Whether it is a rooftop in LA, a loft in Brooklyn, or an abandoned warehouse in the Bay Area, parties happen where this kind of community is needed. People all over the place are carving out a lane of fun and entertainment they find missing in the party scene.
Ikenna, the founder of keneandfriends, is fixing what he doesn’t see in the party space.
“I think I’ve always been a fixer,” Ikenna, cultural producer and mind behind keneandfriends, began. “If there’s something that I want to see in the world, and I can’t find it, I’ll go make it.”
Ikenna got his start in creating something he didn’t see around him in college, parties that catered to African and Caribbean young people in South Carolina. While attending Claflin University, he realized that there was a piece of home that he was missing in the states. “It started with my friends and in college. We were a bunch of African and West Indian kids, and what we think is a good time is not what they think is a good time at the time,” he explained.
Coming from Lagos, Nigeria, to South Carolina, it was a culture shock to go to a party and see people standing around while music was playing, and the music lacked diversity. “I’m from Lagos, and we listen to everything,” Ikenna said. However, he was used to hearing more than the homogeneous music played when he went out, so he and his friends took matters into their own hands.
“In school, we weren’t seeing parties like that. Let’s make it, and let’s do it,” Ikenna said, recalling his time in college. “So we ended up doing a bunch of house parties, and we ended up being number one in the state, so they say.”
keneandfriends have evolved with Ikenna. When keneandfriends began, there was no telling what would come from this, but once they understood that there was an audience and satisfied a need, they took off with it.
From starting small in South Carolina to having parties commence at rooftop venues in New York City, a significant deviation from the dark rooms they initially began in. “Being in a different state, it’s pretty much a big ass change,” he said.
While going through the changes with keneandfriends, they have always kept their audience centered in the experience. They have held their admirers at the center of keneandfriends. Everything is expanding, along with their tastes and wants.
As they have grown to this new place, being in New York, their crowds have become increasingly diverse. They welcome people who genuinely want to have a good time and come into the space with open minds. “That’s who we are, so that’s the kind of people we attract,” Ikenna reassured.
keneandfriends have been on a steady growth path, contributing to Ikenna’s personal development. In South Carolina, he created a demand for an experience people didn’t even know they wanted. In New York, he has this be better than your past self mentality.
“Pretty much New York is a reintroduction to what keneandfriends is,” he explained. “South Carolina was college ball. Now we’re in the NBA.”
New York has allowed them to grow, but it does present the challenge of going against parties with more established names. “Everyone is good at what they do, but they’re just not us,” he said confidently.
As Ikenna is on this journey with keneandfriends, he knows that people worldwide need to participate in an event like this. So this year and beyond, the keneandfriends team is working to reach them in any way possible.
“It’s almost like Professor X and the X-Men,” he said. “keneandfriends is Xavier’s mansion, and we keep beaming out into the world, trying to find more people who appreciate the things we do and who align with who we are.”