REVIEW: From Slaveships to Spaceships (Khingz)
Concept albums are always a tricky business. Rarely do they succeed in achieving a true sense of coherence, a completeness in actualizing the very “concept” they’re attempting to convey. Either they fall short because of straight-up weirdness, or inconsistencies that exist somewhere in the actual music (be it in production, lyrics, style, or what-have-you).
Because concept albums so often fall on their ambitious faces, to simply call Khingz’s second solo entry, From Slaveships to Spaceships, a “concept album” would be doing the record a disservice. It’s actually much more than that. If a music artist’s work is always inspired by something they either find valuable or have experienced in perpetuity throughout their lives, then a coherent expression of that in a single album is much less a “concept” and more a concrete expression of the artist’s reality.
From Slaveships to Spaceships certainly qualifies as an expression of Khingz’s life and experiences as a self-admitted social outcast. It’s only because science-fiction themes are so pervasive throughout that a critic like myself is excused when using the term “concept album” to help describe the record.
The album’s title and sci-fi terminologies aside, FStoS exists more on the terra firma that is Seattle’s South End than it does in the outer-reaches of our galaxy. It’s an honest expression of life as a person of color in The Town’s suddenly en vogue southern neighborhoods. Bitterness, confusion, and self-realization are all explored in dramatic fashion. Khingz (much like his brother Gabriel Teodros) is a sensitive dude. And, also like GT, restraint in his lyrics is not a problem he suffers from. There’s a valuable and uncommon connection between art and self-awareness here that makes for some heavy-handed sh*t, like the emotional tour de force of the title track. By the end of the song Khingz sounds like he’s lived enough trying times for a thousand lives.
Sonically, this album runs the gamut. From hyper-active beats emulating space battles (“Hydroplanin’” made me feel like I was stuck in the middle of a shootout between Stormtroopers and the Rebel Alliance) to the smoothed-out hip-hop valentine “Blaq Han Solo.” There’s an undeniable energy running through these beats; it’s equal parts thoughtful production and Khingz’s own crazy-versatile flow that act as the electrical current bringing each track to life.
Throughout this record, Khingz makes clear that he’s seeking his liberation from something. Could be the past. Could be liberation from the typical musical stylings that so often contribute to the stagnation of his beloved art form. Whatever. As a listener I was just happy that, by album’s end, he seems to have found what he’s looking for. As fans of hip-hop, we should be thankful that Khingz expresses his liberation through his music. It makes for “important” hip-hop in the most well-defined sense of the word.