Kiev – Half Man Half Amazing – Album Review
Psssssst. Hey. Hey emcees.
Kiev’s outworking you.
Back for the third release of this year, rapper Kiev has thirteen savage new cuts on a brand-new full-length record called Half Man Half Amazing. We heard the Infinite Positivity EP at the beginning of the year and got our first dose…we heard the man step-up his game even further with the release of the album Swish…now here again with a full record full of new rhymes, it’s becoming clear that his creativity and determination must be at an all-time high for him to be found on the mic so much throughout 2017. It can be extremely tough to keep the flow rolling in the right direction with so much material inside of a single year…I’ve got faith in Kiev to come out on top, let’s see how he does on Half Man Half Amazing.
Alright so…first impressions led me to like the hook on the opening/title-cut “Half Man Half Amazing” – like I dig the idea itself and the rhythm he’s got…it might need a bit more consistency in its energy overall, because once the verse kicks-in, the difference in the approach is quite noticeable. While we don’t know it yet in the first track, it’s also one of the quietest on the record; Kiev’s going to go through some issues with production on this record without a doubt, but right now, everything’s in-line on the album’s title track. The main positives I heard in “Half Man Half Amazing” was that Kiev still sounds fired-up, serious and entirely creative through his lyricism and performance in the verse. Even though the hook might have come out a bit uneven in its energy by comparison, he’s pulls this one out and gets us onboard quickly with his abilities as a wordsmith, keeping us engaged through what he says & how he goes about saying it all.
“Kobe” ends up coming through BIG…there’s a noticeable difference between the production on the first cut and this second one. Inarguably, “Kobe” sounds more full – but Kiev’s walking an extremely fine line here with trying to get a handle on the beastly low-end bass on this cut…and I’m not so sure that parts of this one wouldn’t be peaking on just about every stereo out there. As far as the actual idea and sound goes, no problems at all there – I love the hook in this cut and the way that Kiev paces himself to create the rhythm & melody in the vocals, and of course, the verse, he’s killin’ it just as you’d expect. Definitely one of the wildest tracks on the record overall and likely one of the most accessible…it needs a remix without a doubt, but that being said, it’s a track that’s definitely worth the time spent perfecting it – the hooks in the words are just as strong as what you hear in the music and the groove never quits. Bringing this one in-line balance-wise could only pay off for Kiev – it’s a track people should definitely hear and one they’d be sure to love…again, it’s not far-off from the target here, just needs a touch-up.
The production gets a bit more in-line on “Going” – but as a result of it dialing back the presence in comparison to “Kobe” just beforehand, even though “Going” has a better mix, it sounds smaller. In some ways, that works in this song’s favor…this cut’s got some subtle charm in the music and Kiev keeps his flow in-check and on-point in a complement to the energy & atmosphere he’s got surrounding him. The hazy flow of the hook works well enough – that might be where he wants to start experimenting with more reverb or an echo effect to bring out that kind of vibe even more, but as it stands, it achieves its goals and intentions in providing that hypnotic-element to the main hook in the chorus of “Going.” I dig this cut because he comes out rapping the hook like it’s half-past passing-out, then when it comes to the verse, he snaps back to it like he’s the life of the party – it’s contrast that works well thematically and performance-wise, adding dimension and depth to the concept and execution.
And can I just say that I freakin’ LOVE the fact that he’s got highlights from the Chappelle Show in between each and every track as the album flows? That’s dope – I always got time for Dave and clearly Kiev feels the exact same way – and we’re far from alone; most people I know all know those jokes by heart and having them in this record constantly really gives the entire album an inviting & relatable touch that everyone with a real sense of humor can truly enjoy.
Brightening-up the sound, Kiev hits the mic hard on “Mixed Signals” with a classic hip-hop approach and flow that rolls strongly throughout this entire cut. I’m not gonna lie…to you or to Kiev…I think “Mixed Signals” is probably the most bizarre and unexpected departure in sound on the entire record, but for me – this really hit the mark. The mix of jazzy-electro in the music is insightfully cool and I’d expect somewhat challenging to an emcee – but here’s an example of where Kiev really excels on a creative-level – I think he’s right into this one and fully-invested in creating something more artistic here. “Mixed Signals” really gives you something rad & new to listen to in a combination of sound & style that works brilliantly for Kiev and showcases yet another dimension to his adaptable nature as an emcee.
