Family plans posthumous party for 20-year-old slain rap phenom Kenn Ball. Fellow rapper Tezo talks to CP2 about his friend's life, his music and how they teamed up for a "Dinner Date" that's going down in Cleveland this weekend.
By FELICIA C. HANEY
If you Google the name Kenn Ball, chances are you’ll come across a string of YouTube videos with the song “Murder Scene” presenting itself at the top of the list. Take a listen and the song is heaving with analogies from the wordsmith that amplify his self-proclaimed title as a young rapper who’s killing the game so hard, it looks like a murder scene. But unfortunately for Kenn Ball, life imitated art and his mother could only wish that it was a play on words when she received word in the wee hours of the morning of March 10 to report to a real life murder scene… Her son’s.
Shauna Smith, Kenn Ball’s mother, as well as the realm of hip hop in the microcosm of Cleveland suffered a devastating blow that morning three months ago when her 20-year-old only child, rapper Kenny “Kenn Ball” Smith, was killed by a single gunshot to the head from an off-duty police officer downtown on E. 9th Street. The story that was told by the police and the picture painted by the media pegged Kenny as an unruly, gun-toting thug who messed with the wrong heroic cop. But his friends, his family and his fans have a different side of the story that they’ve been expressing through the Justice for Kenny campaign. Although the shot heard ‘round the world of hip hop was deafening, Kenny’s voice refuses to go silent. It can be heard loud and clear this weekend when Club Premiere,4102 Lee Road inCleveland, plays host to the Kenn Ball album release party.
Smith said it was her idea to do the party. Her son’s debut album is set to drop next Tuesday, June 26 on iTunes and she just wanted to let the fans hear the music and enjoy themselves in celebration of Kenny. “Kenny wrote all his own music,” Smith said. “I just want my son’s music to be heard ‘cause that’s what he wanted. I just wish he was here to see all the success from it.” That success is partly accredited to Kenny’s fellowEuclidHigh Schoolalumnus Thaddeus Gibson. Gibson, a linebacker for the Chicago Bears, helped fund the project and select the songs to be featured on Kenny’s “Birthplace of Aviation” debut album. “I didn’t want to choose the songs; I didn’t want to know what they were until I actually listen to it on the release date. I just wanted to be surprised, so Thaddeus put everything together,” Smith said.
But, she was no stranger to her son’s music and actually considers herself a fan. She recalled her reaction when she first heard his now popular single “Friday” saying she knew it was a hit. “I told him, ‘Oh that’s going to do good.’ I said it would be around forever like ‘The Dog’ [George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog”] because it will always be Friday,” Smith said. And she’ll never forget that Friday, March 9 – the same day rapper Biggie Smalls died – the last time she saw her son alive.
Etched in the memory of so many of his friends are the sketches from that night. Kenny’s long-time friend and fellow rapper Tezo recalled the interesting turn of events revealing that he, along with some other friends, had gotten into an altercation that night with a group of guys. He said that it was Kenny who actually stopped any malice from going down, explaining to his friends that it wasn’t worth it. “I’ve known Kenny since middle school… and I’ve never known him to be in a fight,” Tezo said. “He just wasn’t that type of guy. He wasn’t a thug, he was from Euclid. He didn’t even like guns. Kenny had a girlfriend, he didn’t even like to go out like that. The only reason he went out that night is because they were supposed to play ‘Dinner Date’ at the club.” “Dinner Date,” a song the two friends collaborated on, is set for a video shoot this weekend. It begins at The Gold Room, 1360 W. 9th Street (downstairs from Fortress Nightclub) in the Warehouse District. Filming will simultaneously continue Saturday night at the album release party and end Sunday with a cook-out at Euclid Creek that’s free and open to the public to come out and show support.
Tezo’s vision for the video is for it to go viral. “We planned on doing a video from the day we recorded it. Him passing just amplified everything,” he said. He wants it to be a presence on all major blogs, even Worldstarhiphop.com, that Tezo said has the tendency to put a negative connotation on things. “I just don’t want anyone to tarnish my friend’s image,” said Tezo. We as his family just want him to be remembered as it really is. That cop wasn’t a hero.”
Be sure to attend the video shoot for “Dinner Date” all weekend long and check out the debut album “Birthplace of Aviation” on iTunes. The album will be sold for $9.95 with a deluxe version available for $14.95.
“Thank everybody in advance for supporting him and his music,” Kenny’s mom said. “He really had great friends.”