T.I. co-signed rap veteran trumps street rap freshman
New feature! The world of rap blogging suffers from too much music coverage, and a dearth of actual music evaluation, so, every Tuesday, I'm going to pick my favorite rap album, EP, or mixtape from the previous week. This week, it's Big Kuntry King's 100% Kane. Big Kuntry King has been around since at least 2001. Along with the rest of the Pimp Squad Click (P$C), he made an appearance on "Heavy Chevys" from T.I.'s I'm Serious. P$C's group album, 25 To Life came out in 2005, and My Turn To Eat, Kuntry King's 2008 debut, was released on the same day as T.I.'s Paper Trail, which probably seemed like clever cross-marketing at the time, but ultimately buried the minor, though quite good rap album's chances of finding the right ears. And so, it was back to the anonymous mixtape grind.
Now that we're in the midst of a wacky rap moment that views Young Jeezy and even, T.I. himself as a bit out of step, it means a throwback, Southern rapper has absolutely nothing to lose. So, a guy like Big Kuntry King can throw a shtick-free, slyly artful mixtape out to the Internet and quietly best all the other releases from last week. Namely, XXL freshman Don Trip's disappointing, one-note Guerilla, and Detroit blog gangsta Boldy James' Consignment: Favor For A Favor, an endless mixtape best described as "Danny Brown for the struggle-obsessed, hipster-phobic, hip-hop fan."
100% Kane is more like a major label rap album from the mid-2000s than a mixtape, anyway. There's something refreshing about how comfortable it is conceding to street rap expectations without coming up short. It consists of simple, drug dealing boasts and playful, syrup-drunk stripper anthems, and it's stuffed with R&B hooks, Dirty South face stompers, and country rap tunes approximations. But Kuntry King is self-aware enough to spruce-up his rote rap tales with a quirky, convoluted rapping style, and gorgeous, spaced-out production.
"M.O.B.," featuring T.I. begins with these ridiculous, knotty lines: "I'm a young black American, riding European whips / Sitting here contemplating how much money I can get / Fuck a car, I'm trying to buy the dealership / You moving one or two packs, you ain't dealing shit / I want my life at the status where I leave you pissed." He totally slays T.I. here, who has the rapping really, really well thing down, but lacks Kuntry King's Kool-Aid Man busting through a brick wall confidence.
There are light moments of regular guy-ness on 100% Kane, as well. "F.Y.D." lowers the already low stakes of T-Pain's "I'm N' Luv (Wit a Stripper)," by falling head over heels with a fashion designer he meets in the grocery store — aisle five, to be exact. Skits are dedicated to both the hyper-serious, hip-hop classic Juice as well as blaxploitation lark, Black Dynamite. And allowing female rapper Tiffany Foxx to usurp Eightball & MJG homage "Bunkin" — probably the best song on the mixtape — is an inspired, unexpected decision.
Another fascinating thing about this mixtape is the ridiculous but somehow tasteful amount of auto-Tune used on hooks, ad-libs, and as just one more atmospheric production touch. Synthetic moans flutter around these curated trap-rap beats, retro-fitting them for the starry-eyed hip-hop that's coming from of-the-moment acts as disparate as Future and Main Attrakionz. A glitching Galaga beat on "Derrick Rose" scores the paranoid victory of being king of your corner, while money-burning, strip club victory lap "Goin' In" is like G-Side's "Rising Sun" and Lil Wayne's "She Will" melted together. It sounds great.
I'm not sure how to sell this mixtape to listeners beyond that. There's no narrative I can pretend to peg on it, like "New Underground" or "cloud rap," or some budding, heretofore undiscovered street rap renaissance. It's simply a very solid mixtape from a hip-hop veteran who never really received his moment to shine. And on 100% Kane, Big Kuntry King's doing it better than some of the new guys you're supposed to care about. That should be enough.