Young artists are working hard to prove themselves to the masses every day. Other than New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Florida, Chicago is continuous in making music superstars. With the rich musical history in the city, there are so many artists to look forward to. Most recent being, twenty-year-old Kendall Johnson, or you may learn to know him as Don’t Be Kendall (DBK).
When did you become Don’t Be Kendall?
DBK: I became DBK sometime in 2017. I was trying to change my twitter handle to something cool. My favorite clothing brand is ‘Don’t Be Mad’, a Chicago based brand made by Joe Freshgoods, so I just combine that with my name and the rest was history, I guess.
Why Don’t Be Kendall? What does your name mean to you?
DBK: One of my biggest inspirations to this date is Tyler, the Creator. There wasn’t an artist making music that I feel like was making music for me at the time I discovered him. Not just one the first artist I felt I could relate to, but one of the first people in general. One of the main lessons I took from him was to always be yourself no matter how different cause fuck everyone else. He taught me that at a time I was trying hard to fit in and was so embarrassed to be myself around everyone. I wouldn’t be the person I am today had Tyler not been making music. So that’s what I kind of want my main message to be. Always be yourself. Don’t be me. Be you. What makes everyone special is that there is and will only ever be one you.
How does Chicago inspire you and your music?
DBK: Growing up in Chicago is the coolest thing ever to me. I feel like people from Chicago look at everyone outside of Chicago like lames. It boosts my confidence in my music and in my life.
What is the Chicago music scene like to you?
DBK: The Chicago music scene is filled with talented people. It’s like almost everyone here makes music. That makes you want to go harder. It makes you want to stand out. I grew up on a lot of Chicago music so to be inching my way to being in that community is surreal.
Your name and your home can play a large role in the way you are and what type of person you end up becoming. Chicago has been essential for his development as a person and an artist. How it affects the type of music DBK makes is the same reason why he loves people like Chance The Rapper, using names street names and slang terms that only people there would know.
“Niggas didn’t know what woo wop da bam was but us!”
When did you start to take music seriously?
DBK: So, I dropped my first lil project called “I can’t rap, sorry” and Shane Powers was a really big supporter. He played a song on his Radio Show which was on the now dead Golf Media app. I remember one day he tweeted Scott Verner a link to my song and he said it was good and to hit him with some original shit. I remember going crazy because I could not believe some lil shitty song I made in my basement would be heard by someone like him. He wanted original music, I’ll make original music. That’s when I think started to take it seriously.
How did you figure out this was your passion?
DBK: I found out I was passionate about music after I made this mixtape with my cousin one night called “Cheese Fries & Bitches”. Don’t ask why we named it that. We freestyled to “Loyal” by Chris Brown with a laptop and a guitar hero mic. We were like fuck it let’s make a whole project tonight. We recorded 10 freestyles in like 5 hours and put it on SoundCloud the next day. My uncle made us take it down because we were cursing and shit, but I remember loving making it. All the way from fake mixing the songs, to naming it, and making the album cover. That’s when I found out I loved making music.
What was your mindset when you first started making music versus now?
DBK: I lacked confidence at first. I didn’t think I could rap for the longest. The more I wrote raps, the better I could feel myself getting. Now I feel like I can out rap a lot of my peers no cap. Also, I was okay with the music that I was putting out being subpar. Now I know I have a lot of people watching what I do so I can’t really put out just anything. I get better at this music shit every day.
Music is a passion of Kendall’s, but he never really went into making music with wanting to do it for the fame, rather than doing it for the love of the art. He isn’t even sure if he will be famous, but hopefully, his music career leads him to his higher purpose in life. On his journey, he keeps the same inspirations he has currently, like Tyler, The Creator, Chance the Rapper, and Childish Gambino among others. Even his friends continue to inspire him.
“My top 5 is the following: Tyler, Chance, Childish, Frank, and Kanye. They all inspire me in different ways. I believe I would be a completely different person if it wasn’t for Tyler. Chance literally coming from the same place I come from and being one of the biggest artists in music right now and still being really super active in the city was super inspiring.”
Who are people in your life that inspire you?
DBK: My best friend Yazmine definitely makes me feel like I’m the coolest person alive when I’m feeling down for sure. My friends Cameron Bolden and Dew who are super amazing artist make me want to be a better artist. They make such great music, I listen to them and try to be better every time I write.
