Thursday, March 20, 2014

Live Review - Kool A.D. - Word OK

Get hype for the Kool A.D. album-tier project

I remember way back, like, around when Relax dropped, thinking and maybe saying that I felt like in a few years we'd look back at the time that Das Racist were together as like, miraculous. I feel like I've had vague premonitions that they'd end up broken up ever since I first knew about them, 'cause like... most rap groups break up. And they're just so different, really! That's what made DR work so well, the very compelling sense of two geniuses with two separate visions of what the group should be, and it ending up being some amazing, but unstable, combination. It was kinda a Big Boi/Andre thing from the start.

The Andre of the pair, Kool A.D. is the crazier, more experimental one. The density and obscurity of his lyrics is such that sometimes all but the most dedicated scholars will be left scratching their heads. Luckily the production is so banging - even at it's weirdest - that those heads will also nod. And yeah like although I appreciate his branching deep into the most conceptual stuff, for me the sweet spot lies on tapes like 63 and 19, which have all his weird memeticisms, structural fetishes, bizarre jokes, etc but are also just wall-to-wall bangers. But even the weirder projects (like The Palm Wine Drinkard) still provide a few crack bangers that occupy my whole rotation for weeks (like "Lagrimas Blancas"). So basically I figure there's gonna be something on this tape I'm really excited for.

Plus it's THE ALBUM... I really like the "tiering" of album-mixtape etc in hip hop... sometimes it's really silly and arbitrary, sometimes it's a really simple distinction between all-original stuff vs. repurposed beats, or free vs. pay for this pls, but I really like artists having the option to say things like "this is something I made for fun and for your enjoyment" or "this is something I tried really hard to make good, and want it in my ouvre", like, I think the ability to make these distinctions is really creatively liberating and helpful to audiences. Maybe I'm just projecting unrealistic expectations, I dunno. The Greedhead crew seems to follow this thinking to some extent, the "album" projects usually more conceptually whole and consistent in quality than the "mixtape" projects.

Anyways... stuff I really like about Kool A.D., stuff I'm looking for... He has a sort of "stable" of memes, stuff he likes to say for ad-libs and stuff, that rotates here and there, lately he's been saying "Bieber" a lot, that's good. He's big into repetition, the sort of inherent joke in rapping. Lots of jokes about the duality of rappers and the lifestyles they rap about having. Lots of stuff that falls in a really weird place between satire and pastiche... I really like how liberally he can poke fun without any of it feeling either banal-soft or mean. I love how he'll delve into a big philosophical or political issue with no hesitation or preamble, but a lot of humbleness, and he ends up being really reasonable and compelling. There's a strange and subtle undercurrent of unhappiness in a lot of his stuff that's really really compelling, I think it's actually really similar to the unhappiness that's more evident on Heems' Wild Water Kingdom etc but masked in a different way. Uhh, what else... lots of addictive but bizarre samples in the production, lots of juxtaposition in "lifestyle" rapping between hilariously over the top boasts and realistic depictions of his life, half Rick Ross, half Tao Lin... great rapper, man. Flow is ridiculous, of course, always really on point but so, so varied. Well, let's take a look at this one.

Kool A.D. - Word OK
Live Review

1. Open Letter
Amaze88 is a constant Kool A.D. producer, always great. Great intro, email to myself... seems believable. Kool AD best rapper is such a good boast, the way he says it so fast. "Second world problem child", yeah. Wow he just said a LOT of good lines so fast. Haha L joke good. Wow okay horn noodling now. "Woah". "Look at how many years I've been living without a job" haha nice get 'em Victor. This is a great intro sorta flow, going "in" so much. "Catch you when you in the MOMA cafe","Black Shakespeare, never read Othello though" haha. So many good lines, man. "I style like Ying Yang Twins" I feel like I forget about them often. The "oh my god" and "true!" doubles are so smooth, damn. Haha oh my god this bit about gun fights, the no-bomb telathon, haha... man, it seems like he's having so much fun. This is so addictive. I've wanted to hit "rewind" many times already. "My favorite hue is cool", nice. Like... there's this sick sick combination of poeticism and silliness, effortlessness and intricacy, so sweet. "Listen to the beat, it's more complex than you might give it credit for", nice... "All language is a metaphor", true... Best rapper, best rapper in the world, yes. **

