MUSIC

Pre Kai Ro Is Ready to Take Over the World

The singer sat down with Popdust to talk about his new single, his relentless work ethic, and his plans for world domination

Born in Oman to Egyptian parents, Pre Kai Ro's complex music sensibilities can partially be attributed to his international upbringing.

pre kai ro - "el camino" prod. by olsem (Official Video) | kashkam www.youtube.com

During his childhood, he lived in Oman, Egypt, Ireland, UK, and Dubai, and was exposed to vastly different music as a result. "My environment was always split in the sense that inside the house, I was being exposed to purely African and Middle Eastern music," said the budding R&B singer. "[But] I was simultaneously becoming obsessed with Hip-Hop, R&B and Rock." Pre Kai Ro's production has always been dark and 808 heavy, but his voice is light and inviting, bouncing along effortlessly as he frankly discusses heartbreak, and his relentless grind for stardom. Popdust caught up with the singer to discuss his new single, "Baby Boy," and his plans for the future.

How did you find your sound?

When I was 10 I won a school talent show while living in Dublin after performing a rendition of "21 Questions" by 50 Cent. My mother was impressed but horrified. From then on, it was kind of a constant development of my sound and identity in music. It wasn't until 2016 while attending university in Nottingham, England when I [got serious]. I had spent years posting acoustic covers online, and already developed my sound [as a result.]

Did anyone, in particular, inspire you to get into music?

My biggest inspirations to this day are (in no specific order) Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Bon Iver, The Weeknd, and Future. I want to emulate their work and pay homage.

You've released a good deal of projects and have been grinding steady for a while now. What have you noticed change about your sound and creative process over the years?

For my first project, Mood with Olsem - an incredibly talented French man I consider my brother - we were at a point where the process was just extremely quick. He would send me a beat he just made and I would record in my room, usually with the first melodic and lyrical idea that came to mind. Tracks like "Queen of The New World" and "Need Me" would be finished in less than an hour. Our latest project, Vibe, was actually produced, written, recorded, mixed and mastered within 48 hours. Now that I'm focusing more on singles, the formula stays the same, but I'm trying to revisit certain songs to get them as "perfect" as they can be.

Was the process similar for "Baby Boy?"

I remember producer [Don Fuego] said he hadn't met an artist who could work as quickly as I did, so he gave me a challenge where he would nap for 30 minutes and expect a full ballad to be written by the time he woke up. I wrote about the turbulent artist life I'm living and how it seems to affect every form of relationship I have. "Baby Boy" is actually based on a culmination of messages I'd received from significant others about my absence as I continued to focus more on my career. Long story short, [everyone] felt "Baby Boy" had a certain magic about it.

What are your plans for the rest of the year? Tour? What can we expect from "King?"

My plans are to drop a single per month for the foreseeable future. I'm refusing to be limited by [everyone else's] expectations of me. I want to continue releasing the music that makes me and those around me feel something. If it doesn't move me, I refuse to let it move anybody else. I'm aiming for global domination, and that type of thing requires patience and careful planning.

Baby Boy

TV Features

RIP Naya Rivera: The Specific Importance of Santana to Femme-Presenting Gay Women

Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.

As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.

My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.

Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.

In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.

Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.

Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.

As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.

As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.

Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.

But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.

GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com

If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.

But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.

Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.

If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.

"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."

While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."

Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."

Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.

Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.

Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be

MUSIC

Bre Kennedy Releases Debut EP "Jealous of Birds"

The Nashville artist's debut project has finally arrived.

Jason Lee Denton

Bre Kennedy seems to have fallen in love with the idea of change—and she wants to share that love with anyone who'll listen.

The Nashville singer has already been featured twice on Popdust, making her own space for her folk-tinged pop and open-book lyricism. "Slippin" was a passionate jump into an unknown future and embrace of change. "Strings Attached," her follow-up single, examined change as the beginning of healing, as she learned to leave behind the things that weigh her down—however painful they might be. Kennedy's sense of self is constantly rewritten in these tracks, her sound earnestly flexing and expanding to match her emotionality. She delivers a catchy pop chorus as easily as a mournful reverie, and the range is crucial for what she's trying to say: Everything in her life is ephemeral. But to Kennedy, that fact makes these passing moments even more important to wrestle with. If her future's uncertain and she's meant to leave her pain behind her, then what is she meant to build herself with in the meantime?

Kennedy's debut EP, Jealous of Birds, provides a possible answer to that question. Picking up the themes that her singles set forth, the project is an exciting step for Kennedy, solidifying her talent as a burgeoning singer-songwriter while still keeping her focus as a narrator intact. The title track finds a golden mean between "Slippin" and "Strings Attached," welding her misty vocals and melancholy guitar to a layered, rising hook. The country-esque strings and building synth atmosphere unfurl the song under Kennedy's voice, bringing an almost cinematic clarity to her lyrics. "Between the good and the madness / It's hard to imagine we could stay this high," she confesses on the second verse, and that preoccupying impermanence rears its head again.

Kennedy is "jealous of birds" for their freedom, the ease with which they can leave the earth and all its constant changes behind. But the song distinguishes itself from the singles that heralded its arrival with its calm and cool reflection—not a pop-inflected excitement or a desolate mourning, but more of an honest acceptance. There's a maturity in the track that's just as engaging as her previous music, and it gives the rest of the EP's tracklist a greater sense of purpose.

On Jealous of Birds, Kennedy isn't quite as scared by the confusing exhilaration of growing older and growing up. The EP sheds an old way of life that doesn't fit her anymore. The project's best parts shine through in Kennedy's sense of balance, how she feels both freed and isolated in turn, as she reaches for something new. The highs are just as emotionally resonant as the lows for her, and she gives them each a gentle and generous nuance in her songwriting. Growth, change, and transformation: for Kennedy, the metaphors don't do reality justice. These things hurt. But, with her confident voice and stimulating pop sensibility, Bre Kennedy pushes forward into a future that belongs to her, even if she's unsure of her own destination. Jealous of Birds is the sound of flying.