When I first listened to WHYTRI’s 6-track EP, KAHUNA on Soundcloud, I immediately noticed its genre was labeled #PUNK. I usually give my laptop screen an eye roll when Soundcloud artists do things like this for ironic effect.
But before doing so this time, I paused. I thought macrocosmically about hip hop and found myself pondering the parallels between today’s “new wave” of rappers and 70s punk bands. If not in the fashion choices (band tees, distressed clothing, dyed hair, piercings, tats, and androgynous wear), it’s surely in the ethos (artists’ preference for indie deals, DIY marketing, drug use, overall fuck-you attitude, etc.).
I then thought about Dmitri “WHYTRI” Jean, his bricolage of influences, and the electric energy he never fails to deliver in a live setting. To say the least, he is an exclamation mark. So perhaps the hashtag fits. I’ve seen this kid roll through the Middle East in a Stone Cold Steve Austin leather vest, yellow Ed Hardy trucker cap, and some Jordan 1s once. Translate this convergence of styles to sound, and you have KAHUNA.
“I feel like you only figure out what you are when you’re able to blend together everything you like,” said WHYTRI. “A lot of people focus on being one thing when you can be many different things…it just has to all make sense to you and the audience.”
The EP is an aggressive blend of 808s, distorted vocals, and WHYTRI’s signature screamo adlibs (think OG Maco or Mystikal). Its true strength lies in WHYTRI’s sense of fun and freedom. Songs like the thunderous, MyCompiledThoughts produced warzone of a track, “F5FLXX,” or the blippy, dial-up melody driven “XURWIFI (Remix)” featuring Rhode Island’s own Lily Rayne, show that WHYTRI’s ultimately out here just having a great time.
WHYTRI stated he arrived at his EP’s title in late 2014 when he saw “a movie where someone referred to their leader in command as the big kahuna.”
“I looked up the word to learn it didn’t only mean leader or chief in command but also a big wave…the project being called KAHUNA comes from me wanting to showcase how I am the leader of my own sound which is my own wave,” he said.
And while KAHUNA is not a concept record by any means, you can sense that there’s a method to the madness in WHYTRI’s vision for it. Every song, sans interludes, feels intricately designed for moshpits, hopping crowds, and sweaty venues.
Despite KAHUNA’s recent October release, WHYTRI has already started working on his next effort.
“My next project is definitely going to be more personal, involving alot more rap,” he said. “I’ve started it and already got the name and I want it to show another layer of WHYTRI in the sense of being emotionally tangible. I want my catalogue to be really diverse. I don’t want people to just label me as a guy that just yells. Know what I mean?”