“Be Somebody” is right on the edge for its production…close enough to be a track you’d still spin loud & proud, but you’d be likely to hear a spike or two in your speakers along the way. With this being the second noticeable cut to go in this direction out of five tracks so far on Half Man Half Amazing, he’s still finding his way to the Amazing side of music overall with the ideas he’s got…but the noticeable difference in volumes and production from track to track tell my ears that Kiev’s gotta take a step back and maybe put a few more days in between these records to make sure these songs are all coming out just as they should. Words-wise…I mean, c’mon – “Be Somebody” has some of the best on the record…and you don’t want people skipping over stuff just because there’s the occasional spike in sound or weirdness in production. Take the following track “Switch Up” featuring Myron for example – they’re going to experience the same thing here with an unevenness to the volumes/production and in my opinion, it seems like they’re rushing things. The performances are ALWAYS on-point – in many cases, Kiev’s been at his best throughout the bulk of this record from verse to verse, song to song and certainly in collaboration with Myron on “Switch Up.” I think Kiev’s gotta take a stand and start defending the work that’s being put into his rhymes – these ideas are worth it, but risky chances with production are being taken all throughout this record and with it being the third release this year, again, you start to begin to wonder if a bit more time examining the final product might be necessary just to ensure that it can maintain the balance it needs in the mix. Smoothed-out, the rhythm and flow of “Switch Up” could potentially be one of the most badass tracks on the entire record and likely a favorite for many people.
Half Man Half Amazing continues with a highlight cut on the record and more personal-touch applied to the approach on “I Ain’t Got Time.” Dig this! Kiev’s got a wickedly unique sample in the music on this song that really stands out for all the right reasons, and he’s once again found a way to match the energy and vibe in the music insightfully well through his vocals. With added personality & character in the mix here, it’s almost like Kiev’s talking to each one of us directly with the way he takes on the vocals for “I Ain’t Got Time.” He flexes his skills as he always does – but he’s also put in more of a performance-minded approach to this particular cut that draws us in to listen closely to what he’s rappin’ about…you know…real intimate-like. Credit where credit is due, Kiev can find the rhythm and rhyme for any set of bars out there – that’s his number-one asset for sure, that versatility and dynamic ability to adapt to sounds you might not expect, like you’ll find on “I Ain’t Got Time.” He’s detailing the struggle of life, love & heartbreak on this tenderized-tune, keeping it plenty real and leveling with us all about the situation in ways we can clearly understand. The man’s been hurt before for sure – Kiev’s got real feelings just like the rest of us – “I Ain’t Got Time” just proves he’ll always get back up if he’s ever been knocked down and continue to keep his head & heart in the game whenever it’s called for.
HEY! I better not be included in the accusation against of all these people that been ‘sleeping on Kiev like a mattress’ – I’ve been listening & paying attention homie, I swear! “House Of Cards” is a solid highlight on this record for the smooth & chill performance from Kiev on the mic. As far as expression in his vocals goes, this was one of my favorites on the record without question – Kiev is keeping it incredibly real on “House Of Cards” and the performance he puts in has plenty of character on the mic. Beat-wise, it’s also one of the more vibrant cuts with some of the most potential for widespread appeal – all-in-all, I think this track comes out really well for Kiev and puts some energy into the second-half of the record early on. He uses his signature hazy-vibe on the hook, but this time around on “House Of Cards” it sounded like it completely fit with the right amount of energy being spit into the words. The rhythm and groove of the flow he locks into during the verse sets the whole thing off and the music itself is highly inventive, creative and vibrant…definitely a track I’d expect people would notice.
Kiev goin’ soft for a second here? He’s written an official ‘babymaker’ into this album for a lighters-up moment on “The Way You Do” featuring Joel – it definitely shows the sensitive-side of Kiev, and I think overall it works & sounds sincere. As for Joel…I could take or leave him…tone-wise he’s on the money, but barely…you can hear that there’s still room for this guy to grow or add a bit more power & energy into his singing…his gentle approach is only going to get him so far and if he adds a bit more oomph into his approach, he’s got a solid chance to take his goodness to greatness. It’s almost a subdued performance as it stands…like a late-night recording where Joel was conscious of the fact that singing too loud might wake up the neighbors; he gets the right tones, but they’re coming through at almost a whisper energy-wise. All that being said, I like the fact that Kiev switches up the sound once again here and reaches to expand the dimensions of the record even further by adding-in Joel’s pop-hooks while Kiev proves that he’s much more of a lover than he is a fighter on the mic. Ladies take notice, he’s clearly at the ready.
Silky Johnson intros into the next cut as you exit out of “The Way You Do,” and all of a sudden “The Chef” is in the HOUSE! Great chance this is the number-one highlight in the entire set from what I can hear, likely for many people out there – “The Chef” cooks up a solid rhyme & beat to remember. Overall this cut reminds me of some of the best you’d find from the Swollen Members catalog, with Kiev sounding a lot like Prevail, punching every syllable with precision and wicked focus. I think as far as performances on Half Man Half Amazing go, it’d be hard to argue that it gets any better than “The Chef” for Kiev – he’s crushing it here on every level and sounds determined to make his mark, displaying confidence and pure skill at every twist & turn. I can’t imagine anyone not being able to hear the difference from Kiev on this cut though – he’s been pro at every moment in his performances along the way, but this…THIS is right where this emcee sounds the most comfortable that we’ve heard him. He rolls-out an army of words to launch an attack of undeniable skills into domes & speakers worldwide. “The Chef” is a completely wicked track you’ll seek to repeat from this record & I’d say a very solid candidate as a single to pull the people in to listen.
