In Kent Loon’s music video for “Rax,” you immediately notice a Jenga tower worth hundreds of dollar bills sandwiched between his forearm and a flexing bicep. Your eyes might also linger on the Russian Cream Backwoods in his mouth. Kent dances around the dining room of his home, the celebration more for his diligence – his hustle – than for the money itself. His raps transport you into his world of designer weed and early morning hustling, with his flat, calm voice hushing into a whisper at the end of each line. “Rax,” the first track on Kent’s new album, Bittersweet, is led by a ruminating flute that sounds ripped out of a vintage Disney film, and rhythmic bass and snares that rolls off his delivery with ease.
The 22-year-old rapper grew up in Bogota, the capital and largest city in Colombia, historically overrun by guerrilla factions that extort citizens in exchange for their safety. Kent’s father—who owned successful Chinese restaurants across the country—was a frequent victim. “They were asking my dad for money, just being persistent on that. My mom got mad scared. They were sending him letters saying, Hey, I know that you just had a newborn. They knew my name, they knew everything about me.” Four-year-old Kent, his mother, and a couple of family members would flee to America with hopes of a fresh start.
Kent and his family ended up in Florida, bouncing around cities like Clearwater, Land O’ Lakes, and Ellenton before settling in St. Petersburg. Despite moving all over the place, Florida’s hot weather and its culture became ingrained in his DNA.
Throughout middle school, Kent often hung out at his cousin’s house watching him create music in the studio. When he was twelve years old, he listened to Lil Wayne for the first time. Wayne’s spellbinding use of metaphors and punchlines would inspire Kent to create his own songs. He started off by freestyling over his favorite Wayne tracks and YouTube beats before uploading them to MySpace. “Just looking back, all that shit was trash as hell. But just the fact that I believed in myself and I still had supporters behind me that would actually fuck with it, it made me just want to keep on going.” Kent then took a break from recording new songs.
He attended Pinellas Park High School where he befriended Chester Watson, a longtime collaborator and a producer on Bittersweet. Kent and Chester considered themselves outcasts in school, which naturally made them stick together. “Just because we’re both outcasts we just became mad cool. It wasn’t even about the music shit at first, we just clicked like normal human beings. That brotherhood type shit.” They spent their afternoons stoned, making music together. It would be witnessing Chester work on his solo material that would rekindle Kent’s flame to get back in the studio.
Kent finally materialized that ambition with his debut album, 2017’s brain-melting Stay Low. Chester produced eight out of the twelve tracks on the project, sharing guest appearances on three of them. Stay Low introduced rap audiences to Kent’s psychedelic bars revolving around the enjoyment of drugs and money.
The Florida rapper started dropping loosies like “Masters At Work,” “Dragons Outta Town” (which appears on Bittersweet as the album closer) and “Rome” throughout 2018 and 2019. While what Kent describes as “a dark time” in his life, it wouldn’t be until 2020 he’d release the Endless Night EP (which features “Rax”) for fans waiting on the album. “Some bullshit happened which set me back mentally and just everything. I lost a lot of money, everything,” Endless Night was the push Kent needed to finish Bittersweet.
Bittersweet, named after the rough patch that previously delayed the album, was released in October 2021 with features from 03 Greedo, Chester Watson, Yung Simmie, Valee, and Trapland Pat. The lead single, “The Mist” is like a competition between Kent, Chester, and Valee on who could flex the hardest in their verses. The trap beat is stripped down and minimal with no unnecessary flares, complimenting their vocals. Between every bill flaunted, its easy to notice the darkness that lurks around the corners, but Kent isn’t trying to hide it.
On “I Can’t Lie,” Chester’s production feels like the moment an edible kicks in. The synths are distorted and hazy, but then the ruminating trap drums provide a perfect backdrop to Kent’s raps. He sounds like a snake slithering in the grass with his lines delivered in sinister whispers. Chester provides a smoked-out verse to match Kent’s chilled cadence.
