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kwnaPhotography Tico Mihedji

kwn, the rising artist writing relatable tracks about toxic exes

Exclusive: watch the video for the east London artist’s debut single ‘wn way or another’

kwn (pronounced kay-wuhn) has always been around music. Growing up in Walthamstow, east London, the 22-year-old artist was always surrounded by R&B, garage, house, pop and rock. “My dad used to be a DJ,” she says. “So anything you can imagine, I’ve had in my house.”

By the age of 11, kwn decided that it was music not football that would be the centre of her life. So her sister introduced her to a friend who was an artist and had a studio set up at home. It was there that she learnt how to record vocals and put a song together. “I started making beats. Whenever I used to go to sessions with producers, I would sit there and watch everything they do to absorb as much knowledge and I was putting out songs on SoundCloud,” she pauses, laughing. “And I hope to God they don’t come to see the light of day again. But I thought it was the bee’s knees.”

Ever since, she hasn’t stopped making music. Her laidback sound is perfect for fans of night-time drives and artists like 070 Shake, Ty Dolla Sign, or her co-manager and fellow east London artist Scribz Riley who she collaborated with on “Introduce Myself”.

So far, kwn has found that the most important thing is working with the right people. “You can be in sessions with producers and we’re just sitting there in silence; they're making the beat and I’m just writing a song and I’m just, I don’t really like to work like that. I like to get different opinions that can inspire me,” she says. “Scribz is out of this world and I’m slowly finding people that I’m having genuine connections with and we’re making amazing music together.”

kwn speaks with certainty about what she wants from her career, aware of the traps that can stamp out an artist’s dream early on, and that’s something she puts down to her time at East London Arts and Music, an arts college co-founded by Will Kennard, one half of Chase & Status. “We had a whole class on music business and we learned how to read music contracts and when I was leaving ELAM, I had a deal on the table and [I thought] ‘What is this?’ but they probably thought I wasn’t going to know anything because a lot of upcoming artist don’t have a clue and will take anything that’s on the table, even if it’s two or three grand because it’s something in their pocket,” she says. “ELAM changed my life.”

Now, the rapper, singer, songwriter and producer is ready to put out her debut single “wn way or another”, a relatable track about that toxic ex that you still get drawn back to every time (“I’m here for you rain or shine / But you still feel the need to lie ”) along with a video shot over a few days around London, inspired by the video for A$AP Rocky’s ode to Rihanna, “D.M.B”.

Written two years ago, as a reflection on the aftermath of a difficult relationship, the track gave kwn the space to be vulnerable. “I’m learning that I need to talk about things and this is way easier to express my emotions,” she says. “[Looking back] I feel like a donut. I was very young, but I thought I was 30 years old but I don’t have any regrets. Right now I’m in a different headspace. I’m definitely happier, so there’s definitely going to be some happier music on the way.”

For now, kwn is basking in the glow of finally releasing her first track. “It’s a big riddim for me, I can’t lie, it means a lot to me. I’ll always remember that time in my life, it was a learning curve for me. I just can’t believe it’s about to come out. It’s mad overwhelming.”

kwn’s debut single wn way or another is out now.