Local music acts. You know, those guys that go out there and bust their ass every night for a shitty gig, all for the hope that one day they’ll get noticed. St. Louis corrals these musicians, from rock groups trying to get to the sticky floors of Pops Nightclub, to hip hop groups/MCs walking the Loop in search of someone to listen. While I sit behind this keyboard, writing for some blog, a local act fails because nobody listened. I don’t know if it’s a stigma generated by the hip hop industry, but mix tapes are generally viewed as give or take. A lot of take. Some are too Nas, others sickeningly Soulja Boy-esque nonsense stinking of overproduction. Yet, as a reviewer, I need to listen. When it comes to reviews, I can’t help but feel conflicted. There’s validity in just the “act” of sending out a mix tape or EP for exposure. Every track is a piece of livelihood. That kind of vulnerability can only be respected. Here’s to you, local artists. Let’s go!
Corner Kings, a hip hop group from St. Louis, recently handed me their EP, Chosen Few. And, production and consistency aside, I’m actually quite impressed. The group consists of four personalities, Chief Capo, Krash, Ty3rdEye, and Easy $tackin to create a complete hip hop experience. A psychedelic, somewhat old school, introspective atmosphere surrounds the tracks, complete with Jekyll/Hyde-style lyrics caught between spiritual subject matter and street lifestyle. Let’s say Corner Kings possesses the duality of Outkast with flavors of Nas — yes, I know I just dogged groups sounding like Nas, but what’s a Reviews From the Other Side review without a good dose hypocrisy? Anyways, you’ll get your chill tunes; you’ll get your hardened street tunes; you’ll get your Andre 3000-esque philosophical commentary, and that’s what makes Corner Kings an interesting group. Not groundbreaking, but enjoyable nontheless. And that’s what music’s about, son!
Since I’m more of a cerebral guy — surprising, isn’t it? — “Building Visions,” courtesy of Ty3rd Eye’s acid-laden flow, stood out to me. Lyrically, the track deals with spiritual enlightenment. Ty3rd Eye succeeds in his use of wordplay, how he calmly eases the listener into a trance. Hence the hook:
Stay true to the game and don’t fuck with them lanes/finessing my brain and creating my lane.
Ty3rd Eye, “Building Visions,” Chosen Few (2015)
How can you not kick back to lyrics like that? Corner Kings succeeds with their lyrical maturity. The MCs all have something to say, and as the EP moves, their styles evolve. Krash, with his natural talent, comes out of the gate with purpose on “Act 1,” while Easy $tackin and Chief Capo play off each other seamlessly in “3 Kings.” I wish I could say that for every track. Going back to “Act 1,” Chief Capo introduces himself in poor fashion. This is not a dig on his talent — because, hell “3 Kings” testifies to his skill — but a question for the musical decision making. After interrupting Krash’s smooth, social commentary, Capo spins the track’s lyrics towards pussy, pistols, and other personal hype. I can only think of A.Z. when I hear Capo’s vocals, with his distinct, energetic, overpowering tone. He serves better as a track opener, you know, someone to get the listener going before delving into the deeper shit. Capo is the group’s energy. Use that energy to move the album, guys! I mean, he spits the album’s best lines in “Taj Mahal”:
Ain’t no common ground around us/Can’t get comfy/Ain’t no comfort when you come from nothin’/Nothin’ comin’/We the second comin’ comin’.
Chief Capo, “Taj Mahal,” Chosen Few (2015)
I see why they muted the track during those bars.
Unfortunately, the EP’s production brings down its value. I’m all about vocal layers, but when the vocals become muddled and distracted due to these layers, the songs ultimately feel contrived. With some stronger production values — i.e. less vocal layers — the EP would feel more coherent, taking some of the load off the performers’ shoulders. Oh, and a little immersion helps when you’re trying to get on the map. Also, compression. There are tracks, such as “Taj Mahal,” that suffer outright from production. An album, whether an EP or LP, needs to sound cohesive. The volume, the sustain, the EQ, everything needs to sound whole. Corner Kings fails in that regard.
With their debut EP, Chosen Few, Corner Kings seeps into the hip hop market with their distinct, lyrical flow. Stay tuned for more local reviews.
P.S. Album art, Chosen Few needs it. At least something more reflective and less derivative than the current cover.
Disclaimer: All properties, content, and rights of the featured image belong to the artist. Image found on https://soundcloud.com/cornerkingsradio/sets/corner-kings-chosen-few. I have, in no way, used said image for profit.