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Kenna Zemedkun spent the first three years of his life with his grandfather in Ethiopia, where his family was from. His mother and father had left the country soon after his birth to escape persecution from the new government, moving first to England and then to the U.S. Kenna eventually joined his parents in Cincinnati when he was three years old — however, he spent his formative years in the place that really affected his music: Virginia Beach. It was there that a friend lent him a copy of U2's Joshua Tree, an album that profoundly changed Kenna's perspective on how an album could sound. Soon, he started teaching himself how to play the piano and studied singers like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, as well as listened to his fair share of bands like the Cure and Duran Duran.
Kenna didn't decide to make music his career, however, until college, when he realized that the more standard route of formal education wasn't the right one for him. Teaming up with high-school friend Chad Hugo (of the Neptunes), Kenna set to work making demo tapes. One of these eventually made its way to Atlantic, and then to Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst, who had recently started his own imprint, Flawless, on Geffen/Interscope. Durst was impressed by what he heard and gave Kenna (with production help from Hugo) the go-ahead to make his own album. Unfortunately, when it was completed, Durst was unable to get the backing from Interscope to release it, and let the musician go (among other things, the label was unsure how to promote the album, as it didn't fit into any one market). Record in hand, Kenna found a new home at Columbia, which eventually issued New Sacred Cow in 2003.
His sophomore effort faced similar problems. Although it was mostly completed by 2005, again he had trouble finding a label to put it out. To help fill the ever-growing space between albums, Kenna released the EP The Black Goodbye with help from the Neptunes-run Star Trak in 2006. Finally, signed back to Interscope, his second full-length, Make Sure They See My Face, was released in October 2007 (and not without its share of delays and changes, of course).