AndyK – Layered Ink – Mixtape Review
Couldn’t help myself on this one…I was supposed to check out the album-sampler of four songs…call me crazy but, I felt like I had to keep listening to what AndyK came up with on Layered Ink. Dude’s got an interesting approach to music overall really…from what I can tell the man is a beat-maker/producer and has doing both & more for years now. While AndyK could obviously choose to keep those beats he makes as instrumentals, he’s got the collaborative spirit and enlists all kinds of assistance on the mic through several different rappers on the Layered Ink mixtape that all bring their own personality to the material and sound. AndyK clearly isn’t short on ideas…you’ll know that for certain just from listening to the diversity in the music along the way – but having an endless string of additional talents all spitting bars on the mic sure leads Layered Ink towards its versatile sound and compelling results.
As the featured guest Inferno leads the way on the mic as “Bars” begins Layered Ink, AndyK keeps the recipe simple with a low-key beginning built mainly on a single bass-line supporting the vocals. There’s a bit more to it than that musically, but for the most part, it’s up to Inferno on the m-i-c to start-up this new record with the right energy – and to do it in less than ninety seconds. “Bars” is smartly-titled – that’s really what this is…a great set of “Bars” and not a hell of a lot more, know what I mean? It’s as sample/intro to the whole record as it could possibly get…just a taste of what you’re in-store for. Inferno takes you through his own journey and methods through his lyrics, taking time to make his political views known (ones we certainly agree with!) & firing verbal shots at #45, all while putting impressive skills on display through the rhythmic grind of his rap. Solid opening to the record and the slightly dusty production you’ll hear on “Bars” allows the sound to expand brilliantly as it shifts gears and transitions to the electro-driven cut “Room” coming up next.
This is where the record comes ALIVE. “Room” features DJ Five Venoms in the first of two memorable appearances on Layered Ink. I mean…for those out there that truly appreciate a quality record-scratch, look no further. Set against wild electro-samples that flow along with the beat, the backbone of the music is completely solid, allowing the record-scratches to become the main entertainment in the front. What’s not to love here? AndyK’s bringing it like Cut Chemist and putting the vibrant edge into the sound of “Room,” which immediately brings the energy of the entire record up dramatically. Production becomes clear & clean, tossing the slight dust on “Bars” for a more crisp and direct sound. It’s built mainly on those scratches…if you’ve got any appreciation for the art and how complex movements on the wheels are, your ears will understand the work that’s been put in here immediately. Brilliant cut.
Having different emcees and talents lending a hand on each and every track is bound to lead to people discovering their own favorites and what works best for them personally, that’s just the way that goes – but the bottom-line is that AndyK’s done a great job of finding the right talent to suit the material. I dig the sound & tone of Grafezzy’s voice rappin’ on “Stackin’” – dude’s got a rad accent that seems to make the lyrics of this one sound even more authentic. Grafezzy never lets up, AndyK puts several parts into the music to challenge him along the way and the man never breaks a sweat on the m-i-c, keeping his vocals highly stylistic and flowing rapidly. The boldness that hits the music on “Stackin’” is probably the most noticeable up-tempo energy that you’ll find on this record, which makes this song definitely stand-out when that moment comes around just before the end of the first minute. It’s much tougher to say if that ‘worked’ for me…on the one hand, I think it’s a powerful moment in the individual song…as to whether or not “Stackin’” felt like it belonged with the rest on the mixtape…tougher call for sure. In terms of performance, production, quality and execution, it certainly belongs…no question about that.
Because even when things SHOULDN’T WORK, AndyK seems to somehow pull it off. That extra stuttered beat in the subtleness of the flow on “Let It Hit Em” featuring Unit 27…I don’t even know where to begin on that. I suppose we’ll start with the sound itself, which is honestly hypnotic and extremely enticing to listen to. How on earth AndyK heard this looped and decided to keep it and work with it, is beyond me, and certainly speaks to the insight he’s got as an artist for sound. There is no doubt whatsoever that a beat like AndyK & Unit 27 have put together on “Let It Hit Em” is HARD WORK! Have a real good listen and check it out for yourself…you’ll hear that these two have definitely taken a hard left when they could have simply taken an easy right…but what you’ll likely notice the most is how that seems to lead you to want to hear this track over and over again. At least that’s how it went down for me personally…I love uniqueness like this…I love thinking about AndyK and Unit 27 examining this one at the roots before the scratches and imagining them saying something like, ‘nah it’s cool, just let that keep on going and I’ll do my thing…we got this.’ However a track like “Let It Hit Em” gets made – the end results speak for themselves; I wouldn’t have expected the jarring structure to be one of my favorite cuts on Layered Ink, but here we are & that’s the case.
