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First Look Friday: Believe In The Raw Honesty Of Kenneth Whalum

Photo by Bryon Summers for Okayplayer

To those who really love and appreciate good music in whatever form it may reveal itself to be — there is no way that you can miss out on the talents of Kenneth Whalum.

The multi-talented musician, celebrated arranger, singer, saxophonist, and impressive songwriter — Kenneth Whalum has helped shaped the live elements for some of the industry’s biggest stars. From Jay Z (“Roc Boys”) to Maxwell to Beyonce, this Memphis, Tennessee craftsman has cultivated a new sense of emotional fragility with his skill set.

As the artist and the creative force continues to grow, Kenneth Whalum has stepped up to center stage to deliver his own truth in melody. After receiving rave reviews for his debut effort, To Those Who Believe, a self-released project from 2010 — Kenneth Whalum has doubled-down on his atmospheric style with his second album entitled Through Hell & High Water, which is slated for release this winter.

Maturing into the brand of originality that he calls his own, Kenneth Whalum merges jazz, soul, R&B and real life into a way that harkens back to a purer, non-manufactured way of imagining sounds and tones. His single, “Away,” which explores hope and the roots of home, was buoyed by a stellar verse from Def Jam recording artist Big K.R.I.T. The two acts similarly possess a unique sense of awareness that charms the listener in a way that others have a hard time doing.

His most recent effort, “Ghost Town,” which premiered early this November on The FADER, finds Kenneth Whalum crooning about the adventures of falling in and out of love. “I wanted to express the what ifs of a relationship,” he explained to the publication over email. “The song is written from the space of final judgment of that given relationship. It’s the moment of suspension between the overview and the end. The deliberation period.” Over a swelling wash of piano riffs and hard drum hits, Kenneth Whalum gives his assessment of love in a way that is haunting and ethereal.

Intense, artistically real, and not afraid to push past the conventional methods of other acts, Kenneth Whalum is a force to be reckoned with. In other words, you should get familiar with his work before its too late. Armed with a personal connection to those who have come before us, Kenneth Whalum is the amalgamation of perfect improvisation, hip-hop, soul, R&B and honesty.

Without further ado, we’d like to present this week’s First Look Friday interviewee, Kenneth Whalum.

>>>Listen to ‘Ghost Town’ on Pg. 2…

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is the managing editor of Okayplayer. His top three MCs are: 1) Andre 3000, 2) Scarface, and 3) Black Thought. Debate him on Twitter @KevitoClark.

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