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Dro Kenji Interview: New wave phenom stays true to himself on ‘WOWY’

Photos courtesy of Daniel Prakopcyk / Audible Treats

Dro Kenji’s place as one of the new wave’s most captivating voices was instantly heard on his breakout mixtape TEARS AND PISTOLS, as everything is “starting to fall into place” for the Internet Money superstar.

A little over a year ago, Dro was dropping SoundCloud cuts from his bedroom striving to capture the sound he’s ultimately cultivated. Now, as the South Carolina phenom shared his new album WITH OR WITHOUT YOU (Jan. 28), his diligence to his craft and one-of-a-kind talent are finally on full display for all to see.

WOWY is the fifth consecutive project from the MiraTouch signee in the past year — eclipsing over 10 million streams in its first week. Kenji’s latest effort is not only an assertion of his arrival as a blossoming, bonafide rapstar, but sees him shedding his skin as a former underground enigma.

“I don’t feel like there’s going to be a conversation like that for much longer,” Kenji said of his underground status. With a refined discography now under his belt, Kenji is looking toward brighter days, introducing himself for who he really is on WOWY.

“When WOWY was [coming together], I kind of wanted to continue this rock feel [I had], but because it’s an full-length album, Taz [Taylor] was like ‘nah, this has to be your face. It’s time for people to know who you are.’ Hearing that going into the album made me feel like ‘alright, I should make these songs realer.’ I wanted [WOWY] to be more than just surface level.”

Dro Kenji on WOWY

Stemming from his 2020 debutand three-project run in 2021 — Kenji’s star qualities are becoming more apparent with each passing release. With a knack for creating melodies that are seemingly second to none at just 20-years-old, singles in “VANISH,” “FINDERS KEEPERS” with Scorey, “USED2KNOW” (Feb. 24) and his latest “PUSH2START” (March 24) continue to bolster his presence as emo-rap’s crowned prince.

Among WOWY’s 15 tracks, emotive and heart-plagued songs in “BOTTLE 4 BOTTLE,” “PUSH2START” and “TIGHTROPE” all prove Kenji’s ability to effortlessly creating hits like it’s nothing. Adding Seattle up-and-comer Highway on “NEED YOU RIGHT NOW,” the two take a dark and light approach to each side of the track — floating over its ethereal, piano-led melody.

“WOWY is about being you, and being comfortable with being you with or without other people telling you what you can and cannot do. Every human being has different goals, has different concepts of what happiness looks… because of that, people will judge you — the world will try to change you, but you must continue to move in your own direction… I hope people learn how to make their life their own. I hope they learn how to make their time here something they are proud of.”

Dro Kenji on WOWY

Kenji’s last full-length LP FUCK YOUR FEELINGS not only reaffirmed the buzzing singer-rapper’s impact in the new wave, but assured his place at the top of hip-hop’s coveted emo-rap genre. Since finishing his first-ever tour in December, Kenji is still just getting started — striving to prove he’s the artist everyone should be talking about.

Check out our interview with Dro Kenji below!

JB: Five projects in one year, millions of streams, almost 2 million Spotify listeners… have you taken a step back to take in all the success you’ve seen in such a short amount of time?

Dro Kenji: “I feel like a lot of shit is starting to happen and starting to fall into place at the same time. I don’t find [the success] overbearing because what I would do anyways is make songs — it’s the basis of it all for me. I’m going to enjoy doing this forever and always.”

JB: You and Census have become power duo among IM creatives, what do you think contributes to your guys’ chemistry and the music that comes out of your collaborations?

Dro: “When me and Census got put in the same room together, we just always started working. It was just like we make fire shit… It’s like an unspoken fire. We can make crazy shit without having to like think about it too hard.”

JB: The entire album flows so nicely from top to bottom… What went into bringing Highway and Scorey on the album?

Dro: “My manager put me on to both of them, so we worked and then I ended up really fucking with them. We made some fire shit, me and Highway have hella fire songs in the vault. So it was like nah, I GOTTA put Highway on my shit.”

JB: So do you think fans will hear some more Dro Kenji and Highway in the future?

Dro: “Most definitely… The crazy thing is, is that not a lot of people are really fucking with the Highway song on the project. But, I feel like once people really hear Highway’s shit and really understand who Highway is, they’re gonna fuck with Highway.”

JB: The concept, “WITH OR WITHOUT YOU,” feels like a continuation of FUCK YOUR FEELINGS. Can you elaborate on what this album means to you comparing to your past projects?

Dro: “WOWY is like my representation of a full album. I wanted WOWY to sound greater as a whole, kinda like you said with cohesion and how the songs sound together… When WOWY was [coming together], I kind of wanted to continue this rock feel, but because it’s like an full-length album, Taz was like ‘nah, this has to be your face. It’s time for people to know who you are.’ Hearing that going into the album made me feel like ‘alright, I should make these songs realer.’ I wanted [WOWY] to be more than just surface level.”

JB: Heartbreak is a common theme throughout the album and on your other projects, what do you think is your No. 1 heartbreak anthem you’ve made so far?

Dro: “I’m going have to say ‘USED2KNOW.’ Like, when I made that, I knew WOWY was gonna go crazy, it kind of like shifted my sound. I feel like every song I made after ‘USED2KNOW’ are all crazy in the same aspect.”

JB: Your evolution has been inspiring to watch. Just over a year ago you had under 4,000 listeners and a few official tracks like “Rokkstar” and a couple cuts with KobeKo, how do you think your sound has developed since this time last year?

Dro: “Growing up, I was listening to a lot of R&B and rock music. As I was getting older, I shifted my music into a more melodic rap-R&B sound. Thats the music I like to make. Songs that make you feel good. Thats the type of music that makes people feel the best.”

JB: You’ve had a crazy output since your debut album Tears & Pistols in October 2020, but what’s next for Dro Kenji? Is this rate of releasing something fans can expect from here on out or are you planning on pumping the brakes?

Dro: “I feel like I’ll pump the brakes when I have to pump the brakes, you know what I’m saying? When it’s to a point to where I feel like I’ve grown as an artist and to the point where it wouldn’t make sense for me to keep dropping, then I won’t. Right now, I’m trying to put as much shit out for people to hear. I want people to hear my new shit and continue feeling the shit they’ve been feeling listening to it.”

JB: With dropping as fast as you do, how long are you sitting on this music before you drop it? What went into selecting the tracks for WOWY?

Dro: “I kind of just make songs throughout everything because I record so often. Having hella songs in the vault makes projects come together way easier, because the song is already done, its just like a matter of picking the right songs to drop at the right time and the right vibe that fits in cohesion with the other songs. Like sometimes, I’ll make a song to specifically fit on a project, but a lot of times when I do that, they end up not being added. It’s better doing it in the moment.”

JB: You officially signed to MiraTouch late last year, how integral has Nick been as your career continues to take off?

Dro: “Me and Nick [Mira’s] relationship is kind of like me and Census’s relationship — in the sense of when we’re in the studio, we know it’s going to be fire. If Nick tells me to do something on a song, I just know it’s going to be crazy. We have a good work relationship. He’s always making new shit for me to try out.”

JB: Taz tweeted out when you dropped the album that you already got your sixth project in the works, any insight as to what it will be like? Will you continue this energy surrounding your discography into your next tape or will it be something different?

Dro: “Not completely different yet, but this next album I am making right now after WOWY is definelty crazier, more fire… Like I’m bumping that shit with my friends right now. Shit is too fire.”

This interview was initially released on Feb. 7 and has been lightly edited for clarity and cohesion.

Check out Dro’s first-ever interview below!