California native Kesington Kross is not just your average newcomer to the music scene; he has the distinct honor of being the first artist in over two decades to be jointly signed by the hit-making duo of Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Antonio “L.A.” Reid. Audio Justice, with all songs written by Kross, is his new 5-track, multi-genre EP that is a mix of R&B, electro-funk, pop and more. SoulTrain.com spoke with the singer-songwriter about his music, its impact, and why he refuses to be “labeled.”
SoulTrain.com: You are the first artist in over 20 years that has the distinction of being jointly signed by Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and L. A. Reid. How does that feel? Is there any pressure at all?
Kesington Kross: It’s really amazing. I’m very honored. I definitely want to live up to that. I’m to the point now where the music is just about being sincere to my truth. The part where the pressure comes in is following behind such icons that have come before me. I’m living as the artist I was destined to be, and everything else is about honoring their legacy and respecting what they laid before me. That’s the biggest part to me. I think I’m strong enough and that I’ve been around the music industry long enough to know my capabilities.
SoulTrain.com: Your style has been described as “futuristic retro,” which, for some, can be deemed against type when it comes to an artist with Compton roots. What are your thoughts about that stereotype?
Kesington Kross: I don’t think I’m defined by any stereotypes at all. I think my situation is my situation. My roots and where I come from shape my vocal and my stage approach, and I implemented some elements of my upbringing in my music. I definitely don’t feel like I need to be pigeonholed into a box. There is kind of a rebel side to me where I feel like I push the envelope, and I think I have a responsibility as a black artist to not do something definitive to the run of the mill idea of what an African American artist would be.
SoulTrain.com: Whenever new artists hit the scene, there are sure to be inevitable comparisons. Some have already compared you to Miguel. Do you resent being compared to another artist?
Kesington Kross: I think people like to be able to compartmentalize their perspective. They need to be able to put things in a certain place. My music is abstract and I’d say some people would interpret Miguel as an abstract attribute to the music industry. But he has success and I’m honored to be able to come after someone who has been tried and true. I actually don’t have a problem with it. I will definitely prove myself, too.
SoulTrain.com: When did you become interested in pursuing music? How did this interest affect your approach?
Kesington Kross: My grandfather owned a record shop and he racked up an extensive amount of records with stuff from the 70s, and the late 60s, 80s and 90s. I found myself looking through records and listening to different artists from [David] Bowie to Chic. For my approach, I wanted to pay homage to the past as well as project a new sound that was applicable to the future.
SoulTrain.com: As you know, Babyface produces awesome duets. Are there any plans to collaborate with him in front of the mic?
Kesington Kross: We haven’t spoken about it, but if we could make it make sense to my aesthetic as well as his, and do something that goes together, I think that’s a great idea.
SoulTrain.com: Which song on Audio Justice do you think best describes who you are musically?
Kesington Kross: I like to address provocative topics and push the envelope. I also want substance behind it. I love everything, but the song that makes the most musical transitions is “Arabian Paradise” because it takes you on a journey and it goes through at least three genres. It’s a little bit on the abstract side and I like to play between the abstract and the commercial. The second runner up is “Carry On” because there is so much expression behind that record.
SoulTrain.com: What do you want music fans to get from the Audio Justice experience? What impact do you hope to make with your music?
Kesington Kross: I want people to have an emotional connection to music again. I want them to feel the nostalgia of an artist. I want them to feel the excitement the way they felt at a Prince concert or a Michael [Jackson] concert or a Madonna concert. I want that full-on artistry.
SoulTrain.com: What’s next for you? Any upcoming shows?
Kesington Kross: We’re gonna do a few dates and get out there a little more. I’m excited about that as well as getting up on stage.
SoulTrain.com: What impact would you say Soul Train has on music and culture?
Kesington Kross: From the style element of it, my mom would say that she would study to see what fashion trends would come around. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to witness it in my youth, but through my research and looking at old clips online, I will say that Soul Train has left a beautiful legacy of phenomenal artists.
Find out more about Kesington Kross and download the Audio Justice EP via his website.
LaShawn Williams is a freelance writer and entertainment enthusiast in Chicago. She is currently the Arts & Culture Editor for Gapers Block, focusing on theater, stand-up comedy, and dance. Follow her on Twitter at @MsWilliamsWorld.