m a good role model, in music and just anything. B***h, if you follow after me, then b***h you got to be doing something good. So it’s not even really that, it’s just me being me. I just really be chillin.

NH: I love that. And also, there’s a lot of talk about your BET cypher. How was that as well? You’re so young to accomplish all these things!

KK: It’s really, really crazy. Me being a rapper, I always wanted to be a part of a cypher. So for it to be, my first cypher to be BET. When I say it was so crazy. I’m like, I’m gonna s***t on these b***hes. And that’s what I did.

NH: How much prep does that take to get ready for a cypher? Do you have to freestyle every day to yourself?

KK: Well, I always freestyle? I like smoke me a little blut, won’t lie, and I just freestyle just because it’s fun. But for the cypher, I’m like, I’m not gonna even force it. I’m gonna just be myself. I’m gonna take it as any other freestyle. And that’s what I did. I just went in there being myself.

NH: And also, we’re talking about the music. We’re talking about the looks. We’re talking about the deals. I mean, “Good Day” being featured by Target. How was that? 

KK: In Target! Target loves me. And the “Good Day” deal was, it was so amazing. It was my first time working with Target. It just made me look at stuff different, made me look at my music different, where it could really take me, what it could do for me. It was just crazy. Then for me to come back the next year later and have a doll with Target, it’s crazy.

NH: I know! We have pictures of the doll, you and the doll. It’s up on the ‘gram, it’s in the stories! We love it and so, I mean, “Good Day” is such a different song from the the “Milkshake” sample, “Better Than Yours,” right? It’s “Better Than Yours”? So what would you say your sound is? You have these inspirational songs, and then you have the twerk songs where we’re ready to go the club.

KK: To be honest, my sound is just really uplifting, positive music because, like you said, they both two different sounds, but when you really look at it, they’re both uplifting songs, confident songs. Make you want to feel good, get up and go outside and enjoy yourself and enjoy life and just make you remember, “I woke up this morning.” That’s really all that matters. So I like to make uplifting songs, fun songs.

NH: I love that! Well again, congratulations. 20 years old, here at Lollapalooza, what’s next for you? Where are you going?

KK: I’m going everywhere! I just dropped two singles, “Everywhere I Go” and “Coming.” I’m getting ready to drop a new EP called ‘Busy Being Bad.’ We acting bad all year. So I’m really just working on a lot and I really can’t wait for you guys to see it. But if y’all do want to see it, you gotta follow my socials. You got to turn your post notifications on, you got to keep up with the girl. That’s the only way you gotta be in tune.

NH: What’s the social at?

KK: Kidd Kenn, K-I-D-D, K-E-N-N. That’s me. 

NH: I love being able to talk to you. We can’t wait to see what’s next! Is it Lollapalooza another year in a row? What’s the goal?

KK: KennPalooza next year, too, I’m just waiting for them to call me. 

NH: Well, thank you so much! Again, Vocalo Radio back here at Lollapalooza with Kidd Kenn!

KK: Yo, what’s up? It’s me Kidd Kenn. Kenn, double N, Kenn, with your man, and right now you’re listening to Vocalo. Stop playin!

Kidd Kenn backstage at Lollapalooza, the day following his debut at the festival. Morgan Ciocca/Vocalo Radio

Keep up with Kidd Kenn on Instagram, and listen to his music on Spotify below.

Interview conducted by Nudia Hernandez

Audio editing by Nudia Hernandez and Morgan Ciocca, audio production by Morgan Ciocca

Video editing and production by Omi Salisbury

Photos by Morgan Ciocca

Written introduction by Imani Warren and Morgan Ciocca

Transcription and editing for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

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