During a phone call with Kent, the excitement from his album’s release is gleaming through the speakers. He’s grateful, appreciative for his fans, and filled with relief. He opens up about the struggles and obstacles he faced leading up to Bittersweet. He talks about growing up in Colombia and moving to Florida, his iron-clad brotherhood with Chester Watson, and future plans. – Anthony Malone
Now that the tape is out, how are you feeling about it?
Kent Loon: Man, I’m more than happy, bro. I’ve been getting great Q feedback from it. It’s doing the damage that I wanted it to do. When I first was creating the tape, I wanted to just do my best music as far as just putting up a body of work with all the music that I had. I took my time on it and plenty of time to study and analyze basically each track that I tried to use for it. So, I feel like it went pretty good, bro.
Each track has its own type of style. I try to be a little bit more diverse with different types of songs and stuff like that. Like, “Dragons Out of Town,” it’s a style that I usually don’t do but I try to slap that on there because just to basically show that I could be diverse as well. And just do some shit that inspires the youth or just anybody that listens to me basically. That’s basically what I try to do.
I feel like the highest form of power is basically just to inspire us as humans. So, that’s why I try to do as much as I can and basically just try to inspire anybody that’s just like me. At the crib, not doing shit and just loves music and loves making money from home and innovating new ideas.
I definitely love making money from home, it’s the best.
Kent Loon: For sure. I basically had all these songs in the vault for a good little minute as well. It was just that I just needed the little finishing touches to it. I was able to get great features on it as well. It was actually my first album that I got crazy, crazy features on there. So, I was hyped up about that to see how they’re going to eat it up as far as that.
Staying on the features for one second. You have so many hard hitting features on there from Valee to 03 Greedo. How do those features come together?
Kent Loon: Honestly, man. Jeff [Weiss], man. Jeff made it happen for sure for the majority of them. Valee, I’ve been fucking with Valee for a minute. I’m actually a fan of his music. I think I reached out to Jeff and I was like, “Yo, Jeff, I really fuck with Valee. I’ve got this song that I feel like would perfectly fit him on there.” And then he pulled his strings and then, next thing you know, he told me that he’d get me that feature. I sent it to him and the turnaround time was crazy, bro. It was so fast. He was definitely fucking with it, just by that turnaround time, how fast he was able to switch it to me.
The song, “The Mist,” is produced by Chester as well. So, I felt like it was a great, great collab because, usually, me and Valee, our style’s kind of similar. Kind of laid back, monotone, and that designer, lavish rap. You feel me? There’s this chilling and stuff like that. So, I was glad that I was able to slap him there. And 03 Greedo, shout out 03, he’s locked up right now, it’s crazy. But I was still able to get a feature from him because of Jeff. I was able to tie that in there, get some of his verses from back in the day or whatever that he recorded that hasn’t been on any song.
And the crazy thing about it, bro, is that when I got the files of the 03 Greedo verses and stuff like that, I’d seen that he already prerecorded to a beat from a producer that I fuck with since day one, which is DVME. And I’ve been fucking with him since day one, since I first started making music, and I’d seen that he already had recorded some shit to him. So, as soon as I heard that, I hit up DVME and I was like, “Bro, I’ve got this feature from 03 Greedo and it’s already basically on your beat type shit that hasn’t been used. Can I just drop my verse on there or whatever?” He’s like, “Bro, 100%, you feel me?” I fuck with DVME 100%. That’s actually Larry Junes’ DJ/producer. So, that’s why that came about.
That’s what’s up.
Kent Loon: Yeah, for sure. And then, Yung Simmie, he’s from Florida as well. So, I reached out to him. I’ve been fucking with him since the Raider Klan days and I was a big fan of his music since a while back. I reached out to him and I was able to get a feature from him as well. So, I slapped that on there. I had him basically choose what song he wanted to get on and he chose “Can’t Sleep”. I just felt like it would’ve been a nice song for the culture in a sense because I’m from Florida and we all have our own little sense of style and vibe when it comes to music and shit like that.
You mentioned a lot about Chester already and he produced on the tape. What is it about his sound that made you gravitate to it?
