Seven Questions with Kenan Bell, Teacher by Day/Rapper by Night
Kenan Bell, known as Mr. Bell to his students, performs tonight at the Key Club opening for De La Soul.
LA has a diverse cast of characters. Whether it's the characters with stirring stories or interesting occupations or the people who are just simply characters, this town has them all. In an effort to get to know some of those characters a little better, we've created "Seven Questions with..." If you have a suggestion for a future Seven Questions subject send us an email.Today's subject is Kenan Bell.
When Kenan Bell isn't in the classroom of a local Montessori school teaching youngsters language arts, he's on stage schooling crowds with his own unique brand of hip-hop that blends indie-rock with electronica, a style URB called "his very own genre of nu-gaze, emo-hip-hop." In March, the La Crescenta native put on full display his eclectic musical taste and range when he dropped the “Good News: The Mix-Tape,” which features remixes of songs by artists as wide-ranging as Pink Floyd, Lily Allen, Gang Gang Dance, Jose Gonzalez, Peter, Bjorn & John, Duran Duran, and Neil Diamond. Yes, you read that right, Neil Diamond.
LAist was lucky enough to exchange emails with Bell who has been out on the road touring with hip-hop legends, De La Soul. Tonight the tour rolls into West Hollywood, where you'll find the 6'5 frame of Bell, who prides himself on his live shows backed by a full indie band, rocking the Key Club stage.
1) What was your reaction when you first learned of the opportunity to go on the road with De La Soul? How big of a De La Soul fan are you?
“WORD?!? DE LA??? ARE YOU FOR SERIOUS?” That was the gist of it. Initially I was in disbelief because we had asked the agents to get us something credible and they came through incredibly.
I consider myself a hip hop fundamentalist and De La not only embodies the ideals and principals that this art was founded upon, but they continue to represent the beauty and aesthetic of the culture today.
2) You have a wide range of musical influences, you have rapped over The Smiths, Pink Floyd and Neil Diamond. I have read you credit growing up in the LA area for this. Please explain how LA has impacted your taste in music?
Los Angeles is a place where worlds collide and cultures intersect. Whether it’s the accordion player from a mariachi band practicing his parts on the streets of East LA, or a low rider cruising the avenues broadcasting the newest gangsta rap record, I have had the privilege of being exposed to a variety of the city’s influences.
Residing in such a diverse melting pot has afforded me the ability to be in Arabic households simmering during celebration and develop an appreciation for the rhythm and melody of their musics, as well as understanding its place in tradition. Having Japanese and East Indian roommates that invite me into their family’s home for dinner, and being able to observe how the music provides a soundtrack that compliments the flavors of the respective cuisine only broadens my perspective and desire to seek further inspiration outside of the obvious. I hear everything around me and am extremely receptive to my surroundings, so essentially my music reflects those stimuli, whatever they may be at that given time.