Album recommendation of the week-Lorraine Motel by Killa Kyleon
Socially conscious rap music is filled with misinformation. First point-you don’t have to be a social scientist/genius to construct a meaningful album with a socially conscious message. Do not listen to anyone’s album for the answers on life; this is their art and perspective that is what is important. Second point-the songs don’t have to carry a single tone, they don’t have to be whispery emotional pleas over piano plinks or hard charging Public Enemy style anthems for resistance. This is an artist’s world and it can be constructed however they want it and if the rules they set up hold it works.
My favorite recent socially conscious album is Lorraine Motel by Killa Kyleon. The Lorraine Motel is where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated and he lined up the release to hit on the anniversary of that loss. He is a Houston rap warrior with songs in his discography featuring Bun B, Pimp C, and Lil Keke. Kyleon raps like an old traveling swordsman or gunfighter, the art of spitting is so easy at this point he is dead focused on his message. This time around he seems to have gotten much better with hooks that dig in while representing his point.
The song titles feel like messages you’ve heard before(the last song Freedom Ain’t Free is Joey Bada$$ lead single off his new album All-American Bada$$) but they’re not. Strong Black Woman isn’t a whispery cute song meant to get him in the good graces of female fans. It is filled with hard slapping lyrics about the determination of the women he is dedicating the song too. First words spoken are “One more semester left she ain’t gotta trip.” The problem with dedications to women in rap is that a lot of times men construct these to be so general it boils down to a pat on the back for being sexy. Killa gives the women in his verses the determination he has to win (his mother especially) “You knew not to question God so you forgot to ask him, for help through hard times and struggle cause you knew you passed it. That’s what ambition get ya.” Anyone who gets mad about hip hop being pro street violence anti-police violence needs to hear Lorraine Motel. My Skin is My Sin is my favorite song; it boils and bubbles with frustration about police brutality, Colin Kaepernick, the positives and negatives of President Obama, and the depression street violence creates in the psyche.
The music is tonal and moody but still very much the Houston rap that Drake (among many) borrowed from, it rattles and bangs in chunky measures. I haven’t been able to find a good production listing but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was familiar names from his previous projects. Lorraine Motel rings with the pure white hot anger of really caring about the situation. On Change Gone Come the last verse gets so far into police brutality that it left me haunted by the line “Dead to the wrong, them crackers still right. They playin’ God the way they steal life.” The second half of Lorraine Motel is a flummoxing experience, eight songs that just make you sit with the problems we have as a nation and FEEL them deeply enough to hurt again. That is what a great socially conscious rap album does, it connects you to the problem so you care when it is so much easier nowadays not to care about anything.
You can find Lorraine Motel on Spotify, Amazon music, and all the other streaming services.