Kent Loon: Bro, when it comes to me and Chester, me and him, it’s like my brother/best friend. So, every time we are in a room, it just naturally combines to a certain energy that we do and then we just make bangers. Me and him are still so young that sometimes I even forget how long we knew each other for but we’ve been on each other since a while back. A while back.
So, we just naturally just feed off each other’s energy when it comes to that. I have my own certain type of style, he has his style too. So, I feel like every time we combine shit, shit just works like magic. We did live with each other for a while as well. He and I just became mad comfortable with each other when it comes to this music shit and just being around each other.
You guys have such a strong brotherhood.
Kent Loon: And then every time we think of ideas, we just try to correlate them and just try to think of something next level with it. But, yeah, bro, when it comes to Chester, he’s just next level with it when it comes to music. He’s already a motivation itself just by looking at him and his craft and his music and shit. Because every time he drops something or every time he does something, he makes sure that there’s a story behind it, there’s something that correlates to that art.
That’s why I always appreciate him and I come to him for anything. Even if it’s real life problems or even if it’s ideas for music or anything like that. But, yeah, he already knows my style in a sense. That’s why everything just flows so perfectly whenever it comes to me and Chester. He did move back to Georgia. He tends to come over here to Florida a lot to link up and stuff like that. I just shot a music video with Hoodlum two weeks ago or three weeks ago. He came to town and we chopped it up for sure.
When did you guys first meet? I think it was in high school, right?
Kent Loon: Yeah, in high school. It was Pinellas Park High School out here in P park. So, that’s where we first met. He was a freshman and I believe I was a sophomore. He was just a grade right below me but we were both on the same type of level, bro. We just stuck to ourselves, just didn’t really talk to anybody and that’s how we clicked up.
And then we made Nu Age type shit. It became, first, a chilling group/skate group because he skated a lot. I didn’t skate but I would always see him skate and supported that. But yeah from there, it just branched off into making music and just doing our own shit. Making merch and stuff like that. So, it just worked out pretty good. New age was big at first. It had a lot of members in it but now it just went lower to four people.
Were you two always fucking with music at the time?
Kent Loon: Oh, yeah. For sure, bro. Both of us had love for music 100%. Before I met Chester, I was dropping music on MySpace when I was in middle school, you feel me? Just doing remixes to fucking Lil Wayne beats and just finding beats online and then I stopped making music for a bit. And then when I met Chester, he was telling me how he made music and we would always hang out outside of school. Just chill at their home and get zooted and just make music basically. And then I’d seen he kept on making music and I was like, “Man.” That kind of just grew the love back. It kind of rekindled that flame for me.
I was like, “Man, I’m about to just start dropping.” Because, at the end of the day, whenever I was dropping in middle school, I was just doing it just out of love, just because I loved the craft. But, yeah, it was crazy. I remember he dropped Phantom too and then Phantom started blowing the fuck up, bro. We would wake up and see that just jump up 10k every morning. And we were jits, we were in high school, just waking up and seeing that and seeing the feedback from it. So, I was super happy for my brother, for sure.
Which artist inspired you most and why?
Kent Loon: Man, that’s a good question. Growing up, bro, of course Lil Wayne, Gucci. I would fuck with JAY-Z. JAY-Z was hard. Biggie, of course. I always chose Biggie over Tupac just because that was my personal opinion. But I fuck with Biggie heavy too and Curren$y. Once I started growing up a little bit more, I started getting into Curren$y. I love Curren$y and just everything about him and shit like that. Those are the main artists that I was just growing up listening to and just looking up to basically like that.
I grew up in a Spanish household. So, basically, my mom would always play a different type of Spanish music as well. I always had an ear for that as well. Things like Bachata and Reggaeton. So, that all just stayed with me as well and I try to use that to make my music a little bit better or try to… Shit like that.
Just to dial it back a little bit. You were growing up in a Spanish household. You grew up in Colombia?
Kent Loon: I was born in Colombia. I was out there. I was basically out there until I was four until around 2000. Out there it was crazy because everybody, my whole family, wanted to live the American life. They wanted to come to America and the only way that they could do that is through a visa which always expires after a while.
