Thank You K-Maxx | The Golden Voice of Modern Funk

This is a commemoration to the Life & contribution of Kenyan “K-Maxx” Hopkins, the Golden voice of Modern Funk, and beloved Sweater Funk member. Below, you will read a few tributes from his crew members, friends & Modern Funk peers, and how each one were immensely touched by him. 

We send our prayers to his Family and friends, and encourage you to perpetuate his legacy by buying/streaming his music, and carry his message of  Love, Hope & Courage.

 

 

JON (SWEATER FUNK)

When/where did you meet K-Maxx? 

“We all met Keyan Hopkins around 2010 or 11 when he started coming to our Sweater Funk party back when we were in a basement in Chinatown. He was passing around a CD with the “Supadrunk” tune on it thinking it might fit in with our sound and he was 100% right, we all fell in love instantly.                                       

The only problem was our nerdy vinyl only policy, but we had other gigs at different clubs where we weren’t so strict and played it out whenever we could. I remember one night someone was playing it and Peanut Butter Wolf ran up on the stage asking what it was. We needed it on wax immediately and Sean “Boogie” Sullivan took it on himself to press up a 45 on his Sound Boutique label and it quickly became our anthem.

We got so tight with Ken we got him a Sweater Funk jacket with K-Maxx sewn on it and made him a member without even asking if he wanted to be. That turned out to be the best move we ever made and he became our MC as well as DJ and brought our energy to a higher plane with his effortless and charming audience interactions and constant positivity.”

What’s a special story/memory of him? 

“One thing he would always say was ” y’all could have been anywhere tonight, but you chose to rock with us and we love you for it“.

A song that is associated to him (either from his catalog or a song that he would always play/dig/light up when he heard it)? 

“One track he would drop whenever the night had progressed to a certain Fernet-fueled level of wild abandon was Just Keep My Boogie by Jaymz Bedford that has the perfect stutter-step madness and lovey “doveyness” that we needed.  I could go on forever about how much he meant to me personally and maybe someday after I get over the denial stage of this loss I will.”

MAMABEAR

When/where did you meet K-Maxx? 

 “I met K-Maxx on a dancefloor, but really bonded with him during our Sweater Funk trips to Portland and Chicago. I can still hear him calling out “MAMABEEZY!”

What’s a special story/memory of him? 

“K-Maxx had NOTHING bad to say about anyone. You could be train-wrecking the worst record and he would be raising his glass, rooting you on. I have never met a more uplifting person in my life.” 


A song that is associated to him (either from his catalog or a song that he would always played/dig/light up when he heard it)? 

“Reachin’ (Paradise)”hands down. Even before he passed, that song moved me to tears.

Honorary mention for his song “Stuffin’ 4 Ya Muffin'” because that song brought back playful wordplay into a song without being outright nasty. Plus his falsetto vocals make it catchy as hell. As for the song that makes me think of him when I hear it? “Heavenly” by Leroy Burgess.”

 

DâM-FunK (FUNKMOSPHERE/GLYDEZONE)

“K-MAXX made my Bay Area experiences x understanding of the vibe there so much more relatable whenever I visited. His music was sincere. His pronunciations of certain words x feel in his grooves were ‘uniquely his’. This is very rare in Funk these days. He always had a welcoming energy whenever around him. He will be missed by so many in the circles that held him in high regard & continues 2 do so. Maximum respect sustained 2 our bruhtha: K-MAXX. R.I.P. “

          DāM-FunK (on behalf of the Funkmosphere Crew: Billy, Laroj, Ron, Matt & Eddy)

 

MONIQUEA (MOFUNK)

When/where did you meet K-Maxx?

“I wanna say that I first met him back in 2012/2013 when me and XL went on one of our first missions up to San Francisco for a Sweater Funk Party. He was very welcoming and it felt like I’d already knew who he was. I’m sure that it was because of his music that I had gotten familiar with and instantly loved from the moment I heard it. We chopped it up in general and also about making some music together.”

