The Making Of Kent Loon’s “Stay Low”

The latest LP from POW Recordings and Nü Age.
By    November 21, 2017

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This story starts in Colombia. Back when it was the murder and abduction capital of the world, the Medellin Cartel targeted not just those involved in the drug trade, but innocent businesspeople with a modest income, or merely those inauspiciously fated to cross their path. You’ve seen Blow, you’ve seen Narcos, you know.

But the impact on those who lived through that reign of terror is less documented. In the case of Kent Loon, it’s responsible for everything. A few years before Loon’s birth in 1996, Escobar’s goons kidnapped his father and held him for ransom. A Chinese-born immigrant who owned a small chain of restaurants called Chino Marcos, the family managed to scrounge up enough money to purchase Marcos’ freedom. But the memory haunted them, especially in the aftermath of Escobar’s death, where warring cartels rampaged in the hopes of gaining control.

Shortly after the birth of his son, the cartel returned to Marcos, threatening his wife and newborn, guaranteeing death if the extortion threats weren’t heeded. Unwilling to test their willingness to follow through, Kent’s mom fled her homeland alone to raise her son in South Florida.

“Everything happened for a reason,” Loon recalls. “If she wouldn’t have taken that risk, I would’ve never been over here making music. I would’ve been working in that Chinese restaurant, doing whatever my dad would’ve basically told me to have done.”

That’s if the Cartel’s threats weren’t idle. Instead, Loon’s mom first brought him to St. Petersburg, where they faced a language barrier and a lack of consistent funds. Subsequent relocations took them to Land O’ Lakes, Palmetto, and finally back to St. Pete. It’s there as a sophomore at Pinellas Park High School, where Kent met Chester Watson, producer Kanisono (Shane Phadraig) and Nick Preradovic—the nucleus of Nü Age.

At first, it was just a skating crew, but dozens of smoke and freestyle sessions forged a tight musical connection. After a series of Soundcloud singles and collaborations, sonic and chemical experimentation, and innumerable hours locked in studios, Stay Low marks the official debut of Kent Loon. It’s a dark, weird psychedelic odyssey into a post-adolescent South Florida world of trees and swamps, narcotics and sex, strange dreams and random sorcery.

If the past year has been partially defined by Soundcloud rappers hailing from a similar dimension, Kent Loon brings a new creative mutation: AcidTrap. Turned up but not dumbed down, full of sinister voices telling him to get money, haunted by the ghosts of Pablo Escobar and Selena—the real Selena. Big wins. Closer listening rewards the esoteric flourishes, the whispered ad-libs, the Cocteau Twins dream-pop float of “I Like,” the hypnagogic child’s lullaby of the finale, “Dreaming About You.”

The impact of Chester Watson can’t be understated. The monotone samurai produces eight of the album’s 12 tracks and raps on four. He’s helped create an orphic spell that feels contemporary and storybook, if the Grimm Brothers first published their stories on Soundcloud. The pair exhibit a chemistry that only best friends and de facto brothers can have, a yin yang duality that combines into a singular form. It sounds nothing like the first Lootpack record, but reminds me of the feeling first conjured by Madlib and his crew, stoned in the basement. In the end, it lives up the original idea established when they first named their crew. Nu Age: it couldn’t be anything else.

Released on POW Recordings, this is the story of Kent Loon’s Stay Low.

1. Sedated (prod. By Kanisono)

Kent Loon: I chose that intro because I wanted to be show how money can destroy anyone. (“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world that he didn’t exist.”)

People don’t even consider the consequences that come with getting money. Crack dealers might get rich but they’re selling drugs that are slowly killing the buyer. Money is so important in our world, but if not utilized properly, it can be evil. So the goal is to get money but not let it change us, just put us in a better position to help our families.

2. Maleficent ft. Chester Watson (prod. by Chester Watson)

Kent Loon: That was straight vibes – me and Chester did that song within a day. We were hanging out, watching Maleficent and he just made the beat. We started writing our verses and recorded it that same night at his crib in Miami.

