Mixtape Premiere: Kinetics — With A Little Help From My Friends

Posted by on July 10, 2012

In an age of music where hip-hop artists have become products more identifiable by their appearance and crossover attempts than lyrical ability, authenticity and originality is becoming increasingly hard to find. While a plethora of upstart rappers claim to embody a fresh style, swag, and signature flow, the umbrella of rap music is ever expanding and becoming congruent with the hollow, yet heavily-popularized party rap genre—one that is steering hip-hop away from its conscious, substantive roots, and saturating it with hopefuls bent on scoring a lucrative career out of their craft.

Though originally known as the songwriter behind B.o.B’s triple-platinum pop single “Airplanes,” Kinetics (rapper of Kinetics & One Love) is intent on bringing lyricism and message back to the forefront of hip-hop. It’s been almost a year since the last time we heard a full project from him, but it’s clear that he’s been hard at work during the hiatus, as evidenced by the substantial progression we find on his new mixtape, With A Little Help From My Friends, premiering here on Fresh New Tracks. Last week, in preparation for the new tape, Kinetics announced to his fans on Twitter that the new project would be getting back to his more lyrically-focused roots, writing off the experimental sound of last year’s What Model Are You? in a moment that recalled Eminem’s “Not Afraid”, where he candidly claimed, “Let’s be honest/That last Relapse CD was ehhh.” It is that self-awareness that has propelled Kinetics to consistent improvement as an emcee, and has allowed him to make the kind of advancement in a year that would take many artists the better part of their careers.

What makes this work so decidedly different from his past efforts is it’s consistency, which is ironic because the work gains its title from the fact that each track features a different artist or producer (including such esteemed hip-hop figures as R.A. the Rugged Man, Remedy of Wu-Tang Killa Bees, and Unknown Prophets). But while the record’s consistency doesn’t come from its collaborators or production (longtime producer One Love was involved in just a third of the beats), it’s easily evident in Kinetics’ lyricism, flow, and delivery, as he attacks each verse full throttle with cipher-caliber raps that are packed with double entendres, puns, and multisyllabic rhymes. This is the Kinetics that fans of early work like “High Noon” have been waiting to see resurface, while he still manages to keep the record balanced and accessible to the more pop-oriented portion of his fan-base.

With A Little Help From My Friends is comprised of sixteen tracks spanning exactly an hour, with a guest-list that perfectly locates Kinetics in the hip-hop world, as he raps aside (and often out-spits) cemented figures of the underground as well as blog-favorited up-and-comers like Chris Webby, Dylan Owen, and Beau Young Prince. While there are a significant number of notable guest appearances here (including four from frequent collaborator Accent), there’s no doubt from the opening bars of “Chris Nolan” to the melodic and vehement closer “Music Speak” that this is Kinetics’ show, his time to shine, and let listeners bask in the complexity and substance of his craft that is a rarity in today’s hip-hop.

From the ferocious intricacy and flow-swapping of “Chris Nolan” (“I spit sinister symbolism that’s killing all these silly simile single-syllable singing simpletons”) to the storytelling of standouts “Rich Man” and “Million Miles of War” (the latter of which poignantly depicts the life of an American soldier in WWII) to his distinctive humor on “Game Over” (“Showed this girl named Megan my bunk-bed/Slid my balls in between that slut’s legs like a nutmeg/Get it? A nutmeg/I said her name was Megan/That pun operated on three levels but nobody gets it”), With A Little Help From My Friends caters to a wide audience, yet never compromising the high-standard Kinetics holds himself to on a line-by-line basis here, ultimately making for a final product that finally feels like it has captured his talent on record. Like my man FNT blogstar “A” once told me, “Kinetics can rap circles around people”—and that has never been more evident than on this record. So take a seat, grab your headphones, and revel in the dizziness.








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