“Art that is visual in audio is a product of our surroundings or personal happenings…”
Minnesota Hip-Hop Artist, KPW has never been just a “rapper”. In the past half decade, it’s been evident that the vision of the Minneapolis-based spitter is vast, multi-faceted and a dimension beyond just making music for you to aimlessly vibe out too. When you press play on a KPW record, you should expect to learn something. You should expect the doors in your mind to be unlocked and be ready to explore ideas deeper than your conscious mind. His latest album, Ativia’s Beautiful Shelves takes these concepts to another level in the eclectic world of KPW.
The album opens up with Alabaster, a soulfully cinematic number starting with a spoken piece of life concepts that figuratively sit on the ‘Shelves’. KPW explores how the ideas of the world’s illusions that distract us will slowly lead to the deterioration of the advancing of a culture. It’s dark and haunting proclamation sets the scene for the audiovisual album.
Circuit Board features Saint Paul-based M.C, Megatron. Over a pulsating, tribal-esque composition coupled with elements of beatboxing, KPW handles the first two verses, rapping through a high-pass filter and sharing social commentary on the power of Blackness and the intentions of exploitation by the powers that be. He passes the torch to Megatron for the song’s last verse, who bolsters a stellar guest verse with incredible confidence, touching on leadership and spearheading a revolution.
Combs features the breathtaking presence of ad-libs and jazz sentiments from Twin Cities R&B/Soul vocalist, Nyasia, reminiscent of the late great singer Aaliyah. The sultry atmosphere of the production contrasts with KPW’s spitfire lyrics and delivery in what looks to be the album’s closest thing to a true R&B song.
Zitions brings in a whirly piano refrain, with an addictively trancing vibe, as KPW speaks on the trance television and media have on the eyes and minds of the youths, and a parallel universe where the roles are reversed from such a toxic reality.
Diorama picks up the pace a bit, as KPW trades lines with underground MC, Kamaal, who has appeared on KPW’s previous projects. Both artists speak on the ever-changing reality of one’s purpose, as levels of popularity and image transform – sharing examples of the consequences of these worsening shifts.
Taking a page out of legendary Chicago-based rapper Common, KPW commissions his father for a spoken interlude called Pop’s Partition. This leads into the next track, Paperweight, a thumping record that opens with a sound clip about paperweights, serving as an allegorical allusion to the lyrical topics of the song,commenting on the compartmentalizing of the world as “little tiny environments”.
Super Macy personifies one of society’s greatest fallacies, and touches on the toxicity of White Guilt and opportunistic compassion. Ruste Juxx; Crown Heights, NY flame spitter and protege of the late, great Sean Price, takes the victory lap on the track with an intense verse booming proclamations of Black Power and artistic independence.
Garden opens up with a slowed, orchestra-based sample and a verse from hip-hop M.C and producer, Excel. This is the first song of the album that seems overtly aimed at the female persuasion. Excel serves up a 16-bar declaration about self-love being the premise of loving someone else. KPW gives a methodical diagnostic to break down the consequences of affection, the complexities of sparking a romantic relationship, and the effects it has on the human psyche and emotions. The song is a uniquely dark look at a topic usually discussed on less of an analytical level.
One of the standouts from the album is the previously released single, Death or Dividends featuring critically acclaimed Brooklyn MC, Your Old Droog, and named one of the “5 Must Hear Minnesota Tracks” in early 2017. The lyrical prowess is heavy from both MCs over KPW’s jazz-inspired boom bap production; a hip-hop song soaked in 90s nostalgia and golden-era sentiment. The second half of the track transitions into a song called Imaginary Weapons. The traditional production transforms into a more experimental composition, concluding with a spoken piece by Kamaal, and an evocative Sade sample.
Scatter Plots opens with a piercing symphony sample in all it’s dramatic grace. A darkly modulated spoken piece opens the song, and KPW begins telling the story of a damsel in distress and a hero’s tale of helping her. It’s unclear if the story is meant to be interpreted directly or figuratively, but the moral seems to be about describing the correlation of actions between the two factors engaged in the story.
Diorama Reiterated concludes the album, as a reenvisioning of the original version from earlier in the album. KPW discusses the examples that society presents to represent the Black community, through flawed images and perceptions. He tackles the ideas of White Fragility and it’s virulent effects. People are comfortable with viewing stereotypes and assumptions in a “Diorama”, clearly being separated from any emotional connection or understanding.
The unpacking of this album is at times daunting upon first listen, but then again, it’s not a body of work to fully understand in one experience. KPW attempts to slip into the intricate pockets of society’s biggest conversation starters on social climate, racism and perception. In all of it’s complexities, one thing is simple and clear in the message: What you see and how it seems may very well not be how it is. KPW’s Ativia’s Beautiful Shelves is OUT NOW and available on every major streaming platform, including SPOTIFY, APPLE MUSIC, GOOGLE PLAY and more.