What’s a special story/memory of him? :

“One thing I know about K-Maxx aside from his love for music, is that he loved his mother. He talked about her so lovingly and told me he was taking care of her,  as she was not well at the time. It made me feel really good inside to have him feel comfortable with sharing such a personal part of his life with me. This was the second to the last time I saw him, back in July 2018- when we went up to San Francisco for Sweater Funk’s 10 year anniversary and their second to the last weekly Sunday party’s.

And, the last time I saw K-Maxx was just a little over a year later in September 2019. At another luminous Sweater Funk party. A night to remember and cherish for a lifetime. We spun records together and chopped it up like we always did. Shared laughs, drinks and just a good time with so many homies from different cities and states. I’m so glad that I was able to capture some great moments of him in his natural element- hosting the party, showing everybody love with his bright smile and open arms, dropping some dope records and singing one his beloved classic  tunes: SupaDrunk”.

It was my sincere pleasure to meet and spend some good times with him. Albeit a few, I will cherish every single one of them and hold them dear to my heart. And, I no doubt will be sharing his music with the world, forever.”

A song that is associated to him (either from his catalog or a song that he would always play/dig/light up when he heard it)? : 

“Cupcakin” is the one song of his that always pops in my mind when I think of him. That is my cut!  But, there are just so many more that I love and makes me feel so good when I hear them. He is a legend in my book. A kind, talented and humble legend.”

XL MIDDLETON (MOFUNK)

When/where did you meet K-Maxx? 

“First time I met K-Maxx was in San Francisco at Sweater Funk in 2012. The way that he would talk to you, it was like seeing an old friend and catching up with them. That’s always how it was because he had such an inviting spirit”.

What’s a special story/memory of him? 

“So, Ken, Brian Ellis, Gwizski, & I went out to Toronto in 2016 and played a few shows together in a weekend. It was the homies Chris Evans & Famous Lee who brought us out there. Our main gig was to provide some of the music for a beer festival; we performed live & DJ’d. It was a cold fall weekend and the beer festival was partially outdoors. So we’re out here freezing, and Ken, Brian, and I are all feeling like, beer is cool but we’d really like to sip on something stronger. So Ken was the one who went on an exploratory mission and figured out they were serving up hot toddies, Irish whiskey and spiced apple cider. Not only did he find the type of sip we were looking for, but it was a hot beverage so it basically took care of both issues at once. Low key he was a hero for that (laughs). All of us spent the better part of the weekend kicking it together obviously, and I think it was Ken’s first time playing outside of the US. So that whole experience really brought all of us closer together as friends.”

A song that is associated to him (either from his catalog or a song that he would always play/dig/light up when he heard it)? : 

“It’s hard to pick one K-Maxx song. “Supa Drunk” is the first one that comes to mind though. There’s this video from one of the more recent Sweater Funk parties, I think Moniquea shot it or maybe it was me, where you see Ken performing the song and everybody in the room is just singing along. If you knew about Sweater Funk then that song was basically equivalent to a top 10 radio hit. Sean Sullivan of Sound Boutique gave me a copy of the 7″ when he was down in LA in 2012, and told me about Ken’s musical background and how it was similar to my own, coming up making hip hop and producing for other artists and then gravitating toward the modern funk thing. I think knowing that we had similar paths in music made me feel even more of a kinship with Ken when I finally met him later that year.”

 

FAMOUS LEE (LOVE HANDLE/TORONTO)

When/where did you meet K-Maxx? 

