Album of the Day: C Keys & Kazi, “Keys 2 Kazi”

Keys 2 Kazi, a collaboration between Sacramento MC C Keys and producer Kazi, opens with bravado. “Flexing every lyric flow / Speaking of a miracle,” Keys raps over Kazi’s ominous, hypnotic beats. The track ends with similar gusto: “I’m not even rapping,” Keys says, “Really just voice commanding.” It’s a punchy, ear-catching gambit; but from there, the album shifts focus, developing into a broader collection of smart and nuanced concept tracks.

“Remember When” opens with a snippet of beat-boxing; then, Kazi’s hazy funk beat rolls into action, inspiring Keys to recall sepia-tinted snapshots from his upbringing. On “Cowboys And Indians,” Keys examines treatment of Native people in America over a dusky beat that recalls early Slum Village. “The Streets,” which also features a verse from Kazi, is a meditation on police brutality, the importance of self-respect, and the role family plays when you’re trying to survive in difficult environments. Throughout the album, Kazi’s astute beat science provides the glue that holds all of the songs together, filling the space with woozy basslines and swirling synths, leaving room for Keys’s astute lyrics to sink in. Keys 2 Kazi is a sharp, perceptive hip-hop project, the kind that rewards deep listening.

-Philip Mlynar

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