Cadence, rhythm, rhyme, hard-hitting and socially conscious rap lyrics colored with a distinctive New England accent flow naturally from the fiery center of this son of Providence, Rhode Island.
Born to Cambodian refugees who escaped the murderous Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970’s, Ken R., who would later adopt the stage name, “SK ILLerest,” found his love for hip-hop shaped from his early childhood experiences amongst the harsh realities of crime-riddled, gang-infested Providence. From a young age, SK watched his mom struggle to provide for her family when his parents divorced. When SK was just 14 years old, his father was murdered.
“Hip-hop was always my first love but I started making beats on the computer my father bought me before he was killed.”
His lyrical style is reminiscent of an early Nas, lacing issues ranging from current social injustices like the deportations of Cambodian Americans to alcoholism, the drug overdose of a close friend to becoming a man through the responsibilities of a being a father to twin girls.
“From a young age, I was never a follower. I always did my own thing. That’s how I discovered my own voice.”
His musical influences include Nas, Biggie and Jay-Z, to name a few. SK initially honed his lyrical flow as a battle rapper at whatever clubs or parties that would have him.
“I can freestyle an entire album if I wanted to – that comes naturally to me. But to really get to deeper metaphors, I’d have to sit down and write the lyrics.”
SK’s metamorphosis from an angst-ridden and pain-filled young man coming to grips with his father’s murder, depression and substance abuse is apparent in his musical journey over the past ten years.
“I have much more respect for myself and others now. If you listen to my older music – the more swearing you hear, the older it is. I’ve definitely matured over the years and my music reflects that. I understand the impact music makes and the power of my words. For example, I don’t say the ‘n’ word anymore. Out of respect for my family and friends and just growing up, I understand that if my goal is to have a positive message, I have to model that in my music and real life.”
SK’s recent musical endeavors have focused on more sensitive subjects not often spoken about amongst his counterparts.
“I see a lot of misrepresentation and misinformation not only in the Cambodian American community but here in Providence, Rhode Island. I view myself as a servant of the community. I’m a people person, I love helping others, so through my music, I want to shed light on the deportations of Cambodian Americans, the racial tensions in America, police brutality against African Americans, politics with the current administration – everything.”
With his most recent music video, “Power,” SK hopes to encourage others to educate themselves on the largest, most pressing issue in the Cambodian American community, deportation.
Armed with a microphone and a heart full of dreams for a brighter and safer community, keep an eye on this rising star, SK ILLEREST.
Biography Written by Sorany Var