For all the amazing music coming out of Atlanta, the city rarely repeats itself. The latest example is Keenon Rush, an Ellenwood native whose Citizen Keen EP Stream drops today. Rush is a bona fide musician, having graduated from gospel choir to instruments to FL Studio on his artistic journey. His production is driving, percussive, and often alien—but the lyrics are set in the dirt and sweat of everyday life, the trials and tribulations of a young soul finding his way.
Rush's realism is rooted in lessons learned—album standout "PSA" confronts the difficulty of translating academic success to real-world comfort, while the bassy, aggressive "Rosebud" re-frames the come-up as a rat race. He's brutally honest about the frequency of broken dreams throughout Citizen Keen, but now they sound like a memory rather than an obstacle.
As for the title? "Charles Kane became manipulative, vengeful, and successful," Rush told us. "A lot of those emotions/characteristics overlap, especially in our society today. I'm taking a spin on how they interpreted that ideology and presenting it through the lens of a black millennial."
Read our Q&A with Rush and stream Citizen Keen below, or on your service of choice here.
Where are you from? How did you get into music?
I'm from Atlanta, Ga. More specifically Ellenwood. I got involved in music at a very early age. My grandma had us singing in the church early, so I learned quickly how powerful music was. It was something that came easy to us just from being around it so much. At that early age, like seven years old, you want to be everything and do everything. I was like that, but at the same time I always knew music was something I wanted to do.
So me my lil bro and older cousin would sing in church services, anniversaries, banquets and really be killing it because of our confidence and stage presence. Shit, we slick had some buzz in the city no cap. I started taking that confidence and focusing on other types of music besides gospel. I was taking music classes, and learned a few instruments. Once I got my hands on Fruity Loops in fifth grade I was legit tryna make it big.
What's the inspiration behind "PSA'? What was the job you left?
"PSA" was raw emotions that later revealed themselves as something that would bump in people's speakers. The beat is so minimal but the chords gave a dope dynamic, so as soon as I made it, me and the homies were just freestyling about life. I feel like what drew me to say those things and call it "PSA" was the energy it gave. It's like a trap song that almost has a "wake up call" vibe to it. A real-ass public service announcement.
I didn't decide to quit my job, I was let go. Which was cool because I took it as a sign to go even harder in what I'm creating. The job was dope though, because I got to intersect powerful movers and shakers in the city, educators in the arts. Which is something Atlanta is lacking.
You produced the EP as well... what's your process like as a producer as opposed to when you write lyrics?
Its funny you ask that because I've been reading this book about habits, and really been thinking about that lately. I like to think music is emotion and each song is a mood. So when I'm producing, I'm seeing a finished product—I see the mood. I can get an idea of what I want to talk about and what some dope visual component would look like. I might knock a few beats out like that, where I jump from vibe to vibe creating different things.
Sometimes the lyrics come to me quick and I just make a dope ass song from start to finish. Other times, I just come back to like 15 beats and listen through and see which one is on my current wavelength and decide to dig deeper, maybe tell a story, or just rant on some trap shit.
Why do you relate to Citizen Kane?
I think every millennial does. Everyone wants to have that "rise from the ashes" or "I got it out the mud" story where we overcome the world's woes and level up on those who doubted. I think Citizen Kane points out how easy it can be to lose yourself on that journey where you're trying to gain so much power and notoriety. Charles Kane became manipulative, vengeful, and successful. A lot of those emotions/characteristics overlap, especially in our society today. I'm taking a spin on how they interpreted that ideology and presenting it through the lens of a black millennial.