Kingdom – the second album from Kalil Johnson, formerly known as Kalil Kash – leaves the listener with much to ruminate. The Brick City emcee delivers insight into his spiritual journey with the opening lines: “Hello God, whoever you are…” Trading the “Based God for Allah,” Kalil retracts the sentiment by mid-album when he begs the question: “Why pray when the ears aren’t present nor couldn’t give a shit?” If Kalil’s brash references to thy holiness don’t offend, keep listening for more introspection from the rebel in his own mind.
Kalil’s voice, delivery and slick talk on songs like “Delorean,” “Max Payne” and “Kimbo Slice” remind me of the late Big L. Like his hip-hop predecessors and peers, Kalil rhymes about being the nicest at his craft, defending himself against police and stick-up kids – minus the obsessive desire for frills. His focus is more on rhyme aesthetics in lines like:
Move mountains with the speech
Who the hell could impeach this brother man?
Oval office is in reach
That’s in terms of rap rhythms
Or perhaps cataclysms
Raging bull like occupied streets…
Due to its cynical nature, “Wrong” is probably the most relatable song to me as a writer myself. The critics taunt Kalil, dismissing his skills throughout the song and hook. But the self-proclaimed “skinny-jeaned criminal” detests titles and labels, likening his lines to cocaine. The concept is reminiscent of “Dumb it Down” by Lupe Fiasco and “World Domination” by Joey Bada$$.
The beat selection is proper. I heard some disco influence on “Atlas” and Led Zeppelin on “Delorean.” As a beat sample enthusiast, I didn’t have much luck identifying all of the awesome originals used on this album. The only one I recognized was “Belle De Jour” by Saint Tropez – a song sampled on the title track to Prodigy’s H.N.I.C. album. You can catch that on the last 45 seconds of “Ascension.”
Kingdom closes with the most beautiful song “Porcelain,” which also happens to be the saddest. Kalil remembers his late mom while Shay Leonia – the only featured vocalist on the album – graces the hook and bridge with a portrait of her niece who “looks just like a woman she never knew.” Peace to Olga Johnson.
Download and stream Kingdom here: kalilkash.bandcamp.com