“I met Ken when I booked him for an event that I helped organize in Toronto.  It was a keg beer festival and I had booked Ken, Brian Ellis, James Vance and XL Middleton to perform intermittently over the course of the weekend.  Ambitiously, we also played an after hours on the Saturday night of the weekend.  I think I got Ken’s contact from Randy Hothobo Ellis, and our email exchange was brief, so I had no idea what to expect when I met him.  Little did I know that I’d be in the company of one of the most positive, energetic and soulful forces in our little scene.  That weekend was an incredible time, not because of the parties, though there was a lot of that.  It was incredible because it was one of the first times that I was able to bring multiple guests from the Modern Funk community to Toronto, and it was incredible because I got to meet and spend time with four of the most talented individuals in that community for a whole weekend.  Ken made such an impression on me that when he expressed that he liked my Toronto Blue Jays hat, I gave it to him immediately.  I could get that hat again, but Ken was one of a kind.”

What’s a special story/memory of him? 

“The best time that I had with Ken was when I was booked to play Sweater Funk in SF via Mamabear.  It was after we’d hung out in Toronto, and we had always kept in touch.  He agreed to meet my wife and I at Groove Merchant while Jon Blunck worked there.  We had a few laughs and eventually made our way to Rookie Ricardo’s where we continued to dig, laugh and talk game.  He got the owner of the spot to show us his full length Elvis shower curtain.  Afterwards, Ken drove us around downtown SF and we talked at length about gentrification and it’s effects on the community.  He had grown up in the Haight and Ashbury district, and had seen his entire family slowly pushed out via gentrification.  He treated my wife and I to dinner at his favourite Mexican spot, and he and I went on to play Sweater Funk that evening.  I got to see a side of Ken that he hadn’t made public.  He shared with us some of the struggles that he had been going through, and though they were substantial, he was able to keep a smile on our faces the entire time.”

A song that is associated to him (either from his catalog or a song that he would always play/dig/light up when he heard it)? : 

“The first song I heard with Ken on it was “Need to Know”, the 45 that Big Jacks and Kutcorners released.  Immediately, I was captivated by his voice, it’s honesty and expressiveness and how effortless he made it sound.”

DANBONE (AUSTIN BOOGIE CREW)

When/where did you meet K-Maxx? :

“I met Ken at Friends of Sound Records here in Austin, back in 2013. He came to town to perform at our SXSW Boogie showcase and was staying with Dave (FOS) for a few nights, along with Andrew and Ben (Cherries Records).”

What’s a special story/memory of him? :

I was talking with Brian Ellis recently and we discussed the fact that meeting Ken for the first time was like seeing a close friend that you haven’t seen in a long time. Ken was the kind of person that instantly became family. We immediately clicked that first night we met. We chopped it up at the shop for a bit, then we all went to grab a bite to eat at Kerbey Lane. On our way out, we lost track of Ken and then noticed that he was still inside, had to get one last chat in with the hostess before we took off. Ken loved the ladies! 

We all had such a blast together during their stay and of course during the showcase. SXSW Boogie was our first big show that we organized and sure enough, we ran into some issues towards the end of the night. There was only so much time left before it was all over and we had to figure out if B. Bravo or K-Maxx would go on after Karizma’s performance. This was a tough decision, but in the end it was decided that K-Maxx would go on. As much as we wanted both acts to perform, I can’t help but think about it now, it’s amazing that Ken got to do his thing here in Austin that night. He killed it, he brought the energy right back into the room after Karizma’s set and everyone loved it. 

Later that same year, Spence and I went to Cali for the first time and we got to kick it with Ken while we were in San Francisco. Late night basement parties, Sweater Funk family gatherings at The Knockout, lots of Fernet & more good times shared. The last time I got to see Ken was when he and Brian crashed at our place in Highland Park back in 2016. I took a picture of us standing outside of La Estrella at 5am, getting burritos. Although I didn’t get to spend as much time with Ken as I would’ve liked, I’ll forever cherish the time that I did get to spend with him. Ken was such an amazing person and his love and light will forever shine through his music.

A song that is associated to him (either from his catalog or a song that he would always play/dig/light up when he heard it)? : 

There’s a grip of songs that are forever tied to Ken. “SupaDrunk” was the first time I heard his voice. “Cupcakin” has been an anthem for lovers ever since it got pressed! I admire the uplifting messages in “Music” & “Can’t Nobody”. “Reachin’ (Paradise)” is a tune that hits especially hard these days. Ken had such a way with words and emotion. “Do Your Thing” with Computa Games, of course. I’m forever grateful to have a release with the K-Maxx touch in the ABC archives. We love you Ken. Rest In Paradise brother. My deepest condolences to the Hopkins family and to the Sweater Funk crew.

RANDY “HOTTHOBO” ELLIS (HOBO CAMP)

When/where did you meet Ken? 

“I met Ken in the Lipo Lounge Basement at a Sweater Funk party in San Francisco.”

What’s a special story/memory of him? 

“So my buddy Dave L. and I had just finished an EP as a side project under the name Chautauqua, and we went to Austin, Texas to play a few shows for SXSW in 2013…and for those that don’t know, SXSW is a bit of a shit show as a performer…everyone is tired and overworked, the lineups are intense and stacked, nothing is happening on time or according to plan, the venue staff are typically dealing with a billion issues other than yours, and it can be tough to just get to a new spot and figure out what to do, where/when to set up, etc.  So with the help of David Hafner (of Friends of Sound Austin), Danny Spence and Danbone (of Austin Boogie Crew), we’d managed to get on a line up with other Modern Funk and Boogie acts, which was taking place at a steak house (in downtown Austin it seems like any business can magically transform into a venue). 

I knew Ken from SF, mostly just from Sweater Funk parties and the occasional run in elsewhere…and I’d seen him MC, in fact he’d even MC’d alongside while I was DJing a time or two, which is another story but I’d never truly seen him perform a full live set.  As I recall, Chautauqua and K-Maxx were supposed to be opening acts, and the headliner was a reunion of the band Trace of Smoke/Karizma on the bill which had like 10 ppl in it and required the most stage and sound needs…but there were a lot of other acts too that all had to play.  Because the steak house was still serving people as we were setting up the lighting and stage, the start time of the show got pushed way back and both K-Maxx and Chautauqua kept getting bumped back, further and further throughout the night…we’d both be waiting on the side of the stage for news and then we’d just hear that we’d have to play after the next group over and over again…so we were all drinking and vibing, getting a little more drunk, but also getting a bit of anxiety wondering when and if we’d get to play. I’d met and hung with Ken a bit in SF before, so it was really nice to have a homie there to hang with, and he was so chill, funny and down-to-earth.  I remember personally bitching and freaking out a little bit about the situation, and Ken kinda just drunkenly pulled me aside and calmed me down in the most chill way.  Just like “man, this is all beyond our control, but we are here to do our thing and enjoy ourselves, and look at all these people out here vibing to the music we like and do” …and it totally worked and I chilled out.  So anyways, the band Karizma plays and they are amazing, completely rock that place out, and Dave Hafner comes over on their last song and tells Ken to get ready…and you can tell he’s kinda tripping a little, just knowing that he has to set up fast, try to keep the energy and keep people from leaving, as it’s late and there are a zillion other things people can do at SXSW, the crowds can be fickle…and he just hopped on stage like a total pro, set up his gear in like five minutes, no sound check, and just completely rocked that place, like absolutely destroyed it…and then we had to play after him, lol.  At that point I knew he was the real deal, and a little later on I found out that he was actually an OG in the scene, releasing music in the early 90s.  Although I already liked the guy, I really began to look up to him and respect him for his contributions.   

A few years later, we were able to get K-Maxx to do the featured vox to a Brian Ellis track called “Electric Body” that ended up as the B-Side of the “Love Is” 7”… if I remember correctly the demo we got from Brian wasn’t really being considered, but once Ken did his thing on it, it was a whole new track and energy and we HAD to release it.  That Brian Ellis 7” featuring both the Egyptian Lover and K-Maxx is to this day one of my favorite releases I’ve been a part of, and I’ve watched that track rock crowds around the world. 

