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Born Royal – Album Review

Born RoyalThis past week, an artist we profiled back in September of 2014, namely Kasinova Tha Don released his latest EP, entitled ‘Born Royal’, available directly from the artist on his K. Prince app (Android app / Apple app). Having adopted the moniker “K. Prince” on this record, musically Kasinova strays quite a bit from his previous strategy of incorporating existing, often old school beats. While his previous work, which we can trace back to 2009, is not completely devoid of original beats, he hasn’t been shy about using known beats from the likes of Jay-Z, T.I., Eminem, Warren G., and Dr. Dre, just to name a few. Having familiarized myself with his music, in my humble opinion I’d say that the old school beat selection has worked out nicely for him. I’m a fan of Kas on old school beats.

With that said, ‘Born Royal’ completely strays away from that tactic, as the album’s musical components are largely composed of trap beats, with a noticeable southern feel. Anyone who follows Kas on social media knows that though he hails from Newark, New Jersey, he spends a lot of time in Atlanta, Georgia, so his beat selection on ‘Born Royal’ should come as no surprise. As a matter of fact, I recall a post on Facebook where to paraphrase he pretty much declared, “this next record is going to be TRAPPED out!” Truth be told, though it took a couple of songs for my ears to adjust, not unlike his old school beat selection strategy, the trap beats work out nicely for K. Prince. He sounds organic on them. Furthermore, to his credit as an emcee he does a nice job of balancing his core flow (a largely couplet based, 90s flow, where he raps continuously over the beat, writing in pauses for breath control purposes) with adjusting his delivery to fit common trap beat conventions (rapping on the quarter or half beat, writing in pauses and/or delaying the start of his bars, with adlib grunts and exclamations of “woo!’ or “yes!” for emphasis, a la Rick Ross).

At no point throughout the record, whether on more hardcore street-banger tracks like ‘Remember Me’, ‘Bars’, or ‘Start To Stupid’, on an introspective song like ‘Pray For Me’, a club-oriented jam like ‘Booty Motivation’, or the relationship struggle driven concepts of ‘Creepin On Me’ and ‘What We’re Fighting Fo’ does K. Prince sound out-of-place on these beats. Again, to his credit as a lyricist, he not only makes it work, he sounds good. Also, as evident by the above summary of tracks, the content on ‘Born Royal’ is varied, exploring familiar Rap record concepts of balancing street-credibility with righteousness, the ups and downs of relationships with women, the night life, and establishing one’s lyrical dominance as rapper.

To highlight the conceptual variance on the record, take the following quotes. A skilled story-teller, on ‘Pray For Me’ Kas raps, “I’ve been grinding for years, my dedication’s sincere. Put my hand on the bible, I couldn’t lie to the Lord, but I lied to the judge, I had the drugs on the floor. Interrogating for information, been going for weeks. Throwing numbers at my homies, got ’em ready to speak.” Conversely, on ‘What We’re Fighting Fo’ he rhymes, “I know you wanna leave, but you can’t go. With all the fussing and fighting they hear us next do’ (door). I wanna head to my mom’s but you said no. So why I’m sitting here talking to the cops fo’ (for)?!? I don’t really want the drama, girl I need peace. I can’t believe we’re really fighting over IG (Instagram)?” Lastly, on ‘Remember Me’ (my personal favorite, though the above two quoted tracks are also standouts) he fiercely proclaims, “planting these words as seeds now analyze my prophecy! The Devil talks a different language, ni**a follow me! My ghetto testimony, riding with my pistol on me. Body operated by liquor, but where my ni**as want me? I pray to God to stay alive in this dirty game. So keep your eyes open wide, ni**a, never change!

