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7 July, 2006@12:00 am

Let’s face it, first impressions are important. Whether it’s a first date or a debut album, they set the tone of our opinions and are very hard to change. Maybe that’s why Kenn Starr is a self proclaimed perfectionist. The work may be long hard, but the rewards for an impeccable album are even greater.

With the recent release of his new mixtape, “The Starr Report,” and his solo debut, “Starr Status,” about to drop, for Kenn Starr, there’s little room for error. Carefully crafted with a small army of emcees; The Foreign Exchange, Cesar Comanche, and Big Pooh, to some of today’s top underground producers like Ill Mind and Khrysis, to name a few, Starr reports, “If you don’t like the record, it’s gonna’ be because of me.” But don’t count on that happening. You’ve been in the game for a while, but what took so long for the, The Starr Report, to come out?

Kenn Starr: The delay on the album, that’s the golden question. There’s a lot of different factors involved, but I would blame it on me being a perfectionist. People have heard me say it a million times in different interviews and on songs, but you only get one chance to make your first impression. Back when the Half Tooth compilation came out ["IF"], my buzz was a bit bigger because of the single with Asheru and Kweli. That would have been the ideal time to drop my solo record, but I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have strong enough material. I just wanted to make sure that my first album was something that I could stand behind 100%. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. I’m not going to be there to explain, “Well these were the circumstances that the album was created and this is why this sounds like it does.” I needed it to be able to stand alone and represent me proper. I’m just trying to get it right and certain people that I was trying to get involved then, work schedules… It was one thing after another. I’m just glad that we finally got it ready to go. First impressions are important. You have to make sure that you have the right rhymes, hooks and people [if any] are on the album. Did you get all of the collaborations on the album that you wanted?

Kenn Starr: Actually, the original blue-print for the album didn’t quite match up with the final out come. I look at it as things happening for a reason. I think the lesser amount of guest artists is going to be beneficial, because it will place more of the focus on me. One of the biggest criticisms about a debut record is that there’s guest appearances all over it. I feel like the fact that it was kept to a minimum is ultimately a good thing. A lot of the time in hip-hop, people become frustrated by not being able to focus directly on the emcee’s skills. They’re only limited to hearing a few bars opposed to an entire track.

Kenn Starr: There are no distractions. I’m not looking to ride off of any one’s talent or name to establish myself. What you see, is what you get. If you don’t like the record, it’s gonna’ be because of me. But that won’t happen, right?

Kenn Starr: Anybody that is familiar with my work and has felt anything that I’ve put out… It’s that times two.

HipHopSite: How does working on a mixtape compare to putting together an album?

Kenn Starr: Any of the mixtape D.J.’s that I’ve worked with can tell you that it’s a struggle for me. I’m not the kind of cat to have a bunch of extra versus lying around, or that can write stuff on the spot. I’m a thinker. It’s all a part of my creative process and it takes me a while to put stuff together. So because of that I haven’t done a whole slew of different mixtape appearances. I guess in a sense, I’m stingy. I don’t want to just give certain stuff away on a mixtape, but that’s something that I had to get out of myself. It’s a part of the game. You have to get out there and promote. Ultimately that could be someone’s first time hearing me, so I don’t want to give them a lack of performance. I don’t want them to hear Kenn Starr for the first time on a mixtape and be like, “He was aight’.” So I have to train myself to come correct on any project, no matter how small or large. Doing the mixtape definitely helped me put that aspect into perspective.

HipHopSite: Since you represent Virginia, you’ve got that V.A. connection with Little Brother, The Justus League and others. Did those artists reach out to help you on the album?

Kenn Starr: No, actually those people are featured on the mixtape. The joint with Big Pooh ["The Future"], was off of the Cesar Comanche album. Of course, I did a track with Phonte from Foreign Exchange. Yeah, those people that you mentioned have shown me love. Sometimes you want to come at people and things don’t work out for what ever reason. But I’m definitely looking forward to working with them again in the future. The mixtape sounds well put together. The beats sound like they could be songs themselves. Did you have a lot of input, as far as, production?

Kenn Starr: No not really. I’m the type of artists, as far as, the producer… I’m going to let you do what you do. I know what it’s like to have some one’s input compromise my vision. Or sit over my shoulder while I’m trying to write my rhymes, telling me where and how to say things. That’s cool in certain recording situations when the input is called for. I get the checks after the fact, when it’s done. How I hear it is how I record it. I don’t often at times ask people, “Can you change up this snare?” or “Can you make this fade in our out?” I let them do that. That’s they thang. The sonic landscape on the album is all credit due to the producers. Was it you or the label that picked the producers for the album?

