Kennedy Mosley is not your average Ball State undergrad. She is a rapper, performing under the name ameriKKKen; and at the age of 20, she’s released a full-length album, “Khaotic.”
She's performed in front of Cardi B, Chance the Rapper, T.I., and Snoop Dogg on the Netflix series “Rhythm and Flow,” and recorded at WFYI for this month’s “Small Studio Sessions.”
Let's start with the name – ameriKKKen. Mosley says she decided on her stage name to flip the dreaded KKK acronym into a humanitarian message.
“When it came to me choosing my stage name, I wanted my artist name to have meaning,” Mosley says. “So the ‘K-E-N’ part is because my name is Kennedy. But the name itself is to shed light on the negative and political side.
I’m always about taking negatives and turning them into positives, even in the lyrics of my songs,” she says. “So even though it is KKK, the positive side of that is ‘Knowledge and Kindness is Key.'”
Mosley says her optimistic approach to life – turning negatives into positives – was shaped while growing up on Indianapolis’ far Eastside, an area caught between a sharp confluence of constructive and destructive forces.
“It shaped me a lot,” Mosley says. “I went to Warren Central, which has one of the best football teams, marching bands, and color guard departments. I know the Eastside, and the far Eastside specifically, tends to get a bad rep - but that alone is able to prove that there is good, and there are positives.
There’s a lot of youth out there organizing marches to stop the violence. Even outside of Warren Central the positives and negatives have helped shape me into who I am, and the positives and negatives that I represent,” she says.
Mosley’s working class roots are evident in the music she creates. Her debut single, “The Come Up,” comments on the frustration of working a dead-end, 9 to 5 job.
“That’s one of my favorites because it’s more personal and vulnerable,” Mosley says. “It’s about my struggle. It’s about not wanting to work a regular job for the rest of my life. I want music to be something that is my full-time job.”
That struggle for self-actualization in the face of capitalism’s demands can often lead to depression, Karl Marx called it the “theory of alienation.” It’s a condition Mosley has dealt with, and confronts in her song “Swimming.”
Ostensibly a tribute to rapper Mac Miller, who died of an accidental drug overdose in 2018, “Swimming” finds Mosley trying to make sense of life’s tragedies – turning negatives into positives.
“Depression is something I’ve always struggled with,” Mosley says. “When Mac Miller passed, I took it pretty hard. It was just ironic to me how his last album was titled ‘Swimming,’ and I pretty much just took that as regardless of what you’re going through in your struggles and everything, just keep swimming, just keep going.”
Mosley’s performance for WFYI’s “Small Studio Sessions” captures a young artist searching for a career breakout, and a young person searching for meaning in a chaotic world.
Find ameriKKKen's entire performance at wfyi.org/smallstudio.