Friendship forms the source of Brave New Rap, a blistering collabo featuring Chicago’s Verbal Kent and Kaz One. The record brims with humour and biting rhymes, giving authority to Kent’s talent as a writer and rapper. Kaz One’s production neatly guides each track, never overshadowing the fact that Brave New Rap is all about classic hip-hop.
“Me and Kaz met at a emcee battle at a club in Chicago in 2001. This album is the culmination of eight years of getting to know each other musically. He has produced over half my music, but never a whole record; that's why this release means the most to me,” says Verbal Kent of his relationship with the producer.
Indeed, the longevity of their relationship bears out over each track as the listener witnesses the vibe of two artists working together with true knowledge of one another’s skills and strengths. Kaz knows how to drop the beat at the right moments, manipulating the switches to get maximum mileage per beat and tracing lean grooves beneath Kent’s flow.
Brave New Rap opens with the intro “How We Figured It Out.” Here Verbal Kent discusses how the alliance came to be using vocal effects and natural idiosyncrasy. It’s a fun set-up.
“Dedicated” gets things going with a traditional beat and nice tight mood. Verbal Kent lets his witticisms soar: “Why you wanna do me like Michael Vick in a dog pound?”
Kaz One’s efficient production glides through “Wars R Us,” providing a silky scene for Kent’s rhymes. The swirling electronic music and braggadocio work well together, easing into the alluring spring of “Remove the Gang” featuring Ill Bill and Wordsworth.
It’s not all bragging and clever chitchat on Brave New Rap, though.
Kent spits hard on “Identity Theft,” chewing over lyrics about the egotism of the human race, the culture of overindulgence in our society, and the aspiration to finally be on the right track. And album closer “Power Pt. II” talks about the ache of the Earth, American perceptions of “security,” the truth behind the “immigration crisis,” and how we care less about people we know and "more for Angelina and Brad."
Verbal Kent is a convincing MC with a lot of heart and charismatic command of his lyrics. He is at his best when he pushes cultural boundaries and urges listeners to think beyond what the media expresses. Never sombre, Kent is a bracing voice in hip hop and gets his point across without sacrificing character or humour.
For a solid dose of real hip hop, cop Brave New Rap. Verbal Kent and Kaz One have put together a hell of a record, seizing on common themes and pressing them with their revitalizing communication and understanding of the art of rap as free expression and the voice of the streets.