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Cole Delivers On Record-Breaking KOD

The real is back, the Ville is back. Legendary North Carolina rapper J. Cole burst back onto the scene last…

The real is back, the Ville is back. Legendary North Carolina rapper J. Cole burst back onto the scene last week after a relatively quiet year, releasing his 4th full-length studio LP titled KOD. After an action packed three days, which included two international pop-up shows and a series of exciting tweets, the album was finally released on all major streaming platforms on Friday, April 20th (international stoner day, hint hint). Buckle up, my friends, because there’s a lot to unpack here.

The three alternate album titles, Kids on Drugs, King Overdosed, and Kill Our Demons, along with the artwork – which features children snorting cocaine, sipping lean, and smoking weed – pointed to the album being a critique of todays youth drug culture. While addiction and substance abuse are major themes of the album, KOD lacks specific direction and is not solely based on these issues. The project is more so general social commentary, with Cole flittering back and forth between a litany of deep and timely topics. The combination of the cover artwork, the 4/20 release-date, and title themes are misleading. There’s far too much going on in KOD for a concrete storyline to come to light.

While online theories are entertaining and partially correct, they still don’t account for the many conflicting portions of the album. Take kiLL edward, for example, who is listed as the album’s lone feature but is actually Cole’s drug abusing alter-ego (when edward speaks, it’s a heavily filtered version of Cole’s voice). It would be all well and good if, as theorized online, edward is the evil king of the rap game attempting to lure Cole to the dark side and join the youth in their reckless and hedonistic behavior. Throughout the album, Cole fights off edward with all of his might and eventually kills him (so they say online). But edward only has a minimal presence on the album; he’s only featured on two songs. The entertaining back and forth that could have been never comes to fruition and ultimately, the theme falls short of its full potential.

 
To complicate matters further, it’s nearly impossible to tell when Cole is speaking from his own perspective or that of someone else. Take the track “KOD,” for example, which, flow-wise and production-wise, is a slapper. Cole starts the track with lyrics that are undoubtedly from his own perspective, as he’s known for going platinum twice before without any features: “How much you worth? How big is your home? How come you won’t get a few features? I think you should? How ’bout I don’t?” Later on the track, however, Cole, who doesn’t even smoke weed, brags about sipping lean: “Yeah, at this shit daily, sipped so much Actavis I convinced Actavis that they should pay me.” Is this kiLL edward speaking? Is this Cole speaking from the perspective of another rapper? It’s impossible to tell. All of this is rapped in Cole’s normal voice, implying that it’s not coming from kiLL edward’s perspective.

Only a few bars later, Cole spits a line that is again inarguably personal: “Platinum disc and I own masters, bitch, pay me.” If Cole wanted to make a themed album, he should have either rapped any lyrics that didn’t apply to himself using edward’s distorted voice, or, he could have simply listed edward as a feature on any track that contains lines from Cole’s alter-ego perspective and let the fans decipher which lines apply to whom. Cole reached in his attempt to make a themed album and convoluted an otherwise great body of work. Based on the twelve tracks that make up this project, he should have given the album a more general title and a piece of artwork.

Album theme aside, KOD is a moving and highly educational body of work. To piggyback off of Charlemagne Tha God’s joke, The ROC should be changed to the T.E.D. because the amount of knowledge Jay-Z and Cole consistently give to the people is astounding. On the closer, “1985,” Cole responds to criticism he’s received from Lil Pump with some informatory, simultaneously scorching, bars:

One day, them kids that’s listening gon’ grow up
And get too old for that shit that made you blow up/Now your show’s lookin’ light cause they don’t show up/Which unfortunately means the money slow up/Now you scramblin’ and hopin’ to get hot again/But you forgot you only popped ’cause you was ridin’ trends/Now you old news and you goin’ through regrets/‘Cause you never bought that house, but you got a Benz.

Like “1985,” the album is full of must-listens. On the “Once an Addict” interlude, Cole describes the anguish and guilt he felt as a teen watching his mother struggle with substance abuse. On “The Cut Off,” he explores toxic, one-way relationships that he’s been forced to end. On “Friends,” he pleads with other companions of his struggling with addiction, promising that there are healthier ways to overcome systematic-oppression-induced anxiety and depression. The stories and messages on KOD are far more important than its production, which is percussion heavy and melodically muted – this is in stark contrast to some of Cole’s older, glossier, sample-laden projects such as The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights.

