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.