Chicago-based rapper Keenan The First’s latest track, “WET,” will be featured on NBA 2K21’s soundtrack. The song was selected as part of the 2K Beats: The Search contest, which invited songwriters to submit songs for the soundtrack.
Keenan The First worked alongside six-time Grammy-nominated producer Sak Pase to create the track. Steve Stoute, founder and CEO of UnitedMasters record company, and Jayson Tatum, forward for the Boston Celtics, praised Keenan’s record in a celebratory Instagram post.
“Seeing two people who I respect and know give the song a stamp of approval is priceless,” Keenan said. “I spent that whole day just smiling, chilling, drinking Pepsi and having a good time.”
After listening to the song for the first time, Weinberg freshman Finn Wintz immediately said it’s a song he would work out to.
“The song has incredible beats, and it definitely gets you in the mood to work out and be active,” Wintz said.
Keenan’s trajectory is indicative of his hopes to be an up-and-coming rapper, but he said it took time to realize that creating music was his passion.
After getting a scholarship to play football for the University of Wyoming, Keenan set his sights on playing for the NFL. But all that changed after a series of concussions ended his football career. At that time, music, something he “always did on the side,” felt like a potential career avenue to explore.
“Everyone was saying, ‘Hey, you’re a guy who has high grades, and you have musical abilities. You’re in a position where you can transition out of football gracefully.’ And that’s when I considered giving football up,” Keenan said.
Shortly after graduating college, Keenan and his parents relocated to Los Angeles. There, Keenan learned about the music industry’s commercial and financial facets, all of which would eventually give him the skills necessary to produce songs that propelled his career.
Keenan said his formula for songwriting is simple: emotional resonance and relatability.
“My songwriting philosophy is based on the rule of threes, which is that if something happens to me in three different ways, then the event is relatable enough for it to have happened to different groups of people, which makes it a song worth commercializing,” Keenan said. “That’s how I craft my music — it’s always based out of reality and experiences that I have or that are tangent to me.”
This philosophy of threes, which Keenan developed during his time in Los Angeles, was an approach he incorporated into “WET.”
Keenan was introduced to Pase, his current producer, as he was relocating to Chicago. They worked on “WET” for over two years, and after realizing it had potential, both decided to submit it to various contests. Although they said they weren’t expecting much, they were ecstatic to hear back from 2K Beats.
While Keenan does not know where he’ll be five to ten years from now, he does recognize that the music industry is constantly evolving — and he wants to be at the forefront of that evolution. He said he wants to use his platform to usher in the next generation of rap artistry.
Reks Mouk, Keenan’s project manager and business architect, is confident in Keenan’s talent and potential to be successful in the industry.
“Once you meet Keenan, you can feel his energy and charisma. He has a certain way of drawing you in because he articulates his vision so eloquently through his words, using music and art as his canvas,” Mouk said. “I’m happy to call him my brother and my friend.”
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