From The Inbox-Bona Fide by Kid Sean
The distinction between hip hop and underground hip hop is a real stylistic divergence. It’s not really about sales figures. Artists like B.O.B. and Wiz Khalifa came up independently through mixtapes but they were always pop artists. You can listen to teenage Wiz belt out Pittsburgh Sound and think “MAN this is a radio hit.” Artists naturally create at differing levels of digestability. This is why UGK was always underground even as they were platinum. The music was still hard, lyrical, emotionally complex and felt too inappropriate for pop rotation.
While I love both forms I still have a weakness for underground hip hop. No inbox entry has carried the underground mindstate better than Bona Fide. High Life should be a typical smoker anthem and while it’s subdued behind a peaceful hook the instrumentation is rich and chunky. Sleezy E pipes in horn blasts at the right time. Kid Sean did not put together a collection of songs all fighting to be the most listenable. Instead we get a unified project where the tracks flow into each other. Even the real hard work stress talk on Rain Drops is accompanied by masterful minimalist production (thank you ThoVoBeats) and a chorus full of familiar hip hop images and personal memories.
So it’s not a depressing lean induced confessional or a crunk club project. Bona Fide is an emotional and reflective mixtape that never crosses into being needy. On the title track he says “love is key open up this beautiful mask” but it’s after a blistering salvo “calculating all the times I was hated on they had no faith. I stay bona fide traumatized equalize your inner mind you could die tomorrow not knowing so live more sleep less.” I don’t just love the standard of intelligence that Kid Sean brings to his verses (although I do very much love that), I love his deep abiding discipline to the mid range tempo. All of the hooks are stick in your brain sing a long good but none of them are begging for approval or widespread understanding. None of the beats stretch themselves outside ideal underground jazzy bass filled backdrop.
Bona Fide is the grand child of Digable Planets debut album; A grandchild come down to earth with no determination to stay; still drifting on If I Could (the high point of the mixtape) into visions of music and different lives. It never betrays how charming and smart it is while at the same time making sure never to bother you with how much of each quality it possesses. I think the kindest thing I could say about it is that I don’t always listen to Bona Fide but I’m always glad I have it loaded up. It makes me happy knowing I could listen to it at any time.
Stream or download Bona Fide below: