If you've ever considered yourself a South Beach local, at one time or another you've been to Buck 15. Hell, you were probably there last night, which means you know the joint is located smack on the backside of Lincoln Road, and you have to already know where you're going to get there. You also know it's just the place where a cat named Keen One has been sounding off since its inception.
Keen is cool, way cool, whether he's hawking the hardware at M.I.A. Skate Shop, riding the ramps at M.I.A. Skate Park, or tagging a building or a painting or your face. Mostly, though, Keen's cool is grounded in the sound that makes people go out of their heads.
Born in Laos to Chinese stock and raised among Southern gentry in Nashville and Atlanta, Keen comes at his head-spinning from an angle few could fathom. Call it the angle of the refugee, which really isn't as much of an angle as it is a curve, something well rounded and built for assimilation. That's not to say that Keen plays it safe, mind you, or that he plays what's expected of him. It's just to say that he plays what makes everybody feel at home, no matter where they're from or where they happen to be hanging.
Keen One: Tuesdays at Buck 15. www.myspace.com/keenone
And in the six years that Keen has been on South Beach, there has been a healthy heaping of hangs. In no particular order he's spun at the Shore Club, Suite, Love Hate, the Gansevoort, Circa 28, PS14, White Room, Pawn Shop, the Sagamore, the Catalina, the Marlin (R.I.P.), and Purdy Lounge, which either makes him one of the more active cats in town, or one of the more restless.
Probably both. Hell, last week alone Keen decked at The Vagabond, Florida Room, and Domo Japones, where he holds court monthly, as well as, of course, Buck 15, where his Takeout Tuesdays party is now in its third strong year.
On any given night, old-school hip-hop collides with punk-rock classics; dancehall drops into soul; and reggae reaps a whirlwind of R&B. And if Sister Nancy's "Bam Bam" or Dawn Penn's "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)" are two of the most recognized tracks in Keen's repertoire, A Tribe Called Quest's "Award Tour" gets setlisted so much it just might unseat them both. As Keen proclaims, "They might not know the name of the song, but they will all sing the chorus." Especially if it's played by a cat such as Keen One.
Keen One's current top five:
1. "Everybody," Fonzworth Bentley feat. Kanye West, Sa-ra, and Andre 3000
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2. "100 Yard Dash," Raphael Saadiq
3. "Green Light," John Legend feat. Andre 3000
4. "Something's Gotta Give," Big Boi feat. Mary J. Blige
5. "Shootout (Remix)," Damian Marley and Mykal Rose