I’m waiting for the day I hear a new AutoTune rapper and I’m not immediately reminded of Swae Lee, Juice WRLD, Travis Scott and Fetty Wap. Today is not that day and Dro Kenji is not that man. Are you even surprised if you highlight that link and see he’s a Soundcloud rapper? I feel the need to clarify something though. The reason I cited four similar artists off the top isn’t just because every new emcee in the genre sounds like a clone of them — it’s because those four achieved a level of stardom their imitators can’t. One’s dead, one is headed for five years behind bars, and only one seems to not have any legal problems so far. Stardom in this field comes with a heavy price to pay.

I’d be ecstatic if Dro Kenji not only overcomes the odds of breaking out of the pack to become a mainstream success, but overcomes the pitfalls of being a rap superstar when he does. While he may not have a unique style or sound, he’s imitated it so well on “So What” featuring DC the Don that I wound up enjoying it. The list of producers on trending songs seems to keep getting longer and this one includes Census, Banrisk, Dynox, Spock, Morgn and Taz Taylor. I don’t even know who among them deserves the credit for the bass thump, change ups and musical sound of Kenji’s vocals. We can give Kenji 100% credit for his own verses though and they’re also not a surprise for this field. He’s paranoid, he’s heavily armed, and he’s living it up.

“Okay, I’m up, I’m wide awake; I see the phony and the fake
Niggaz mad cause I get paper, cool me down
She fuck rappers, I ain’t had to fly her to me
Don’t run down on lil’ Kenji, I keep big ass blickys with me”

When Kenji says “I get so damn high I think I seen an AC-130 I believe him. If there’s one other trademark of this genre it’s excessive use of both prescription and OTC medication, which is how we lost Juice WRLD so young. I can’t not worry about the health and longevity of this generation. That’s me showing my age at this point, because it’s not like I haven’t done crazy things when I was young and felt indestructible too. The number of rappers who get merked for nothing though or who get into trivial beefs that escalate into bloodshed has changed though. You should be able to be reckless in your teens and 20’s and live to see your 40’s and 50’s. The odds of that just keep diminishing.

Dro Kenji isn’t the right artist for this conversation though. There’s nothing about “LOST IN HERE” that suggests we can even have one. Young Kenji isn’t just comfortably in this lane, he is the lane. He’s already gone up the tier list of AutoTune rappers from F to at least B. His videos can be expected to do 100,000 views in a week and a million in a year. That’s not S tier super viral but with those kind of numbers he can get distribution, move enough units to live comfortably, and do large tours as a supporting act or small tours as a headliner. He’s not worried if he winds up in the “BONEYARD” since his time is right now and he’s only trending upward.
“I don’t do no friends, baby suck on my dick through the grapevine” quips Kenji with the confidence of someone who already made it. Then the paranoia creeps right back in again. “My inner thoughts tend to torture (me).” Are you living the life of getting head on demand, or fearing the next person to blow you will blow your brains out? It doesn’t have to be either or in Dro Kenji’s case. It can be both at the same time. The music on “BONEYARD” even rides on without him, presumably as he’s either lost in his own head or on his way to another orgasm via the other head. It’s actually somewhat unique to let an instrumental go on this long when sub two minute songs are the norm so I give Kenji props for that.
It’s also interesting that one of the most interesting cameos is Mike Dimes, who has the same cadence as Dro Kenji on “Step Back” but doesn’t modulate a single note of his vocals. “I’m Mike Dimes, I never go wine and dine, I think that’s a waste of time.” Okay so he’s a misogynist but at least he’s honest about it, and there’s a sense of humor to his wordplay. He wound up stepping off the page into my ear in a way I want to hear more of his work. As far as his partner-in-rhyme goes though I can say Dro Kenji succeeds on “LOST IN HERE” at delivering exactly what you’d expect — no more and no less. His music is not an evolution, a revolution, or any kind of solution. It’s just the same nihilistic world view of a generation that grew up in a world where you had to live it up fast because Death comes even faster.
Dro Kenji :: LOST IN HERE
7Overall Score