Finally delivering a proper sequel to his massively acclaimed debut album Hud Dreems from back in 2015 (on top of the gargantuan number of mixtapes released over the last ten years), Grammy-winning hip-hop producer Glen Earl Boothe (known under his moniker Knxwledge) releases the much-anticipated 1988.
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Instrumental hip hop is one of the most curious subcategories in the rap genre. By stripping the major component of the MC away, it allows for complex structures and rich details to flourish, but leaves little room for error in terms of beat and production quality. Often beats are crafted around vocals and pre-written lyrics, or vice versa. Acclaimed albums such as DJ Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing.....’ is dark and cinematic, while J Dilla’s swansong ‘Donuts’ is celebrated for its breath-taking craft and uplifting qualities. It’s a surprisingly diverse subgenre where many sounds can flourish, such as the lucid jazz and soul inspirations of Madlib, the psychedelic or dubstep flavoured cuts heard on Brainfeeder, and the Japanese sounds of the late Nujabes.
Knxwledge’s second proper full-length sits close to the West Coast hip hop and soul of Madlib, but has its own distinctive personality. ‘1988’ is reminiscent of 80s synth-heavy funk, summery 60s soul, and the retro G-funkisms of ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ (Knxwledge produced the cut ‘Momma’ for the LP). The quality varies in its 22-tracks, though even the shorter cuts boast a sense of immediacy in their compositions; you can visualise Boothe hunched over his drum machines, laptop and keyboards either labouring for hours or wrapping one up in moments. ‘do you’ flaunts a humble yet immediately catchy melody, ‘listen’ delves into gospel, and ‘uonlygetone’ marries tumbling beats with shimmering guitars so deliciously that it’ll leave you wanting more. ‘itcanbe[sonice]’ sees an unearthing of the NxWorries project, Knxwledge’s collaboration with neo-soul sensation Anderson .Paak. The combination of smoky lo-fi soul and .Paak’s elegant croons is irresistible and makes me wonder if I didn’t give their original collaboration together enough of a chance.
‘1988’ is a wonderful project that validates why Knxwledge is considered a world-class producer in modern hip hop. When the time comes for such revelries, this is a record to bask in its summertime funk glories to.
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- 1988 by Knxwledge
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