With his trademark rapid delivery – full of alliteration and staccato-laced flow – K.A.A.N’s first full-length on his new home at Redefinition Records is one you will have to revisit to take it all in, there’s no way you can catch and digest it all once through. But this is one you’ll want to put on repeat anyway.
Having released two EP’s with Redef previously, we have caught glimpses of the potential of the partnership, with K.A.A.N allowed access to the labels devastating roster of boom bap beatmakers such as K-Def and Klaus Layer. And here, on Subtle Meditation, production comes once again from golden era producers K-Def, as well as The 45 King with label owner, and Southsider favourite, Damu the Fudgemunk, providing scratches. However, it is the upcoming Ukrainian producer Smuff tha Quiz who takes the lead, handling all but four of the tracks on this 13-track LP. This record certainly pays respect to its heritage with production style but leaves you confident that the new era of boom bap is in good hands.
Lyrically, K.A.A.N discusses everything from his mental health (with dark thoughts of suicide) to the state of modern day American politics. Whereas on other releases the intense barrage of lyrics can become overwhelming, here, K.A.A.N intersperses his word dense passages with slower stanzas giving you enough variety to keep things interesting. If anything it gives him, or at least his words, time to breathe and you as a listener time to deconstruct what you’ve just been presented with (Not that he needs it. If you ever need proof that this man’s breath control is out of this world, check out “Concealed the outro”, a near four-minute track in which it appears he never takes a breath. I get breathless just listening to it).
The Maryland emcee kicks things off at a stroll on ‘Power Outage’ and ‘Revolving Doors’, setting the foundations before unleashing an earthquake-inducing stream of flow on ‘1492 Conquest of Paradise’. The track covers politics and ethics of American history climaxing with the hard hitting lines: “A black man’s nightmare is the new American dream” and “when the land of the acres was split for the bread/ Well that’s when it stopped being the land of the free.” This record holds no punches.
Throughout the remainder of the album we are treated to the 45 King produced, ‘The Thrill is Gone’. An ascending vibraphone loop is rounded out by warm horns with K.A.A.N dissecting his depression “feel(ing) like a junkie coming down from a fix…Trying to turn all my losses into immaculate wins”. But despite these dark moments there are glimmers of hope.
‘Progression’ describes his passion for rap, a virtual therapist that allows him to express his feelings. There are definitely still demons to deal with but the light is in sight and music seems to be a big part of that. K-Def produced ‘Shoot me Down’ closes the album. Booming drums at the fore with a hazy horn sample provide K.A.A.N a platform to flex his verbal muscles and remind us again of his ability. The instrumental plays out and leaves you hungry for more.
Released on the 7th of December, this could be considered a late entry into the hotly-contested album of the year. This is not a one and done album – no great album is.
Whether there is enough time to absorb Subtle Meditation in its entirety before the year end remains to be seen, all I can say is I’m going to enjoy giving it that opportunity.
Album Rating: Highly Recommended
Poor: 0-2 Stars / Favourable: 2-4 Stars / Highly Recommended: 4-5 Stars