NEW MUSIC: Between Saturday Night & Sunday Morning – Ka.lil

Between Saturday Night & Sunday Morning - Ka.lil

So this came out today and although we (Royal, The) haven’t had a chance to hear it yet, 206UP.COM is super-gassed over the drop because it’s been a minute since we’ve heard from Ka.lil, one of the most important musical components of this here still-budding experiment in Town bloggery.

As Khingz on his 2009 From Slaveships to Spaceships, the do-or-die South End representative bridged gaps between hardcore street hood and sensitive sci-fi nerd, thereby blasting sets of preconceived notions to smithereens. FStS fit somewhere between DPG’s Dogg Food and Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a spectrum that, when examined more critically and with a fully open heart, is not nearly as broad as we’re led to believe.

Anyway, Ka.lil is the shit, and I’m guessing his new album is, too. Go here or listen below if you need to ask somebody.

Audio

REVIEW: Liberation of the Monster – Khingz

Click album cover to purchase at Bandcamp.

Town rap veteran Khingz is equal parts self-reverential and self-referential on his latest LP, Liberation of the Monster, a release backed by Vancouver, BC record label Wandering Worx Entertainment (home to rappers Moka Only and Planet Asia, among others). The entire project was produced by Rel!g!on, who favors decidedly West Coast-derived slap matched with chopped samples and liberal doses of aggressive keyboard — imagine a more forward-thinking version of the early Dogg Pound aesthetic.

Indeed Khingz makes immediate connections to his West and East Coast roots (the MC has spent considerable time on both geographic margins) on album opener, and Dogg Pound-referencing, “DPG in NYC.” On the track he threatens to “stomp through the city like Dogg Pound in N-Y,” certainly a lyrical salvo meant to highlight his considerable skills as an MC. That’s the self-reverential part.

On Liberation, we also see Khingz highlighting his own personal struggles, those derived from racial injustice, identity crises, and conflicts when his power as a man intersects with mutual gender reciprocity. It’s all heavy stuff, especially “For Colored Boys Who Consider Suicide,” a figuratively titled song that can’t be anything but autobiographical.

For those that follow Khingz, they know that he’s equal parts sci-fi nerd and reformed gang banger, at-odds identities for those that like to stereotype, but commonly-occurring mutual states of existence for heads that actually observe. The MC’s self-referencing habits (like those found on his excellent 2009 LP, From Slaveships to Spaceships) feel like rap therapy sessions for Khingz, and edifying moral support for listeners who find themselves in the same beautiful category as him.

Album Reviews

VIDEO: Khingz Talks About the Making of His Next Album

Khingz has been crazy-prolific this year. From his masterpiece, From Slaveships to Spaceships, to The Living Yard project, to the welcome surprise that was Cold Hearted in Cloud City, the man known as Khalil is apparently no stranger to inspiration. Here he talks about the making of his next album, The Filth:

Video

REVIEW: Cold Hearted In Cloud City (Khingz)

Cold Hearted In Cloud City (Khingz)

(Note: This review also appears on national hip-hop blog abovegroundmagazine.com.)

In previous posts I’ve championed Khingz and his music because of the overarching sentimentality that drives it. Whether it’s an unabashed embrace of his sci-fi nerd tendencies, fastidious examination of his race, or total lack of fear over expressing the fact that he’s in love (be it with the woman of his dreams, or a fraternal love with his homies — minus the bullsh*t “no homo”/”pause” bigotry that poisons the hip-hop lexicon). Honesty in music breeds quality product. This has been the consistent ethic throughout Khingz’s career, and to his credit he’s achieved it without ever coming off as self-righteous. He’s walking a tightrope over mainstream hip-hop with his self-respect, principles, and integrity balanced on his back; and he seems to be doing it with ease.

Khingz is also having the most prolific year, musically, he’s ever had. From Slaveships to Spaceships jumped out of hyperspace in the first half of the year to a hungry Seattle hip-hop scene that I personally don’t think was ready for an album of such heavy-handedness. Folks around The Six were too busy taking their clothes off at Mad Rad and Fresh Espresso concerts, acts that feed the debaucheric tendencies of Seattle’s most over-caffeinated scenesters. Not saying there isn’t a time and place for that, but in a town that prides itself on being “conscious” and “progressive,” you’d hope an album like Slaveships would be gobbled up by those same scenesters who are, by-day, members of the supposed coffee-shop intelligentsia. Endless ruminations followed by due shine in the local press would hopefully have followed. In the Weekly’s Best of Seattle Reader’s Poll, Khingz was named “Best MC,” which is certainly a strong statement considering how saturated the local hip-hop market is, but simply being dubbed “one of Seattle’s wittier wordsmiths” in the brief write-up didn’t exactly speak to the complexities of Khingz’s album. No matter. If hip-hop culture trends toward justice (and I believe it does), From S to S will endure the test of time and ultimately be realized as a local hip-hop classic.