It’s got more of a dark vibe to it. There’s this girl I’m really cool with from Tampa and her crib is called the Pussy Palace, so I mention it in the song. It’s low-key about how we’ve been through so many ups and downs. We’ve been through hell and back, and this is the time where we just grind

As for witchcraft and dark forces in the universe, I feel like there’s something out there—if it’s not necessarily god, its spirits, The good and bad juju. Karma is a super real thing. Everything will come back to you.

Chester Watson: It was right before we went to LA and Kent came down to the crib. I had my guitars and everything, so I was like let’s make something fire. I wanted it to be trap but Spring Mirage kind of scarred me so I wasn’t trying to do it like that. Maleficent was a start to how I did my drums for Kent. It laid out a template. He has the voice and presence to rap on traditional rap beats but has the flow of a trap rapper, so I wanted to add the elements of the natural stuff and the super distorted techno side of trap. I used a bunch of synthesizers too.

Until this project, Kent was super specific about how he made music. He’d only worked with one engineer and would spend an hour on just one verse. Since then, he’s gotten a lot more prolific. He’d always liked different music but didn’t yet have a sound of his own.

Everyone needs that singularity and he’s achieved that. He hits a different group of fans than I do and does it in a natural way. That’s another thing why I liked working with Kent, it gets out a creative frustration.

3. Selena (prod. by Chester Watson)

Kent Loon: During the time in my life when I wrote this song, I was really fucked up. I was broke. I’d just lost $1400 and was living by myself and had to pay rent and at the same I was hustling to get my bread back up.

I had to go back to square one, start hustling and get this cheese back. Then I made this song. I really hadn’t slept in a week. Juuging out the pack, trying to get this money back. People really felt that shit.

It was, of course, referencing the legendary Selena and it had a deeper message too — in that ‘they gonna do me like they do Selena.’ The lady that killed her was the president of the fan club. That just goes to show that you cant trust anyone who you don’t really know.

4. Dinner Plate (prod. by DVME)

Kent Loon: The beat gave me that feeling of ‘this is our time to shine.’ It’s just me explaining that I would do anything to be at the place where I want to be. This is also about showing the work that I’ve already put in. We’re here to stay. At the end of the day, a lot of people will call us crazy for following our dreams and putting everything into this music shit, but we’re already prospering.

It’s about trying to be diverse and different from most of the other stuff you might hear. We didn’t want to be trendy. We try to be real and genuine, and you can hear it in the music. We’re not no Hollywood-ass people. We’re regular kids.

5. Big Wins ft. Chester Watson (prod. by Chester Watson)

Kent Loon: It’s all about believing in ourselves. Big wins. If you don’t believe in you and your friends, then why are you doing this? This song is just a big celebration and a fuck you to all the haters who didn’t believe in us.

We made this when Chester was living at my house, so we’d smoke all day and make music. We were talking to this guy that Chester knew, who was making this website that was another social media platform, and the guy had said Big Wins and as soon as he said that we were like, “”Yeah, big wins.”

And then we were saying that all day. It was just something that stuck.

Chester Watson: When he said ‘big wins,” I was like ‘bro, big wins, that shit’s hard.’ We just started dying. We just looked at each other and took it. I was like, ‘I hope you know we’re bout to make a song about this.’

On this record, we found a middle ground for both of our sounds. It was also me figuring out how to incorporate guitars, so something new came out of it.

Kent’s just very creative. He’s the only artist that I’ve personally seen grow. It’s gotten a lot more authentic for Kent as the years have gone by and he’s built a love for music that’s really genuine.

6. Money Maniac (prod. by Chester Watson)

Kent Loon: I love weed, so I was just like ‘I woke up high, I got more high.’ I was like fuck it. That’s how I feel every time I wake up.

That was a freestyle. It was just me being kinda cocky on this song, not giving a fuck, telling people we’re the shit. As far as Stay Low, it gradually goes up. It starts from me not having shit to big wins, to me being cocky, to being psychedelic and super fucked up.

I started smoking weed at 11 with my cousin. I was high the first time, but I wasn’t as high as I get now. Maybe it’s just because of the quality, Back in the day, people were smoking mids. Dro or kush was hard to find, let alone wax or edibles.

7. Can’t Feel My Face ft. Sunny Fritz (prod. by Grimm Doza)

Kent Loon: When I first played this beat from Grimm Doza, I went over to my homie Sunny’s crib and we were off the shits all night. That’s where the hook came in, I was super drunk and fucked up. It just happened all that night: we made it and recorded it. I was drinking Hennessey and that shit got me fucked up.

