Over the past two years, it’s been almost impossible to shuffle a hip hop playlist and not hear at least once a ‘Whoah Kenny!’ tag. Prolific producer Kenny Beats has been everywhere. And with the second season of his successful YouTube show “The Cave” fully underway, it’s a perfect time to look back at 12 of his standout productions so far.
1. Rico Nasty – Smack a Bitch
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This is the song that started it all for the dynamic duo of Rico and Kenny. By late 2017, Kenny was just emerging from his EDM days with the duo Loudpvck and trying to make a name for himself again in the hip hop world. As he explained on Zack Fox’s radio show “BRUH”, Kenny had been messaging Rico for months before she finally responded. When they eventually booked a session together, Kenny came fully prepared with an arsenal of bubblegummy “sugar-trap” beats, along the lines of tracks like “Poppin’” and “Key Lime OG” that Rico was making at the time. Rico heard them, nodded her head, and said, “That’s cool, now make me a heavy metal beat.” The result is a rage-filled anthem that’s racked up over 26 million views on YouTube.
Standout lyrics: “You rap about an Audi too much / Because my Audi paid off, b*tch hush!”
2. KEY! – Demolition 1 + 2
The man behind the signature “Whoah Kenny!” tag is the criminally underrated Atlanta rapper-singer KEY. Known for his features on classics like “Look at Wrist” with Father and iLoveMakkonen, and A$AP Mob‘s Cozy Tapes Vol. 1 and 2, KEY! had accomplished just about everything by 2018 – except for break into the mainstream. Enter 777, a triumphant debut album executive produced by Kenny Beats. Opening with an uplifting gospel choir sample, “Demolition 1 + 2” kicks off 777 as the perfect victory lap for a legendary artist who’s just getting started. Check out the live version with a drummer and guitarist on YouTube if you want to bring real tears to your eyes.
Standout lyrics: “Run inside your shit, I need an ESPY / No Scantron, don’t test me!”
3. Zack Fox – Jesus is the One
When Kenny started his YouTube series “The Cave,” he set out to make a sleek, professional series of live performance videos. Leave it to Zack Fox to rap about dipping his balls in thousand island dressing for five minutes and turn it into Kenny’s most-streamed song.The look of genuine horror on Kenny’s face as he watches Zack single-handedly ruin his artistic vision makes the song that much more perfect. And the best part: the track is actually catchy as f*ck.
Standout lyrics: “I’ma dip my balls in some thousand island dressing / ‘cuz I got depression”
4. JPEGMAFIA – Puff Daddy
When the left-field experimentalist JPEGMAFIA linked up with Kenny Beats for the first time, it’s not surprising that the first thing JPEG asked for was the weirdest sound on Kenny’s laptop. After sifting through a couple of samples that were actually good, Kenny pulled up a disjointed melody that sounded like it was coming from a water-logged Nintendo 64. Kenny called it “embarrassing,” but JPEG said, “It’s perfect, throw an 808 on that b*tch.” And just like that, Puff Daddy was born.
Standout lyrics: “B*tch, we strapped like Duke Nukem / Pull up with the trey and we ain’t hooping”
5. Vince Staples – FUN!
Kenny can craft a booming 808 and slick hi-hat pattern in his sleep, but what really makes him stand out as a producer is his willingness and ability to adapt to whatever the artist he’s working with has in mind. As he explained in an interview with Pitchfork, Kenny didn’t walk into his session with Vince with an agenda – “It was more Vince dictating the tempo and feel, and me reacting to that.” The result was a perfect summer album of west coast bangers.
Standout lyrics: “Christian Dior, I’m Crippin’ Bior”
6. Ski Mask the Slump God – Foot Fungus
As much as he’s known as a leader of the trap new wave, Ski Mask is heavily influenced by old school legends like Busta Rhymes, Timbaland and Pharrell. With “Foot Fungus,” Ski and Kenny were able to combine an old school 90 bpm bounce with new school 808’s for a 2019 reimagining of classics like “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” In true Timbo/Pharrell fashion, the beat is weird – sampling radio feedback, white noise and a censor beep – but also leaves plenty of room for Ski to do his thing. “Ski heard it and reacted to it because he could hear himself on it,” Kenny explained in a Genius Deconstructed video.
