Album Reviews

K-Rino – “The Big Seven” (Album Review)

One of the best, most consciously progressive hip-hop lyricists of all time, Houston’s South Park Coalition founder K-Rino (pronounced Kay Reno) has accomplished, in less than a year, the huge world-record feat of writing and recording seven new studio albums, which he dropped on iTunes on November 15. K began the monumental effort in December of 2015, writing up until September of this year and recording from then until the end of October. Needless to say, his studio associates worked above and beyond with him, and despite the large amount of work there is in these projects, there is no lack of quality or useful content in store. Active in hip-hop music since the 1980s, in the album-making business since the early ’90s, K-Rino broke out on the scene strong with Stories From The Black Book (1993), his debut, and remained on external labels until 2004, when he issued The Hitt List and the vastly different Fear No Evil off his own Black Book International outfit. The cleverness, awareness and enlightment of Fear No Evil made for a great liberating change for the Southern artist and fortunately, he never looked back. The legacy K has built since is comparable to few. Of all his thirty some wonderful albums, Fear No Evil as mentioned before but also Worst Rapper Alive, Time Traveler, Book Number 7 and 80 Minute Eternity are arguably his best, but now we have seven more to join the list. K-Rino saw the changing rap landscape and put his best foot forward to represent and support real hip-hop.

Universal Curriculum (album one):

In the first of The Big Seven, K-Rino just gets warmed up but makes a solid kickoff nevertheless with his Universal Curriculum. K’s ripping, tearing rhyme-bars take a brief breather in this one (save for “Extreme Malice” and “Raising The Bars”) so he can speak more casually, but with poetic heft still, on the start and growth of his SPC clique, things you can only witness in the hood, love, depression, dysfunctional families versus good family-oriented folks in the hood but also working hard to get to a better place and live healthier. In contrast and possibly in response to his prior albums’ beats, which were a focus of concern for some fans, for their seemingly and consistently basic nature, the productions we hear in U.C. are nicely varied, compatible with the lyrical themes, and finely mastered, setting the tone well for those on the remaining six LPs.

Conception of Concept (album two):

With fiercer, stronger lyricism than album one, Conception of Concept definitely brings more fire and more turbulent subject matter but still much love and heart. K raps on sensitivity, hurt egos and feelings, economic inequality and oppression in America, skills and loyalty to the craft of emceeing, shaping up lazy slipshod slackers, what some groupies really want (he describes a platonic encounter with one in “One Nite Stand”) and wack rapper mockery at the very end when K brings back his T-Rash, aka Trash, character in the ending song of the same name. Also, the son of K-Rino’s wicked Sorcerer character arrives to stage an attack on him in this set, and the story continues in later chapters of The Seven. Before going any further, a sneak preview from the very eye-opening “Listen Up” is in order. K-Rino raps, “systemic poverty, economics holding us hostage, the rich controlling and watching while they choke us for profit” in the first verse, asks “how can you wake up when you don’t even know that ya asleep?” and then adds “let’s make America great again, a coded phrase by racist hateful men who blame the poor citizens for the state it’s in.” This is with very little doubt the best album of the series.

Enter The Iron Trap (album three):

The deeper we get into this powerful package, the stronger the topics become. K-Rino gradually introduces us to the revolution, and this ease is appreciated. Just make sure you’re seated tightly for K’s treatment of police brutality, black on black violence, top emcees, how they’re ranked and all the variables that determine how they’re received by people, plus hate vs. heart, more of America’s signature problems, Elijah Muhammad’s life and legacy, and the special yet specious privileges given to monkey rappers by big time record execs in the industry. Proceed to the fourth entry for more of these awesome, bluntly honest, sociopolitical talking-points.

Wizard’s Ransom (album four):

In Wizard’s Ransom, the child who “saved” K-Rino from the Sorcerer’s son in album two reveals that he is not really who he pretended to be initially, but before that he “prepares” K and the rest of the squad to fight the dark forces looming. The tale takes a break from there and K brings out more great constructive lessons, teachings and truths. Though childless, K imparts how he would raise a child if he had one, and he remarks on priority-setting later in. On the shocking side, K lets us in on the USA’s wars on the poor, blacks, other nations and its part in creating ISIS. Wholesomely, K shows concern for our daughter’s values, etiquette and sense of worth in “Game For Your Daughter.” “Best Friend” also looks out for the ladies (and guys) because K’s bestie is one, they help each other out and there’s a healthy exchange of ideas and thoughts in their relationship. It’s obvious by now that these Seven are so deep that there is no going back.

American Heroes (album five):

K-Rino comes with hardness and reasoning again in album five, American Heroes. In the ongoing dispute between the police and the public, K doesn’t take sides and he does so by explaining that there are both good and bad cops out on the beat. To elaborate on the title, he exposes the fact that many of America’s propagated role models from history actually had very shady sides and are often not exactly the type of people we are taught they are. Within the mix he expresses ghetto woe but also shows hood-solidarity and hood-unity, and then he confronts the shady ones in society who abuse and take advantage of people. Right before the finale, K shares what it takes to make a better world and to close it up, he translates several common, biased media codewords and other lines along those lines in “Translation.”

Welcome To Life (album six):

K-Rino further builds in a forward, upward direction in Welcome To Life. Decimating sexism, K has something to say about the foul habits and philosophy of both men and women, criticizing domineering self-centered females and ignorant foolhardy males. He understands all the problems of life but he continues to set the bar high and remains strong when it’s at its hardest. His next major bullet-point here is the boring repetitiveness of mainstream street hop, and he even questions the freshness of his own music-making methods. This investigation is important because it encourages innovation and non-complacency in the rap-field. Then K-Rino’s focus goes to heaven and hell, or in other words, constructs of the human mind that are really just conditions of life here on earth. And again, without necessarily taking sides, K-Rino goes semi-conservative on abortion in “Abortion Song,” emphasizing its trickiness and dark side, and digressing, he embraces positivity and shuts down negativity and hypocrisy to close the final chapter of this particular album-book.

Intervention (album seven):

For the last of The Seven, K-Rino continues the Wizard’s journey but also puts a conclusion on it that will satisfy everyone. After “The Final Battle,” the next major achievement of this disc has to be “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend.” The section devotes itself to examining how a man who is being cheated on feels and thinks, though it works pretty much just as well as a woman’s perspective too, but not exactly of course because obviously K-Rino is a guy, not a lady. K then discusses the problem with going out just for self and not for people in general, and in between and all around are standup raps on striving, inspiration, motivation, love, relationship struggles and immortality (“The Man Who Lived Forever”). The raw “Firing Squad” mega posse-cut is a lot of great SPC tradition as the fam ritualistically rip verses one by one by the outro.

All seven of these brilliant vibrant albums have the mark of a master on them from K-Rino’s excellent, legendary writing, delivery and storytelling, his wise mature mindset, and his freeness of thought. His metaphors and wordplay are amazingly clever as usual and his mid-tempo flow is clean, neat and flawless, whether he’s rapping on viciousness, the supernatural or human nature. For those not familiar with K-Rino or hard work for that matter, it will seem unbelievable that the highly thought-provoking emcee and his producers could do what they’ve done in less than twelve months, but believe it, because it’s real. K-Rino is and always has been super-ambitious and driven, and he knows hip-hop (which helps people) needs lots of help always, and it can’t wait. Show your support for K-Rino by purchasing The Big Seven on iTunes or email him at spckrino@aol.com for information on how to get physical copies. You won’t regret the investment.

5 out of 5 stars

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