Musical experimentation is something that is not often associated with the hip-hop scene. As a whole, the genre sticks pretty close to a certain blueprint. But recently, the indie scene has become increasingly integrated with hip-hop, a combination that, when done right, can produce fantastic results. Brooklyn singer Kilo Kish blurs these genre boundaries with her mixtape K+, with mixed results.
Kish has a very distinct style. Her nearly monotone voice comes out as a sort of sing/talk hybrid, and her slow drawl weaves in and out of a rapping cadence. I can see how it could be off-putting to the listener at first, but it’s a style that grows on you. The problem is that it can become somewhat tedious and seems to drag down some songs. While it is refreshing to hear a vocalist branch out with some experimentation, Kish is at her best when she tones it down a bit and takes a more subtle approach to her singing. The second half of the track “Scones” has her tapping into a soft, almost ghostly delivery, while “Better” sees her transition from her most brash rapping into a beautiful croon, allowing her to show off her vocal prowess. It’s these moments when she can display her versatility that stand out the most.
While Kish’s vocals shine in spots, it is the outside forces that steal the spotlight on this mixtape. The production is by far the crowning jewel here, as a plethora of producers pitch in. A dreamy ambience falls over most of the tracks, giving them an airy feel. The combination of in-your-face hip-hop beats and spacey indie synths is intriguing and creates a extra layer to the songs. The guests on the mixtape are top notch as well. Childish Gambino crushes his verse on “Ghost” and gets producer credits with his simple but effective beat on “Scones.” Vince Staples and A$AP Ferg also turn in some excellent verses, while Earl Sweatshirt produced the trippy, stuttering “Trappin.”
Kilo Kish is clearly a very talented up-and-coming star in the hip-hop scene and her progression will be something to watch closely. K+ feels both very ambitious and very raw at times, but there is a sense of something bigger in it. While her performance here is overshadowed by the stellar production and guest appearances, it is not to say that this mixtape is a failure. I definitely believe that with some progression to her sound, Kilo Kish could produce something special. K+ is just not it.