All posts by Jamie Morse

Killa Klay “Everything Makes Cense Now”

Killa Klay’s full length debut Everything Makes Cense Now is a thirteen song collection establishing the Far Rockaway, Queens based performer is much more than a major player in the East Coast hip hop community – it makes the case that he rates among the best young performers in the genre today, geography be damned. The unusual extent of his talents is clear with the opener “Keep It a Stack”. The song begins with a mix of quasi-organ and synthesizer before Klay makes his first vocal appearance in the mix. Klay layers his vocal delivery with a smattering of post-production effects but they never obscure the power of his voice and the lyrics shine through. “Keep It a Stack” has an idiosyncratic approach to percussion but nonetheless lays down a definable groove.

His vocals for the album’s second cut “Back Then” are layered with effects as well – echo and double tracking gives them an atmospheric edge a more straight forward approach would have lacked. The musical arrangement, as well, focuses its attention more on atmospherics rather than traditional groove, though it does provide a sturdy foundation for Klay’s performance. It shares another quality with the other songs – focus. Klay isn’t the sort of performer who wastes listener’s time with extended tracks and the lack of self indulgence, for me, is one of the key strengths in his music.

Everything Makes Cense Now’s fourth track, “Jerry Wonda”, has a sense of foreboding missing from the previous tracks and largely dispenses with the earlier post-production vocal effects. It is difficult, if not impossible, for Klay’s vocal technique to not hook you in – he combines phrasing gymnastics with palpable authority and swagger. This track, as well, highlights a perhaps underrated aspect of Klay’s skill – his abilities as a storyteller. “No Romancing” is one of the best examples of his talents manipulating dynamics. There’s a clear ebb and flow to how Klay structures this performance and it builds in a quietly dramatic way with numerous shifts compelling my attention throughout the cut. The dense vocal arrangement is never a distraction and remains easy to follow throughout the song.

“We Hustle” takes the unusual step of foregoing percussion well into the song and, instead, relying on nothing more than Klay’s voice and electronic piano to hold listener’s interest. It works well. Klay brings a drum track into play relatively deep into the track and it has a real, yet understated, impact – I can’t help but admire the stylishness Klay achieves throughout this album. “Cooley High” has some hypnotic electric piano, a recurring instrumental voice on this release, underlying the percussion and his vocal and the lyrics rank among the most personal from an admittedly autobiographical songwriter. Killa Klay doesn’t announce his presence on the scene with trumpets and chest beating – instead, Everything Makes Cense Now sounds like it was a long time coming and the realization of long held emotions and dreams. It heralds the beginning of what will be a long and influential run in the hip hop genre.

Jamie Morse

Victor Pedro – Call Me I Need Ya’

“Call Me I Need Ya” is the latest single from Nigerian born R&B/Afrobeat performer Victor Pedro. Pedro, now based out of South Africa, has chased musical fame and self expression since his pre-teen years and has already experienced real success in his professional career, but the latest single promises to elevate his global profile like nothing else preceding it. The latest single benefits from five star production strengths and a sound far from confined to the African continent – “Call Me I Need Ya” has a sound sure to play with the same effectiveness in the clubs of Johannesburg as it will in New York City, Paris, or London. It is, likewise, a laser focused effort lacking even an ounce of fat to drag down its impact for listeners. The track goes only a few seconds past the three and a half minute mark but, yet, doesn’t even seem to go that long. Instead, Pedro comes off as a performer intent on entertaining audiences from the outset and does so with immense skill.

DEEZER: https://www.deezer.com/en/album/91036222

I’m particularly taken with the lyrics. A lot of R&B songs, in my experience, avoid sensitivity unless they are outright love songs, but you don’t find it here with “Call Me I Need Ya”. Despite Pedro needing the subject of the songwriting, the subject of the song is really Pedro’s longing. He explores his desire with almost surgical precision, but there’s nothing false or forced in the writing. Instead, he comes into this song completely sure of exactly how to frame the nature of his longing and shares it with listeners with an openness we do not often hear in this style. It allows Pedro to frame the core of the song for listeners in such a way I immediately connected with the track. He never pushes too hard with the writing and it makes all the difference.

The drumming and other electronic instruments powering the arrangement make a great difference as well. Pedro orchestrates the song’s musical elements in such a way they have a natural inevitability – we can feel each change in the song’s progression as they come, but the predictability is entertaining and satisfying rather than letting listeners down. It’s a pleasure to hear his confidence in both the vocal and music alike. The singing has cool assurance rolling through the performance, but also bubbles with a light suggestiveness certain to draw listeners deeper into the track. His phrasing has a completeness that even much older and experienced vocalists would likely struggle to reach.

“Call Me I Need Ya” is the best single yet from Victor Pedro, but it is far from the peak for this young performer. Pedro has many higher mountains to scale in his future and, with each new release, will undoubtedly garner more followers to accompany him with those additional ascents. The fact his music cuts across every cultural line and national border and seems ideally suited for a world stage is likely his most impressive accomplishment of all and I can’t wait to hear what comes next.

Troy Johnson