Jan 10, 2018

Review: XXVII: Nowhere - @SpecKaymusic

"Twenty Seven 'til I touch heaven." 

I've known Spec Kay for about five years now. In our private conversations it gets a little deep. Car accidents, dodging death by hurricane, the ratchet shorties from down the hall, losing women, getting high or creating random Bacardi Gold drinks on Wednesday nights knowing we had class the next morning. You know, the usual early twenties stuff. In 2013 we actually lived together. We listened to a lot of music that year by way of a splitter he had on deck. The soundtrack was usually GKMC, Cruel Summer, Indicud, and anything produced by Timbaland or Daft Punk. I knew then that the most important moments were when our speakers played our own soundtracks. On one end of G34 in Hillside Hall, Kareem was laying down the percussion on a looped unorthodox 80's folk music sample. My Logitech speakers were disconnected this time as I'm typing away code for the beginning stages of this here website. In retrospect, we both created something legendary about ten feet away from each other.

Fast forward to now. Our secret conversations from within our dorm are now shared with you all. Mine by way of twitter banter, tumblr questions, and this here blog. His, an album. XXVII follows the same theme as his first two full lengths. The roman numerals depict his age each time. This is the first one that had a name outside of his age. Nowhere kind of fits as far as the mood. Let's get to it.

The phone rings, as the Roselle emcee has a conversation with a friend. Spec' Kay sounds stressed and just needs to get something off his chest. Part two of Mahalia Jackson's Move On Up a Little Higher comes through your headphones for a moment until her voice is looped, put in a flanger, and distorted. Then the beat takes a futuristic Giovanni Giorgio feel. Welcome to Nowhere gives us a grandioso inauguration to this project of the same name. Before starting his story the Sons of Paterson lead reminds us to pray, as the world a'int looking out for you. The first two tracks serve as the setting of this new story. Chain Gang was the third single that dropped pre-release. Double and triple-entendres lace this track.

"You aint see the years, you aint see the fears. Fuck da fly shit nigga switch gears. Rob a pretty woman and a Richard Gere."

Spec Kay was a film major if you couldn't tell. More on that later. Go/Time dropped earlier as a single as well. As dope as it was by itself it fits the grand scheme better. You can tell he had an idea of what he was going to do before he released it or he finished the whole project before putting out this single. Still dope production, shoutouts to Kory Burrel. The middle of this album is the coming of age story. No Hook is super cinematic. I guess that's the screenwriter in him. You know how you're not the same person as you were a year ago? Spec Kay isn't the man he was at 23, 25 and now 27. The first part of King he goes into a monologue as if it were a Shakespearean play on stage. Afterward he vents over an acoustic guitar chromatic scale and dance percussion. The story changes because the character changes. I really enjoyed this part. With every low comes a high and Celebration is just that. I wouldn't want to put him in a box but for someone to understand I'd compare his cadence to Kid Cudi meets ScHoolboy Q. In other words he sounds like Spec Kay. What's lost on a bunch of artists is finding their own sound. He takes it into his own hands by creating it himself rather than finding it. Yellow Brick Road until What's Now is the perfect stretch to finish a project. The end sounded like something out of  a Zapp & Roger video and I'd love to see a video for it maybe. The track sequence on Nowhere was on a hunna. 

Here's the knitty gritty. We've already spoken about the mix and mastering process. It's difficult at times to decipher words but you can't please everybody. It wasn't bad. It was good, just not amazing. I'd expect more, but I still live with my folks so I understand MixedByAli is not in the budget just yet. Still top notch for most of the cats around these parts. Besides, if we staccato lyrics the feel for some songs change where they should be a little slurred as they are. XXVII boasts no features, and if you can entertain me without help for 46 minutes I'm impressed. His production is dope. I think it's a unorthodox style lost on a lot of us at times. It's unique and frankly I think Spec Kay is brilliant. He's Jersey's best kept secret. The way he samples songs aren't directly in your face. Let me explain, songs like Wild Thoughts blatantly sample Maria, Maria by Carlos Santana. Spec Kay doesn't just completely steal the melody. He may draw a sample from the bridge of a song. Then he'll reverse it, loop it and create his own melody and percussion while a looped vocal or string section will play in the background.  The growth is unreal, trust me I've seen it. Spec Kay is versatile. If you like bars you'll like him. If you like unique obscure samples you'll feel this. There is something for every kind of hip-hop fan in XXVII. Spec Kay is that brand of genius and it's time we paid attention.
Jonathan C. Ramsey
Jonathan C. Ramsey

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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