The Slaughters are an interesting group, aren’t they? At this point, the only one who hasn’t done an MC/Producer collab is Joe Budden. At the end of 2014 we received “PRhyme”, an incredible, yet underrated album. Midway through 2015, Joell Ortiz teamed up with !llmind to produce “Human”, an album with more of a narrative than “PRhyme”, but with fewer interesting songs. Now, to kick start 2016, we have “Statik KXNG“.
Crooked has to me always been the most technically proficient of the group. His nimble and speedy flow has earned him guest features with speed giants like Tech N9ne and Busta Rhymes, and on Slaughterhouse albums he sets the bars high. But of course, without the proper lyrics, fast rapping is like a blunt knife: pointless. Is Crooked as lyrical as he is agile? The short answer is yes. On Statik KXNG, Crook rhymes about some of his usual topics, ranging from his pre-fame broke days, his Shady Records deal, shouting out the greats that influenced him to be the rapper he is today, and of course his haters. These haters are actually referenced quite frequently on this album; “this is really a love story / cause on the low, most of my haters got love for me” comes from the opening track, but the love in this story seems to fade quickly, for on track 3, “Lost A Fan“, he laments the fact that whenever he says real s**t, he loses fans. The masses don’t listen for the lyrics; they just tune them out entirely. This is happening more and more in rap, and Crook is worried about it, because on this very same track he opens the song with the lines, “turn the TV on, the whole world is f***ed up / turn the radio on, all these party rappers turned up“. Crook takes it upon himself, because to him, losing fans is better than selling your soul for views.
Speaking of selling your soul, this brings us to the chorus of track 4, “Everybody Knows“, which is probably my least favorite moment on the album. We already know that Crook didn’t have to sell his soul, and repeatedly stating that you got money and sex anyway kind of defeats the point. At least be a bit more poetic about it, like Kendrick’s “These Walls” is. That’s a rap song about sex, but unlike many rap songs about sex, you have to decipher the lyrics to figure that out – casual listeners don’t notice. But that’s probably one of the only bits of this album I have any kind of problem with – and this song has one of the funniest lines on the album to make up for it: “she want breakfast in bed? B***h better sleep in the kitchen“. I thought that was great, and “even Pandora know you n***as suck, I could never listen to your station and expect to hear us” was a great reference too.
“Dead Or In Jail” was the first single released before the album, and it’s one of the better tracks on here. Even though Crooked has an insane flow, I actually think he performs best on the more chilled-out songs of the album. ‘DOIJ’ has a quiet, steadily looping bass line with a slow drum kick that holds most of the instrumental up, dropping out for the vocal sample occasionally. Crooked kicks back here; he’s relaxed, and raps about succeeding against all the odds he faced growing up. The chorus is beautiful too, with the female vocals backing him up perfectly. “Stop Playing” follows the same vein, with an uplifting, minimal beat with some delicate, ascending keyboards. It’s one of the best instrumentals of the ten songs, and another ode to the fake rappers; “These n***as playin’, they playin’ man, n***as got ghostwriters and s**t man, ain’t nobody real no more, this s**t is all made up, n***a stop playin’!” These two songs, along with opener ‘I Hear Voices‘, are easily the top three songs on this album, at least for me.
The best part about MC/Producer collabs is that the sound is consistent from the start of the album to the end. There are never any beats that feel as if they don’t belong, and that’s no exception here. A few beats are harder and a few beats are softer, but overall they complement each other well, and Crooked matches the instrumentals every time. I also really like the vocal samples Statik used on a few of the songs, such as ‘Lost A Fan‘, ‘Dead Or In Jail‘, and ‘Good Gone Bad‘. It’s a good rap album to start the year off, and my favorite Crooked project yet. Statik KXNG steers clear of party-filler, abhorrent songs, and just as I was after reviewing “Human”, I’m excited for “Glass House”.