DJ Five Venoms returns to the record along with Jay Hollin to take on the largest departure in sound on the record, “No More.” Now…if I’ve already pointed out how “Let It Hit Em” shouldn’t have worked, but did somehow…then I have to point out the fact that this track takes that even further. On paper, “No More” would look damn near ridiculous…the beat alone is something I’d have likely thrown away if I had written it myself…and again, I felt like AndyK proved himself by finding a way to make this one work. Could be the rhymes from Jay Hollin…he does a solid job of bringing some life to this track and give the man credit for finding his way into the bars of a track that most emcees wouldn’t even know where to start with. Dude sounds like a young version of Q-Tip with a more modern-style to his vocal-flow…I felt like Jay did what he could to keep “No More” on the rails, but I also felt like it was that transition to the cuts from DJ Five Venoms over the song’s final-minute or so that contained the biggest highlights.
Of the two performers that make two appearances on Layered Ink, Unit 27 comes back for another round on the spin-heavy cut “I’m Still Doing My Thing,” leading to another victory. Of the tracks on this mixtape, the songs featuring Unit 27 really hit the mark for me; without being entirely familiar with all the artists lending a hand on this record and knowing exactly what they do, it’s hard to say who is responsible for what – but the approach on these particular collaborations really puts the art in being a DJ on full display. Even with my beefs about the crazy timing and cut of a track like “Let It Hit Em” – I still have a massive appreciation for how AndyK has used these moments to create uniqueness and parts you’ll remember through clever editing, stunning production and bold sound. Vocals are used more sparingly on “I’m Still Doing My Thing,” allowing those old-school record-scratches to reign supreme on this cut – they sound freakin’ fantastic! It’s also the first of two five-minute-plus songs back-to-back – but as “I’m Still Doing My Thing” transitions brilliantly around the third minute where half the tracks on this record would already be OVER…you kinda gotta admire how well AndyK does with the extra space. Taking on a nearly Boards Of Canada approach to the electro background and keeping it lively AF on the wheels of steel…this atmosphere surrounds you with just enough of everything and seriously satisfies.
“Wah Me Do My Jaw” featuring Fairow Tut was one of my own favorite tracks on this record. If I’m being honest, chances are, it’s a degree or two less-accessible than some of the rest for those out there looking for traditional hooks in a song…but for those that are looking for something that stretches & flexes creatively, chances are you’ll love this cut as much as I did. And there’s TONS of people out there that dig that kinda stuff – that’s just facts. Where “No More” might take the cake for the largest departure musically – “Wah Me Do My Jaw” is the track to steer this entire ship in a different direction through the vocals…and straight-up, this becomes more brilliant the longer it plays. I’m not going to even pretend that I have any idea of what “Wah Me Do My Jaw” might mean…I’m way too old for whatever slang & buzz-words are actually cool, I just know what sounds good homies. Fairow Tut is ranting and raving on the mic like he’s up on the world’s tallest soapbox and shouting down at all us people below. AndyK has kept every second of this cut moving in a highly-interesting & extremely creative style…completely tight on this cut and delivering textural entertainment that definitely hits the mark. All-in-all, even though the words and vocals indicate a craziness you can’t help but hear – it’s the expert assembly in the structure, the brilliant vocal-flow that switches from the direct spoken-word to a subtle-rap at times with flawless transitions, and really the overall ideas that take “Wah Me Do My Jaw” in all-new directions that gives this track a professional, controlled sound, even in the thickest of the madness. Whether it’s “I’m Still Doing My Thing” featuring Unit 27 or “Wah Me Do My Jaw” featuring Fairow Tut – the longer track length seems to fit the music of AndyK extremely well – I think these two cuts are the highlights of the record. Hence the reason I’m laying out all the details on this record instead of just the album-sampler…can you believe that those two songs were left off the initial list sent over? That’s just freakin’ CRAZY! But real-talk…no artist or producer or anyone involved on a record ever has a real idea of what to send on over as a sample. I don’t put that on AndyK. Literally & audibly, everyone’s in that same boat paddling upstream by sending out what they personally like best as opposed to examining what might be best to pull the people in & what’s right to represent the music.
AndyK and Yung SK kick-in to the chilliest trap-influenced rhyme you’ve ever heard on “Head Honchos,” yet the intensity never drops here, even in what’s likely the sparsest atmosphere on the entire record. This final track might come out sounding more ‘serious’ overall – but at the end of a mixtape like this, it also feels like the last moments and ends the entire experience on a conclusive note, tone & attitude. Really well mixed tune and a highlight in the production…the low-end & background sounds are brilliantly minimalist and the echo-effect applied to the vocals from Yung SK is perfectly timed to produce a highly rhythmic result. “Head Honchos” smolders like the final embers after the blaze once the fire dies down, yet burns just as hot – it’s a solid ending to what’s been a completely rad experience. AndyK’s flexed a ton of creativity & imagination along the way and enlisted some fantastic guests to bring these audio-visions to fruition – I’d definitely be interested in listening to more from this guy. Layered Ink was well worth my time and I’ve got no doubt you’ll feel the same…lots here to love.
Find out more about AndyK from his spot at Twitter here: https://twitter.com/AndyPuggles
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