Kesington Kross Talks Babyface’s Support, ‘Audio Justice’ EP & Childhood Obsession [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
If 26-year-old singer-songwriter Kesington Kross is anything, he’s confident. Ask him why the labels he’s signed to, Epic and LaFace, are effectively betting the farm on him and he replies matter-of-factly, “Because I have a well-defined vision as an artist,” grinning all the while. “Because I know who I am and they believe in that and my abilities. I think it’s just my time and I’m blessed.”
It was in the winter of 2012 that the Los Angeles native, also known as KES, joined the Epic family and just last December, he dropped his debut EP, ‘Audio Justice.’
What exactly does “audio justice” mean? “It’s about paying homage to our past, paying homage to musicality, paying homage to transitions and progressions as an artist but also making it relatable,” Kross explains. “[It's about] being that bridge between the youth and the legends, the EP speaks to that, that’s why I called it ‘Audio Justice’ — It’s justice for the radio. Justice for the music.”
KES is about bridging the gap between past and present and it’s apparent in his music. Sonically the ‘Audio Justice’ EP features a persistent thread of funk pop reminiscent of Prince songs like ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘Raspberry Beret.’ You’ll also hear the influence of other pop acts of the past like Depeche Mode and David Bowie.
On the day of our interview, the ‘Gimme Your Love’ creator sits with his John Lennon-esque circular shades perched on the bridge of his nose, his hair parted to one side — even KES’s appearance is a cross between the past and the present. “Eighties music is in my blood,” he admits. “My grandfather owned a record shop in the late ’70s but he closed it down around the time I was born.”
“He had his whole catalog in the garage so I used to go out there and fish through his records,” the entertainer explains. “I wasn’t supposed to be back there but I learned how to work the record player and listen to music. The only thing at my disposal were artists like Rick James, Phil Collins and Prince. So I would just sit on the floor of the dirty garage playing records by myself. That’s really what started my obsession with artistry.”
Watch Kesington Kross’ ‘Gimme Your Love’ Video
It’s an obsession that has turned into a career for the young musician. With industry heavyweights like L.A. Reid and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds in his corner, he’s poised to be the next thing. According to Kross, he and Babyface had been working together, writing, for some time before the veteran saw enough in him to have him jump in the booth. “I was like, ‘Whoa, I wasn’t prepared to do that but let’s go,’” he says, smiling.
“So I go in the booth to sing it and he’s like, ‘Just let go. Just do your thing,’” KES recalls. “So I just put my heart on the table and in the booth and just let all my inhibitions down and sang. He said, ‘Wow, you’re not just a writer, you’re an artist and I can’t promise you anything but I’m gonna send your stuff over to L.A. Reid and see what happens. L.A. Reid came out a week after and I was signed.”
That’s pretty much all there is to Kesington Kross — a whole lot of grinding and equal amounts of inspiration. So much has happened over the past year that he’s already planning for what he’d like to happen in the next 365 days: build an album from the 45 songs he has stashed and waiting, then go multi-platinum. “My music is for everybody,” he says with a slight shrug of his shoulders. “I wanted the music to make sense to the pop listener, the alternative listener and the urban listener and I think we achieved that with ‘Audio Justice.’”
With Kesington Kross next up, consider justice will no doubt get served.
Listen to Kesington Kross’ ‘Audio Justice’ EP