#SpotlightOn Kearne Dragon, a left-field rapper with gargantuan attitude

Meet Kearne Dragon. He’s a rapper from the East Coast who marries rap music with neo-classical trap, and as you might imagine, it’s a killer combination.

“I started playing the violin from about age four or five,” Dragon tells me. “It’s the first thing I remember about my life. I guess from there I was always just hyper-obsessed with music.” His background in violin certainly explains the classical influence, but rap only entered his life a little later.

“I remember getting Craig David’s Born To Do It on CD when I was young, and I found myself questioning the recording process, although I didn’t realise it at the time,” he says. “Once I heard Gorillaz for the first time I knew that I wanted to be a musician.”

“The verse on Clint Eastwood was so interesting to me,” he continues. “I learnt it word for word. It was just me and my little CD-player with the song on repeat non-stop. I probably didn’t even understand the words but being able to drop that verse whenever felt so good.”

His latest offering (“Ruin Pt. 2”) is a hot and heavy trap single that immediately makes me think of Lil Wayne. The lyrics are bombastic, they’re in-your-face, and the beat never lets up, tinged by speckles of left-field production that bring interesting character to Dragon’s already insatiable musical persona.

The clues are all in the name. Dragon, well that’s self-explanatory, and Kearne which is a boy’s name of Irish-Gaelic origin, meaning dark or small swarthy one. Fitting, perhaps.

“‘Ruin Pt. 2’ follows on from the feeling of my 2021 track ‘Ruin’,” says Dragon. “The idea is to freestyle on the hardest beat. I recorded it in a makeshift studio while on the Kromme river and I didn’t really plan on releasing it, but once it got used as part of the GugubyGugu show at SA Fashion Week there was no turning back.”

But not all of Dragon’s music plays by the same rules. Take a track like “SCARS”. It speaks to the aftermath of a heart devastated by lost love, filled with the grit of an intimate songwriter.

“I really try to hone in on how I feel and where I want to hear the song,” he says. “For example a song like ‘Ruin Pt. 2’ is made for performance. ‘RiRi’ is made for the moment you need a confidence boost. The most important thing for me in the music is honesty. If I’m talking about heartbreak it needs to come from a real place, if I’m talking about indulgence it needs to come from a real place.”

Obsessed with a kind of creative duality (perhaps best encompassed by the recurring “//“ in Dragon’s track titles), there’s something special about an artist who can so callously write about sex and drugs but also write about love and existential dread. Dragon does so with distinct tonal qualities, and it’s this approach that sets him apart from his peers.

With two EPs on the way and an ever-evolving sonic palette, Kearne Dragon channels his darkest and most debauched thoughts with simple precision. As a rapper, he leaves you in the dust of his tracks. As a storyteller, he brings you under his veil, always raw, always real.