In our latest blog series we were lucky enough to catch up with Chaka Kenn. This was quite a coup for us as Chaka has featured on our show numerous times and has a production style that reflects the music we love to play. Tracks such as ‘Cold Blooded’ (see embedded video) and ‘Troys 2nd Cousin’ are created by an artist who never fails to bring a groove you find impossible not to love. What follows is a peak behind the curtain to one of the best producers who gives an honest assessment of the edits scene, including their frustrations at the current time.
What is Chaka Kenn
Chaka Kenn, the brainchild of House music legend Kenny Summit, was born for releasing bootlegs and edits. Not originally intended to be a regular outlet, all of that changed when a love for Chaka jams from DJs and fans alike started to snowball until it surmounted into a huge demand for new tracks. When Chaka was born it was a disco focused project primarily but, unfortunately, today he feels that the disco and edits scene he loves has now become 'trendy' and he is growing disillusioned with it. Now, he says, its a scene where we are witnessing DJs aged 20-something playing disco hits, editing them and acting as if they just created some breathtakingly original piece of work. He is now doing less and less Chaka stuff as he feels that the scene is becoming a joke. But let’s start by asking Kenny about his own history in house music
The History of Kenny and Chaka..
Growing up in New Jersey, Kenny first got into DJing through a love of hip hop. It was the late 80s/ early 90s and the excitement of the scene in the New York City area was so intoxicating he felt he had to be a part of it. In the same period he was lucky enough to live near the 'Aly-Us' guys, who were behind the classic house hit 'Follow Me' . He states that watching them perform that song live at Zanzibar, while Tony Humphries was DJing, solidified his love for house. Due to this musical background, he spent many hours and days learning how to scratch, practicing and learning various techniques; he doesn’t see himself as purely a house DJ. He loves to play all styles of music but, as he quite correctly points out, “it must have soul!” We feel that this love for music with soul comes across in all Chaka tracks, they are always flawless in their production quality, with a hook that always grabs the DJ/Crowd.
He has a number of inspirations, such as the legendary David Morales who really blew him away when he first started clubbing. Other artists that inspired Kenny are Frankie Knuckles, Red Alert, Jazzy Jeff; whilst stating that Grant Nelson is one of the most technically fun guys to watch, which is something we can also testify to! Not one to rest on his laurels, Chaka’s always on a quest to continually improve and he feels there are so many great DJs out there that inspire him to keep pushing himself forward. He’s currently enjoying the tracks Wig and Dashcam have been putting out and states that House Arrest are up and coming. He has a love for music and listens to numerous track styles and artists at any given time. His eclectic taste, combined with all the great material out there, means that he’s able to embrace a wide variety of styles without any particular focus on specific producer. This is something we can relate to; when we put together the Sneaky Disco show we buy so much music, not everything gets in - it’s hard to give every producer all the credit they deserve!
When asked what labels are on his hot list, Kenny firstly said he likes what Luke Solomon does with Classic. He also likes what his boys over at MoodyHouse are doing. Kenny states that: “Homero's Moulton imprint is dope, J Paul's label releases hot joints, Bonetti's label is putting out good stuff, Motive out of Australia is a new hot label, AM2PM have a new label that puts out good tunes, In It Together is a good one, LTBH is also doing well, fuck, there are too many to list.” He also mentioned some of the powerhouse labels of now and in the past such as: “Nervous, Strictly, you know, Defected who have a serious back catalogue filled with hits , stating “ you gotta give props to the old guard. “
When asked if he was affiliated with any label, he was quick to point out that: “People don't seem to realise that just because you release a track or two with a label, it does not make that label your affiliation”. He has a lot of love for the labels that have put faith in him and put out his tracks. For us, the labels have had good sense to put their faith into Kenny/Chaka’s productions and have been rewarded with a back catalogue of hits.
Kenny has no interest in Djing for 1-2 hour slots as he sees a DJ slot as a showcase to show off DJ talents and to create a Vibe for the night. He makes a great point that if you are a producer, with six different DJs in one night, then you are not going to create a vibe - infact, you're not being true to what house music is about: THE JOURNEY. He used to DJ five nights a week in NYC before he moved to LA seven years ago. When he left for LA he was exhausted and swore to himself he wouldn't throw parties anymore - and we’re not surprised, due to the efforts he puts into his sets!! Upon moving to LA he did start throwing the occasional party just so he had somewhere to go.
He puts the lack of a scene in LA down to promoters who have little concern with the music scene itself; they’re more concerned with image. A shame, as he states that there’s a wealth of exceptional talent in the LA area but it doesn’t seem to provide the right opportunities to help them shine like in other places, such as NYC. He’s quick to point out, though, that he has some amazing memories of LA, but has since moved to a small town in North California. If he was pushed for a favourite place to DJ, he admits that pretty much any time he plays outside of the US he has a blast - Hopefully a tour of the UK, especially the north, could one day be on the cards :-).
The future of Chaka Kenn
Of all the interviews and blogs we’ve done this was one of the best, as it’s given us an insight into how a producer in the house music scene thinks. What was also refreshing was Kenny’s amazing honesty and, none more so, when we asked the question about the future of Chaka Kenn. Currently, he’s somewhat disheartened with the way the Nu-Disco scene is going; the lack of creativity, the same-sounding remixes, edits and boots coming out week after week. One bone of contention is people bootlegging his own bootlegs, making minor adjustments and then releasing it as their own work. He has a word of warning for those people: “This industry is SMALL, once you burn a bridge, that shit lasts for a long time (so watch who you BITE off of).“ It seems a fair comment and a legitimate reason to be falling out of love with the industry. It has a damaging effect to the industry; there have been incidents of free downloads being renamed and released on labels ( one in particular) - if things like this continue, talents such as Chaka Kenn might then decide that their production skills should be concentrated on other genres - robbing the rest of us of hot grooves and hooks! He has now decided to focus on making originals with singing, writing, and producing his own original vocals. He plans to enlist the help of live musicians and some of his best friends and mentors, like the iconic producers Eric Kupper and Scott Wozniak.
There’s a new Chaka Kenn track out on Traxsource as an exclusive, out now (Click Here). It's a funky little ode to hip-house, almost has a breaks feel to it and is definitely built for the dancefloor, which we can’t wait for - especially after it’s been receiving rave reviews from than dance stalwarts Moby and Fatboy Slim!
We’d like to thank Kenny (Chaka) for taking the time to answer our questions. It was refreshing to speak to someone who has a real love for music, love for production and, at the same time, who talks about the house music scene with amazing honesty. We’ll be on the look out for the original productions on the horizon, but genuinely hope that we will hear some more Chaka Kenn productions, as they always add extra spice to any show or set we do and always make the crowd move! It will be a big loss for the scene if we don’t have artists like Chaka, so we should respect artists and their work.
Check out the Guest Mix he did for us on EP111 on the Sneaky Disco Show - It’s an absolute stormer! Below are links To Chaka’s Work - And if you haven’t checked out Kenny Summit, too - Where have you been?!