Kenn Starr: That was all on me. Obviously, you have my in house cats from (Low Budget), so that’s a natural thing. Those joints came out really easy. Other cats that I reached out to, like Ill Mind, Khrysis, and M-Phazes; these are cats that I had already had working relationships with. I just wanted them to be a part of the project. Lyrically, a lot of your tracks are more positive. Is this the second coming of the “Shining,” with that 87′-95′ sound? There’s more emphasis put on the lyrical content than having a tight beat and hook.

Kenn Starr: I’m hoping that people will hear the project and that’s the vibe that they get from it. I would love to help contribute to that movement, to bring it to the fore-front because I think that it’s actually lacking on the scene right now; that focus. It does seem like a lot of cats are starting to bring that back. I’m more than willing to be one of the torch bearers. How do you think that you’ve developed in your style? Have there been times when you’ve had to step back and examine what’s going on around you?

Kenn Starr: Definitely. That goes back to when I first started working on the record, to when I finished. I tend to go through fazes as an emcee and a writer. I experiment with different flows, cadences, and styles. There’s certain tracks that didn’t make the album because they felt out dated. Not sound wise, but as far as where I was musically. I thought that it would have been too much of a contrast. I felt like over the past couple of years with my style… There’s always room for improvement. I strive to be the best emcee and writer that I can be. I think that there’s a definite difference in my skill level from then and now. I think that the album is going to show that. As an independent artist, do you feel that alternative media outlets like MySpace, give you a more personal connection with fans?

Kenn Starr: Most definitely. The whole MySpace thing was a turning point for me. Before it, I didn’t know how many people were checking for me. It was such a surprise. It’s crazy! I would never have thought that many people knew of me or had heard any of my material. It’s great that people can just reach out and holla’ at you, giving you props for what you do. At the same time, I still feel that it’s a double edged sword. Being an artist, you don’t always want to be too accessible to the people. It’ so easy to contact someone directly, I guess that people feel like that gives them a right to treat you a certain way. Some take a few exchanges as a full blown friendship. A lot of times people feel that because you’re so easy to reach, you should feel obligated to do things for them. I get a lot of requests to make appearances. Some people are taken back when I respond to them from a business stand point. I sometimes have trouble making them understand that, though we’re all in it and do it for the love of the game, at the same time it’s a business. We’re all trying to reap the finical benefits of doing this. We can’t do everything for free. With me personally, I’m not at the point where I can be charging cats an arm and a leg, but at the same time, I’m at a point where I shouldn’t have to collaborate for whom ever for free. I don’t think that cats should take offense if I say, “Holla’ at my management and we’ll work something out.” That’s not me blowing you off, that’s just me trying to handle things in a business type of manner. First and fore most, if I’m not feeling your music, then it’s not going to happen. It just gets tiring. There are a lot of talented cats out there, but then there’s significantly more non-talented individuals. I guess it’s hard to give criticism with out people feeling like you’re up on a pedestal. It’s not that I think that I’m better than anyone else. I’m sure that there are people out there that don’t feel my music. It’s all a matter of opinion. I just try to extend that certain respect that’s given to me. The line between the artist and the fan has been blurred greatly because of the internet. It’s still a beautiful thing. I love that I can reach out and keep contact. It keeps me motivated, to keep doing what I’m doing. You mentioned that it takes you a while to write new material, but do you have anything else in the making?

Kenn Starr: I have a few, but I can’t really speak about them. There’s definitely going to be some more collaborative efforts. Me and Raks One, are going to do a joint over some old M-Phazes production. I’m also in the works of a project with another emcee. I can’t say the name right now. Some people already know, but we’re trying to keep it under raps until we get some more tracks down. I’m constantly working. I’m just trying to stay in the groove, so to speak. I’m trying to keep making music, there’s no time for hiatus. What makes you stand out more versus the next emcee?

Kenn Starr: Honestly, and what’s funny about this question is that people are shocked by this answer. I don’t think that it’s anything significant that separates me from the rest of these cats out here trying to do their thing. All I can offer is my own unique perspective on things. I honestly feel that if people just listen, they’ll like what they hear. I’m not looking to change the game or bring crazy ill concepts and stuff that you’ve never heard. The truth of the matter is that you have heard it before, but not the way that I do it. That’s the beauty of something like music; it gives us all a creative outlet to express ourselves. No body sees the exact same thing the same way. I’m hoping my individual flavor is something that people can feel.

  Mixtape D.L.
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