Karrington McKenzie’s star is on the rise.
The 21-year-old is the winner of the recent Bahamas Carnival Experience Rising Stars Song Competition with his song “A.K.O.L” (Any Kind of Liquor) and is among the top 10 finalists in the 242 Song Competition in celebration of The Bahamas’ 50th independence with his song “Together As One”.
McKenzie walked away with a $10,000 prize from the rising stars competition. It is his hope to be among the top three in the 242 Song Competition and share in the $16,000 cash prize up for grabs — $7,500 for first place; $5,000 for second; and $3,500 for third. Top three for the independence song competition also receive a branding photshoot, performance at Bahama Rock: Golden Jubilee Concert, plaque, resort passes and media tour. For making top 10, McKenzie automatically is able to have his song arranged, recorded, mastered and distributed on streaming platforms, media tour and a plaque.
McKenzie is proud of both accomplishments.
He learned he was top 10 in the 242 Song competition while at carnival soundcheck.
“That was an overwhelming feeling for me. Out of 200 I was top 10.”
He went from learning that bit of amazing information to finding out he had won the carnival rising stars competition.
“When they called my name [as the winner of the rising stars competition] I couldn’t believe it,” said McKenzie. “When they said it, I had to ask somebody next to me if they just called me.”
“I didn’t even go onstage right away I was in such shock. I was a little afraid at first, because everyone in the competition was talented, but I was super excited and grateful that amongst great talent I was on top.”
Performing on the carnival stage was a first for McKenzie on a number of fronts. It was his first time writing and performing soca music.
He said he found being on stage “overwhelming” but said the over-the-top audience reaction gave him the energy he needed.
“I was grateful they were there to support local Bahamians and they were actually screaming for every performer.”
McKenzie’s winning carnival song is one for soca lovers. And it’s one he had to do research on before he was able to pen the lyrics.
“I had to go into the background of soca and get people’s opinions on what it is they get from soca music, and their take on soca music. A lot of the feedback from these people was about being able to plain ole drink freely – and everyone was talking about road marches; and the fellas was just talking about the ladies.”
McKenzie said he came away from his research knowing that he needed to come up with a song that “meshed liquor and the gal.”
“The song gives you two story lines – it starts off talking about all of us being in COVID and not having carnival for two years, hence the reason for the first line of the song, ‘hear that music playing two years I’ve been waiting for it’ – the second line goes on to show my excitement for carnival happening.”
He said just being in the competition was an amazing experience.
“It was an eyeopener for me. I learned different styles, different ways to sing and manipulate the music and beats.”
McKenzie comes from a family that is entrenched in Bahamian music history.
He is the son of the late gospel legend Kevan McKenzie and the nephew of rake ‘n’ scrape master Dillon “DMac” McKenzie.
Interestingly, he did not reach out to his uncle. The only family members who were involved with the track were his cousins – brothers, engineer/producer Yonzell Clare and producer Yontell Clare.
McKenzie recorded his vocals with Yontell, before Yonzell stepped in to mix and master.
“My uncle [DMac] basically prepared my cousins in the studio and recording industry. He helped them mature and grow so what he [DMac] would recommend, they’re already on top of it.”
McKenzie opted to enter the 242 Song Competition because he thought it would be cool to pen a song that would represent the celebrations around the country’s 50th Independence.
“I saw it as an opportunity to put myself out there,” he said.
His contribution, “Together As One” speaks to the many things going on in The Bahamas and people taking the time to remember that we are one nation, one people, and moving forward together as one.
McKenzie took inspiration from the Bahamian Coat of Arms and the National Anthem.
“Forward, upward, onward together has stuck with me since primary school. For me, those four words in our Coat of Arms has strong and powerful meaning and I see them as a layout as to how we can move together as a people.”
With one win and a top 10 showing to date to his credit, McKenzie said even though he is young, he has noticed his development and maturation as an artist. And he credits his gospel background as well as medical challenges he has faced as foundations to his successes to date.
McKenzie battled non-Hodgkin lymphoma for three years which involved a number of major surgeries, including a bone marrow transplant.
“When you go through that, it’s not always easy to keep the faith and be strong – but coming out of that I was able to start writing my own music – what I was going through and my testimony. I started writing my own music. I wrote no gospel, but I adapted to write other genres – pop, R&B, Rake ‘n’ Scrape, Junkanoo, jazz and now soca.
“I found that when you box yourself in, it does not give you room to develop and grow, and in order for me to do it, I had to step out of my comfort zone,” said McKenzie.
Looking to his future he said he plans to do everything correctly so that he can continue to grow and become the best artist he can be. He knows he is still young in the business, but his advice to artists is to always strive to do it right.
“Never half work what you do. If you don’t value what you do, no one else will. And never give half of yourself. Whether it’s five people or a billion people – always give the best. Keep striving. Don’t give up on your dreams.”
As he “wades through the water” of the industry, McKenzie, who was 12-years old when his father died, is one of the next generations of the McKenzie clan to continue the family legacy.
“Every day I learn something new about my father and uncle, and I’m like I have to do what daddy did and I have to continue this legacy.”
He has also recently found himself performing his dad’s music a lot more, which is something he said he had to build himself up to do and still sometimes finds it hard to do.
His one wish: “I wish he was here to see me and witness me doing it, and not letting it die.”
McKenzie began singing at a young age. He began his career in a group called Prodigy Founders with Paul and Tanya Hanna, offering him opportunities to travel to Tennessee, and to perform at Lee University and Maxwell House. He also recorded and performed with Grammy-nominated producer, Roger Ryan, and opened for Grammy-Award winning artists James Ingram, Bruno Mars, Anderson Paak and Freddie Jackson.
With roots in gospel music, he has performed at FamFest, National Prayer Services, and concerts around the United States. He also performed at Government House, and sang the Bahamian and American national anthems at the United States Embassy for four years.
McKenzie is expected to release his upcoming Gospel E.P. entitled “Grace” late 2023.