2. I'm On A Plane
This is a theme we see pretty often in Kool A.D. raps, being on airplane etc. This beat is niiiiice. Vapory. "I'm on a plane/I can't complain", this is a flawless hook... actually even if these are the only lyrics in the song I'd be okay with that. "Kool A.D., like the refreshment powder" haha oh my god. Ahhh man any time he raps a bit in Spanish, it's so slick, just another dimension of flow. "I think I might just quit rap, and live basic/What's it all mean? Who cares", damn. This sort of mentality is like... so infectious. This beat is so slick, I don't think I've heard of Sha-Leik before. Oh man another just insane collection of self-titles, these are ALL so good, it's like the part near the start of ALP's section in book one of FW... uhh, not quite but whatever. Beiber, beiber, beiber, I like that vocal effect. So many little addictive elements. And a nice outro, just solid vibing out... S+

3. Tight
Lakutis and Mr. MF Exquire on this thing, two great rappers that always put in great work on guest verses. This beat is... tight. Almost tnght, lol. Victor got some Lakutis-sorta imagery right off the bat. "Couldn't see me twice with trifocals" lol, haha he keeps upping this little octave flip thing, more and more extreme, and the beat is getting more and more like... man... this is something else. Tight. Here's da kuuutis, haha oh man he is saying such crazy thing. "Girls make the cross with my fingers when they see me", that's a perfect Lakutis image. Wow that was a short verse, solid though. Haha oh geez Mr Muthafuckin Exquire, his flow like... tar flowing down a hill. "Catch me drinking Everclear in Castle Greyskull", "Shouts to my nigga Leif, that nigga there gay as fuck" hahhahaha, oh man he's still mad at Mike Finito. WOW THIS WAS PRODUCED BY TORI Y MOI, I just realized, that's so cool, wow. *

4. Naughty by Nature
I think I heard this on Youtube a bit ago. I looove this intro, the way he transitions into the actual verse. Classic Mike Finito style sample-based beat, this is so sweet, I think this is one of his best. So noisy yet so slick. Victor is just going hard into this one, this is a verse you really have to "unpack". Man his philosophy is so sincere and reasonable... like Panda Bear sorta but talking about totally different things. Slayer joke is good. "More bars than like three jails", like, who says that sort of line? Only Kool A.D. and Lil B. This song is like totally relentless, he's so good at that sort of endless, no hook, line after line flow. So good. "Told you I'm a lime to a lemon you a peach like, more than twice", "You know like the show, Seinfleeled?", haha oh my god, I really don't have time to explain why these are so so so funny. "Fly like the paper I'm stuck to", "Picture my mulatto ass rolling, Degrassi", jesus wow. *

5. Word
Haha oh my god this beat is totally insane. The contrast between the chaos and his laid back flow is already pretty compelling. Deep escargo/car go/slow like snail lines, wow... "That's my word", this sort of hook is so catchy, and the flow here on the second verse is like, a whole new style again, how does he do it? And then he flips it up AGAIN, like, not a dramatic shift, but just these little smooth transitions between styles, it's so addictive. I can't even process most of these lines atm, gotta hear this a few more dozen times for full process. I don't even know how to describe the flow on this part here near the end, with the emphasis like, halfway through the line, it's... so catchy. That's his word. S

