Finding community in a hip-hop producer’s Twitch stream - The Verge
Kenny Beats’ Twitch stream is a place to learn how to produce music — but it’s also home to a vibrant community of people who want to tune in and hang out.
In May 2020, I was searching for something — anything — to bring me joy. The world had become a dark place, and I just wanted to feel hopeful. And so, rationally, I went looking in the most obvious place: Twitch. And what I found was the Twitch stream of music producer Kenny Beats.
Kenny Beats, born Kenneth Blume III, is best known for his work with artists like Denzel Curry and Vince Staples. On his YouTube series, The Cave, he’ll produce a beat for artists in just 10 minutes. I’d been a fan of his music for some time, but like most producers, I knew very little about Kenny: he was just a name in a list of song credits who happened to have a YouTube show I enjoyed.
Prior to 2020, I was not a regular Twitch user. But as I worked a job I hated to pay my bills and hoped every day for the pandemic to end so I could return to my normal life, I learned that Kenny Beats was now streaming regularly on the platform. On a whim, I decided to check it out.
What I found was intriguing: here was a guy, arguably one of the hottest producers in hip-hop, showing hundreds — at times, thousands — of people how to make music. He was taking time out of his day to share the secrets of the trade, giving back to the next generation of musicians. I found this to be a nice way to pass the time, almost like sitting in on a professor’s class on a subject you are not currently taking.
Over time, the community became a bigger part of the experience, with certain usernames becoming instantly recognizable and offering consistent content for Kenny to feed on. Kenny began to do a series called the pain chat, where viewers could submit questions for him to answer about various trials in their life. There were the Beat Battles, where subscribers were given a sample and provided a set amount of time to make a beat, submit it, and have it be voted upon by other viewers. Winners of the Beat Battles have received gifts of various kinds, and some have even gotten publishing deals and opportunities because of the Kenny Beats stream.