Standout lyrics: “Spoonin’ yo b*tch like I just pulled out a yogurt”
7. Denzel Curry – Cosmic
From aggressive scream-trap to Miami bass to melodic emo and even heavy metal, Denzel Curry can do it all. For his latest project, UNLOCKED, Denzel proved he can master yet another genre: classic boom bap – straight out the book of legends like Madlib and the Wu Tang Clan. Produced entirely by Kenny Beats, the EP was made in a 72-hour burst of creativity and released with no warning other than a fake Twitter beef. The project was accompanied by a 20-minute animated music video ready for Adult Swim, referencing classics like Naruto, Animatrix and Samurai Champloo. Complete with scream-flows inspired by DMX and wild singing flows in the style of ODB, Denzel Curry proves with this project that he can take on any style he wants.
Standout lyrics: “He shoot in VR, we got guns in reality / You act so hard, you should thank the Academy”
8. Smino – Trina
Who else besides Smino could effortlessly rhyme ‘parakeet’ with ‘karate?’ Known for his soulful singing, St. Louis artist Smino threw a curve ball when he recruited Kenny Beats for a bouncey twerk banger. As explained in his Genius verified video, Smino chose Kenny to work with for his engineering skills as well as production. “A lot of producers just give you a beat and leave. Kenny’s like, ‘Nah, I’m gonna sit down, we’re gonna put this effect right here, put this sound clip in.’” Kenny’s attention to vocal processing – getting just the right amount of reverb, delay, distortion, panning and overdubs to make the artist’s voice stand out – is a crucial component of his overall production.
Standout lyrics: “Stay off my grass like Stanley / Threw me cheeks on the beach, she Sandy”
9. 03 Greedo – Disco Shit (ft. Freddie Gibbs)
Known for his yearning, soulful singing over snapping west coast beats by producers like Mustard, L.A. rapper 03 Greedo wanted to try something new when he linked up with Kenny Beats for the movie-themed collaborative album Netflix & Deal. In the behind-the-scenes documentary for the album, 03 explains the sound he wants to Kenny: “I don’t want some west coast sh*t, I don’t want some trap sh*t, I want something that sounds… disco.” The result is a sleet, vintage-sounding guitar track that captures the feel of crime movies like Blow (2001) that inspired the album. Freddie Gibbs busting out his singing voice for a feature is icing on the cake. Free 03 Greedo.
Standout lyrics: “Pull up like Tony Montana, reload it, I pull out the stick on these cockroaches”
10. Gucci Mane – Proud of You
Is there a more inspirational glow-up story than Gucci Mane’s? After changing his diet, exercising and quitting lean, Gucci lost 100 pounds and looks like a new man. His 2019 track “Proud Of You” is dedicated to himself – a celebration of where Guwop is now. Kenny lends slick production to the track, with a warped trumpet-like sample, unique clicking hi-hats and an unpredictable kick pattern that skips the 1 beat before hitting you in front of the snare.
Standout lyrics: “I had the county blues now every day I’m counting blues / No lean and Mountain Dew’s, Guwop I’m so proud of you.”
11. Dominic Fike – Phone Numbers
By mid-2019 Kenny had made a name for himself as the go-to producer for crafting hard-hitting trap bangers. But summery pop songs with acoustic guitars and handclaps? This was uncharted territory. The experiment paid off though, thanks to the magnetic personality and versatility of Brockhampton prodigy Dominic Fike. Kenny said he wasn’t even going to put the “Whoah Kenny” tag in this song because it sounds so different from everything else he’s done, but Dom insisted it was a necessity.
Standout lyrics: “Keep my name out your mouth like some wisdom teeth”
12. Schoolboy Q – Party
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Before Kenny took a detour from hip hop to make money as a DJ in the EDM world, he was cooking beats for the TDE crew, including Smoke DZA, Ab Soul and Schoolboy Q. He even almost got a placement with Kendrick, but the track ended up going to DZA instead. The wobbly dubstep bass of “Party” sounds a little dated 8 years later, but the track is still fun as hell, and a fun look at the early days of Kenny’s production.
Standout lyrics: “Can’t fade me, I ain’t Boosie Boo / Black Hippy, HiiiPower, the amazing group”