We’re in Colombia, luckily we were lucky enough to come out here on a visa. We came in 2000 just because my mom, she was freaking out in Colombia, because during the time it was just mad hectic, bro. Basically, the guerrillas out there. My dad owned restaurants. He owned Chinese restaurants because he’s Asian. He’s Chinese but he lives in Columbia and he owned restaurants out there. And the guerrillas out there, bro… There was a time where you had to pay them just to make sure that you’re good and just so they don’t do anything crazy to you and shit like that.
They were asking my dad for money, just being persistent on that. My mom got mad scared. They were sending him letters and shit like that just basically saying, “Hey, I know that you just had a newborn.” They knew my name, they knew everything about me type shit. So, my mom was freaking out and she was like, “Fuck that, I’m about to do anything I can to come to America and just try to expand from that.” Just get out that bullshit. And then, yeah, we did that. It was me and my mom and a couple of my family members. Cousins and aunts and stuff. But, yeah, majority of my family’s still out there in Colombia.
On “Rax,” you mentioned being born in Colombia and your father being Chinese. When you’re writing something like that, do you ever think about the early days?
Kent Loon: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I always think about it. I always think about the early days when it comes to stuff like that. Especially because I still have my family members and my cousins that are struggling every day out there. I’m just grateful that I’m out here and just using my talent to at least do something. At least make some type of footprint in this world when it comes to that shit. But, yeah man, I always think that and I always try to put that on my music too so a lot of people could possibly relate and they know how it is when it comes to stuff like that.
Because there’s a lot of immigrants that came over here from their own countries and are just trying to make a living, trying to make it out. My cousins out there, bro, they’ve never been to the US but they study it so much. They know English just because they study it and they hope to come out here one day. So, I’m just grateful for that and I try to just grind as much as I can. One day when they do come out here, the rest will be history, they’ll be good. They won’t really have to worry about much if they’re starting from square one at least like me and my mom.
You followed up with your EP from last year, what was your mindset going into this project, Bittersweet?
Kent Loon: Whenever I dropped Endless Night, bro, it was basically… I was going through a lot of dark times in my life. It set me back and I just wanted to just basically drop something in the meantime because I was in a very dark place. But, honestly, after I dropped Endless Night, it kind of motivated me to just keep on going. So, that’s why there was a little delay on the album but I feel like it worked out the best because it made me stronger mentally.
And, at the end of the day, I was able to try and correlate the album how I wanted to have the songs that I wanted to on there. That’s why, for the majority of the songs, they’ve been in the vault for a long time. But just coming out of that, bro… I was in a dark place mentally from the last EP that I did and now this is kind of putting things into light. That’s why I feel like the name Bittersweet is perfect for what was going on with my life because life was literally bittersweet. During that time it was crazy.
Overall, what was your vision for Bittersweet?
Kent Loon: Shit. The vision for Bittersweet was just basically dropping a body of work that I could have my best music that I have on there and just basically just doing as much damage as I can to take it to the next level. Just so I could reach people in different countries. I just wanted to put my footprint all over the world and stuff like that. So, that’s basically my vision when I dropped Bittersweet. Just making sure I could provide the best music that I can and just something that my fans could basically relate to and shit like that, bro.
On Bittersweet, like most of your music, there’s this looming darkness in a lot of the tracks. It’s murky, it’s heavy. How do you bring yourself into that creative space?
Kent Loon: Just being around the people that I truly fuck with generally. All that stuff. Even though it has a dark vibe to it, it’s because during the time when we made it, we were probably fucked up. We were probably fucked up and just having that creative space around me basically. That’s what it was. Being in the studio, being able to create the music that I want and basically that comes to my mind. Bittersweet, everything was basically a freestyle and then I wrote it down. So, it just comes from the mind. I really don’t write my music like that. I freestyle it and then I write it down. That’s what it was when it came to it.
At the time of recording, what was creatively inspiring you?