These three excerpts from the album are strong examples of the kind of material that makes up ‘Born Royal’. From a story-telling standpoint, K. Prince’s lyrics are vivid, placing us right in the thick of the argument with his love-interest on ‘What We’re Fightin Fo’, for example. When he chooses the introspection route, he very effectively conveys that street life vs righteous life struggle that’s continuously been a popular and critical motif in Hip Hop since its early days. See Grandmaster Flash, KRS One, Rakim, Chuck D., Ice Cube, Tupac, Nas, Biggie, DMX, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, & J. Cole, to name just a few. That said, this seems like an appropriate time to address the large elephant in the room that comes with exploring Kasinova’s music, namely the startling sonic, stylistic, and conceptual comparisons to one, Tupac Shakur.

Simply put, the man sounds a lot like ‘Pac both lyrically and in terms of his vocabulary and his music’s subject matter.Kasinova Tha Don It’s an undeniable similarity that intrigues many such as myself, but also turns off many others. Some accuse Kas of ‘swagger-jacking’ Tupac’s entire being, thereby completely dismissing any and all of his talents and efforts. While the latter stance is certainly understandable, especially within a genre where authenticity and ‘keeping it real’ are held in the highest esteem, I personally enjoy Kas’ music too much to allow that mindset to impede the joy I get when listening. There’s another large group of people who doggedly believe that Kasinova Tha Don is actually just a mouthpiece for Tupac, with Tupac actually being alive and recording in some other country, sending his material to Kasinova for him to deliver it to the world at large. This I don’t believe. It’s just too far-fetched. On top of completely discounting all of the evidence of Tupac’s death (which admittedly can be spotty sometimes, depending on how your research goes), the way I see it if ‘Pac were actually alive he wouldn’t have been able to keep quiet this long. He admittedly had a “big mouth” and was so set on affecting societal change in the U.S. that I highly doubt he’d be able to contain himself for the nearly two decades that it’s been since his passing.

All that said, it’s understandable that many will dismiss Kasinova as a cheap Tupac knock-off, a criticism he himself understands and has addressed. On his Facebook profile Kasinova states, “being compared to ‘Pac is a compliment. It is also frowned upon by certain degrees of Hip Hop, which gave birth to the concept of “biting” or copying someone else’s style. I refuse to respond to ignorance or be judged by fear. I cannot deny a gift granted to me by forces greater than myself (God). I am not here to replace ‘Pac. I am here to complete his mission. Join me on this journey towards a change in Hip Hop, where ignorance no longer exists. Follow me…….THIS IS MY STORY.” I personally believe that if others can bank off sounding like other Rap legends (to varying degrees), such as Rick Ross being reminiscent Biggie, Action Bronson sounding like Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah, and Your Old Droog vocal similarities to Nas, then there’s no reason Hip Hop shouldn’t give K. Prince a chance. A quick glance at his social media following proves that many already have, and whether they buy into the Tupac hype or not, they enjoy the material. And that to me is paramount.

To conclude, ‘Born Royal’ is a nice change of pace for K. Prince in that musically he committed to using a more modern sound and performed effectively throughout the course of the album. A solid work all in all, though it definitely has a street edge, much like his previous work he steers clear of gratuitous expletives and unnecessary degradation of women. That’s not to say that those things aren’t sprinkled in every now and then, but it’s nothing over the top and far “tamer” in that effect than a lot of what’s going on in popular Hip Hop today. It’s nice to listen to a street album and not walk away feeling too thugged out and/or misogynistic. As a matter of fact the album has many moments where one is not only impressed by Kas’ lyrical composition, but also the depth of his words. By no means is it perfect, as some of the guest appearances are a lot less captivating than Kas himself (a fitting irony as I have the same gripe of a lot Tupac songs that featured The Outlaws and his defunct Thug Life group). Also, some of the auto-tunish hooks are a little too whiny for my liking. But again, all in all a solid work, and hopefully one that’ll propel Kas to the mainstream. Having amassed over 22,000 combined Facebook and Twitter followers, his track-record as an independent artists is both impressive and noteworthy, but we certainly feel it’s about time his music get some cross-over love. 3.75 out of 5 Limes.


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