Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, every Thursday on the KEXP Blog.
Judging a book by it’s cover is the cardinal sin of assumptions. But it’s hard to deny the power in the imagery of Seattle hip-hop duo’s Kung Foo Grip’s latest album, 2KFG, out tomorrow via Crane City Music/Kung Foo Grip, LLC. Pastel balloons are scattered around the floor, radiating against the pale pink walls. Tinsel hangs in the doorway with giant gold balloons spelling out the album’s title. Most importantly though, there’s Kung Foo Grip (rappers Eff Is H & Greg Scott) themselves flanking producer Keyboard Kid. The trio wear all white tuxedos, looking like prom kings. It’s unclear if the party’s about to start or if it’s just ramped down, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that there’s a celebration going down and KFG and Keyboard Kid are the guests of honor.
The album title, too, tells a story. Cribbing from the NBA 2K video games, which chronicle years in the sport (i.e. 2K18), the change in semantics makes a strong point. This isn’t saying that 2K18 is the group’s year – this is the group’s millenium. Put all this together and you have a pretty audacious spectacle without ever hitting play. Good thing the album delivers on the promises of its packaging.
So, what are they celebrating exactly? Just themselves? Hardly. 2KFG feels like a victory lap, but not because they made a great album (even though they did). It’s a celebration of survival and being alive despite of the roadblocks in front of you – all approached for a uniquely Seattle perspective. From the opening notes of “Hiding Out,” these worlds and ideas entangle themselves. The scene slowly starts to come into view with electro blurts over swathes of airy synthesizer drones and pitch shifted vocal samples. It feels open and bright, like an audible fresh start. Then they sing the first lines, “Ducking my head from the highway patroller.” And suddenly we’re in Kung Foo Grip’s world with this metaphorical title credits scroll.
Throughout the record, KFG shout out the Megazord, the Millenium Falcon, Super Saiyans, Cam Newton, Nirvana, Kobe Bryant's jump shot, and getting money from PayPal and Bandcamp. It’s undeniably fun, but those fun moments work best because of their contrast into the album’s less joyful narratives like on the rumbling “Don’t Go Missing,” in which they wax on the idea of being shells of themselves, or on the screwed vocals of “World’s Cruel Enough” which details a tearful and tumultuous phone call with mom over twisted, clanking beats. As Edgar Allen Poe once said, “Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.” Because of this, when KFG do indulge themselves in life affirming boasts, their words glow brighter. If you’re not rooting for Eff and Scott throughout the record, go back and listen again. Nearly every song marks their pushback against struggles they’ve experienced right here in our fair city. It’s a Seattle success story, one that needs to be told.
Kung Foo Grip cite Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon as a heavy influence on the record. And while their record feels like it’s from a completely different sonic realm, it’s not too big of a stretch to find what they’re talking about. Imagine David Gilmour and Roger Waters in the studio trying to pull off such an ambitious musical feat. There’s a certain visionary gene that needs to be carried out, along with the right players in the room to execute it. Eff Is H and Greg Scott are sharing a story that – no hyperbole – took their whole lives to this point to tell. To create their own Dark Side, all that’s missing is the right capable hands to harness their vision into beats. Enter Keyboard Kid, aka Gregory Phillips, Jr.
The Renton-based producer is most known for being #based. His work with rapper/modern philosopher Lil B, along with collaborations with Clams Casino, has helped build reputation around his jubilant, impulsive leanings. Lil B’s “based” approach to music is all about positivity, something that Phillips has adopted in his own work since the two became frequent collaborators. It makes him uniquely suited to be behind the boards for KFG. Producing the entirety of the record, he more than earns his place on the cover. It’s some of his boldest work yet as well, mirroring the ascension KFG bring in their rhymes. You can feel all three parties pushing and feeding off of each other. The way KFG embrace singing like they never have before and the lushness and brilliance of Keyboard Kid’s production makes this record feel massive.
That effervescent radiance culminates on closer “Indigo Glowing.” It’s the last call at the end of the night, where you’re holding your friends. Maybe you’ve had one too many and you’re feeling more honest than you typically would. And in that moment you’re able to step back and tell everyone how much you love them and let out all the shit you’ve been through. Maybe you even hype each other up a bit, giving all the compliments you wish you would’ve said years before. When the record fades out and that moment ends, let the record loop back and start over again. It’s a story worth repeating and moments like the closer only reveal themselves more with time. You can call this record an introduction to KFG, a tribute to life, or an autobiography. But more than anything else, it’s full of love. Even in its darkest moments, KFG prevail. Seattle needs a celebration like this. Good thing KFG and Keyboard Kid have the best party in town.
2KFG is out tomorrow via Crane City Music/Kung Foo Grip, LLC. Kung Foo Grip play their album release show this Saturday, Feb. 17 at Q Nightclub.
Tiffany Wilson Shares Powerful Video for "Me & You"
To commemorate Black History Month, Seattle R&B songwriter Tiffany Wilson has released a new video for her song "Me & You" from her 2016 album #SEESHARP. Throughout the video, she and friends sing the song overtop footage of protests and news clips of killings of black citizens from police. She details some of the video's conception, saying, "The video illustrates the continued presence of hate that spans hundreds of years in our country that so many thought was a thing of the past. We chose a retro sound to address a retro issue when Trayvon Martin was murdered, thinking it was one off —that we'd never need to release: the taking of Black lives is an epidemic and change is imminent." Watch it below.
Samurai Del and Writegroove Team Up on "Eyes Closed (For Dilla)"
Last Saturday would've been landmark producer J Dilla's 43rd birthday. Although Dilla's been gone for over a decade now, his presence is still missed in hip-hop and inspiring new generations of beatmakers. Seattle's own Samurai Del is one of the many Dilla disciples continuing. It's easy to hear Dilla's influence in Del's catalog, but his latest track, "Eyes Closed (For Dilla)" really taps into the swooning rhythms and heart of Dilla's own music. Featuring Minneapolis vocalist Writegroove, it's a moving tribute to a legend that evolves on the foundation he started.
Seattle's rising hip-hop stars Kung Foo Grip recently released 2KFG, their best album yet, and are scheduled to play Upstream Music Fest on Sunday, June 3rd. We reached out to them to chat about 2KFG collaborator Keyboard Kid, performing live, and video games.
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