Like many young students, 13-year-old Keedron Bryant is now navigating virtual learning as he goes back to school.
But this eighth-grader from Jacksonville, Fla., is also a viral sensation who’s dropping his debut EP, “I Just Wanna Live,” on Friday.
Bryant landed a record deal after he posted a smartphone-shot video of himself performing his song “I Just Wanna Live” a cappella. Posted on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May, the clip became a rally cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I never thought it was gonna go viral,” said Bryant, who was a contestant on NBC’s “Little Big Shots” last season. “But it was really sad that I had to sing those type of words. There were a lot of emotions going on in my mind at the time I was singing it . . . I asked God to give me power and strength and anointing to deliver the message right.”
“I Just Wanna Live” was written by the singer’s mother, Johnnetta Bryant, who, like his father, is a minister. “Right after we watched [Floyd’s murder], my mom went into prayer and asked God to give her something to pass down to me,” said Bryant. “So that’s what God gave her — ‘I Just Wanna Live.’ ”
Bryant and his song got props from the likes of Will Smith, LeBron James and Alicia Keys. But there was one endorsement that really stood out to him: “I was really surprised when former President Barack Obama shared it,” he said.
Proving just how many people were living for Bryant, he opened the BET Awards in June, singing “I Just Wanna Live.” And he’ll sing his now-signature song at the NFL Kickoff on Thursday night.
Having already experienced racism himself, Bryant has embraced becoming part of the fight for social justice in 2020 — even at such a young age. “I was just happy that I had the opportunity,” he said. “I do believe that it’s really important for young people to be a part of the change that needs to be happening in the world . . . We need to be equal, and black people need to have freedom.”
On his R&B EP, Bryant spreads empowering messages with tunes such as “U Got This” and “Kings N Queens.” “I really want my music to uplift people and just bring positive vibes and hope to whoever’s listening to it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bryant displays a social consciousness on “Talk About It.” “I do believe that it’s important to talk about a lot of issues that have been going on in music,” he said.
And on “Never Could Say,” Bryant’s gospel-schooled voice recalls a young Michael Jackson. “They have compared me to Michael Jackson,” he said of being likened to the King of Pop.
Even at just 13, Bryant is very clear on how he wants to live his life: “I wanna represent God, and I wanna represent my family and what I stand for . . . just a lot of positive, powerful messages that I want to get out.”