8. People (prod. by Chester Watson)

Kent Loon: I was in Colombia when I wrote this, and was in a dark place. I was just thinking back to all the times that people had fucked me over. I was like, ‘man, I don’t give a fuck. If someone crosses me again, it’s over for them.’

I had a super sober mind at that point. It was me writing from the heart. I was like, ‘I ain’t had shit but a dream, but now people call me a god.’

I had fans hit me up and they were like you’re a god — that felt so good that I had put it in the song. As for Colombia, it’s amazing. There are lots of hills and graffiti everywhere, which is super dope. I was born in Bogota, but moved to Neiva when I was super young.

My momma would take care of me and run the store while my dad was doing his thing. Sometimes, we’d go and drop off food to the customers. Colombia is like a big family. At the same time, it’s scary – at night you have to really watch out. It’s really dark and it has a vibe that can be kinda’ sus.

The food is just amazing. None it is processed with the bullshit – you can eat all day and all night and not get fat at all. You can be 10 years old and buy a beer at the corner store. It’s just really traditional. Every time, they were will be a special holiday, they’ll have a big parade and the whole city comes out. You don’t see that here unless there’s a big hurricane and people are fleeing. Even though a lot of people are really poor, they really appreciate life there.

9. Gold Leaves (prod. by Chester Watson X Grimm Doza X Kanisono)

Kent Loon: We made that when we were chilling at the homie, Kanisono’s crib. He’s the one who made “Sedated.” Him, Grimm Doza and Chester all made that beat while I wrote to it. We were just all vibing out, smoking dope, eating pizza hut.

10. Call Me (prod. by NOVA)

Kent Loon: Every single time I make music, it brings me more energy. I was at my homie Dallas’ crib, and he showed me the producer Nova and we were listening to a whole bunch of his beats and when I heard ‘Call Me,’ I was like this is fire. I’m going to record to this.

During that time, I had to prove myself to people. I didn’t want to stick to just one genre or be put in a box.

11. I Like ft. Chester Watson (prod. by Chester Watson)

Kent Loon: This is one of the songs on the album that really shows its diversity. I like the fact that I can play it and do anything: smoke fat blunts or drive at 2 in the morning. When me and Chester made that, we were together, of course, and I came up with the hook while freestyling. Chester was like ‘that’s fire, that’s the hook.’

Chester Watson:

This was just a weird song – that was when I got my first guitar, there was a bass line on it and I just played it with the lower string. I wanted Kent to have some stuff on the record that was alternative. He came up with the hook. He does that a lot, he’ll just be mumbling something and I’ll be like, ‘that snaps.’

Kent is just really catchy as a person. He’s a people person. I’m weirder than him so as far as being relatable, my music is out the window half the time. For him to be as weird and cool as he is, that’s a very rare thing.

12. Dreaming About You ft. Chester Watson (prod. by Chester Watson)

Kent Loon: We wanted to make a song for the girls. When I wrote that, it was about talking about how much that certain person meant to me. ‘I don’t even need drugs, I can have you going dumb without the rum.’ The song is nothing but positive vibes. When Chester and I made that song, we were so happy.

I want people to know and understand that this was a journey. This wasn’t something we did overnight. It was a long process that hopefully shows how much I’ve grown as an artist. I worked hard on this.

There’s not many rappers from Colombia and I also want to show people from there that they can do this too. I want to motivate people in general. I’m just like anyone else but I started working hard and remained focused on the music.

Chester Watson:

I wanted to make a happy beat so I added some bells because those are just naturally happy. This was just one of those songs where it started with us freestyling while zooted and it just came together.

2017 is a huge year for him. He just got his citizenship. He released his first album. I couldn’t be prouder of him.

His energy is just awesome. His mom is like my mom. Every time that I’m in Florida I stay at his crib. He’s grown and he’s going to keep growing. It’s super inspiring to see him work so hard.

What stands out the most to me about this album is it shows how diverse Kent is. He’s not just a trap rapper, he’s not just one thing. He’s multi-dimensional and people should respect that about him.