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Alarm Magazine

Who the hell doesn't like Mos Def? Two years ago I get a little jam in the mail with some nice little drawings on the cover and one of them cats is my homie Mos Def. I make the very rare move and put that shit directly from the mail into the CD player (that disc just done skipped like four weeks of dust collecting). I put it in and get my ears boxed in by a track called “Wylin' Out,” What's messing with me though is while Mos is burning things like normal it's some cat I've never heard of is blazing things, a guy by the name of Diverse.

Two years later Diverse, born Kenneth Jenkins, and I are running all over Chicago, as he tries to give me the grand tour of all his old hot spots. But lets back way up. It's 1991 and 23-year-old John Singleton has set fire to the industry with his film Boyz N the Hood. Possibly one of the best Black films ever made, Laurence Fishburne's performance as Jason 'Furious' Styles defined America's percep¬tion of the code of honor and ethics that existed even in the most thugged out spots of South Central, LA. It made such an impression on 15-year-old Chicago native Kenny Jenkins that he made 'Furious' his emcee moniker. The homeboy had taste. He put the name on all his b-boy actions, be freestyling, or messing with throw-ups on the north side of Chicago. The name would remain with Diverse for six years.

The north side neighborhood that Diverse grew up in, Rogers Park, was better known in the 90's as "The Jungle". While Chicago's south side gained infamy for drugs, gangs, and violence, Diverse can attest that his block featured the same backdrop. Things changed for him fresh¬man year at Evanston Township High School where he was expelled for pulling a fire alarm. His strict Baptist mother had enough, and enrolled him into St. Gregory's High School in Edgewater, a private, uniform-wearing, Catholic school. But Diverse is one charming mofo, and made that transition flawlessly. He was the quarterback of the football team and star catcher on the baseball team. Diverse was even the Prom King runner-up. In 1993, his athletic prowess paid off and scored him a baseball scholarship to Northern Illinois University. But some shit just ain't meant to be. Four months into his college career, Diverse blew out his knee playing football with some friends from his dorm. He was sent home, told to take some time off of school, go through rehabilitation, and return once his knee healed. Diverse never returned.

When Jenkins returned to Chicago in early 1994, he found a thriving hip-hop scene. These were hip-hop's second golden years. Clubs like the Double Door, Bop Shop, Morseland Cafe, Equator, Riviera, Liquid Kitty, and the China Club were featuring acts like Rubber Room, Gravity, Psychodrama, Rhymefest, Tribe Called Quest, Wu Tang, De La Soul, Souls of Mischief, Juice and Akbar. He couldn't resist hip-hop's calling. "I definitely didn't choose it. It chose me."


He linked with childhood friend DJ Loksmith, the crew Earatik Statik, and began making music. Yet, going to a rap show carried the threat of catching a beat down or a bullet. Gang presence and violence was rife, and as an emcee you 73. Everything was coming together. In 2002, Diverse made his first trip out to New York City to El-P's (Def Jux Records co-owner) home recording studio. He would be recording a track for a compila¬tion by Chocolate Industries titled “Urban Renewal Program” with Prefuse 73 production and one of Diverse's all time favorite emcee's, the legendary Mos Def. The track was laid down in a mere three hours, but Diverse basked in the glory of the event for a week, taking in all New York had to offer. The track "Wylin' Out" was released as part of the comp, as well as a single, and has been released with remixes by RJD2 and K-Kruz.

The fact that Momma Jenkins forced Diverse to listen to jazz as kid is appar¬ent in his music. It's also apparent that his mom's attempt to keep him indoors in the mid-90s failed, as Diverse obvi¬ously caught his share of shows, parking lot ciphers, and corner beat box battles as his style reeks of this era. Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul obviously had their impact. He defines his own style as "less structured and poly-rhythmic and more based on content, and musically diverse. Soulful." He quotes his top three favorite' emcees as Pharoahe Monch, Posdnous, and Mos Def and Qwel as one of his favor¬ite locals. Currently bugging the fuck out of Diverse? Internet Emcees. "I hate to sound like an old man, like my dad used to have walk 18 miles to school barefoot and shit, but where I'm from you couldn't just get on the internet and put out your EP and be dissin' people. You had to come out to the functions, you had get on that mic and you had to earn your respect. There was no other way around it, that's how it had to be done. Everybody is putting out fucking CDs. If you've got a couple of thou¬sand dollars and some equipment in your bedroom, there you go man. I think that that's a good thing sometimes but I think to a certain extent it is really damaging hip-hop now."

Diverse is a happy guy. He can't cook Asian food for shit, but he's on some mean Cajun and Italian shit and swears his Chicken Marsala is the jam. He's a fan of visual art, and before he moved to go on tour his crib was littered with Salvador Dali posters. You might also catch him renting shit by Spike Lee or Sydney Portier. When asked if he was happy, I was surprised at his answer. "No I'm not happy, I'm content. No, I'm happy. Yeah, I'm happy. Don't I seem like a happy dude? I'm happy that I have an outlet to express my emotions and feelings about the world that we're living and I'm happy that there are people inter¬ested in what I have to say, there's people tuning and checking in for what I have to say, but more essentially, I'm happy that I made it to be 27 years old 'cause I know to many that haven't."

By: Chris Force

Big Game
CD/12” | CHLT 051

Jus Biz
12” | CHLT 047

One A.M.
CD/2xLP | CHLT 039

Mos Def & Diverse
Wylin’ Out
(Kut Masta Kurt Remixes)

12” | CHLT 034
12” | CHLT 031

Diverse, Mos Def & Prefuse 73
Wylin’ Out
CD/12” | CHLT 030

CD/12” | CHLT 018

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