If for any unforeseen or unimaginable reason, Kenny “The Jet” Smith ever tires of his day job or even decides to walk away, an equally prosperous and rewarding career may already await him.
Not that Smith would have any reason to consider such a radical career change, given TNT’s Inside The NBA‘s rising popularity or his undeniable status as the perfect counter puncher to Charles Barkley’s and now even Shaquille O’Neal’s incessant antics.
Nonetheless, late last month Smith took on still another role during one of the show’s most hyped weeknight telecasts. As any proud father would, Smith sat glowing as his 17-year-old daughter, Kayla Brianna, debuted her momentum-climbing single “If You Love Me” during the “Kenny’s Picture’s” segment of the network’s Miami vs. L.A. showdown.
Interspersed with player footage, the song blared before a live game audience of 5.3 million viewers. In addition, taped shout outs attesting to the Kayla’s worthiness were heard from the likes of Kobe Bryant, Chris Rock, Ice Cube and Keri Hilson. And by night’s end, the song/video was trending as one of Twitter’s hottest topics.
“It’s been unreal said,” Kayla Brianna, signed to the Interscope label still ran by the legendary Jimmy Iovine. “My goal is to do a little bit of everything, R&B, uptempo, hip hop. I’m not afraid of the hard work… my aim is to be the best I can possibly be.”
That’s the same work ethic and resolve Smith recognized from his days as a teen from Queens, sweating his way to a ten year, two-time champion NBA career. It’s the same understanding and approach that led him to the first uncomfortable thought that his daughter just might have been made for the ever-evolving music business.
“Kayla came to me at 14 and told me this is what she wanted to do,” said Smith. “I was taken aback, and right away I called my father and told him ‘Kayla Brianna says she wants to do music and… well, I don’t know, I’m a little afraid.’”
“I remember tell him telling me, ‘Kenny I was afraid the first time you told me basketball is what you wanted to do,’” Smith added. “I remember him telling me just be a good dad, put her in the right hands and get out of the way.”
With that, Kayla Brianna began forging her own path, submitting her demo to several labels before inking her current deal with Interscope. “Aaliyah, Brandy, and Monica, those are some of the artists my style is most like and some of the performers I would be proud to have a career similar to. I’m ready to work.”
In between, Kayla Brianna will continue taking classes at UCLA and learning the ins and outs of her new craft.“I’m blessed that I’m able to provide the vehicle for my daughter to follow her dreams,” said Smith. “What makes me feel even better about it is at some point the talent just has to kick in and take over… and she has that.”
“There are a lot more famous fathers out there than me with daughters who wouldn’t mind singing careers… but the talent and the work ethic have to be on point. Kayla’s blessed to have all that.”
All this month, Kayla Brianna will be on full display, including appearing and performing at NBA All-Star Weekend in Orlando. In conjunction with that event, Interscope is staging a promotion where one of her lucky Twtitter followers (kaylabriannax) can win All-Star tickets and the chance to hang out with father and daughter over the weekend based on which fan “shares” her video most. More details are available at kaylabrianna.com. — Glenn Minnis