The KENJEX is made up of brothers Kaleb Mitchell and Elias “Ben Beatz,” who have been making music since the age of five. Kaleb, 16, is the duo’s frontman as a rapper. Ben Beatz handles the production and deejays for shows such as 2014’s Gospelfest.
“It was a little bit scary because that was our first big performance,” said 12-year-old Ben Beatz. “’There were a lot of people, and people were watching at home, but we got up there. I felt like when it started to kick off, I felt we did good.”
For The KENJEX, music is a personal affair. Even its name reflects their close ties with its family. The first part, “KEN,” is a tribute to their mother who is from Nairobi, Kenya. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago and the boys stepped back from music so they could be fully available to support her. They remixed Miguel’s popular song “Adorn” to honor her. Today, she is close to full recovery and according to Kaleb, “is doing great.”
The second half, “JEX,” salutes their father, who also serves as their manager. Mike Bethune grew up in the Alexander Hamilton Projects of New Jersey, so the boys took the end of “Projects,” switched the spelling up a little bit and created their own unique identity.
The brothers also use their music as personal therapy. Not only did they do this when their mom was sick, but they were confronted with another tragedy when their uncle committed suicide. They wrote the song “Save Me” to help them find peace. The song was difficult to record. Ben Beatz broke down in the studio. But the end result was what they needed.
“It was a healing process making that song to bring those emotions into the song,” Kaleb said. “I decided to almost play the role of someone who was going through depression and all the struggles on the song ‘Save Me.’ We had to do a couple takes of that song because there were times it just got really emotional. It was just real. It was about real life like saying, ‘I need your help.’ It was therapeutic to make that song.”
The KENJEX want to pass on this healing process to their listeners. The started the ReJEX movement to give a place of belonging to people who feel like outsiders. The KENJEX don’t just want to be known as a hip-hop group, but want to bring hope to the world however they can.
“It was based off of the idea that people who don’t really fit it in, they get picked on, they get thrown out of friend circles and stuff like that, so that’s why we decided to make the ReJEX Movement,” said Ben Beatz.
“Even though people are starting to give us attention, at the end of the day it isn’t about us. It’s about God,” Kaleb said. “We just wanna basically shed light to those who don’t have a light. I heard a saying once, ‘A light in the light won’t produce anything. You have to go where the dark is.’ So we just wanna spread the movement, make the movement grow, bring more people in. Let the ReJEX movement not just be a Christian thing, let it be for anyone who feels like they don’t fit in.”