Introducing: AK RENNY

Get to know AK RENNY — the fearless and expressive Florida-born artist whose ruffian blend of bass house and hip-hop is captivating audiences across the scene.

8 min
Introducing Beatportal Header AK Renny
May 28, 2024
Logan Sasser

“Before I ever touched a mic, I had 400 recordings ready to go.”

That’s a quote from Mackenzie Crumbley, also known as AK RENNY (which stands for Always Knew Renny) — the 23-year-old bass house DJ, rapper, songwriter, producer, and overall badass currently making massive waves in the house community across North America. She’s played iconic festivals like EDC Orlando and Hulaween, and released on some of house music’s most respected labels, including House Call Records, NIGHT BASS, and Hood Politics.

But, long before she released her first track as AK RENNY in 2021, she was a rapper at heart.

“When I was a kid, I used to write rap verses all the time,” Crumbley said. “I grew up in a household where hip-hop music was definitely frowned upon, but that kind of made me love it more.”

AK wasn’t just listening to the pop-adjacent hip-hop records on the radio. She was listening to Biggie Smalls’ “Suicidal Thoughts” and Nas’ “The Message” — classic, raw rap records that expressed a lifestyle that seemed so far away from the life she was accustomed to.

But when she discovered Kid Cudi, her connection to hip-hop music changed.

Kid Cudi’s music was much more relatable than most of the hip-hop Crumbley was listening to at the time. It was still raw and occasionally dark, not in terms of violence and street politics, but in terms of pure emotion. “It’s so hard to lay down the rawness and pure emotion into a song, but that’s exactly what Kid Kudi does,” Crumbley said. “When you listen to his music, you know exactly what that man is feeling. That’s what good music is all about, and ultimately, that’s my goal for the AK RENNY project.”

Kid Cudi became Crumbley’s idol. She listened to his Man on the Moon albums on repeat for months and studied his lyrics tirelessly, drawing inspiration for her own rhymes and school bus freestyles.

She became interested in producing music and needed an alias to embody her creative identity. One day, while watching Kid Cudi’s early interviews, she heard him say something that changed her life: “You should always know yourself to progress in life.”

This was the moment AK RENNY was officially born.

Check out AK RENNY's latest chart on Beatport
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“That quote really spoke to me because I realized that, in my past, I would get depressed and anxious because I didn’t know who I was,” Crumbley said. “The whole AK RENNY project stems from the moment I heard that quote. It means so much to me because I had to go through a turning point in my life to get to know myself and truly be happy.”

AK RENNY became an alter ego for Crumbley — a persona she tapped into to embrace her creative spirit and rap her heart out without judgment. As Mackenzie Crumbley, she was shy and reserved. But, as AK RENNY, she was powerful and fearless.

Adopting the AK RENNY alter ego also allowed Crumbley to embrace her queer identity with open arms.

“Being AK RENNY allowed me to find myself, because releasing songs that feature lyrics about liking girls and being gay help me be more open with who I am. That’s what the AK RENNY project is all about — being as real as possible.”

Growing up, Crumbley was largely unaware of her lesbian identity. In the small town of Jacksonville, Florida, where Crumbley was born and raised in a religious, conservative household, she didn’t know many openly gay people. Her religious upbringing also meant that the gay community was a taboo topic not often talked about at the dinner table.

This lack of exposure to the gay community made her queer identity difficult to understand, or even recognize, as Crumbley explained:

“It’s scary to come out when nobody around you is openly gay. And honestly, I didn’t even know I was gay for a long time because of my upbringing. I was raised to believe I would get married, have a few kids, and get a nine-to-five office job. I thought that was what life would be for me. But that changed when I moved out of my parents’ house.”

When Crumbley was 18, she moved out of her family’s house to attend college at the University of North Florida. This is where her journey of self-discovery kicked into a new gear and her creative vision for the AK RENNY project began to materialize.

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Crumbly described her freshman year of college as an “eye-opening experience” that introduced her to a new way of life, a new crowd of people, and new music — specifically, house music.

Because, although Crumbley listened to a wide variety of musical genres when she was growing up — from hip hop and motown to alternative rock — house music was not one of them.

In her hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, the house music scene was virtually non-existent. But, when she began attending the University of North Florida in 2018, house music soundtracked fraternity parties across the campus, and she couldn’t get enough.

She loved how house music made her feel; how house music made her dance. 

So, she started producing house music in her dorm room and eventually began DJing at the local college bars. A few months after she began releasing music, she started sending Dr. Fresh music while he was streaming on Twitch, and almost immediately she got a message from his House Call Records label. That’s when everything changed.

“When I first connected with Dr. Fresh, that was a pivotal moment for me. He reached out one day just to tell me he was a fan of my music. Back then, I only had a couple of rap songs out, but I guess he liked them. Since then, he’s become a mentor, a friend, and someone who has had a massive impact on my career.”

Very soon after, Dr. Fresh’s House Call Records sent Crubmley several tracks that needed vocals — so many, that she would record multiple verses a week for the label.

This became a great practice routine for Crumbley, and although most of those tracks never got an official release, House Call Records admired her drive and creative talent. 

In 2022, when she collaborated with another Jacksonville-based artist, DEVOWR., on “The One,” House Call Records was happy to give Crumbbley her first release on the label. Soon after, she landed another track with House Call in 2023 — ”Shooters” with Adame Twins. These tracks generated enough hype for Crumbley to gain the confidence to see music as a legitimate career.

Clearly, her confidence is paying off.

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Since releasing her first track in 2021, AK RENNY has crossed off a laundry list of milestones — playing EDC Orlando and Hulaween, touring with Dr. Fresh, releasing with several notable labels including NIGHT BASS and Space Yacht, and most recently, collaborating with Corrupt (UK) on their latest track, “Fade Away.”

“Fade Away” is an ode to the afterparty and a celebration of underground rave culture, which Crumbley says is a place where “all my problems fade away.”

That’s what house music culture is all about, isn’t it? In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Chicago's gay community designed the first house music raves in the U.S. as a safe space for the gay community to express themselves without judgment or persecution.

In 2024, that sentiment still rings true, but there’s still a heavy lack of representation in terms of the artists who actually create this music. Especially vocalists.

Crumbley is bridging that gap.

“The house music community is definitely here to elevate gay artists, but I don't hear too many lesbian vocalists hopping on these tracks. That’s something I don’t see very often, but I hope that changes. Because when the industry promotes gay artists, it makes being gay seem more normal, which helps people become more comfortable with themselves and their sexuality.”

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