6. Look
Oh shit it's our boy Kassa, Peaceful Solutions was so good. This beat is straaaange, the minimal stuff. "Look/Fire, cook/Meal, eat/Check, deal", this is crazy... 65mil BC rhymes. "Wow, see me in a vehicle", that's another sorta thing he does, the blank vagueness parody thing, so good. This flow is like... a whole other thing. And I don't even know how to describe the beat. Post-heavy. Ooooh shit, Kassa's flow contrasts nicely, and the little addition to the beat is perfect. "Onomatapoeia pick pepper", no way, he is just saying the most unbelievable thing. "Mediafire in a hoe" omg. "Baby with the swisher breath". This is like... raps from a forgotten age, or something... A whole new set of sensibilities. S+

7. The Front
Feat. two guys I typically associate with production... well, Toro Y Moi has sweeeet vocals too so I dunno. This is sweet already my god, just so smooth. Kool A.D. on the oldschool flow with this beat that's both boom-bappy and also super futurey. Haha Victor calling out authority in lines like "nod your head" haha, this is the sort of realistic lifestyle flow that I find so engrossing. The way he goes on like "tangents" and then back to the really oldschool sorta flow is soooo nice. And oh man this hook/bridge thing around 2:00, haha oh man, these flows, nostalgiaaaaa... "I got gold rings for every day of the week", "I got diamonds for every day of the year", nice. "You're kinda fine, can you bust a rhyme? I said, on a dime", man, no one rhymes like this anymore. This is soooo slick, this is like really nice summertime low-key party sort of raps, I want to need those asap. S+

8. Life & Time
Wow 7 minutes long... I dunno who these guests are. This sort of flow is just so... it's like, powerful, it feels rampaging. And this beat is reeeeally nice too. I love that style of sampling horns + vocals. Strange lines about revolutions and Hitler lol. Wait, is this Del? DZL = Del? Typo???? It really sounds like Del. Del is pretty great. Great verse. Now a girl rapping, I like her voice, sorta like a more uh, latinoish Kilo Kish maybe. "Emotional algebra", coool. Wow the way the beat switched up for Kool A.D.'s intro is so perfect, haha oh man he dropped the Panama palindrome, he's having so much fun. "Observe how these words have attitudes that speak platitudes", "Still churchless, but I might run up in a Church's Chicken", "I might get a 3D printer and print a biscuit", I can't even keep up with this. My god, he's just going beyond in, plug depth over 400%. I really hope he raps for the next 3 minutes. "Even though a lot of people are not eating", "But what can man do? I dunno, probably a lot" haha oh man. "My bitcoin's hella byte", wow, so so so many good lines. Haha oh man and the piano, whaaaaaaaaat? This subject matter man, who else would rap about this? "Y'all be to Ja Rule what he be to Pac/I said that line last week in another track", "Oh snap, I feel like rap Mark Zuckerblack" whaaaat, how does he come up with this stuff, this is all so amazing. And now we just ride out with this awesome, awesome beat. Great job Amaze88, great job everybody. This is pretty masterpiece tier. ***

9. Hickory
Wow, Talib Kweli, that's like a really big name, wow. This beat is cool, I like that muted feeling, and the way it "rushes up" with the vocals... I never get tired of that sort of effect. I like when he does these sorta sung stuff. "Everyone is stupid/Everyone is dumb/Shoutouts to the moon, shoutouts to the sun" great. "Pussy smell victory" haha so many meanings. "Oh my god what the fuck oh my god" a classic Kool A.D. hook component. Haha oh man here he is, that's so sweet... I really like Kweli, he was one of my favorite rappers when I first got into hip hop. This verse is really slick, he's doing that emphasis on a specific cadence thing he's really good at. Damn that was too brief, really slick though. Boots Riley is a familiar name, but I don't remember from where. "Yelling fuck the police, quite emphatically", haha. This is a really nice flow, reminds me of Freddie Gibbs a bit but I've been bumping Pinata really hard so he's on the mind. I really like the horns here. Amaze88 is such a genius man, he has such an ear for samples. Greedhead's Madlib, maybe? Wow the effect on the outro here is really great, feels delirious. S+

