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Kenneth Howard and Ken Barnard have a lot in common.

They are both 20 years old. They are both about to be juniors at Columbia College in Chicago. They are both rappers who love music.

They have plenty of differences too.

Kenneth Howard started performing as a child, singing in churches, and has had more than his fair share of hardships. He’s felt loss, self-doubt, and lack of direction throughout a good portion of the last five years.

Ken Bernard is all about positivity, and started performing music at the end of high school. He is attuned with himself, confident enough to consider himself a motivational artist, trying to inspire others with his words.

But you see where this is going. They are, of course, the same person.

“Positivity. Spiritualism. Hope. Reflection. That’s Ken Bernard. I was able to channel him more and more until his mindset was my own. His good habits were now my own. His ability to see the bright side and connect with people – that was mine now, too”, Kenneth Howard shares. Ken Bernard was Howard’s response to a particularly hard loss that he experienced toward the end of high school. “(The persona of) Ken Bernard was born out of my sadness. I (as Kenneth Howard) wasn’t in control. I was low. But I wanted to be different. I wanted to change. I wanted to be positive, and to be spiritual, to get through this time. I spent time reflecting, and out of that time came Ken.”

What Ken has learned about himself through his creative exploration, he wants to share. He is happy to perform or play his music for his peers or anyone who will listen, though he does have a target audience in mind. The people he most wants to listen are those who most want to feel seen.

“I consider myself a motivational artist. I speak for the unspoken, for those who haven’t found their own voice yet. I want to connect with these people”, Ken says. “I want to connect with people going through something they want to get to. I want to share a positive mindset, saying, “You can get through it. I did, and you will too”.

His dreams of connecting with those who need it through his music fortuitously lead Ken to SocialWorks.

“I met [Justin and Essence of SocialWorks] while I was recording a commercial [for SocialWorks OpenMike Presents program]. From there, I fell in with SocialWorks and learned about OpenMike. It’s the perfect space for Ken Bernard to share and perform. You meet so many new people, and everyone is so supportive and wants to build you up, or even collaborate.”

The collaboration is key for growth, something that Bernard is always trying to do. “It’s important to be versatile as an artist. The more you experience, the more you learn, the more versatile you can be. That’s a good thing,” he says.

Ken’s recent growth has been well documented through his most recent releases. Late last year, he released the EP “Can I Vent to You”, a collection of music focused on figuring things out when going through hard times. Ken Bernard, encompassing all of the qualities that Howard wants to portray, takes the listener on a journey, sharing his story as a means of motivating.

“I want to boost others up. I want people to think “you know what, I am great and I am doing great and I should be proud of myself”.

It’s a message he wants young artists to hear, especially as he reflects on what he felt like as he started writing and performing. He challenges young creatives to enjoy the moment, enjoy the process of creative expression, and learn from the process of making music. “I know many of my peers feel similarly, like ‘Why am I not more successful than this? Why haven’t I achieved this or that yet? I want to convey to them, ‘Look, everyone has their time in life. It hasn’t come yet, but it will.’

While the subject matter—managing loss and hard times, self-reflection, and growth—are serious concepts, Ken Bernard still wants people to know that he’s trying to show them a good time as much as he is trying to inspire. His new music, “Ain’t Finished Yet,” is released on June 20, 2024 and is meant to be joyful and energizing.

“Expect good vibes” is how he is explaining his upcoming release. “I want to make people dance.”

That’s something on which Ken and Kenneth both agree.

See Ken Bernard live on July 6th at 5120 W 44th Street, Chicago, IL 60638.

You can follow Ken Bernard to be the first to learn about new releases and performances at https://www.kenbenardmusic.com/ , @kenbenardofficial on Instagram , @thekenbernard on tiktok, and hear his new release below.