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For other uses, see Kenna (disambiguation).
Kenna at a U.S. Department of State reception honoring his Summit on the Summit initiative.
Background information
Birth name Kenna Zemedkun
Born Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Genres Alternative rock, funk, indie rock, alternative dance
Occupations Singer-songwriter, musician, producer
Instruments Vocals, keyboards
Years active 2001–present
Labels Columbia, Interscope (Former)
Star Trak, Godel, Translator

Kenna Zemedkun, known professionally as simply Kenna, is an Ethiopian-American musician, philanthropist and technology creative. His track "Say Goodbye To Love" was nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance in the 2009 Grammy Awards.[1] Kenna is the founder and producer of the Summit on the Summit clean water initiative, and also partnered with Justin Timberlake to re-launch Myspace.

Personal life[edit]

Kenna is the eldest son of an Ethiopian family that immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio. He was later raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia, attending school with friends and eventual career-long collaborators Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams. Kenna began to express an interest in music upon receiving a copy of U2's The Joshua Tree. That album inspired Kenna to teach himself piano while studying singers like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, as well as groups like The Cure and Duran Duran. Breaking into the music scene at such a young age and at an interesting time in pop history, Kenna met some of music’s biggest names including Whitney Houston, Babyface, Blackstreet, Teddy Riley and Michael Jackson.


New Sacred Cow[edit]

With the release of his first single in 2001, "Hell Bent", Kenna gained moderate popularity and an underground following of fans who eagerly awaited the release of his debut album, New Sacred Cow. After many delays and swapping of record labels, the album was finally released under the Sony imprint Flawless in 2003.[2] A subsequent North American tour was launched in the Summer of 2003 with Depeche Mode front man Dave Gahan.

The album, which was co-produced by Chad Hugo of The Neptunes, contained elements of electronica, synthpop, post-rock, and house music. Two singles, "Sunday After You" and "Freetime" followed the release of the album; the music video of the latter, along with "Hell Bent", appeared sporadically on MTV2. "Freetime" reached #19 on the U.S. Dance charts.[3]

In Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink, which is about the way people judge and make decisions in their lives, a portion of one chapter focuses on the stops and starts and difficulties that Kenna experienced in getting his music accepted by the general public, despite the tremendous reception and enthusiasm that music executives, other musicians and a small, loyal fan base had when they heard his music.[4]

Make Sure They See My Face[edit]

Kenna's second album, entitled Make Sure They See My Face, also co-produced by Hugo, was written over the course of three years, finishing in early 2007.[5] The album was originally set to be released on June 5, 2007, then pushed back to June 19, 2007, finally being released on October 16, 2007. Kenna, in an interview with Vibe magazine, cited the reason for delays as being over the video for the album's debut single. The inspiration for the album came from Kenna's attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the title, inspired from phone calls by Pharrell asking Kenna; "are you going to make sure they see your face?". Kenna's climb took him to 18,200 feet before he fell ill from taking a sulfur-based altitude medicine, to which he had an unknown allergy.[6] On October 23, 2007, the album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 20 Heatseekers Chart.

An unrelated song from his second album, "Face the Gun", was released to appease his waiting fans, and initially was not to appear on Make Sure They See My Face, missing from early promos of the album. Ultimately, it was included in the final track listing. Kenna released a track from the album, entitled "Better Wise Up", in time for the Super Bowl; this track can be found on his MySpace page, as well. A remix of "Better Wise Up" featuring Audio Imagery has been circulating the internet since August 2007. There has been no official word from Kenna or from his label about this remix.

Summit on the Summit[edit]

When Kenna learned about the global water crisis affecting even his home village in Ethiopia, he decided to create the SUMMIT ON THE SUMMIT project, when he and friends Lupe Fiasco, Jessica Biel, Emile Hirsch and others climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro on January 7, 2010 to bring attention to the water crisis.

The documentary on the climb aired on MTV on March 14, 2010.

A new song called "Turn" was made available as a free download on his official MySpace for a limited time. It has since been released on the iTunes Store on January 26, 2010. Proceeds from the sales of the track are donated to the SUMMIT ON THE SUMMIT project.

Land 2 Air Chronicles[edit]

On February 13, 2011, Kenna announced plans over Facebook and Twitter to release a series of 3 EPs with 3 songs each, titled the Land 2 Air Chronicles. The series will be followed by his 3rd studio album Songs for Flight. The first EP, titled Chaos and the Darkness, was scheduled to be released on March 8, preceded by the first single "Chains". The song was streamed on Kenna's official website on February 22.

However, on March 4, it was announced that there had been an unfortunate technical failure with the hard drive that stored the majority of the files that made up the songs for not only the EP, but also the Songs for Flight album, wiping out the majority of the material recorded. Kenna rerecorded and reproduced all the songs. The first Land 2 Air Chronicles EP was eventually released on April 26, 2011, and "Chains" was made available as a single on iTunes & Amazon on March 8.

The first single from Kenna's second EP, Imitation is Suicide is called "Long Gone" and was released for streaming on Kenna's website and Soundcloud on October 12, 2012. The accompanying short Hitchcockian-style film marking Kenna's directorial debut was released on MTV on October 17.


Kenna’s strategic development company Translator serves as the umbrella for all of Kenna’s endeavors, including his music, technology and philanthropic efforts. In March 2012, Translator in partnership with Myspace produced a successful outdoor concert featuring Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Mumford & Sons at the annual South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. The event saw more than 12,000 attendees and 1.3 million livestream views on Myspace. Kenna continues to curate and consult on many projects in tandem with his own music endeavors.

