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CLOSE’s “Base Level” column features the hottest new artists we’re buzzing about. Before they make it to the summit of superstardom, we spot them at base level–the beginning of their hopeful journey to the top.

Kenya McGuire Johnson doesn’t rely on vocal acrobatics to draw you into her music, she’s a storyteller who combines jazz and R&B into a grown and sexy package. With her career kicking up oversees, the Denver native has her sights on stardom in the States.

Get the basics on Kenya, below:

 Name: Kenya McGuire Johnson

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Age: Grown and sexy.

Musical Inspirations: My tops are: Stevie Wonder, Diane Reeves and Lalah Hathaway.  I’ve been listening to Lalah since she was 19 and people are finally starting to recognize. I just love her style and her tone.

How do you describe your sound? I try to infuse soul and jazz. I like to keep things clear and tone driven. I like to improv and I like to do my jazz-influenced things. I have a softer voice. Soulful, smooth and jazz-influenced.

What Was Your Biggest Break Thus Far? Things are striking up huge in London and what’s that doing it’s increasing my international visibility which is also getting the states to pay attention because it’s like who is this person from the states getting all of this attention. My producers on this album are a big break because they are top-notch producers. The two main ones — Khari Cabral is India Arie’s bassman and the other producer is Kendall Duffy.

 If you were the love child of any two musicians, who would they be? I’m going to say Minnie Ripperton (I by no means sound like Minnie Ripperton but it’s the simplicity of her voice) and Robert Glasper — how he brings more of the R&B into his jazz world is something I really admire.

What do you want people to know about you? I am a complete lover of music. As much as I’m a musician, I’m a fan. I’m about the listeners and making the music relatable so they can enjoy the music and reflect. I like to tell stories in my music. It’s not just about the beat. I want them to be able to get into the song and the story of the song.

Check out her new video, “Let Me” below:


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