Kenya Vaun 2024

It’s rare that we see an artist create their own lane in a given genre because of the oversaturation of sounds in the music industry today. Kenya Vaun, however, is one of the few artists that have carved out her own space with the sound she has created. With a style obviously reminiscent of Lauryn Hill, especially with songs like “Summer” and “Yesterday” off her brand new EP ‘The Honeymoon Phase’, the Philly native is bringing a new meaning to modern Neo-Soul tracks. Working with legends like Musiq Soulchild and Carvin Haggins on this EP, it’s no wonder she caught the attention of Mary J Blige’s label 300 Entertainment a few years back (another one of her many inspirations). After attending her EP release party last week (3/21), the potential for Kenya to be an entertainer who brings feel good music back to the forefront has never been more evident.

For a taste of what we witnessed, check out the video of her performance at TheBasement Series, a performance platform founded by Music Executive/SVP of A&R Ericka J. Coulter, attached below. TheBasement hosts semi-monthly events in LA to shed light on some of the next generations most promising prospects through curated performances, and has featured artists such as Journey Montana and Reggie Becton – both of which we have spoken with before.

We spoke to Kenya about the meaning behind her debut EP ‘The Honeymoon Phase’, getting signed to 300 Entertainment, taking stage at TheBasement LA, working with legendary producer Carvin Haggins, and much more.
(Watch the YouTube Video for the full Q&A!)

YouKnowIGotSoul: Can you name some albums that influenced your style and sound?

Kenya Vaun: Overall I would definitely say ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’. Definitely a lot of Mary J. Blige, her first and second album that had come out when she had all of those back to back hits. When she was in that era, my mom would play that all the time. I feel like she was a huge fan of Lauryn Hill and she really loved Mary J Blige. I also love Jill Scott, cause you know, “Jilly from Philly”. Erykah Badu. Angie Stone. I can keep going.

YouKnowIGotSoul: I’m sure you know you get the Lauryn Hill comparison a lot, what drew you to her?

Kenya Vaun: What drew me to Lauryn Hill was of course my mom, but I also gravitated towards the Lauryn Hill kind of vibe because I love that raspy sound. Mary J, she has that raspy sound as well, but the way Lauryn did she still included that hip hop vibe. She was just cool and swagged out, that’s what gravitated me towards Lauryn Hill. Just hearing that she was kind of around the same area too, the Jersey area. I’m from Philly. That’s like right there. You know what I’m saying? She was right there. She probably has been to a couple of spots that I’ve been to. Overall, just the simple fact of the impact that she’s had on all of us with just that one album is inspirational. I feel like the power of her music is what really inspires me.

YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about your journey of getting signed to 300 Entertainment.

Kenya Vaun: Well, I’ve been doing music since I would say seven, eight. All the way we fast forward, I was living in Atlanta at the time and I was working at a good job actually. I was just kind of hitting studios here and there and recording my own songs. My mom was like, you should go to college. I was like “No, this is the music hub. I just got down here.This is Atlanta.”. She just wasn’t going for it. I remember the one time she had brung up a music program in New York. I was scared but excited because I’m like, “I don’t know anybody that lives out in New York”. So I ended up just, you know, facing my fears. They gave me the 80,000 scholarship. I was like, what?! It was a Roc Nation music program. I was around amazing people. We were all kind of bunched up in this music group together. I met a really dope director, I should say clothing designer now, his name is Love Kelly. shot the video, dropped it, and we had like a little release party in the dorms. After that honestly, it was a lot of people hitting up both of us. I got this one email by this guy named Jeff Finster. Shout out Jeff Finster from 300 Entertainment. He was like “Hey, I’m from 300 Entertainment, I wanna get in contact. Love what we’re hearing.” It just felt so authentic, you know what I’m saying? It was a couple of meetings we went to before I just eventually decided to sign. So,I’m just grateful that my mom gave me that push and that I went and met all those amazing people.

YouKnowIGotSoul: I would have loved to be at TheBasement Series in LA to see you perform. Tell me, how was that experience?

Kenya Vaun: TheBasement performance was really a performance for the books, I’ll tell you. The vibe is there. I feel like with this type of crowd it was more so like they were taking it in, you know what I’m saying? In a lot of my performances, I like to move around and engage with the crowd. I feel like with this one, I really got to pour out my feelings. It just was one of the ones where you close your eyes, and after it I feel like a lot of people were really touched because they came up to me. Since then, a lot of people have hit me up because of that show. Actually, at that show, I performed one of the songs that’s on the EP called “Yesterday”. So they got a little sneak peek of one of the songs.

YouKnowIGotSoul: Do you have any plans to perform this EP?

Kenya Vaun: Of course, in the next few weeks I’ll be performing when the EP gets released, so definitely keep an eye out. I have a few other performances coming up too, but it’s not for the overall EP. Once it’s fully out and people really get to listen to it, you’ll catch me performing it somewhere.

YouKnowIGotSoul: “Summer” is one of your songs that I loved. Talk about making that one.

Kenya Vaun: Well with “Summer” of course I got the amazing opportunity to work with Carvin Haggins. He worked a lot with Musiq Soulchild and Lauryn Hill. He’s a great songwriter and we kind of collabed on that because I wanted a throwback. I’m trying to create my own lane, just to bring something new and refreshing to the world. I wanted to show my appreciation by creating a song that kind of showcases the music that I grew up listening to, like with the Teddy Pendergrass sample that’s in the song. It was a great vibe because I actually met Carvin when I was like 15, 16. Got to see his studio and everything. My mom actually knew who he was. She was like, watch, one day you’re gonna work with him. Crazy how the world works, right? we just kind of picked up where we left off. So yeah, I wanted to touch on the old school vibes but also still wanted to put my twist on it. Moving forward with this new ep, I feel like I wanted to showcase that a lot as well. Meshing that soulful, reminiscent, sound of the 90s but still with that modern twist of this is refreshing.

YouKnowIGotSoul: Why are you calling this EP The Honeymoon Phase?

Kenya Vaun: I called it The Honeymoon Phase because I really wanted to touch bases when people think of the Honeymoon Phase. The honeymoon phase is like a whole roller coaster of feelings, whether that’s like starting off being scared to talk to the person, you start having a crush and then going through that talking phase – like that’s a whole phase – and then kind of rolling back because you’re scared,, that’s a whole roller coaster you’d be going on. It’s not just roses and sunshine when it starts off getting to know someone. I labeled that for a reason because when listening to it I feel like I kind of take you on a roller coaster. A storyline of love. The different phases of love, loving yourself and then loving someone else.Then the unhealthy version of loving people and how that made me feel, just the whole entire feat of love overall.

YouKnowIGotSoul: Were there specific references that you were drawing or were you just trying to be yourself on the EP?

Kenya Vaun: The vibe I wanted people to feel when they listen to the EP is like these are some vibes that influenced me, but also like this is my twist. This is how I’m coming. This is my new era, so it’s like a mesh with each and every song, it’s like a different vibe. Since we were speaking of artists that I’ve been influenced by overall, I just definitely want to say I had the opportunity for Musiq Soulchild to feature on “Summer”. Something that I remember was being a little girl and my mom had this iPod with all the old school Destiny’s Child and Musiq Soulchild. I would literally listen to “Teach Me” and go to sleep like every night. That was a routine, so just having him feature on Summer” that’s like the real excitement behind it. Just being able to say that I feel blessed, like that’s Musiq on the project man!