Kenny Beats’ ‘The Cave’ Might Be the Best Hip Hop Content on the Web Right Now
On September 9th, 2018- a day that will live on in history- a solemn promise was posted for the world to see:
“I just want people to hear that woah kenny and know for the next 2 minutes and 30 seconds I got your back.” @KennyBeats via Twitter
Two years later, and Connecticut-born beat-maker and producer Kenneth Blume III (aka Kenny Beats) continues to fulfill this mission. He’s amassed a dizzying list of collaborations and song credits since then, including artists like Gucci Mane, Vince Staples, Ski Mask the Slump God, Rico Nasty, KEY!, and Freddie Gibbs. Kenny is also one of the more interesting and open-minded people in the industry right now, with a career path arcing from inviting local rappers to his parent's house, to the Berklee School of Music, to holding his own in the EDM scene as half of the notable duo LOUDPVCK, to crafting some of this year’s most innovative and cohesive hip-hop projects. In short, he’s a pretty cool guy. And now on top of that, he’s proven that he has our back for way longer than 2 minutes and 30 seconds, thanks to his recent Youtube series, The Cave.
Dropping a new episode every other Friday, Kenny Beats invites an eclectic group of hot and upcoming artists to the studio/Yerba Mate stockroom/smoking lounge affectionately known as “The Cave”. The concept of the show is straightforward: Kenny will introduce his guest, diagnose exactly what type of beat they want, spend around 10 minutes putting together the track, and then send them into the booth to do their thing. After 16–32 stupidly entertaining bars, a grinning artist will usually come strolling back out to hear the final track. Actually, in some cases, they’re having so much fun that it takes an exasperated “Bro, come out the booth!” from Kenny for the recording to end. Make no mistake, every freestyle ends up being worthy of its own single, but there’s so much more going on than just the music. It’s the jokes, the stories, the roasts, the conversations that are the real heart of The Cave. For instance, how else would you know about the time Danny Brown’s security had to Pootie-Tang two goons with his belt or why Denzel Curry calls white Air Force 1’s Geedy-Weedys? And for that matter, how would Missy Elliot and Fantasia know that EarthGang is trying to holler at them? It’s nice to finally see interactions that aren’t already scripted or plotted out, but are as natural, awkward, and hilarious as we get in reality.
It seems effortlessly casual, but even while splicing together 808s, bass lines, and samples, Kenny is able to connect the viewer with the artist in a way few other interviews can. A lot of this must be based on his personality and approach to making music. He’s not shy about his feelings on his role, having repeatedly declared “I will not be a beatmaker.” Instead, as a producer, Kenny Beats obsesses over understanding the artist he’s working with and how to best express their style. Rolling Stone magazine calls him the “Rap game’s best studio therapist.” After a couple of episodes, you can start to see why. Somehow able to bounce back and forth between his serious musician side and natural goofiness, Kenny both pushes and comforts his collaborators as artists and friends. He also has put up with a lot, too. Even on his own show, he‘ll try to start with a simple “what are we feeling, what kind of beat are we doing today?” but there can never seem to be just a simple answer. Some of the best requests have come from Vince Staples:
“I want something toxic. I want some 808s. 808s — no heartbreak at all. Black on everything crime. Even animals.”
“I want a beat that sound like Runescape, mixed with Jodeci, mixed with almond milk…put a domestic violence filter on it.”
“Aight here’s whats gonna happen. I’m gonna fart and you’re gonna sample that…something hard but cute, like some ironic shit.”
“Man, I’m trying to make some shit I can scam somebody too… man Kenny when I hear this beat, I should go in there and make up the craziest, dumbest shit. If that beat not like this Kenny, I’m gonna be disappointed.”
And Freddie Gibbs:
“I just came here to smoke some dope with ya man.”
Overall, Kenny Beats just honestly manages to get along with everybody, and that’s rewarded us with moments like Vince Staples coining the “Kenny Beats is the police” meme, the infamous Zack Fox “Jesus is the one” hit, or Maxo Kream starting a dance-off. The series takes us behind the scenes and reveals what genuine collaboration is supposed to look like. It’s moments like these, that in just 11 short months, have made a strong argument for The Cave being the best hip-hop content on the web right now.
So far, we are deep into Season 2, with some amazing episodes featuring Danny Brown, 6lack, Slow Thai, Omar Apollo, Teejayx6, Boogie, Sada Baby, and Thundercat. Now, I’m not really a numbers guy, but it’s important for me to try here to show just how well The Cave has been doing. If we go to Youtube and search Mr. Beat’s profile, we see that the first episode was uploaded March 1, 2019. Since then, his channel has grown to over 416K subscribers, receives a median 898K views per episode, and boasts an average like/dislike ratio of less than 1%. By Youtube standards, this is really good. Qualitatively, his channel is also super rare in that it houses the most positive comment section I’ve ever seen. Sure, it might be a chorus of “Kenny Beats is the police,” but I can count on one hand the number of negative comments. Everything else is a celebration of all the show’s quotable moments, excited suggestions for the next episode’s guest, and young beat-making nerds trying to guess how Kenny makes his 808s.
Even the two veteran kingpins of hip-hop content can’t say the same. Genius and WorldStar HipHop have several million more subscribers, but due to their size and scope sometimes lack the same consistency and value that The Cave brings. A look at WSHH’s recent and similar video series finds that the like/dislike ratio is 10% higher on average- as for Genius, they are able to put out a wildly diverse range of videos, but struggle to maintain a steady amount of views across all of them. The Cave is able to take three of the most engaging concepts in hip- hop media: exclusive freestyles, behind-the-scenes music production, and intimate interviews and merge them into a single video. This formula has seemingly found perfection; even Genius has thrown in a co-sign, posting “more of this” on Rico Nasty’s episode.
The final push to crown The Cave as the king of content has to be the editing and video production itself. Most of the credit here is due to the talented Aris Chatman (@sirasounds on social). From the opening sequence to the last few seconds panning out, Chatman throws together motion graphics, illustrations and his own arsenal of effects on top of the recorded film to make each episode a masterpiece. Maybe there’s terms within the video editing community to better describe it, but the most accurate word I have is “sick”. Another one of the best parts about the production is having so many cameras and angles to cut between. Chatman takes clips from a few different cave cams and compliments it with candid shots from his handheld or screen grabs of Kenny working in Ableton. This style of editing highlights the energy present in the room, making every moment a memorable one and capturing scenes that make you love your favorite artist even more.
Season 2 is over halfway done, but there is no official word on a potential season 3 just yet. Still, though, I have a feeling that between the growing hype, the consistent success of the show, and a surge of merchandise sales for Kenny Beat’s adjacent brand D.O.T.S (Don’t Over-Think Shit), an extra season is highly probable. There are also so many musicians in the scene that would be perfect for the show. The Cave is riding a wave right now and will continue to blow up. Kenny beats is showing us what happens when a talented producer is able to not just work with, but connect with some of the hottest names in rap and R&B. Really, what The Cave gives you is authenticity. It’s like getting a backstage pass to the studio session. It’s Kenny Beats being himself and artists being real right back. It’s seeing your favorite rapper be goofy instead of having to act hard for the media. That’s what makes this show so addictive, and that’s why it’s the best hip-hop content on the web right now.