Kenn Starr – Square One (CD) (2015) (FLAC + 320 kbps)
For me, Kenn Starr’s brand of underground rap has always been like eating vegetables. I like it, it’s mentally healthy, and it keeps my brain tight. But exciting it is not. “Square One” is an enjoyable album, and underground legends Kev Brown and Black Milk produce a work that allows Starr to do what he does best: Masterfully weave words through relaxed beats. Sometimes he arrests the audience with his skillful delivery and lyrical niceness, but equally as often it simply turns into coffeeshop mood music.
“Square One” opens with a track of the same name, setting a jazzy, mellow vibe that lasts through the whole album. There’s a dose of frustration in the beginning of the album as strong as the synth instrumentals, a typical sentiment for underground rappers wagging a finger at an industry obsessed with radio singles and marketability. Starr is gifted enough to channel this emotion into his rhyming, addressing his frustrations with lines like “Check the resume/I ain’t one of the draft picks/the playground legend been stressing me as a has-been/in the industry where you’re only good as your last hit/and I never had hits so it didn’t surprise me” (Say Goodbye).
There are several shining moments in the album that reaffirm the reason Starr has amassed such a significant underground following. In “Strangers,” Starr is in his element dropping the finest wordplay over chill snares. “The Definition” featuring Melanie Rutherford is a great friends-with-benefits track about relationship definitions. It’s also a testament to Black Milk’s ability to produce a track that feels vintage but not dated, harnessing old-school boom-bat beats and a choral melody with a wandering hook overlaying subtle beatboxing in the drum loop.
1. Square One (produced by Kev Brown)
2. Say Goodbye (produced by Black Milk)
3. Product of the Basement feat. Sean Born (produced by Kev Brown)
4. Aiming For The Sky feat. Hassaan Mackey (produced by Analogic)
5. The Definition feat. Melanie Rutherford (produced by Black Milk)
6. Came To Deliver feat. Wordsworth & Supastition (produced by Black Milk)
7. Lesson A (produced by Kev Brown)
8. Days At A Time feat. Sean Born (produced by Kev Brown)
9. Once Upon A Time feat. Wayna (produced by Slimkat78)
10. The Movement II (produced by Kev Brown)
11. Overdue feat. Kaimbr, Hassaan Mackey & yU (produced by Kaimbr)
12. Farewell feat. Sean Born (produced by Kev Brown)
13. Product of the Basement (Remix) (produced by Kev Brown)