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June 13, 2011  | by: Stepfanie Aguilar

Katelyn Cohen

There is a unique flavor to indie singer-songwriter Katelyn Cohen’s unexpected acoustic cover of “What’s Your Fantasy?” by Ludacris.  Miles away from the original, Cohen’s slow cover sounds sensual and seductive. In addition to the acoustic guitar skills displayed in Cohen’s covers of “dirty rapz,” this 24-year-old is a classically-trained cellist who also plays mandolin.

Cohen is originally from Baltimore and currently resides in Chicago. At 8 years old, Cohen tried learning to play the guitar but quickly lost interest.  Then, in the 4th grade, Cohen saw middle school students play in an orchestra.  She spotted the cello and said, “That’s it! That is it. That is my destiny. That is my instrument.”

When she first entered college at Columbia College in Chicago, she tried studying cello performance. Although she learned a lot from it, Cohen became burnt out from the daily 5-hour practices.  She realized that she preferred working behind the scenes and received a bachelor’s degree in Arts and Entertainment Management.

It wasn’t until about two years ago that she decided to pick up a guitar and start singing at open mic nights— mainly because she wanted to impress a guy.

“[Singing] was something that I wanted to do,” said Cohen. “I really liked this guy and he was playing at open mics and I thought, ‘Maybe if I get the courage to do that, it could be like an excuse to hang out with him, and he would be impressed.’ And yes, it worked.”

This summer, Cohen will move with her boyfriend to Ireland, where she will pursue a master’s degree in sexuality studies. She hopes to finish a split album — half of it with her original songs and the other half with her rap song covers — before classes start in the fall.

So why did she start “dirty rapz,” her sexual rap song covers?

“I think it’s really funny,” Cohen said. “I knew I’d get a reaction when I went out and played them. It was almost like an experiment. People looked shocked. People would crack up. They look at me in disbelief that the words are — like I can’t really believe these words came out of my own mouth. It gets a reaction. My stage persona is usually very sweet. Then I start playing and everything sounds great. Then next thing you know it’s like ‘[derogatory word]’ and everybody just turns and looks. It’s definitely something you don’t expect.”

While Cohen wants to release an album, she does not want to become famous.

“The bigger you get, the more other people have influence on you. If you sign with a record label, you have to do what they want. They can take a lot of liberty on your creative process. I’m perfectly fine with being an independent musician.”

However, she says it would be wonderful to play live, enough to earn some money as a part-time job while studying in school.

“I don’t want it to become like a [full-time] job. I just want it to be fun. If I’m able to make a little bit of money to go on tour, or have a beer after I play, that just thrills me.”

To learn more about Katelyn Cohen and hear more of her rap covers, visit her blog.

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