Additionally, the record release party that was held at Funkmosphere for that 7″ release was beyond memorable as it had Brian’s Reflection Band (with Adam and Jordan Chini), The Egyptian Lover, and K-Maxx performing and also Dam Funk MCing and hosting the thing…it’s one of the most memorable live shows I’ve ever been a part of, it seemed very surreal having all those heads there that night.  I’ve always felt very lucky to be able to release Ken’s work on a few different projects, but that one was extremely special.”    

A song that is associated to him (either from his catalog or a song that he would always play/dig/light up when he heard it)? 

Roger ParrishWho Loves You The Most”

“A pretty rare record that we both happened to have. So if I played it and he was there, he’d go off, and he played it and I was there, I’d go off…it kinda just worked like that.” 

SEAN SULLIVAN (SOUND BOUTIQUE)

When/where did you meet Ken? 

“I met Ken probably in 2010 or 2011. I was dj’ing in Oakland and he came up to me and asked about a record I played. Naturally I’m always eager to share and a conversation began. Told him if he liked that track there was more at a night called Sweater Funk. He mentioned he had heard about it or had maybe even been there before. He told me about how some of his new music was more r&b focused and to check him out. Of course, I peeped his music out later that night 3am style when I got home. I was blown away and we connected from there. I did everything I could to encourage him to make more and release his music and that’s how we formed the supadrunk release. He would come to my house and play me all of this incredible mind blowing music. Then be nonchalant about getting it out there. Imagine hearing ‘my medicine’ and hoping he would be ok with unleashing it into the world. The world needed more of Kmaxx and that was so obvious to me.”

What’s a special story/memory of him? 

“Over the years we became friends, got involved in record business together, broke bread, hung out and would chill together. He met my whole damn crazy ass family and we regularly enjoyed meals together. We started regularly walking around the east bay scoping out different booty types. Short ones, skinny ones, fat ones it didn’t matter. It was all just for a laugh. We talked about hanging and walking around Berkeley again just two days before he passed.
I miss those times with him. Then there was the time I stupidly tried to take home a massive budget of horchata.. lol. And spilled some in his bronco. In the maybe ONE time I didn’t drive my car to Sweater Funk. First time I hitched a ride back to the east bay with him. He should have been pissed but he was totally cool.
Most of all I will miss his music. I don’t think the modern funk world will ever be the same without him. I hope he leaves an everlasting impression in the scope of the music world, he definitely did for me.”    

A song that is associated to him (either from his catalog or a song that he would always play/dig/light up when he heard it)? 

“For me, his track Love Is Coming, the flip side to “Supadrunk” was emblematic of his sound. Precisely about LOVE much like him, and set the precedent for literally everything he would release after. Always about love, positivity and coupled with that K-Maxx production heat.
But, for me right now.. to deal with this incredible loss.. Coltrane’s “Naima“. Listen to that right now and spend a few minutes thinking about him. But there’s so many of what he also loved in music. And he didn’t just get his jacket and keep the title as official Sweater Funk MC, no..he got right in there with us.. he morphed into one hell of a dj as well. I mean he was already one, but he got more motivated and involved. His involvement at KPOO radio was proof he not only loved creating music but he loved appreciating it as well. These tunes are not necessarily tunes he played.. some yes, he did… but in particular I think of Wizdom‘s “So In Love With You” and Brief Encounter’s “Human” when I think about him now. It’s funny, I went crazy over this track “Only You” by Steve Monite.. took me a while and some fairy large cash to obtain the original, but Ken got the remix 12 inch release and it was better sounding than my OG, so I loved that he played that, and I could go to the dance floor and enjoy it. We enjoyed a lot of the same tracks over the years and that for me was a special connection with Ken. Also right now, in this difficult time of having him newly gone, Bobby Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes” really sets the tone of love and magic we had in the soul of Ken. We have to carry that light of positivism on in Ken’s name.”