For little girls growing up in the mid 2000s, pop stars Lil Bow Wow, Lil Romeo and B2K were everything. In Indianapolis, we had Lil Kev to add to that roster. The precocious teen, not often seen without a bandana emblazoned in rhinestones wrapped around his head, was a fixture on the radio and at various community events, delivering his brand of high energy, youthful hip-hop.
Fast forward nearly a decade, and Kevin Hendricks has dropped the ‘Lil’ from his stage moniker. He now goes by Kevo, and he has a whole new outlook on his career and music.
The Recorder caught up with Hendricks during a break in shooting an upcoming MTV reality special on location in Indianapolis. The show, which doesn’t yet have a release date, followed Hendricks through the streets of Indy, where he spoke to other young people about the dangers of gang violence and how to make it in the music industry.
When asked what life has been like since his days as a child star, he remarked simply, “It’s been crazy. Everything has come to fruition; I’ve definitely grown. Now I’m writing for your favorite artists … everyone from Kevin Gates to Future and Lil Wayne.”
In addition to his writing, Hendricks has appeared on screen in film and television projects alongside some of the industry’s biggest names. There was 2012’s “In the Hive,” directed by Robert Townsend and starring the late Michael Clarke Duncan and Loretta Devine, and 2014’s “Life of a King” with Cuba Gooding Jr.
Hendricks said his journey, though promising, has not been easy.
For one, transitioning from a very commercial, upbeat sound to a “more polished” approach has proved challenging.
“As a young person, I wasn’t really able to tell my story. You know, we had to keep it commercial, keep it positive. I was a kid that promoted don’t do drugs, stay in school — I’m still very supportive of that, but as you grow, live and experiment with your craft, you’re able to tell a story like you’re supposed to tell it.
“I had fans back in the day, but I had other people that were not so up on the movement. Honestly, I had a following, but I wasn’t everybody’s favorite. Now even people that didn’t follow me back then hear the music now and they’re like, ‘OK, I see you.’ Now I’m able to tell my story on my own. Back then, I wasn’t able to do that. Now you’re hearing Kevo for who he really is. I just appreciate the ear and everyone who really embraces it.”
Beyond the usual issues of growing from adolescence to adulthood, Hendricks shared that there were challenges behind the scenes that threatened to derail him.
“I’m the kid that came from the jungle. This is Naptown, man; we don’t have to speak on how Nap is, because we know. I’m the kid that never gave up. I had my dreams and visions as a tike. Of course we all go through the corny phase. I made the most out of my situation, whether it was good or bad. It was a lot that happened behind the scenes, to get me to where I am, that people don’t really know.”
His parents lost homes and cars as a result of funding his career aspirations. He worked odd jobs, doing landscaping work and babysitting, to bankroll his move to Los Angeles. His start in California was not at all glamorous. He couch surfed and slept in studios, doing whatever it took to earn a shot at making his dreams come true.
Despite those setbacks, Hendricks remains optimistic about what the future holds. “Everything that I’m doing now … I’m happy. I don’t have any complaints. I’m working with artists now that I could never dream or imagine myself in a room with … I say that humbly because God is good.”
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