Local youth artist Mckenzie Ellis breaks onto the music scene with a little help from her dad.
The tiny fashionista works on her “brand” afterschool as well as her homework and travels with her father around the country singing and dancing to youth audiences.
Her father, Michael Ellis, a talent manager, noticed his daughter’s talent when she was very young.
“One day I was sitting there putting together a beat and she came in,” he said.
“We had learned some Spanish at (elementary) school and I just started doing that,” Mckenzie continued. “Daddy said it was good.”
So she started rapping Spanish abc’s and numbers to a beat. Soon Mckenzie started coming up with her own lyrics. With the help of her dad, she recorded her first song, “Activate” and put it on YouTube.
“I thought kids would like what she was doing,” said Michael. “Kids all over the country loved it.”
“Skinnies and Sketchers,” a song Mckenzie wrote about her favorite articles of clothing, talks about partying with Timberlake, Bieber and Beyonce. The fun, upbeat song landed her deal with Universal Fontana Distribution Co., owned by Universal Music Group.
Also under her belt are singles “Double Dutch Dance”, “Feel It” and “The Mckenzie Shuffle.” The latter of which is a line dance song similar to the Cha-Cha Slide or the Wobble.
Mckenzie said that while her dad helps her with her music and lyrics, her mother is the one who taught her to dance but alongside singing, coming up with her own moves is one of her passions.
Her dad had his own music career and said he hopes to be able to guide his daughter so she doesn’t make his mistakes. “I was always that kid who wanted to do something different than the other kids. I started rapping at Skate Odyssey and won every contest,” he said. “I moved to California and because a recording artist, made my first album in 1992, but it didn’t work out because I didn’t have someone to guide me like I’m guiding her now.”
Mckenzie says the collaboration on her songs is about 50/50 between her and her father. Michael is obviously very proud of his daughter, but says he sometimes worries about her growing popularity.
Her newest song, “The Mckenzie Shuffle” is playing on the radio all over the country. “It played at school today,” said Mckenzie.
Mckenzie admits that her musical career sometimes disrupts school. She attends Columbus Middle School and while she said her friends treat her normally, sometimes other students act “crazy.”
“At school, everybody is always calling my name,” she said. “Sometimes I disturb the classes, but that’s just the way it is.”
“I’m so tired of the kids calling all the time, they find out where we stay and are always coming over asking if she can come out to play,” he said. “They swarm the car like ants when they see it. They broke the handle on the back of my trunk once.”
Michael said that he didn’t expect his daughter’s career to grow so quickly.
“I didn’t think that it would get to this point so fast, but with the internet, people become stars so fast.”
According to Michael, Mckenzie’s mother wants to pull her from public school and either homeschool her or send her to a private school. Mckenzie says that a private school is tempting, but “I still want to go to school and see my friends and have fun.”
Mckenzie is a straight-A student and plans to be both a pop star and a pediatrician.
“I want to be a famous rapper like Beyonce… like going to the BET awards, world-famous rapper. I’m also going to be a pediatrician. I love babies,” she said. “I’m going to do both.”
She also plans to have her own fashion line. She’s starting with her “Alien Blockers” sunglass line.
Her father found the design through a friend and thought that kids would like them. Mckenzie wears the bright shades and both gives them away and sells them at shows.
“She’s always giving them away when she meets people. Then she takes a picture with them hoping they’ll wear them somewhere,” said Michael. “It builds her brand.”
Also contributing to her career are a bevy of awards she has accumulated.
She won the local Dream 365 Talent show three years in a row and has traveled to Virginia for the Clean Music Awards where she won the Best New Artist of the Year and the Princess Nell Nell Female Swag of the Year award.
“It’s like a practice for when she’s older and winning big MTV awards,” said Michael. “She’ll be prepared.”
Mckenzie said she has learned to always thank God first and that she is learning to be more comfortable in front of crowds and with celebrities.
She says she’s probably be putting out another single soon, but not yet. Right now she is just enjoying being a kid.