Last year the Hip Hop collective Brockhampton released their 5th album Iridescence. Whilst the albums reception was mixed overall, I enjoyed the album immensely (See my list of the best albums of 2018 for my explanation). One of the reasons I liked it so much was because of how personal the album felt and how vividly each member addressed their experiences with the recent controversy they had been through. Skip forward to 2019 and Kevin Abstract -the founding member of the group- releases his second solo album, Arizona Baby, the most personal and introspective than anything he or Brockhampton as released thus far.
Arizona Baby begins with the track Big Wheels, an off-kilter song with a very jarring instrumental that flows into a more jazz-inspired sound that sets the tone for the majority of the album. The song itself is comprised of a singular verse from Kevin and demonstrates how good his rapping ability can actually be when he is given the chance to. For a majority of his appearances on Brockhampton songs, Kevin mainly takes up the role of singing the hooks whilst other members take care of the verses. Whilst not all of the verses on Arizona Baby are as interesting or memorable as the hooks they are accompanied by, the lyrical content does somewhat elevate the songs that they feature in. Take Corpus Christi for example, the song is quite dreary and melancholy but the inclusion of such personal lyrics makes the song much more entertaining. Acting almost like a look deep into Kevin’s mind. Furthermore, the song Georgia has an amazingly catchy hook that instantly gets stuck in your head but the verses, unfortunately, lack the same energy to keep the listener entertained. However, those verses aren’t disappointing as the lyrics within them are so engaging to listen to that you can’t help but be intrigued to listen. This kind of poignancy continues throughout the project on almost every song. Joyride is a much more upbeat song with just as significant meaning and Use Me does the same over a much more experimental production.
Not every song on Arizona Baby is as emotionally taxing though. Some, whilst certainly making the listener feel sad, instead invoke a much more endearing and warm reception. Sprinkled throughout the album are songs that are just as heartwarming as others are depressing. The track Baby Boy features much more loving lyrics and a brighter instrumental adding up to a very charming song, the chorus of which uses a snippet of a once scrapped Brockampton snippet called Let’s Get Married. Then later on in the album the song Peach once again offers another uplifting look into Kevin’s life. It is also important to recognise these two tracks use of features, with Ryan Beatty beautifully singing the chorus and outro to Baby Boy and fellow Brockhampton members, Joba and Bearface teaming up with Dominic Fike on Peach who also appears on the second to last song Crumble. These additions are very well placed, each performance is anything by lack-lustre and the change of voice stops the sound of the album becoming too repetitive.
Overall, the album to some may appear quite drab and uneventful for the most part, but to me, Kevin’s writing is just too effective to dismiss the album in that way. Whenever a song lacks energy or catchiness in its verses, he produces another hook that’s as entertaining as anything he has penned before. But more impressive -considering his past work as a mainly hook-based artist- is Kevin demonstrating his ability to write verses that are solid enough to carry a song on its own and sometimes (in the case of Joyride or Use Me) overshadow the choruses. But the main takeaway from the album for me at least is that Kevin is still undoubtedly one of the most intriguing, talented and promising artists working today.