Production-wise, the record definitely experiences some of its best moments towards the end with “The Chef” sounding as excellent as it does, shifting into what’s arguably an even slicker production for the subtle-intensity and emotionally-heavy cut “Denial.” Definitely one of the best songs on the record music-wise in my opinion…it’s a large departure style-wise from what we’ve already heard and that makes an impact as we listen as well – BUT…I think it’s just seriously badass samples and choices being made here that make this sound a complete success. Plus if you listen to the main hook on this cut, you can hear clever wordplay at work here – in the hypnotically-rhythmic atmosphere, “Denial” contains some of the best lyricism from Kiev paired with some of the best music & production found throughout the entire record. He’s still rapping out word-after-word like he has three-sets of lungs inside his chest and a limitless air supply; combined with that subtle-chill to the music and more space surrounding him, you can get right into the lyrics easily through the added mellowness providing clarity as a result.
Kiev brother…you gotta watch that energy when you catch the spirit brother! Don’t get me wrong – HE sounds at his best when he’s at his most lively, engaged and energetic on the mic, but it’s at these same times on tracks like “Kobe,” “Switch Up” and “The Cookout” where that enthusiasm and passion could potentially be costing him. Unless Kiev’s got someone constantly poking him in the ass with a sharp stick, he’s gotta step-back a bit and apply a bit of patience to make sure that his ideas get the mix they deserve. “The Cookout” would be a supreme cut on this record without a doubt…but with its consistent breach of the low-end threshold, it runs the risk of sounding careless to some out there, reckless to others…and for some like myself, I just mourn the loss of real potential for a great song. I’ll put it this way…I mean…”Denial” ends with a question – “Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch?” as it leads into “The Cookout” and I FEEL that homie. I WANT things to work out well for Kiev because the man has incredible skills verbally and mad potential in his ideas and the way he writes. Of all the tracks on this record that have questionable production, “The Cookout” comes out having the most issues on what would likely be the most universally agreed upon idea and song on the entire record otherwise. The music is completely awesome and flexes real imagination & ingenuity – the enthusiasm in the vocals, the energy, it’s all there…maybe there too much…Kiev takes “The Cookout” right through the roof & well-over that red-line in the mix to the point where people are going to have trouble sticking with him this time in a situation where the writing and performance should have made it easy to like this cut.
Mad props to the genius of the final line – “If you not gonna come hard with the potato salad, it will be thrown away” – that’s real-talk right there…ain’t no threats here, only promises, feel me? “The Cookout” could be as good as it gets homie…fix this one up right, it’s worth it, I promise ya. Everything from the vibe of the vocals to the work put into making this music move as captivatingly and charismatically as it does warrants a golden mix to give the entire performance the justice it deserves.
And that’s the last moment of lightness in the attitude you’ll get before Kiev switches it up hard for the final track, “Fear.” Probably the most brilliant switch in the entire record if you ask me – Kiev hits political terrain and reaches out to get the people woke on “Fear” – it’s not just a solid track lyrically, it’s the kind of song that’s important for the right here & now. Kiev’s given us hints at his social awareness along the way throughout the record, but never with anything nearly as directly-pointed like this final cut is. Kiev clearly puts his most political-thoughts on display throughout “Fear” – but I’ll be damned if you don’t find you agree with everything he’s saying here – you should. This last moment/song really ends the album & experience on real notes of leadership potential; like I said, it’s more of a tight fit for what this guy seems to wear style-wise…this track is a good look for him, like he was born to wear it. There’s a sense of commitment, honor and responsibility within the wisdom of his words here – and I think that “Fear” comes out sound like one of the most lyrically-focused cuts you’ll find in the entire Kiev catalog. Like many of the tracks on this particular record, “Fear” could likely benefit from a slight remix when it comes to the production – but as always, what’s most important is that the ideas are worth pursuing. I haven’t heard anything I’d throw away on Half Man Half Amazing at all, a few things to clean up in a remix or two perhaps, but ideas-wise, performance-wise, this guy is right where he needs to be and putting out rhyme after rhyme worth listening to. “Fear” just happens to be the icing on the cake – I think Kiev finished on a lyrical highlight…and hopefully, it’s a nod to where he might head to next with his music. He’s got a powerful message and the right mindset – his words on “Fear” speak volumes about his leadership potential and I’d completely encourage Kiev to keep on gripping the mic with the confidence he’s put on display in these final moments to be that important voice for the voiceless. He’s at his best when he makes it all important to him from both sides of the studio-boards; production issues always smooth-out over time & experience and he’s still plenty young…I still have no problem betting on Kiev to end up exactly wherever it is he wants his music to take him, he’s wildly talented and highly adaptable.
Listen to music from Kiev at his official page at Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/chefboyarkiev