Atlanta, New York, Chicago, LA. These cities are known for their musical influence around the country as well as around the world. These cities are hotspots for the new generation of rappers. These musicians make it up the ranks with immense hard work and talent, as well as status. With more spotlight given to their city, it makes it easier for them to rise than other artists from less-known cities. Many cities in the U.S. have artists with a range of good artists, but due to their origin, they don’t make it to the mainstream. Boston is one of those cities, having many talented artists who put in the work but don’t get the amount of exposure popular music cities earn. But even through struggle and hardship, one artist from Boston, in particular, is slowly breaking the standard.
Kei is an artist from Boston, Massachusetts that was raised in Dorchester. She attended BLA and after high school started her music career. Her career has recently skyrocketed in Boston; winning the Best New Artist at the Boston Music Awards last year. I was lucky enough to get a chance to interview her and get a more eye-opening view of the scene.
So, during the early afternoon, I entered a video call with Kei and I got to learn more about her profession as well as her life story. Born on May 30th, 2000., a neighborhood in Boston known for its diverse community as well as being the biggest neighborhood in Boston. She attended the Emily A. Fyfield elementary school, moved on to the Roger Middle School, and transferred to Boston Latin Academy where she graduated in 2018. After high school, Kei decided to make a risky move and pursue music. “I didn’t think that I would be pursuing music. The way that I’m doing it today. I always had an interest in a whole bunch of different art mediums. I used to dance, I paint, I’m into fashion, interior design, and a whole bunch of different things…I used to write little songs and poems, and jingles. And, in my younger ages, I just somehow started doing music professionally, without even knowing that that’s the route that I was going to take in my life.” Like every artist, some take inspiration from the people closest to them. “And I’ve always kind of dabbled in music in some form as a kid because my dad produced music, even before I was born. “ Kei started her professional music career in July 2021 and has drastically grown since.
Now at the age of 22, Kei has made her way to the spotlight, producing and performing her music. I asked Kei if she believes the state of music in New England is improving. Are artists from this region finally getting the recognition that they deserve? “.. I think the New England or the Boston rap scene is in a very imperative state, where I feel like we’re in a growth period, and a lot of things are starting to become in motion.” Kei adds on by saying, “Before it wasn’t so much collaboration, where now everybody’s kind of coming together in unity, and creating the culture and exporting that influence not only in our communities but all of New England. And it’s extremely beautiful to watch and extremely proud and honored to be accepted and a part of a community like this.”
Many artists from the Boston area have the talent and dedication to make it up to the big leagues, like Kei. But sadly, for many artists in the area, that dedication and time in their craft come with sacrifice. For Kei, it’s hefty. “My sacrifice is I don’t have a job, and I don’t go to school. I focus on this 100%, this is the thing that I’m entirely invested in. So I don’t have a consistent form of income that fuels the things that I’m trying to do within my career..And it takes a lot of dedication and work and effort. I know that we’re living in an era where music and being a content creator are trending. And a lot of people want to pursue it. But I feel like not a lot of people understand the work that goes behind it. There have been hours where I spend 12 to like 15 hours in a studio, whether it’s making music or editing a video, and I’m extremely involved in the process. And if you’re someone like me, who has a specific vision, it takes a lot to execute those things. So yeah, I’m sacrificing everything.” But that determination is the reason why Kei is slowly rising.
Kei’s music has an interesting and vibrant sound which sets her apart from most rappers in the Boston area. With one listen you can hear and feel the energy. It comes in with a boom and doesn’t leave you disappointed. Though she takes inspiration from other artists like Rico Nasty, her sound is her own. Unique and powerful. During our interview, one thing we talked about was her experiences as a female rapper in the Boston area and her comment about the topic was really interesting. “I don’t feel like you need to sexualize yourself or portray yourself in those ways in order to be successful women, anywhere. It doesn’t mean it’s not only strictly in music, it could be in fashion, it could be in modeling. It could be anything you don’t have just because you’re a woman, you know, they have the saying that sex sells, I think a lot of things and I think that can change over time.”
Regardless of the spotlight or how many plays it has or what people may think of her music, one thing is clear Kei’s music means a lot to her and that could be seen through her determination as well as the way she talks about her music.
“Would you say music is a part of your identity or a major part of your identity?”
“I feel like externally, how people perceive me, yes, it is a major part of my identity. I feel like it’s important personally, I feel like it’s an important part of my identity. But I don’t think it’s a major part of who I am. Because my music isn’t who I am. My music is just how I express who I am. I feel like I express myself through my music. Through all my other arts that I create, to my personality, through my character, through my hair, through my expression, I feel like all parts of me are major parts of who I am.” At the end of the day, Kei is like any artist trying to make it to the big stage, they are filled with a lot of determination and passion. Though they may not receive the recognition they deserve, what they’re putting out there, is themselves, it’s their art. It’s something to be experienced by the author not for its popularity, but for its heart. That’s what these up-and-coming artists put out, their heart and soul. Which is the reason why they’re “Up and coming”.
Ending off my wonderful conversation with Kei, she gives advice for other young artists who are starting in Boston. “My advice to those who feel lost and feel confused as to what their path may be, or how to even steer themselves in the direction of the path that they want to be on. Understand that things are going to be confusing and that’s okay. This thing that we call life is a journey of us trying to figure things out. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be hard. You have to be able to push yourself in the good times. In the bad times, you can’t do this alone. It’s very important that you find your people when you find them; Or if you have trouble finding them, it’s feeling-based, you will know who your people are, you know, trust them, build with them, and stick together. Because I can’t do this by myself. You can’t do this by yourself. We can’t do this by ourselves, community and community is important. If you don’t have faith in God, because not a lot of people are religious, at least have faith in yourself. Because nobody will believe in you. If you don’t believe in yourself, you have to believe with your heart, your mind, your body, and your soul that whatever you want to do, you’re capable of doing. So just do it. Don’t question it. You know what you’re destined to do.”