Who are some people you wish to work with?
DBK: Family Reunion is a super dope artist and amazing person. Her telling me she loved how I rapped gassed me the fuck up lmao. Definitely, want to work with her when the time is right. UG Vavy has been a favorite artist of mine too for the longest, and he doesn’t even know me yet, but I feel like a collab will come in the future. Also, Spice Adams. He’s not an artist though, he’s a retired Bears player who is an IG comedian now and he’s so funny to me. I want to get him to like laugh or talk or do anything on a song of mine. I’m a fan.
What has been the best moment of your career so far?
DBK: My first headlining show ‘Don’t Be Me’ was a special day. Definitely, something I’ll never forget. I would tell you all about it, but you could see that day on my YouTube channel and find out for yourself.
Every experience for him is a new experience. Yet the challenge that has come with being a new artist is having the proper amount of resources that will let you properly fund your dream. Now he is finding out that with each song, each verse, each bar, as time goes on, he is getting better and better, like a finely aged wine. This even drives him to the point of not fully enjoying his previous songs, but his favorite is ‘White Castle’, for the fact it was one of the times he was the most vulnerable in his music. And it is one of the first songs he played for people and they instantly loved it.
What inspired your song ‘Dent Her Date’?
DBK: So I went to Long Beach to visit my friends and record some shit and Tony played me the beat. I wrote two regular verses like i do, but had trouble writing a hook. Tony teaches me what a pre-chorus is and that i should have one for that song. I sat for a second and the first thing that came out of my mouth was the pre-chorus we used for the song. Then sat for a second again, then i said the hook. It was funny to me because it was so stupid. I was worried that people would think I was being mean and insensitive but I eventually got over it and put it out anyway. I didn’t make it with the intention of clowning big people, but the phrase ‘Dent Her Date’ is hilarious. I said big girls got the best pussy too so I was praising them! But when I performed it for the first time, it was soo uncomfortable. It got mixed reactions but I told myself after that, it was the first and last time I’ll be performing that song.
How is living in Chicago different from your LA stay?
DBK: They people in la are way different, the weather was different, I was broker, I felt lonelier, but it was all around great experience that I’ll cherish forever.
What did living in LA do for your music?
DBK: Living in La was really the beginning, to be honest. I recorded “I can’t rap, sorry” in Chicago but released it in la. I started making my own original shit in La. I wasn’t working that much out there so I had nothing but time to just write lyrics. Making music out there was the most fun.
Outside of being Don’t Be Kendall, he is focused on doing the Brat Chat Podcast with two of his best friends, Yazmine and Benji. On top of this, he juggles being a student who is not sure of his path and working a job he isn’t too fond of as well. Yet, he isn’t giving his music the time it deserves.
“If I was able to do music and my podcast full time, my music would probably sound way better.”
What are your plans for this year?
DBK: I have a lil project coming super soon that I’m excited about. I’ll be dropping songs more consistently. More music videos too. My manager is well respected and well connected so, the shows will be coming too. I want to drop something big at the end of the year too but I’m still working it all out. For sure, I’m putting out a bunch of fire music and a bunch of podcast episodes.
What else do you want to do outside of music?
DBK: I want to dabble into the Youtube shit. Like skits or just vlogs of my fun days. Like what Soulja Boy used to do.
What do you wish for your future?
DBK: Life experience and success. Success for me and all my folks around me. I want to make money from doing this shit because I love it.
What do you wish the reader learns about you from this interview?
DBK: I want people to tune in now. I don’t want them to read this and think I’m just another one of these niggas who has this big dream that won’t achieve anything. I know I’ll be something great. I know I AM something great. I’m not doing what I’m doing for no reason. This is leading me to something niggas can’t comprehend, I feel it in my nuggets. All I want people to learn from this interview is that I’m special. Not trying to sound conceited, but I just know what I’m capable of. Even if you hate me, everyone should keep an eye on me. Watching my growth will be something special.
The music that he is making is giving him a chance to channel his emotions and energy in a different way. When he is sad he gets to turn that sad feeling almost into a therapy session. When he has a great accomplishment, he is able to put that into a song like naming eighty people that help and support him. He has been able to gain so many wonderful relationships just based off of one hobby. I hope you continue to keep up with Don’t Be Kendall, listen to his new single dropping March 20, and never be like him, be you.
Keep in touch with Kendall on his Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and SoundCloud.