Kenyetta Lee Frazier Jr.- known to the worldas Ken Carson – is one Atlanta artist that continues to solidify his position amongst the pioneers of the new school. At 22 years of age, Carson is part a the movement of young artists that have penetrated the scene, with energetic and emotive acoustics trailblazing the way for a new era of creativity that sees itself not only within music but fashion and the culture of today. Rising into the Rap scene as a protege of Playboi Carti, who signed Carson to his Opium label after hearing just three songs, Ken has followed in the steps of his fellow ATL native, garnering a fanbase worldwide. Also home to Destroy Lonely and Homixide Gang, Carti’s Opium label has a cult following – and so does Ken.
Considered one of the leaders of the emerging sound of modern Rap, 2022 saw Ken headline the Trapstar stage at London’s Wireless festival in Crystal Palace, followed by his album, ‘X’, executively produced by Carti himself. Featuring his fellow Opium signees, the album blends Trap production with the more alternative sub-genres of Rap. His sonics represent the modern day sound of his city, with each element influenced by the lineage of ATL creatives, particularly eccentric innovators like Young Thug and Andre3000. Following an epic shoot – co-starring Dejah the dog – Carson speaks to VIPER, giving us an insight on his early days in the studio, what his hometown’s legacy means to him and how he created a lane of his own.
Atlanta music was gaining momentum when you were growing up, what was that like?
I used to be in everybody’s studio sessions, from Future to Young Thug to Yachty to Carti. It’s endless but I’ve been in the music scene since I was like 13 or 14 years old, this was before I even decided, “do I want to rap or make beats?” But then my swag was just so crazy, I was like, “I can’t make no beats man, they gotta see this shit.”
What was the craziest shit you saw in the studio at that time?
I ain’t gonna say no names but somebody mother fucking lit fireworks under the engineer, that was crazy.
With the whole production side of things, you wanted to be more front-of-house but Atlanta is a place where producers can be infamous on an artist level.
Yeah like 808 Mafia, Lil 88 is in the back; that’s TM88 and Southside’s nephew. That’s how I got into everything, I was on the phone with a girl and he was on the other end. I’m like, “Who the fuck is that?” It was him and I was watching 808 Mafia videos, while we’re on the phone and he’s like, “that’s my uncle.” I’m like, “No, it’s not.” We were young as fuck so he was blunt as fuck, he just put them on the phone and I was like, “Yo, I’m trying to come over there and work!” I don’t know what I was trying to work on. But I was trying to come over there and work no matter what it was. I just needed to get around and then find my niche and you evolve after a while. Now I’m here. Me and Lil 88 were the youngest in every room we were in; so it’s a super advantage.
Do you think you still would have ended up doing music today if you lived anywhere else?
I feel like Atlanta definitely saved me. So anywhere else probably would have been not as much help because I was seeing people make the greatest songs and shit. So I damn near know how to do it just from watching. That’s how I learn, once I watch someone do something. I didn’t really know how to do it myself.
Your sound isn’t Trap per-se but it still represents Atlanta’s sound.
Yeah, I’m not Trap music but I’ve got a song that you could be like, “this is trap music” but I feel like I’m more versatile than the average Trap artist. I’m making melodic shit, I’m making rock shit, EDM, whatever I feel like today. Nobody might hear it but I’m literally making everything. It’s super evolved right now, it’s not just Trap. You’ve got a lot of motherfuckers from Atlanta, the list is endless. You could probably tell me some people from Atlanta I didn’t even know were from Atlanta.
The lineage is crazy too like how Future was in Dungeon Family sessions, there’s no distinct line between Trap and the more alternative sounds like OutKast.
See that’s even more different, I’m gonna use Future for example, Atlanta is it’s own dimension. Future’s got albums and mixtapes that nobody outside of Atlanta heard because it was a gas station CD back then; you would go to the gas station and get a fucking mixtape. It’s not that easy anymore – well it’s easier – but in Atlanta at the time, that was a great time. That’s Atlanta. Like I just told you, Lil 88 uncle’s Southside and TM88, they’re like my uncles too now because I’ve been around so long but everybody’s somebody in Atlanta whether you’re a bum or you’re rich. Everybody is somebody so nobody underestimates anyone; anyone could be next from Atlanta, you’ve just got to work.
What was the breakout moment for you?
I’m not gonna lie, Carti told me he wanted to sign me before I was even on my third song. I played him one song and showed him my Instagram, he was like, “bro, I want to sign you.” I was just around him ever since. That was definitely it.
What was the biggest challenge in your come up?
The struggle in Atlanta was being different at the time because I feel like Atlanta is so fucking one way. Artists like me, Lonely and Carti, we’re ventured off – some people probably don’t even know we’re from Atlanta. But it’s like a different vibe, Atlanta usually takes the most Trap artists and gives them the most power, whether it’s the best or the worst. They just like whoever they’re fucking with, whoever’s from down the street.
On the production side of things, at that time were you finding beats that sounded like what you wanted them to sound like?
Of course, I used to be in a studio with Southside until maybe eight every day, literally. So they’re making all types of beats and making beats for everybody so I’m hearing shit. At one point I would wake up and just play beats and make songs in my head just to be like, “do I really know how to do this?” before I even got to a microphone. TM88 could tell someone, I was staying at his house. Every morning I’m in the basement with a phone to my ear, not even any headphones in, I’m just walking around pacing. I might be pacing for hours, just listening to beats. The music thing is definitely who works on it the hardest. Because when you’re just passionate about it and you just want to make music, the songs end up being hard. Don’t even focus too much on which way you’re going or anything, let the people choose.
This is an extract from the SS23 issue of Viper Magazine. Buy physical and digital copies here.
Photography: EDDIE CHEABA
Words: LILY MERCER
Styling: JAMES LOACH + NAVINDER NANGLA
Photography Assistant: LUKE ROWAN
Gaffer: WILBERT LATI
BTS photography: THANKSRUCCI
Videographer: MACKENZIE QUICKE