10. Special Forces
Another long one... "Best rapper, dead or alive, in the world", "Shouts to Lil B, he hella good at rapping", "Grill a square burger like I'm Dave Thomas"... I think I could just spend this whole song just trying to copy down lines loll. "Understand I make the pussy creak, Dawson" haha oh my god, these references, like, this is what Donald Glover thinks he's doing, maybe. Is he really just gonna rap like this for like 6:40? That's amazing, that's really impressive seriously. Like just try to follow how he changes up his flow, it's so effortless and smooth and yet he manages to do all these crazy styles, just the way he shifts emphasis around, and yet it's always so tight to the beat. "I don't even trip like my grandma", all these Gretzky lines make me patriotic. "Polo is owned by Nestle" haha oh my god, the way he did that, like, there's so many layers for him to do something like that, that's so dense. "Who the best though? I'm guessing that it's me." haha oh man he's going into the sorta babbling flow, like, dipping his toe into it. Really nice effect. "I need to be near where the Queen is/I think she needs to hear this", so ridiculous. Man I want to quote like literally every line for a thirty second stretch just now. The consistency of the beat here, this is just such a monumental effort. Like Dum Diary was crazy but this is another thing. "It's better with no Gheppetto though"... too lazy to spell that right, the Pinocchio guy. That was sick. *

11. Word O.K.
Title track, outro... harps and shit... and then heavy trappy beats through some sorta distortion... wow what is he even saying, he is saying so many things. Like... I feel pretty exhausted by this point, tbh... trying to keep up with this sort of stuff is overwhelming. I really like this though. "Dumb shine" reference, I think that's the first one on the album, that's a classic. Wow he just got so poetic and beautiful, and then so real on some iPhone stuff... "Sometimes I get paid to record raps, othertimes I do it for free", great closing line. S+

Wow that was fantastic, Jesus
I think that might be my favorite project he's done. When I was doing my little intro thing I was trying to go over stuff I liked about him, but when I listened to this I just kept realizing I'd barely scratched the surface. He's got such a deep "persona" now, such an extensive history of jokes and memes and stuff that he can call upon, it's like he just keeps getting more powerful. And yet he also keeps innovating, stuff like the quick tonal upshift on "Tight", seems just new to hip hop in general, maybe? His scope just keeps increasing, his philosophies just get more articulate and reasoned, his jokes get denser and funnier in an attempt to one-up himself... The songs where he just goes on and on, great line after great line, that's SO impressive to me, that's a pinnacle of a certain sort of rapping.

Like seriously, that was so good, right? He seemed to have the mentality of album = quality, which is the most exciting attitude. It's like he took all the styles and ideas and guests and producers he was having fun with on the mixtapes and just sat down and worked them harder, just put in that effort... and yet he still seems to be having SO much fun, too. It's really inspiring, even, like, forget what I said about the undercurrent of unhappiness, maybe. For all the humbleness and self-deprecation this is a really affirming album of creation and passion and having fun. And his mastery of his style is at ridiculous levels now, I mean, if you don't believe him when he says he's the best rapper in the world, you probably will soon. I think this is my AOTY so far. Benji was something really special, Pinata's super addictive, I haven't actually heard the new ASMZ yet... but this has it all. Heavy rotations incoming.


James said...

nice review mane! kool ad best rapper alive. special forces in particular is so sick.

did you catch that the seinfleeld line is a reference to a couple of himanshu lines? i can't remember which song, but hilarious.

Keatsta said...

Yeah yeah, Heems has "Haters mad cause they got Costanza dicks
You know, like the show, Seinfeld
Michael Richards made my fucking mind melt"

So Kool AD like... flips it up a bit. so good.

Anonymous said...

Fuck this is so great (the album, and also your review). Seriously, great work man. And nice to see there's another person in the world who's into both Kool AD and Finnegans Wake!