Cuttin’ up and makin’ waves
Keeng Cut plays a pivotal role in the resurgence of Black Wall Street
Keenan Lane—a.k.a. Keeng Cut—has been rapping since elementary school. He remembers because it coincided with the release of the Sega Genesis gaming system.
“On the Sega you used to have an option where you could go to the video game beat,” Lane said. “I would freestyle over that and I figured out a way to record that while it was playing off the TV.”
Lane grew up listening to everything from purist East Coast rap to the R&B classics of Al Green. At Central High School, he rubbed shoulders with prominent Tulsa rappers like Steph Simon, Verse, and Pade. Today, their shared passion for creating music is stronger than ever, and they’re all contributors to the hip-hop collective World Culture Music, inspired by the legacy of Black Wall Street.
“North Tulsa is the biggest influence on everything in my life: How I carry myself, how I represent myself—everything that I do is to represent North Tulsa, because I know I have the spirit of Black Wall Street in me,” Lane said.
Not only does Keeng Cut represent North Tulsa musically, but he also embodies the legacy of Black Wall Street as a young black business owner and entrepreneur. Keeng Cut is part-owner of the booming food truck, TNT Wangs, often found parked outside Soundpony with a line down the street.
“TNT is a light for the resurgence of Black Wall Street, because it’s showing not only black people, but young black people that you can start a successful business. It is a part of the new Black Wall Street,” he said.
Lane attributes much of his success to being unapologetically himself, and he encourages his fans to do the same. “I didn’t get here from being the clean version of me,” he said. “I got here by being nothing else but me.”
Part of being himself includes not getting caught up in image or labels. Lane isn’t preoccupied with any of that. “I don’t want to be labeled as a gangster rapper or a southern rapper. I don’t even want to be labeled as a rapper,” he said. “I want to be labeled as an artist. Fuck the politics. Fuck the diss. I just want to make good music, man. Feel-good music.”
While the focus and quality of Keeng Cut’s music has evolved over the years, one thing that hasn’t changed is Lane’s fearlessness in flexing his pipes. “Whether I was tone-deaf or not, I always liked singing—even in high school,” he said. “When I do the singing shit, I don’t really care if you like it, because somebody is going to like it.”
Keeng Cut sings on most of his tracks, which he attributes to the fervent love of R&B music instilled in him at a young age. “The evolution of Keeng Cut is way bigger than just music,” said Steph Simon. “He’s just a timeless individual.”
Keenan’s latest single, “Cuttin’ Up” has made waves around the U.S. and even across the pond in England, France, New Zealand, and Japan. This boost in streaming came after independent record labels True Panther Sounds and XL Recordings added the track to their playlists.
The song opens with Keeng Cut’s trademark phrase “oops,” rhythmically repeated nine times before delving into his feel-good lyrics, melodically sung and rapped over a simple beat scheme—artfully balanced so as not to detract from his strong vocal presence. The self-deprecating hook, “I might not be the brightest / Or have a clue, not even the slightest / Never asking questions why is,” reminds listeners that rap doesn’t have to be about creating a braggadocious persona. It can be honest and relatable.
“He’s the most positive person I know,” said local rapper Dialtone. “He already living where we trying to get to, and it shows in his music.”
Keeng Cut has plans to release an album later this year and hopes to take World Culture Music overseas to the areas of England where it has gained the most recognition.
You can catch Keeng Cut on Aug. 31 at Blackbird on Pearl for the Megalodon Virgo Bash. Entry is $5 in advance or $10 at the door.