Now enter the follow-up to From Slaveships to Spaceships, Cold Hearted in Cloud City. While not as fully realized conceptually as From S to S (a Star Wars/Khingz-as-the-Blaq-Han-Solo theme loosely holds the sci-fi element together), this record may represent more of a transition in musical styles for the emcee. Gone is the frantic urgency of previous beats, and taking that place is a far mellower vibe. It is, dare I say, more sonically “accessible.” The fact that his rhyme style still meshes well with the more delicate production, only confirms my argument that Khingz is one of the most versatile emcees currently active in Seattle. (Though to be fully accurate, I should qualify that statement by acknowledging he’s since relocated to Vancouver, BC.)

The shift in musical styles is also accompanied by a slight shift in subject matter. Gone is the powerful declaration of liberation, which Khingz presumably nurtured to fruition on Slaveships. Cold Hearted finds Khingz getting more comfortable with his current place in the rap game. He shows he can body wack rappers with ease on “Carbonite Flow;” he confidently declares his journey through hip-hop has been unlike any other on “Kessel Run;” and shows he will gladly rock a party if motherf*ckas just wanna dance on “Devilish Grin.” It’s all done with an undercurrent of trepidation, however, which never allows levity to fully embrace the record. Khingz knows there’s a poison goin’ on (in the world and the rap game; see: “Hybernation Siccness”), and he’s too much of an introspective soul to allow himself to forget it, even for a moment.

On his blog, Khingz says he’s still searching for his “true” sound. It seems Cold Hearted is a brief stopover on that trip. My impression of his last two albums is that he’s found his proper voice, but perhaps his creative muse hasn’t shown him/herself yet. Or, could be that Khingz will realize an entire career with various collaborators and never get comfortable with one particular “sound.” That would be okay with this listener. For a genre that so prides itself on progression and “changing the game,” it possesses few artists that actually deliver on those maxims. In Khingz, it seems hip-hop has found someone that can truly, and willingly, carry that banner.

Album Reviews

Khingz Geeks Out Again…

Cold Hearted in Cloud City (Khingz)

…but we love ‘im for it! His forthcoming EP Cold Hearted in Cloud City is an obvious reference to some Han Solo/Star Wars sh*t, sure to be on some next-level like From Slaveships to Spaceships.

Khingz has made the album Intro available for free download. Get it here.

Downloads

REVIEW: From Slaveships to Spaceships (Khingz)

CD400Concept 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.

Album Reviews

Rock the Bells Loves Seattle (?)

RockTheBellsSEAaug09While we’re on the subject of shows, another one you probably shouldn’t miss is this year’s incarnation of the now seminal Rock the Bells tour (Friday, 8/14, The Showbox at the Market).

And, while the Seattle lineup is certainly nothing to sniff at, you’ll notice some glaring ommissions from the roster appearing at larger venues across the nation. Namely, Nas, The Roots, Common, Ice Cube, EPMD, and, uhh well, the list goes on…

So this year’s version of RTB is not only big-time scaled-back from last year (when it was at The Gorge), but Seattle is receiving an even further stripped-down version than say New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, which, due to our market size, stands to reason.

Oh well, should be a good show, anyway. The lone local act is Khingz, one of our most important artists doing it big around the 206. I’m still getting down on From Slaveships to Spaceships (it’s hella deep), and hope to pass along my thoughts soon.

Live Coverage

My Hands is Full

Yo. Back on the blog after a few days’ absence.

What began as an ambitious endeavor (the genesis of yet another 206-dedicated hip-hop blog) turned quickly from a new labor of love into straight-up work. A regular nine-to-five coupled with two blogs (I keep a personal one as well, but I’ll never tell you where it is!) is nearly too much to manage, especially if you are a notoriously slow writer like me.

But anyway, I just read Charles Mudede’s column in The Stranger (titled “Renewed School”), in which he summarizes the year thus far in Seattle hip-hop, calling it the “most important” since 2005 (uhh, wasn’t that only like four years ago?). And, while I very rarely agree with the majority of what Chuck says, I still hold his opinions valuable and let them help shape what I am currently pumping into my ears.

That being said, I’ve only sampled a couple of the albums he mentions among the best of ’09, and certainly haven’t listened to enough to formulate adequate reviews. (For example, I’m super late to the boat on Fresh Espresso’s debut, Glamour, as well as Khingz’s From Slaveships to Spaceships, two local releases that are, for better or worse, very important to the 206 scene this year.) I’m an amateur operation here, yo! I already have my hands full with the new Grynch and Physics EPs!

Anyway, I’m going to take Mudede’s advice to heart and go “cop these joints” (to use the parlance of our times) and, after so doing, submit proper reviews. But first I think I’m ‘a start with GMK’s Songs for Bloggers. It’s short and sweet and only costs $5.94 on iTunes. (Anyone wanna hit me with freebies?? Pretty please??) I’ll be back later with my thoughts. Until then, tell your friends!

Peace!

Views From the Peanut Gallery