Kent Loon: Bro, just everything. I would go to the Dalí Museum, I would look at other artists, other big name artists, big name influencers, even Pablo Escobar. I would try to look into their story and just basically see why they did the things that they did even though a lot of people did look at them as a menace or fucking evil person.
There’s always that side that people don’t know about. And it’s because either they just love what they’re doing, they’re trying to provide for their family and stuff like that and just about anything. Just looking at things from a different standpoint. That’s basically what it was when it came to that. I was just influenced by everyone around me, everything that was going on and just shit like that in my lifestyle. Just trying to get it every day without a nine to five basically.
Amen to that, bro.
Kent Loon: Yeah, for sure, for sure. And just trying to innovate new ideas, trying to innovate new ideas and just try to put in my music the best way I can without saying too much. Without saying too much because that’s the thing about music I love. You could tell them as much as you want to tell them, and then the rest, you could just keep them guessing. It’s like a movie. Kind of like Shutter Island and shit like that. At the end, you’re mind fucked.
Your music has a dope parallel with that movie in a sense because it’s like there’s so much wonky shit going on but things aren’t as what they may appear.
Kent Loon: Exactly, bro. Exactly. And that’s what it is with me and my music. That’s what I want it to be. I want it like that. Maybe in the future, if they know more about me, I might drop a documentary or something like that. But, until then, I like keeping it mysterious and keep them guessing like that because that’s how my life is, bro. It’s just that I’ve always been misunderstood about anything. So, fuck it. I’m going to just keep it like that.
Do you think you’ll eventually try to make people understand you?
Kent Loon: For sure. Sooner or later, they will, bro. They’ll understand everything. They’ll understand why I did the things that I did and why I did that and why I make the music that I do and stuff like that. But, for now, I just make shit that I like and shit that feels right and anything that the universe brings me that I put down.
Do you have a favorite song or moment that you revisit on the new album?
Kent Loon: Yes. Well, I really loved the process of making “Rax” because it was so fast and so random. Literally, “Rax,” which is the intro to the album. It was basically whenever me, Chester and the homie Vash were chilling on my crib and he was making the beats. I didn’t have any lyrics at all. I didn’t write any lyrics at all. He was just making the beat and then we were chilling, smoking. And then afterwards, fucking Vash is like, “Bro, I’m about to go upstairs to go the bathroom.” As soon as he goes upstairs or whatever, I’m just fucking around with it and then I start coming up with the hook. And then literally by the time he gets back, bro, the beat is already fully made and the hook is already there and I’m already doing my verse on that. And then he comes back, he says, “What the fuck? Bro, that shit happened within that time?
And then we were literally dying laughing for 20 minutes, bro. Because it sounded so perfect and it just happened so quick like that. Literally 10 minutes. I feel like that moment was mad special because I feel like that’s one of the hardest tracks that I have fucking on there. And I was like, “Yeah, bro. That shit just came so naturally.” But that’s how it usually is whenever me and Chester make music, especially in the same room. It’s always magic like that, bro. It just happens. We just do it, we just knock it out.
What do you hope to show listeners with Bittersweet? What do you hope for people to learn about you through this album?
Kent Loon: Basically, with Bittersweet, I just want people to know that I could actually do a good body of work. I’ve been dropping nothing but singles lately. So, I just wanted to do a certain body of work so they know that I’m diverse when it comes to music. Just so they know the type of artist that I am and basically I just want them to hear good music when it comes to that and just see me grow as an artist, as a person, when it comes to my music. That was basically the goal, to just take it to the next level like that. And just hopefully it breaks me out of my shell and hopefully I can start doing tours and shit like that and just take it to the next level for sure.
What do you want to let the world know today?
Kent Loon: I just want them to know, as long as I’m able to inspire, that’s all that matters to me. Like I said, I feel like the highest form of power that we have as humans is to inspire. As long as I’m inspiring somebody, shit, I’ll die happy. That’s all that matters to me at the end of the day. That’s basically it when it comes to that. I’ll be satisfied with that. I don’t care about any of the money that comes behind all that shit. As long as I’m making a difference and shit like that, that shit, I’m happy with that.