Other works[edit]

Kenna has also contributed to many other tracks by bands associated with Chad Hugo or The Neptunes, including but not limited to "Spiral" from William Orbit's album Hello Waveforms and "Red to Black" and "The Hard Way" off of The Rising Tied, the first album from Fort Minor, the side project of Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda. "The Hard Way" is only available as a bonus track on the limited edition version of the album. Kenna also appears on Mark Ronson's album "Version" with a cover of the Ryan Adams song "AMY".

On October 6, 2006, the world premier of "Out of Control (State of Emotion)", from Kenna's EP entitled Black Goodbye Ride, was played on East Village Radio on Authentic Shit with Mark Ronson; it became available on iTunes on December 19, 2006.

On July 7, 2007 Kenna opened the New Jersey portion of the Live Earth concert. He also toured with Nelly Furtado throughout various stops on her "Loose" tour.

Kenna was featured on Mae's third full length album Singularity on the tracks "Last Transmission II" and "Novocaine". Both tracks being bonus tracks on the iTunes Store.

Kenna alongside Chad Hugo produced a number of tracks for Ashlee Simpson's third album "Bittersweet World", released in 2008.

Kenna has also worked with Lupe Fiasco on the remix of "Say Goodbye to Love" and the The Cool Kids on the remix of "Loose Wires."

Kenna teamed up with UK Grime artist Wiley for his 2008 album "See Clear Now", appearing on the track "Summertime". The song was released as the album's second single in the UK, hitting #45 on the UK Singles Chart. Kenna does not appear in the video.

"Out of Control" appears in the soundtrack for the video games: MLB 08 The Show and FIFA 08.

Kenna is currently working with pop singer JoJo and will be producing tracks for her new album "All I Want Is Everything".

Kenna & Chad Hugo also made a remix of the Kings of Leon song 'My Party', which was on the Charmer single as a B-side.

On RJD2's 2010 album The Colossus, Kenna contributes vocals to the song "Games You Can Win."

Kenna is featured in the latest string of Gatorade Commercials. He created, wrote and does the vocals on the Chad Hugo produced track, "Lock it Up", which plays in the background of the ad.

Kenna was also a featured celebrity in the HP You on You project advertisement. [1]

Kenna collaborated with The Neptunes and Clipse on their 2009 album Til the Casket Drops on the track "Life Change".

Kenna and Lupe Fiasco recently recorded a song together called "Resurrection". This song was released on the charity album Download to Donate for Haiti in 2010, in which the proceeds go to Music for Relief, Linkin Park's charity. Also present on this album is "Never Let Me Down", an unreleased track from the Make Sure They See My Face sessions.


After some urging from friend and fellow musician Justin Timberlake, Kenna joined in the relaunch of Myspace. Timberlake who also invested in the new Myspace, reportedly convinced Kenna to take a job with Myspace as Chief Vision Officer. Kenna was featured in the April 2013 Details Magazine issue as one of their 2013 "Digital Mavericks" entrepreneurs. [7]


Album information
New Sacred Cow
  • Released: June 10, 2003 (U.S.)
  • Label: Columbia Records
  • Singles: "Hell Bent", "Sunday After You", "Freetime"
The Black Goodbye EP
  • Released: 2007 (U.S.)
  • Label: Star Trak
  • Track listing:
  • 1. "Out Of Control"
  • 2. "Better Wise Up"
  • 3. "Black Goodbye Ride" [8]
Make Sure They See My Face
  • Released: October 16, 2007 (U.S.)
  • Label: Interscope Records
  • Singles: "Out of Control (State of Emotion)", "Say Goodbye To Love", "Loose Wires"
  • Charts: U.S. #124 [9]
Land 2 Air Chronicles I: Chaos and the Darkness
  • Released: April 26, 2011
  • Label: Godel
  • Track listing:
  • 1. Chains
  • 2. Kharma Is Coming
  • 3. What U Want
Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide Chapter 1
  • Track listing:
  • 1. Wild, Wild Life
  • 2. Relations (An Ode to You and Me)
  • 3. Get in Closer
Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide Chapter 2
  • Track listing:
  • 1. Long Gone
  • 2. Heaviness
  • 3. Love Is Still Alive
Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide Chapter 3
  • Track listing:
  • 1. Imitation Is Suicide
  • 2. How Will It End
  • 3. Politics


  1. ^ "The 51st Annual Grammy Awards Nomination List". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. 2008-12-03. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  2. ^ Reeves, Mosi (2007-10-17). "Kenna: Don't Blink". Creative Loafing. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  3. ^ Billboard Singles, Allmusic
  4. ^ "New CDs". The New York Times. October 15, 2007. Retrieved 2011-03-18 date = 2007-10-15. 
  5. ^ (the album is listed near the bottom right of the page with most recent release) on Interscope Records website
  6. ^ Fennessey, Sean (2007-11-16). "Kenna: Feel Like I'm Nowhere". Vibe. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  7. ^ Roman Iakoubtchik. "Digital Mavericks Using Social Media to Change Our Lives". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  8. ^ "Kenna - The Black Goodbye EP (CD) at Discogs". Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  9. ^ Billboard, Allmusic
  10. ^ "iTunes - Music - Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide - Chapter 1 - Single by Kenna". 2013-09-03. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  11. ^ "iTunes - Music - Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide - Chapter 2 - Single by Kenna". 2013-10-22. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  12. ^ "iTunes - Music - Land 2 Air Chronicles II: Imitation Is Suicide - Chapter 3 - Single by Kenna". 2013-10-22. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 

External links[edit]