Kii Kinsella’s days are spent in the hallways of Ithaca High School, where he is now a rising sophomore, and that may lead some potential listeners to dismiss him as a kid fooling around with some programs and a microphone.
That would be a foolhardy decision to reach, though. Kinsella, who performs and releases music under the stage name Saint Kid, has made a name for himself over the last few years as a beat producer and has started to transition into a more microphone-centric role, adopting R&B elements and planning to dabble in rapping on his own records soon as well.
Kinsella comes from a rich family history of music. His parents both play instruments; his father is well-known area reggae artist Kevin Kinsella, and his mother is a singer-songwriter. While Kinsella has only been taking production seriously for a year or two, his first direct involvement with music came at the age of seven when he began to play the piano. While reception to his music has been mostly positive, Kinsella has faced some doubts about his bona fides, stemming from people who think he’s gotten a free pass to local music prominence simply because of his last name, especially since he’s still only 15 years old.
“My parents make a totally different type of music than I do, so I’m in a completely different circle than they were growing up and than they are now,” Kinsella said. “I can only get so much from them. [...] They have a lot to tell me about the industry, and I learn a lot from them in that sense.”
Kinsella has a to-be-titled EP coming out in September, and recently released his album, Alter Ego. That has been accompanied by several singles, one released in the last few weeks and another that will probably be coming out before the end of August. “Attached,” a single that he will release soon, is Kinsella’s favorite song that he has made to date.
Kinsella listed his biggest musical influences as Joji and Khalid, two relatively new R&B artists who have fairly different styles: Joji is more experimental and angsty, while Khalid is a bit more mainstream and radio-friendly. Kinsella’s sound is beginning to shift, he said, likely to include more rapping, something he attributed to encouragement by other local artists.
“I started out making hip-hop beats, just producing for my friends,” Kinsella said. “And then I met Anthony Kannon, played him some of my beats [...] and that’s when I said ‘Okay, I want to do this.’”
After that, Kinsella started buying equipment to fashion a home studio as best he could, where he could host other artists who were either using his beats or making songs Kinsella was featured on. Other artists Kinsella has worked with include Corey Loveless, Ryan Pierce, Kannon and JJ Wolf, all of whom have formed a collective weekly working group who meet at the studio and collaborate on new tracks or help each other tweak solo efforts. He’s also worked with Meech Booker and Booker’s little brother, Junior Perkins. Meeting Booker, Kinsella said, has been a highlight of his young career so far, as it represented meeting one of his local idols.
Kinsella said in the near future he’s trying to steer towards a more Trippie Redd style of sound, an Ohio-based rapper-singer who is probably one of the darkest acts to gain mainstream popularity among the latest wave of rap acts. The roots of that can be heard in Kinsella’s music already, perhaps highlighted by his first public musical effort, and one of his most popular, called “Hell.” That’s not, Kinsella said, representative of some sort of deeply-held mentality, but a result of the music he finds himself returning to by other artists.
“A lot of the songs I make are pretty dark and sad,” Kinsella said. “I have a great life, so it’s nothing crazy, but a lot of the music that I listen to and stuff that I’ve been through, especially the last year of transitioning to high school, that’s what I end up writing about.”