Rap music started out as a live medium. The introduction of rap studio recordings changed the nature of the craft itself. By releasing itself from the sole proprietorship of the party, rap music opened up a little more space for artists to mine a new introspective sensibility. 66689 BLVD Prequel, the latest album from East Cleveland-born rapper and producer Kipp Stone, is as introspective and conflicted as it gets.
Written and recorded solely by Stone, the album offers an in-depth exploration of the artist’s rich internal world. The album opens with “BLVD Intro,” a gorgeous tune built around a subtle, mid-tempo beat and smooth vocal harmonies. Stone enters at the song’s midway point with a verse full of longing, both romantic and financial. His pen straddles the line between confident and self-pitying as he hits us with bombshell lines like “Shit you hate about yourself, be what they love you for the most.” “Petrichor” is built around dreamy keys and a slow rhythm section. Stone opens up fully, putting his shortcomings, insecurities, hopes, and ambitions on full display. It’s an interesting contrast to a song like “Vanderhall Venice,” a breezy, optimistic tune in which Stone confesses, “I ain’t felt this free in all my life.”
66689 BLVD’s production is handled by a cadre of producers, including Tunga, Planit Earf, Endless, BeatsByEmani, Mides, eeryskies, 8een, Stoic, and Kipp himself. Despite this by-committee approach, the music throughout the album has a consistent aesthetic: soulful keys and groovy drums and basslines. This low-key sound perfectly supports Stone’s catchy, emotionally wrought songs. 66689 BLVD Prequel pulls us through a rollercoaster of anger, genuine sadness, and triumph, and ultimately we emerge from the other side richer having experienced it.