Doing The Work

Musical artist Ken X Y on honesty, creating change and his first album Escapism

BY MARK ARIEL | PHOTO BY DUSTI CUNNINGHAM

“As a young person, there is no shortage of people who tell you ‘you don’t know what you’re doing,’” says multi-talented singer, songwriter, producer and dancer Ken X Y.

“As an ‘artist who is gay,’ there is no shortage of people not willing to work with you because of their own discomfort with that part of who you are. And as an ‘artist who is Black,’ there’s no shortage of people criticizing you for one—being Black and having a dream in the first place, two—not being white or white adjacent, and three—not fitting the typical mold of what people think a Black artist is or ‘should be.’” 

In an interview with THE FIGHT—X Y talks about the obstacles he has encountered on his career path, the fight for racial justice and the mainstream perception of gay people.

Have the recent Black Lives Matter protests affected your career in any way?

I have been hearing many more artists who are Black and brown release music that is unapologetically speaking about the Black experience… there are more people willing to listen and give opportunities to artists who are Black/brown. Before now, I feel we were made to feel that speaking about it often was too aggressive or trying to host a pity party for oneself. Also, I’ve personally become much more aware of what true support, from and for the communities I represent, looks like. It’s not just in likes or comments. It is also active posting and sharing of information, person-to-person discussion, political action and activism and donations that helps support normalizing and respecting people like me. 

Some of our readers may recognize you as a go-go dancer. Do you feel that has any positive or negative effect on your music career?

At the moment I can only say that it’s a bit of both. On one hand the experience has acted as a kind of therapy; helping me to except and embrace the sexual or “sexy” side of myself. I’ve met some awesome people who have proven to be very helpful and inspiring in my journey. It certainly gave me full perspective on the life of service industry/nightlife workers. It’s also made me even more comfortable on stage and has given me more opportunities to share my music. However, on the other hand… via social media, I have lot of people following me who don’t even realize that I do music. It can feel like my body eclipses who I am as a person… Fortunately my music does speak to my talent, which (for anyone who’s paying attention to the right things) speaks for itself and garners the right crowd. 

You mentioned in an interview that your recent single “Shadows” is mainly about dealing with self-disappointment. Can you elaborate on that?

When I wrote the song in April, I was newly recovered from Covid, unhappy and uncomfortable in my then romantic relationship, at odds with my mother and was suffering from the sudden loss of financial stability and general freedom—like the rest of the world… It made me think about when they asked me “where I thought I would be in ten years” at the end of high school. Back then, I figured by this point with my talent, persistence, general good looks and good nature, I’d be in a much more successful place or at least financially ready to deal with this sort of disaster. As naïve as it sounds to me now, I kept that in the back of my head… “Shadows” is a both me apologizing to myself for not being where I thought I’d be by this point in my life AND me forgiving myself because (via writing the song) I accepted so much of what I was disappointed about was outside of my control.

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

Yes! I’m releasing my next single “Don’t Wake Me Up” in September and I will be releasing a single a month until I release my first album Escapism in late January or early February. Escapism is my love letter to mental health, not only in the time of Covid but in general. Each song will explore the different methods many of us (gays and others) use to avoid dealing with our problems.

Is there anything we haven’t asked you that you would like to share with our readers?

As an artist and as a person, I would like to break (or at least further crack) the preconceived mold and notion that a man who is gay is either hyper masculine or hyper feminine. Most men who are gay are mixture of both and I think it’s time someone represented that consistently in mainstream media… I would also like to be an example to others, especially people of color, that you do not have to be anything like what society attempts to dictate you should be based on your ethic background. It’s good to experience things that are new and different to you, even if you don’t end up liking them at first or even at all. Do not be ashamed to stop and question the status quo. If you want to see a change in something, do the work! Finally, always be very honest with yourself and when you are, always be patient. This is how you learn to treat others the same way. This is the way we’ll win our fight. 


For more on Ken XY check out IG: @ken.is.in