The avant-garde woman of colour is a rare but beautiful creature. As a musician myself, it is refreshing to come across an artist who can remind us of the infinity of musical combinations without falling into the typical verse-chorus-verse structure we hear in popular culture, in all of it’s here-today-gone-tomorrow tracks. 19 year-old Kenza is one of the women contributing to the contemporary underground music scene. She is a singer and producer from Vancouver, British Columbia and her new EP, Adult Glorification, explores her view on the ups and downs of adulthood; a theme all 20-somethings can relate too.
The EP opens with ‘Speaking Thesis’, transcendent with loops and overlapping vocals, a piece that perfectly imitates the cycle of intoxication we’ve all experienced on a weekend out. On her journey and the making of Adult Glorification, Kenza says: “they always say a project isn’t the project you think it’ll be until it’s done and damn, is it true. Summer of 2016 started with recording a bunch of material hoping it would stick and make me feel like I was good at the one thing I ever wanted to be great at but those songs never came.”
‘Different Strokes’, the second track, was the stepping stone to the creation of this EP. “I was beaming off the typical teen recipe of vodka and Coke looking out the window from the top floor watching the city beam and I couldn’t be there for it: ‘City lights, they beam up… but it’s not for you’. I wrote ‘Different Strokes’ that week and it became the first song that pieced together my blurry vision.” We then shift into ‘Elton’s Intermission’, an alien-like electronic riff moving underneath a sampled loop, a stark contrast to fourth track ‘Good N’ Evil’, where Kenza’s vocals are front and centre and we hear her raspy but ethereal tone.
Being part of the WoC creating contemporary music, I was interested to know Kenza’s opinion on the industry, and society’s expectations of WoC working in it. “We get thrown into pre-existing norms set by PoC [people of colour] artists before us. It’s hard to branch out and create your own style when everybody’s looking to compare you to this artist, that artist. Artist identity is huge for PoC; a lot of the time they see us and think they know what they’re about to hear before actually listening.”
“The ups and downs of my adulthood are the intoxicated and sober moments intertwined with lust, with loneliness, with nothing and everything I love”
Musical influences for Kenza include Elis Regina, Stelvio Cipriani, Radiohead & Kanye West, music she listened to throughout the creation of Adult Glorification. “They all played a huge part because as good as their music is, I didn’t want my content to sound anything similar. It wasn’t about chasing the sound anymore, it was about chasing the emotion.”
On first listen of Kenza’s EP, I was immediately struck by the effective and diverse use of sounds effects and samples. Each song has a theme running through it but none of them sound the same; “the ups and downs of my adulthood are the intoxicated and sober moments intertwined with lust, with loneliness, with nothing and everything I love in between.” All the songs offer something different; a different part of the adolescent journey and a different part of her. Using her background in producing and her unique voice, she has created a distinctive and almost hallucinogenic sound, especially with tracks such as ‘Elton’s Intermission’ and ‘Indian Rubber’ which are sample led.
It is an interesting alternative for those willing to explore a freer, psychedelic genre of music. “Starting out as a techno producer with no commercial intent gives you this edge, I believe. You experiment with sounds you know you wouldn’t have touched if you felt you had something to get to.”
Nina Simone famously said: ‘the role of the artist is to reflect the times’, and Kenza has done this with Adult Glorification. In her lyrical and musical content she explores the emotional and physical state of the young mind approaching adulthood, in a style of music both striking and captivating.
Kenza’s full EP, Adult Glorification is available on Soundcloud now.