Kenna Zemedkun, known professionally as simply Kenna, is an Ethiopian-born American musician. His track “Say Goodbye To Love” was nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance in the 2009 Grammy Awards.
Kenna is the eldest son of an Ethiopian family that immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio. He was later raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia, attending school with friends and eventual career-long collaborators Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams.
Kenna began to express an interest in music upon receiving a copy of U2’s The Joshua Tree. That album inspired Kenna to teach himself piano while studying singers like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, as well as groups like The Cure and Duran Duran.
Breaking into the music scene at such a young age and at an interesting time in pop history, Kenna met some of music’s biggest names including Whitney Houston, Babyface, Blackstreet, Teddy Riley and Michael Jackson. He went on to create his own sound that has yet to be categorized and filed under any mainstream genre.
New Sacred Cow
With the release of his first single in 2001, “Hell Bent”, Kenna gained moderate popularity and an underground following of fans who eagerly awaited the release of his debut album, New Sacred Cow. After many delays and swapping of record labels, the album was finally released under the Sony imprint Flawless in 2003. A subsequent North American tour was launched in the Summer of 2003 with Depeche Mode front man Dave Gahan.
The album, which was co-produced by Chad Hugo of The Neptunes, contained elements of electronica, synth pop, post rock, and house music. Two singles, “Sunday After You” and “Freetime” followed the release of the album; the music video of the latter, along with “Hell Bent”, appeared sporadically on MTV2. “Freetime” reached #19 on the U.S. Dance charts.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, which is about the way people judge and make decisions in their lives, a portion of one chapter focuses on the stops and starts and difficulties that Kenna experienced in getting his music accepted by the general public, despite the tremendous reception and enthusiasm that music executives, other musicians and a small, loyal fan base had when they heard his music.