Kero One is huge in Japan, having toured the country nationwide in 2004 and achieved a number two spot on their HMV and Tower Records hiphop charts. Now it's England's turn to hear his album, and considering the international accolades and the biography pointer that his shows have been hosted by the same discoverer's behind Sa-Ra Creative Partners and Count Bass D, he's worth some serious attention.
The album begins with the slightly long, but beautifully chilled 'Windmills Intro'. If the track was any more laid back it'd make you fall asleep, in a good way. The first time we get to hear the artist is on 'Give Thanks' featuring Niama. The lyricism is solid and the flow is tight, with similarities to Canadian MC Abdominal. From the start, there's a clear indication of the type of artist and album that this is. It's all about sensual beats and humble, dare I say 'backpack' orientated vocals.
'Musical Journey' is a story telling song with some really smooth saxophone in the beat. 'My Story' is, as the title suggests, quite introspective, with some nice light choices of drum sounds. 'Like A Dream' implements some mildy pitched up vocals which I would have assumed the artist was above using. Still, it's a dope track full of more first person tales. 'Ain't That Somethin?' simply sounds fantastic. It's an instrumental showcasing outstanding production, this time with a vaguely funk flavoured hiphop offering.
On the piano based 'In All The Wrong Places', Kero approaches the lyrics with a slightly different flow as he raps through verses of a romantic leaning. 'Keep It Live!' is a more energetic number, although the album could have benefited from it being far more exciting at this point in the laid back track listing. 'The Cycle Repeats' is based around the topic of graffiti and has a simple but effective head nodding loop based beat.
'Fly Fly Away' has a really warm bass line and economic percussion whilst 'Its a New Day' is a very strong instrumental which gets increasingly enjoyable throughout. Everything about it is great, from the saxophone, to drums, to background vocals and awesome guitar. 'Check The Blueprints' concludes the album, although the previous instrumental would have been just as suitable. Here, Kero One raps about his take on the state of hiphop and his reaction to people who felt hiphop sucked. There's some nice squeaky scratching towards the end of the track which rounds things off nicely.
The more you listen to the album, the more you feel Kero One is a musician first and rapper second. That's not to say his rapping is poor. It's far from it. He's simply talented and knowledgeable of music enough to create the perfect balance between vocals and his own extremely impressive, inspiring and high quality production. A lot of people try creating hiphop with the kind of angle here, but it often falls short or simply results in sounding pretentious or desperate. This is an exception, and a fine example of how it's done best.