With Minneapolis artist and emcee Kristoff Krane and his music, you either listen casually and then go back to the matrix of big industry rap (the wrong reaction) or… you fall to the floor in awe of discovering another unique, progressive rapper – the correct reaction. A new guardian of rap music, rising from his powerful projects from the mid to late 2000s and into the 2010s, Krane (or Christopher Keller) comes with positivity and useful messages with his “stream-of-consciousness” flowing, and musically and instrumentally he is far from a novice. Krane’s latest, Kairos Pt. 1, is his fifth solo album, released on F I X, and produced by Graham O’Brien. Mostly serious, quite witty at times but deeply philosophical and reflective with spades of metaphors, Kairos 1 finds Krane vastly more allegorical than before but no less sharp or insightful.
On the positive side, Krane has an energy and a charging force that resolves to focus on good and keep moving. On the other hand, his voice here sometimes finds meaningfulness in the meaningless, and the hopeless, expressing the colorfully moving, knockabout thoughts of a worried mind and a restless conscience. The style then pairs like a match made in nirvana with O’Brien’s drum-rackety tracks coupled with airy overlays and echoey voice filtering for a very mixed-terrain soundscape. Krane can be unsettling, and unsettled, same goes for the music. Still, what might be the greatest treasure is the man’s impressive exhibition of flow, his various speeds and cadences, and voice stretching. Technically, he’s challenged his vocal abilities more so here than ever before, as his fluid and seamless yet excitingly articulated delivery is put to exquisite use, in a variety of modes.
What’s lacking is rigidity, but that’s a good thing in this case. Krane and O’Brien’s measures are melded, interconnected with nary a blip or pause. Certain bars and lines are repeated for emphasis, sometimes in a chorus-capacity, other times not, blended and tucked in in such a way that Krane seems to challenge classic rap song structure. Likewise, segues to soft singing sections are super smooth. The album’s several repeated lines — mantras, or recurring thoughts of the narrator in another sense — are very telling. Krane is puzzled by circumstances reiterating the line, “how in the world did it come to this?” and portrays denial with “I’m not my thoughts” but he’s also optimistically directed with the refrain, “till everybody is free,” truly showcasing different mental turns throughout the LP.
A few genius song pieces emerge as particularly stunning, though the entire project shines effusively (don’t get me wrong). The murder of one element of mother nature at the top of “Head Stone” is brilliant and unforgettable – maybe a commentary on climate change even. The mixed thoughts on religion and criminality in “Forgiven Blood” and “Confession” never lead to hardline stance-taking but they equally examine inquisition versus faith, and law-breaking versus rule-bending respectively, recognizing that each side of either duality offers something important to consider.
Like all of Kristoff Krane’s previous releases, Kairos Pt. 1 is thoroughly and incredibly pleasing with plenty to think about, wonderful lyrical wizardry, and a drenching of mood-befitting background music. The fun is in pondering and interpreting, to an emotive soundtrack, the myriad analogies and creative messaging that the rap-and-rapping-expert in Krane has crafted for us. In this way, these talks are obviously not formatted in everyday casual wording or conversation-style speech but what we have is another amazing load of intellectual art-rap from Krane’s free associative mind, an audio amusement park of verbal textures, ideas and sounds, and a great time for those who live and die for advanced hip-hop music. (5 out of 5 stars)