Life & Art Associate Editor
There’s something essentially noble about being a mailman, however dreary it may be – especially when you’re writing spitfire rhymes on the side. It’s even more righteous to recognize both the dignity of running the mail and one’s artistic drive.
“I don’t want to make any distinction between me and the common man,” says 27-year-old MC Kenny Jenkins, aka Diverse, who modestly delivered mail whilst attending classes at the local university when he was first coming up, “because I am that common man. I’m blessed with the creative impulse to express what I see, but I see a correlation between all our lives and I do all I can to connect with people on a humanistic level.”
A Chicago native, Diverse is an eloquent upcoming rapper on indie label Chocolate Industries, which has just released his first LP, One A.M., among the obscure throng of the underground rap game. You might not be seeing him on MTV, but his unorthodox rhyme skills could possibly put glit-hop MCs like 50 Cent to shame.
Growing up listening to pioneering groups like A Tribe Called Quest and Del tha Funky Homosapien, Diverse contended in high school battles and freestyles, before attending several universities, but never graduating. Although his mother, who works at Northwestern University, stressed education throughout his life, he needed a break and wanted to cultivate his love of music first, after facing crude realities when he left home in his late teens.
“Where I grew up wasn’t ideal by any means though I didn’t have to dodge bullets or anything,” he explains, “but it really hit me when I was out on my own after I was 18, when I first started working in the mailroom. I wasn’t getting any financial assistance and was perpetually broke, falling back on my bills. I got evicted from my first apartment and it opened my eyes: I didn’t know how harsh it could be when you move out of home.”
In ’94-’95, Diverse was set to pursue music and a mutual friend hooked him up with Seven, founder of Chocolate Industries. Subsequently, he created his first EP, Move, and showcased his skills on the label’s electro/hip hop compilation, Urban Renewal Program. Word spread around about his talents and, thanks to Seven’s connections, he was able to cut tracks with such prominent indie producers as RJD2, Madlib and Prefuse 73 (for whom he contributed lyrics to one song on the latter’s latest album, One Word Extinguisher) for his full-length.
“It’s called One A.M. because I work like a night owl,” he says. “I was working in a basement studio and my most creative hours are between one and five a.m.”
After pausing to reflect on what induces his artistic spirit, he then adds:
“I don’t wanna sound clich