Welcome to COSIGN, where I’ll present a group of fresh and invigorating talent that does more than just add to the conversation of who’s next, they advance it! There’s something intangible they possess. It’s more than just hustle. This collective group simmer on the edge of fame and notoriety not only because of their skill and ambition, but because they did more than just wish on a star
Peep: Kenton Dunson quit his job as an investment advisor during the height of the recession to do what?… wait for it… become a rapper! (No, seriously) After three years of the corporate world, the Maryland native got tired of putting his love for music on the back burner, or in his mind, after 5pm. After much thought, the rapper/producer gave his two weeks and chucked his professional deuces.
Three mixtapes and three years later, Dunson found his lane, but not without struggle. On his latest mixtape “The Investment” sonically blends feel good music with honest, vulnerable lyrics–a contrast not often heard in hip hop. He phoned in fresh off his Philly show. We chopped it up about everything from the time he couldn’t afford a haircut to the moment when his homeboy and mentor John (that’s John Legend to you) asked him to open up a show for him. We even bonded over our mutual hate for that b*tch Sallie Mae. C’mon ya’ll..this one is worth the investment (pun intended)
What music did you grow up listening to?
I think the first record I had was Kool Moe Dee’s “Wild Wild West” and then Michael Jackson’s “Bad” but I’m from a musical household so I also listened to a lot of the old-soul music. Anita Baker, Earth Wind & Fire all the normal stuff you hear in a Black household. As I got older, I loved pretty much every production Timbaland put out, Wu-Tang, Outkast things of that nature. You can sprinkle a little bit of rock in there too because my dad used to listen to Black Sabbath and Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was pretty well-rounded.
When did you realize you could rap?
I didn’t realize until my college years. I was selling beats over the Internet because I was doing production first. The return I would get on my tracks, the rappers just wouldn’t do it justice. So I started rapping on my own stuff and people started responding to it. At the college parties they would pass me the mic. It wasn’t until college I realized I could rap and people would like it.
Was the first verse you wrote O.D. corny?
The first verse I wrote was very corny. [Laughs] I can’t even remember. I know I was talking about TVs in my car and rims. I was a broke college kid, so I had no reason to talk about that. [Laughs] Yeah, it was corny, I’m not even gonna lie.
When did you make the decision to stop working in finance and start doing music fulltime?
I was the first person in my family to have a degree, so going on to work at that firm was a big step. I stayed there for three years and got all my broker’s licenses but music was still in me. Every night I was either making a track or playing out with some local band just to get my music fix and then I would wake up tired in the morning. So I saved a little bit of money over that three-year period and then it hit me. I didn’t have any obligations. My family fully supported me because they knew I was doing music from the jump, so I just decided to take that leap.
Did you tell any of your co-workers you were going to quit and become a rapper? What did they say?
[LAUGHS] Yeah, I did. Some people’s reaction were like ‘oh, good luck!’ Others were like, ‘oh…okay.’ But I had a couple good friends that really knew me and knew my passion. I had some support and some haters, but that’s to be expected. For someone to leave their job and to become a rapper… some people thought I was crazy, but you have to be crazy to do this stuff.
On “It’s Alright ” the chorus is “If you got a dollar in your pocket don’t know where your profit coming from next scream out yeah, It’s alright” Sounds like you got student loans, brotha? You got loans?
[LAUGHS] Yeah, Sallie Mae just emailed me actually.
Yo Sallie Mae! I don’t f*ck with Sallie Mae!
I don’t f*cks wit Sallie Mae neither [Laughs] That’s where it comes from, like man, These bills never stop coming. So I understand the grind. Yeah…woo! I don’t like her!
When you have moments when you don’t know where your next dollar is coming from, do you regret leaving the finance world?
For a minute, I felt the pressure. It was late 2010 and I lost my car, my crib, I had to move back in with my folks. I was so broke, I couldn’t even afford a haircut, so if you look at the cover of my mixtape on my blog called “Creative “Destruction, there’s a picture of me looking like a freakin’ criminal. I had a crazy beard but I wanted to capture that because I didn’t feel sorry for myself. I named it “Creative Destruction” which is an economic term that means one technology killed the next. The CD player killed the tape player and so on, but for me, it meant by choosing to be a creative person fulltime, you may destroy your well-being. I actually accepted it and put that vulnerability out there. I didn’t feel sorry for myself, I felt liberated.
So you quit your job, grind it out for a bit, and then you opened for John Legend. How is crazy is that?
That’s crazy because I started listening to him in college when he was rocking with Kanye. There was something about him that made me really relate to him. When I met him a couple of years back, he was interested in what I was doing, so much that he gave me a hug, invited me to work on one of his remixes for him, and asked me to open up for him. He’s a really open guy. We have a lot of similarities, but he’s gone on to become the status I hope to become only in the hip hop world. I’m fortunate to be able to call him one of my boys. He just drops certain gems on me every now and then. Honestly, John is like a role model. To be that talented and to be that humble is a rare combination.