Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Album Review: Kid Ink - Almost Home EP

Before you listen to the EP, let me ask: were you already a fan of Kid Ink's music? Because if you've already heard Up & Away or Daydreamer and NOT enjoyed it, don't expect Almost Home to twirl your perception around. But if you have, you're going to have a great time over the next half hour.

This EP is about as predictable as Skip Bayless criticizing LeBron James or tequila leading to a bad night, but that's not a knock on Kid Ink. Rather, it's more of a guide to your expectations as a listener. You can apply this same logic generally, with exceptions, across the hip hop genre. Craving social commentary? Check out Macklemore's album. Want to hear a personal diary? Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City is still in stores. Desiring dark ambiance and experimentation? Try A$AP Rocky out. But do you need a pick me up, something to party to at any time? Well now you're talking Kid Ink's language! Here's where he truly excels. No rapper makes a synthesized, easygoing yet turnt up track like he can. You won't catch a single line of significance, but when you're ready to let loose or just relax, to hear about a lifestyle as carefree as Kid Ink's singing/rapping style, Almost Home is a fantastic choice.

The album is really cut into two three-song parts. The first half of the album, Kid takes a somewhat deviant direction, moving into a darker sound. However, Fuck Sleep and Was it Worth it maintain the overproduced, 2100 sound he's known for; they simply enjoy deeper undertones as well. Then, beginning with Money and the Power, he returns to his signature upbeat nature. While he sounds good throughout, his increased comfort on the latter half is apparent, as if he gave up on trying to pretend the 6'6 foot long couch was comfortable to snooze on and hopped back into his King-sized bed (with a really hot chick next to him). Sure, a 6'6 couch can get you a good night's sleep, but wouldn't you rather sink into that bed with Kate Upton next to you?

Unfortunately, the EP suffers from a common rap issue; too many guests. It's no surprise that the two highest highlights are the two solo tracks, Money and the Power and Sunset. After not featuring a single cameo on his last CD, the pure volume of voices detracts from the album continuity. Guest artists must be properly placed to add creative effect. Kendrick Lamar, for example, uses MC Eiht perfectly in his album's title track,  creating a second-hand account of the stories Kendrick tells throughout the song, whereas A$AP Ferg appears thrown into Bossin' Up at random. It distorts Kid Ink's strength as the pure owner of his own sound, but that's why this is just an EP instead of a full CD. It's meant to tide us over until a full album can come out. And it does just that.

Bossin' Up (featuring A$AP Ferg & French Montana): Kid opens with this slow burning posse cut. Deep undertones and a creeping rhythm, not to mention the relaxed flows, creates an extremely drawn out feel to this track. Not to mention its nearly 7 minute run time. It's not your prototypical Kid Ink song, and a lot of your interpretation of it will come with your feelings about French Montana and A$AP Ferg. Maybe not a bad night driving song, but certainly not the strong point of the short album, and the absolute wrong choice to lead with. 2/5.

Fuck Sleep (featuring Rico Love): The perfect Kid Ink concept, but only two verses by the man himself. The beat matches his intentions, and the song sounds ambidextrously like 3 AM, either partying at the club or working in the studio. Inspirational in nature, this track builds and drops in excellent harmony with the rappers. Rico Love puts in the top guest appearance on the CD, singing on the chorus and adding a bit of edge with his verse. Ultimately, it is charismatic and catchy without quite standing above some of the other songs. 4/5.

Was it Worth it (featuring Sterling Simms): A relatively ridiculous song where Kid chastises a woman he seems to have dumped for not being with him! Regardless, this is his final "dark" sounding offering of the EP. It's a short song, only two verses, and about as close to having a meaning as any song on here. It lacks the inspirational message of Fuck Sleep (keep working) or really any sentiment either. Is still eligible for a social setting due to the sing-songy hook, but one of the more forgettable moments here. Sterling Simms' voice does not appear on  the chorus or a verse. 2.5/5.

Money and the Power: Ushering in the more uplifting songs, the beat is finally perfect for Kid Ink, and he rides it like Kelly Slater. There's no surprise that this has emerged as the most popular single. It's exciting, fun, playful, a carrier of happiness in its bright chords. It has a variety of switch ups, from a simple bass section to the full synthesized, drum driven portion to the small, piano breakdowns. The song has far more progressions than the typical rap song, and Kid adjusts his rapping/singing for each part. This is one you'll definitely want to add to your summer mix. 4.5/5.

Sunset: ...And so is this one! As obvious a choice as Money and the Power is for popularity, it's equally surprising that Sunset has not picked up any hype. A perfect casual, cruising song, where you can almost see the sunset, this song is, combined with the track before it, the key moment of the CD. It is soft and upbeat, centered around a freeflowing hook. The other ideal addition to a summer soundtrack. 4.5/5.

Bad Ass (featuring Meek Mill & Wale): A fun way to end. A remix of the original song featuring the MMG crew, Wale throws the autotune on to match Kid's heavily edited voice. Meek Mill slows his breakneck flow down to fit the pace of the song, but brings his own style. The guests seem to match the feel of the EP more than others had, and do a good job wrapping it up. 4/5.



Overall: 21/30 = 3.5/5. A must-have for fans, a decent introduction for newcomers, but nothing here at all for those opposing the rapper.

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