 
Cole did what he does best on KOD, summing up complex and poignant topics with conciseness and clarity. While some argue that his work is overly simplistic, it’s important to keep in mind when listening to a Cole album that it’s just that, an album, and not a graduate school thesis. To convey his thoughts in such an articulate manner over just 42 minutes, as he does on KOD, highlights his underrated talent as a wordsmith. More importantly, Cole again achieved his primary goal: to educate, inspire, and lead as many people as possible through his selfless works of art. It’s officially a Cole spring, and the official closing track title, “1985 (Intro to The Fall Off”),” hints that it may indeed be a Cole summer too.

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#IndieSpotlight: Dough the Freshkids’ ‘Black Rome’ Is A Buzzworthy Slice Of Hip Hop Goodness

There have been many eras in Hip Hop, but none as forgotten as the Nubian era, which was characterized by…

There have been many eras in Hip Hop, but none as forgotten as the Nubian era, which was characterized by a heightened sense of knowledge of self and anti-oppressive forces that be. The ironic commercial appeal of empowering groups like Public Enemy or Brand Nubian eventually morphed into the current era where “rap” has become a business move/career choice rather than a voice of the underdog filled with subversive talking points that rival university lectures.

This is what I found so intriguing about the new project Black Rome by Dough the Freshkid — representing Crenshaw, California. The follow up to his free tape Six Shots and released via his independent label Every Penny Count, the 15-song effort is a blend of vibes, ranging from an early millennium G-Unit mixtape structure (see the chorus on “Cookin’”), 90s east coast soundscapes (see “We Rich” with its scratch hook), to deeply reflective contextual content aimed at giving opposing viewpoints to widely accepted “fact.”

 
An example of this is the title track, which focuses on the idea that a false image of “white Jesus” was shaped by artist Leonardo DaVinci. Its execution is reminiscent of similar records, such as “Why Is That” by BDP and “Nature Of The Threat” by Ras Kass. This song could literally be transcribed into an incredibly compelling University level essay.

 
Elsewhere on the record, he traverses themes such as the (historical) political and social-economic climate in the United States (see “God’s Curse” verse two) to gang life in LA. Nothing is ever glorified, and everything comes off as methodically thoughtful. On the track “I See He Blued Up,” he addresses industry Crippin,’ as well as unnecessary killing in the streets. “Man up, out the choppas down and out your hands up,” he raps, pointing to the glorification of needless gun violence.

 
Some of the standouts include the gorgeous instrumental that rides with the top down on “Palm Trees II” featuring Tropic626— which I found myself revisiting quite a few times this week — and the unspoken dopeness of “Still Arlington (1994)” which featured Wee Dogg.

“I never promote crack in my raps, I only promote facts in my raps,” he implores as the project comes to a close with the dramatically honest, autobiographical “Sincerely Me.” Even at its most informative and reflective, Dough manages to make this project an incredibly digestible gem packed with lots of wisdom and great talking points. Worth a spot on your end of year playlist if you’re looking for some undeniable fire that is still creeping under the radar.

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Outside The Box: Discover The Positive World Of Krhazey Whytheycallhimthat

Every once in a while you come across an artist who falls outside the box of industry convention; by that…

Every once in a while you come across an artist who falls outside the box of industry convention; by that I — of course — an artist who doesn’t seem motivated by the basics that have poisoned the soul of the culture. An artist that puts his music first. Brooklyn MC Krhazey Whytheycallhimthat is one of those artists. “A positive change in consciousness has the power to topple barriers almost as easy as a negative change creates them,” he tells AAHH describing his mantra for creating.

If that doesn’t create an immediate sense of urgency for his music, then I don’t know what to tell you.

Off the bat, there is something endearing about his admirable need for not only a purpose but to give back. Early on in his career, he began volunteering his time — and his unique brand of Hip Hop to the 25-year-old Art Start. The program dedicates itself to New York City’s underserved youth, delivering consistent creative workshops inside homeless shelters, alternative to incarceration programs, and partnering youth agencies.

“The program gave me a sense of direction, understanding and a hope for change; real change in myself and my environment,” he says.

 
What I find so cool about his music is the way that it all seems to contrast and compliment itself at the same time. His latest joints are a great example. “Jack Frost” for example has this bouncy ballad behind it, paired with these haunting lyrics that have this almost literal intention of describing this cold-heartedness developed though…well…life. Then there’s “23:5,” which has this almost “Marvin’s Room” feel to it — complete with a call to his ex. But it spirals into this realization that the liquor is a crutch, followed an aggressive assertion of the path before him.

