The Koreatown Oddity - ISTHISFORREAL? Music Album Reviews

The Koreatown Oddity - ISTHISFORREAL? Music Album Reviews
On an expansive new album, the Los Angeles rapper filters current events through the distorting fuzz of memes, late-night cable, and barbershop chatter.

For all his painstaking reticence, the moment eventually found the Koreatown Oddity. A veteran of Los Angeles’ scuzzier hip-hop outposts, the multi-hyphenate artist spent the 2010s alternating between abstract rap records and nervy beat tapes, usually appearing in a rubber werewolf mask. Following the 2019 death of collaborator Ras G, KTO shed his psychedelic trappings for Little Dominiques Nosebleed, a gnarled work of autobiography centered on a succession of childhood car accidents. At times wistful, others free-associative, Nosebleed’s whipsawing chronology turned the spotlight on a rapper who’d long avoided it.

The follow-up, ISTHISFORREAL?, is a return to marginalia, one in conversation with the work of art-rap forerunners Quelle Chris, Open Mike Eagle, and R.A.P. Ferreira. Nine years into his recording career, KTO is now lodged comfortably in a scene of cerebral loners in their thirties and forties, loosely based in Brooklyn and L.A. but more firmly rooted online. Like Eagle’s Anime, Trauma and Divorce and Quelle and Jean Grae’s Everything’s Fine, ISTHISFORREAL? approaches current events obliquely, filtering them through the distorting fuzz of memes, late-night cable, and barbershop chatter.

The album’s discourse is dour and claustrophobic. On “History Tension,” the ambient drone of grief and police violence is condensed into a blunt, visceral refrain: “The tension of history’s attacking.” He invokes anxiety as a living, breathing thing, yet ISTHISFORREAL? is animated by questions. Over the syncopated cleves of “An Endless Run,” KTO raps with a rigidness approaching spoken-word: “What is the signal/For niggas to know/What direction shit is gon’ go?” He inverts the inquiry for the melodic “Indifferent.” “Am I indifferent or desensitized?” he sings. “No grass is greener/It all gets fertilized.”

KTO favors a stiff, almost mechanical delivery, but he’s rarely bound by the strictures of language. “Misophonia Love” (misophonia: a condition characterized by sensitivity to repetitive and soft sounds, as breathing, chewing, clicking, etc.) pairs ASMR vocals with new jack swing-style 808 drums as KTO’s narrator fetishizes the act of chewing almonds and rubbing together gym socks. In the first chorus, his precise diction makes the song’s title sound like “Me so funny in love.” On the second, the inflection is delicately shifted: “Me so phony in love.” Even the more lighthearted moments are rich with subtext.

Like a De La Soul project, ISTHISFORREAL? gestures at a running talk-show concept without really committing to the bit. Instead, KTO deploys a breadth of styles to match the record’s expansive themes. “Existential Landlord” wanders into noise-pop territory; “Homeboys in Outerspace” and “Hellloooo???” veer into full-on sci-fi. But the title track functions as a centerpiece, returning to Nosebleed’s tone of diaristic poignancy. After some quirky editorializing (“When y’all think of Karen, it’s a racist white bitch/When I think of Karen, it’s an auntie we miss”), KTO expresses gratitude that, during the month of July 2019, his newborn daughter briefly occupied the same earthly plane as his friend Ras G. The song concludes with a jarring edict: “I wish I could say that it was unusual/To hop on a plane from a prom to a funeral.” In the context of ISTHISFORREAL?, paranoia is nothing more or less than a survival instinct.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
The Koreatown Oddity - ISTHISFORREAL? Music Album Reviews The Koreatown Oddity - ISTHISFORREAL? Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, August 04, 2022 Rating: 5

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