Meet Kehinde Martin. He is an up-and-coming multi-talented artist. Kehinde began his jack-of-all-trades career as a kid who wanted to make rap music. He makes epic, professional grade rap videos from his own home and is also the nerdiest person I have interviewed to date. We sat down to discuss the grind of entertainment, spin-off’s, cannons, and what it means to represent the black community within each.
Comic Book Curious: What inspired you as a kid to be interested in the comic world?
Kehinde Martin: Disney Channel, Fox Kids, Nickelodeon, Mark Summers, Double Dare. I’m going to age myself with a show called Pinwheel, a variety show for kids. Everything that you can possibly think of, I was all over it. And then there was a show called Grimms Fairy Tales, and it was the very first anime on American mainstream television that I can remember about fairy tales but done in Japanese art. I just couldn't get enough of it.
CBC: You mentioned you were born in the Virgin Islands, raised in Florida and New York, so when and why did you move to California?
KM: I found myself musically in New York. I was 15 and I called up a college radio station one day. I remember the DJ’s name was Brandon. He went by DJ Bruce Banner. I was like, ‘I want to come on your show, I want to rap.’ And he was like, “Can you rap?” I'm like, ‘Yeah!’ “Can you?” ‘Sure, yeah!’ So, my mother took me. I wrote my first rap and I just went off. My mother was so impressed. She was just looking at me smiling. And I was just going crazy. I don't know what I was saying. I wish I had a video. I wish you had the video.
My mom meets this guy named Steven. Turns out that Steven worked for Elektra Records, a hip-hop label that signed Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, all the big artists, and they were in association with Baby Faces’ label. I was 16 years old and he wanted me to move to Atlanta. My dad was like “Ain't no way you're going to Atlanta.” I mean, it was a stretch for them to send me here [San Diego], but I moved in with my brother and they knew I was with him. The goal was to make it rapping on the West Coast because I really wanted it. So, I just practiced and practiced. But, it's hard; The music business is a hard thing to get into in San Diego. It’s not like Atlanta or New York. There's no real market here for my genre of music.
CBC: Seems you were able to combine your passions of hip hop and art through your more recent project, Power Rangers: Shattered Past. How did you get involved?
KM: I sent a DM on Instagram to one of the lead guys from the original Power Rangers who was making new stuff. I thought it ended. He was like, “This is a this is like a fan film thing. It's my passion project." I didn't understand. I didn't know what fan film was. I didn't understand the whole concept behind it and thought they were doing remakes. I went onto YouTube and watched. This is some good stuff, with a high production value. It was like a multiverse extended story type of thing.
CBC: When you say a “multiverse extended story” or fanfiction, what is that?
KM: Fanfiction is a rewrite of your favorite franchise or property or whatever you like. Say your thing is My Little Pony, right? My Little Pony ended and then you start rewriting. What if Rainbow Dash was doing this and that, forming alliances with so and so, basically a fan extended story that doesn't really exist. And it's not canon to the source material.
CBC: And when you say “canon,” that means?
KM: It's the law that is a part of the lore that's a part of the story. And the lore is Power Rangers, the Red Ranger, Green Ranger, purple, Black Ranger, whatever. But there's another Power Ranger that we've never seen and he's been written into a book somewhere. That's Canon to the original story, to the lore.
CBC: Ah! I get it now. Only took me 33 years, Kehinde. You’ve been grinding for a while to turn your passion into a full-time job. I can imagine that gets exhausting. What would your advice be for kids who want to make a living with their art or music? What's the biggest thing that's helped you along the way?
KM: Honestly, just dare to defy everything. I know it's like a cheeseball slogan. I think I heard that on the CW or some shit. I don't remember. (He laughs.) But no, really, it's true. Defy everybody and everything. Just do you. And stay consistent. Stay consistent! Be a good person, network with people and be nice to people! Be cool by being you. Be authentic and be sincere about everything. And just embrace your passion. Share it with people because you never know. If my girl hadn't blabbed about me to Gabriel that day in the restaurant, you and I would not be talking right now.
CBC: How important is it for you to be a figure for the black community within this realm, the sci-fi, comic, multimedia world?
KM: You see what’s going on with the Little Mermaid Live! shit, right? (Referencing casting a black female to play Ariel and the backlash it received on social media). It’s disgusting.
Let us live man. Like, you had everything. Let us live! You take everything else from us. You try to extract us, not include us in the shit that we created, like the country that we live in that was built by people that look like me. I’m just being honest. Everybody is so afraid to talk about the truth, and what's going on, but then you're bold to try to keep me down and to try to make me feel like I'm less of a person?
So in this pop culture world, right? The black community, just hip-hop community period, makes everything look cool. Doesn't matter what it is. It's just a way of reverse engineering shit, and making it look awesome. It's not just for the black community though, it's for the community of people who don't look like the standard. To let you to know that it's okay to be that person or like that person and to be comfortable, and this is exactly why I would get made fun of back in the day, because they were so afraid of what other people thought. When they saw a guy that looks like them liking the “white boy shit,” they made fun of me. And I didn't give a shit, I made it look cool. I like X Games and skateboards, and Patrick Dempsey movies, and Weird Science. I liked everything.
When you associate white folks to the black community, it's always something negative, or some violence, shame or something. Being in this piece, these types of media and bringing a whole new flavor to the entire arena, is an accomplishment within itself. We now have cartoons with children of color, with their legitimate attitude, the sassiness, or the way they speak, or they carry themselves. It's okay to say “lit” or “that’s popping” or “that’s dope.” Like it's okay to be who you are and how you was raised now in today's society in today's media, and that's great. I think our comic, sci-fi culture has produced a lot of confidence in people that would have never been confident in themselves today, and it's amazing to see.
Kehinde’s eyes light up as he shows me his helmet and talks in detail about the Power Rangers suit he ordered from France. He physically deflates when I ask about his day job; he drives the city bus in San Diego. I can only imagine the countless hours he has spent moseying along familiar roads with a gleam in his eye dreaming of fulfilling his true passions. Maybe writing a line, imagining himself playing other characters, or even laughing to himself at how much he believes it can all be possible. If his persistence is a sign of what is to come, I have no doubt you’ll be hearing this name again: Kehinde Martin.
For more interviews with comic creators, check out this page on our website.
About the author: Erin Edwards is a recently retired Navy pilot who has seen the world from the sky and is eager to write about it on the ground. Though she is just beginning to dip her toes in the comic world, she is passionate about meeting new people and unfolding a whole new universe.
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