Then the vibe of his latest “Makeda” is a pseudo-love track with hella depth, and again a completely different vibe.

Everything I hear from this kid I like. Even going back to the summer, with his super dope single/video “BTD,” with it’s kind of goofy visual concept.

 
Without being driven by the same old, his music has this certain unspoken originality to it. Even the fact that he rocks an anime-inspired kung-fu headband ends up coming across like DOOM’s mask in a sense. It’s hard not to get into.

And the spirit of giving back, which inspired him to start his own foundation — Young Heroes Undefeated — is an added layer that makes you want to root for him. “We make original comic books for children with special needs and use the profits to send the kids and their families on all expense paid vacations,” he explains of the foundation’s mission.

With a four comic series being released next year — on top of a solo LP and a project from my his Audio Temple — there is a lot to look forward to here. He’ll be launching a kickstarter for his foundation in coming weeks; stay tuned to our Instagram for details on how to support something positive.

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#Indiespotlight: Prototype & Lazarus The Kid’s ”Voicemail” Is A Journey Worth Taking

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a…

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a rainy day, I rode around giving this one a fair shake and was taken for more of a journey than I expected. 

The concise EP is immensely musical, with these lush, expansive musical landscapes for Prototype to literally bleed his heart out upon; there is no hyperbole in the emotion packed within these five tracks. Atop soulful samples, energetic drum patterns, and pretty piano keys, there’s a sense of loss and sadness that lingers amongst the celebration and assertion of the dream chase. 

Immediately on the heartfelt “Color,” we’re introduced to demise of a powerful relationship in Prototypes life — one which he gave his all to, and once thought would possibly end in marriage. It’s a loss that is later encapsulated with an emotionally charged piano interlude brimming with a heavy-hearted sense of despair. 

There’s also the loss of Jason Kalinga, who is actually featured “Simba.” The second verse of “Better Way” is a letter to his lost friend, who was another powerful figure in his life.

Amongst the deep moments standing as an endearing open book into his world, there is an incredible sense of confidence; Prototype is chasing the vision in his head — and it’s hard to imagine anyone attempting to detract him from his vision after taking in this project. 

Ending off with the crown jewel, “November 15,” Prototype & Lazarus The Kid position themselves as exciting artists putting out music with not only a purpose  but a strong sense of its emotional connection. They know what they’re doing, and it’s something that hinges more on the artistic merit side of things than the trendy shit. This isn’t for cool points, it’s a therapeutic listen made for longevity. This is a catalog worth keeping an eye on.

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#IndieSpotlight, Main

#Indiespotlight: Prototype & Lazarus The Kid’s ”Voicemail” Is A Journey Worth Taking

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a…

Duo Prototype & Lazarus The Kid Just dropped a new project, and believe me, it’s worth a spin. On a rainy day, I rode around giving this one a fair shake and was taken for more of a journey than I expected. 

The concise EP is immensely musical, with these lush, expansive musical landscapes for Prototype to literally bleed his heart out upon; there is no hyperbole in the emotion packed within these five tracks. Atop soulful samples, energetic drum patterns, and pretty piano keys, there’s a sense of loss and sadness that lingers amongst the celebration and assertion of the dream chase. 

Immediately on the heartfelt “Color,” we’re introduced to demise of a powerful relationship in Prototypes life — one which he gave his all to, and once thought would possibly end in marriage. It’s a loss that is later encapsulated with an emotionally charged piano interlude brimming with a heavy-hearted sense of despair. 

There’s also the loss of Jason Kalinga, who is actually featured “Simba.” The second verse of “Better Way” is a letter to his lost friend, who was another powerful figure in his life.

Amongst the deep moments standing as an endearing open book into his world, there is an incredible sense of confidence; Prototype is chasing the vision in his head — and it’s hard to imagine anyone attempting to detract him from his vision after taking in this project. 

Ending off with the crown jewel, “November 15,” Prototype & Lazarus The Kid position themselves as exciting artists putting out music with not only a purpose  but a strong sense of its emotional connection. They know what they’re doing, and it’s something that hinges more on the artistic merit side of things than the trendy shit. This isn’t for cool points, it’s a therapeutic listen made for longevity. This is a catalog worth keeping an eye on.

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