There are a lot of factors that should be taken into account when discussing why artists destroy the sound they worked hard to build and replace it with something new and unsatisfying. Look at Mac Miller, for example; he came up making fun, silly music and is now trying on different introspection suits that just don’t fit (read: Macadelic). Sometimes it’s the voices of important critics; other times labels, or even the artist’s fans. In the current climate, a lot of artists aren’t changing because they are evolving, but changing because they feel they have too.

I mention this because while listening to IAMSU!’s mixtape Kilt these questions came to mind and were so easily answered. All the incredibly fun hooks and dance-in-your-seat beats (8 of the 18 songs were produced by IAMSU!) were accompanied by personable rhymes that paint the picture of an artist perfectly self-aware. For a half second I wondered if the spotlight would change him then I remembered he’s from the bay area. The bay area in California is like Houston, Texas in hip hop terms. Both fall in and out of favor with the mainstream, but in spite of this, move at their own pace. This comes from so many years of never having a real spotlight. The art of going gold in your neighborhood was perfected in these two areas and remains to this day. This isn’t to say artists like IAMSU! and E-40 don’t care about fans outside of the bay…they just don’t NEED them. This makes the audience for their music very tangible, not the cross armed disapproving Mac Miller critic who wants him to become KRS-ONE right now. Because this is a bay area release it needs to slap your speakers, it needs to bang. By meeting those criteria it’s a success.

While “Raven Simone” is a good opening track, the project doesn’t become dance-in-the-passenger-seat great until “Mainey”. It’s not just a credit to IAMSU! That he produces a lot of Kilt but he has the best beats on it, “Mainey” is distorted and bumping, with high pitched vocal interjections in the background. His flow fits snugly over it. On “Mainey” he raps at the fast pace of the track and then follows it with a smooth croon on “Over”. He knows how the track should feel and raps accordingly, even when his raps don’t blow your mind, they don’t disappoint. On the same track he raps “I’m in a position to be heard, I mean every word. Every noun, every verb say the truth make it hurt.” It’s about repping for his city, being heard as an artist, partying and generally having fun.

You may want to define Kilt by what it’s not. It’s not offensive. It’s not misogynistic or violent, but it is fun. While the “Fly High Interlude” could have been left on the cutting room floor, I can’t think of a song on Kilt that shouldn’t be there. Musical cohesion is so vital, and this has it. The stand out tracks like “Click Finna Blow”, “Get It In”, and “Slow Down(remix)” are all made more important by the softer, more unassuming songs. Tracks like “Wake Up 2 Milli” and the drank in my cup crooning “Cancelled Plans” are important tension releases. You can only handle so much high end Hyphy style booming head banging before it becomes tiresome. “Clothes, Shows and Afros” with its finger snapping shuffle, moves along at the pace of a bay area moderate and in a way it’s these tracks I admire most. The truly exciting tracks, the perfect hooks, like on “Click Finna Blow” seem to be so easy for IAMSU!; it’s all the different shades of his sound that define why I can’t stop listening. Kilt is crawling up my top mixtape list every time I try to listen to something else and then come back to it. Being hooked is so much fun.

-Dan O

You can download Kilt at the link below.



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