Kiev – Lenses

 Kiev – Lenses

Kiev – Lenses – Album Review

Alrighty…back to it.  You just read recently about Kiev on these pages of ours, right?  Hopefully if I’ve got everything moving according to schedule, we would have posted up about his previous record Manifest not too long ago, so that I could get to this brand-new record he’s just dropped in 2023 called Lenses.  I’ll be the first to tell ya it’ll be extremely tough to top what I heard throughout Manifest – after hearing that, I’m sure that’s probably my go-to record from Kiev’s catalog to-date.  Fun fact, this dude is almost always on my shortlist for our top-ten lists of the year any time he releases something new…and while I never guarantee anything, given how I felt about Manifest, I’d be real surprised if he wasn’t on 2023’s list at the end of the year.  Keep your eyes peeled for that…it’s a long way away at this point, but I never forget great music when I hear it, and hopefully you’re the same as I am in that regard.  Anyhow – Lenses is what we’re here to talk about now…clearly Kiev’s been workin’ hard, so let’s check this out.

We’ve got another eight tracks in this lineup…and we’ve got…wait…that can’t be right, can it?  I’ve never been all that great at math, so excuse me for a moment while I add this up.  That’s one, plus two, plus another one, carry the Y, divide by 9, multiply by 4.5…am I wrong about this?  Lenses is only FOURTEEN MINUTES and TWENTY-TWO seconds long in total?  That’s an average of…like…a lengthy minute-plus for each and every one of these tracks more or less?  Who does that?  Especially when you’ve got as much to say as we know this emcee does?  There are literally only TWO tracks on this album that are over two minutes long!  I’m sure you get the idea without having had a spin of your own yet…you could practically blink after pressing play and Lenses would practically be over already – these cuts fly be real damn quick.  I don’t think Lenses is necessarily a step backwards for Kiev, there’s just a whole lot less of him to love.

What I like about this record, is that he’s clearly trying something new.  I’ll be upfront and say that his last album Manifest had a lot more for me personally, but I’ve got no beef with what I hear on Lenses.  You hear those big bass tones start up “Cartier Lenses” and the stylistically slick hooks that Kiev brings to his bars and it’d be tough not to appreciate the flashy vibes you hear from the man right at the start.  I think you’ve basically gotta loop this whole record like a motherfucker just to feel like you spent some significant time with it…and I ain’t gonna lie to ya, it really makes me curious as to why Kiev would want to put out a record full of songs that always make you want more but never give you enough on one spin…it’s an interesting call to have made on his end of things.  Basically, you’ll listen to “Cartier Lenses” and know what I’m talking about right away.  Would any other artist have turned this into some kind of three-to-five minute cut?  Of course!  It’s rare to cut off something that clearly works so quickly.  Not that radio is ever the concern these days, but if we’re talking about those kind of standards…no they’re not gonna play your six minute jam because they’re twice the length they want – but they’re equally apprehensive about playing something just over a minute long too.  Kiev’s always been ahead of the trends though…so maybe he knows something I don’t right now.  “Cartier Lenses” is great for the time we get with it, but there’s no doubt we don’t quite get enough at a minute & eighteen seconds total.

Ultimately, it plays like short bursts of poetry or skits you’d normally find between the main tracks on another album…and I don’t know if that’s the effect Kiev really wants – it’s like a quick showcase reel of what he’s capable of.  Like, “Bite” is good…it’s actually one of the longest tracks on the record as one of two that tops the two-minute mark…but then I have to ask myself, would I have wanted two-minutes of “Cartier Lenses” instead of this track?  Probably.  I’m not objecting to “Bite” – it’s Kiev y’all…I’m not turning it OFF…but again, he’s giving us just enough to know we need more than we’re getting.  I’m all for a conceptual record that gives us a shot at getting into it…but I’ll admit, I’m perplexed by Kiev’s methods on this one and not quite convinced there’s enough here for Lenses to reach the masses.

The title-track, “Lenses” admittedly gives you a dose of single-worthy sound for sure.  Featuring The Lost Hoodini, there’s no doubt it still rips by at 1:42, but I feel like the hooks are memorable and give this cut a genuine shot at bringing the people back to it.  All-in-all, Kiev’s still Kiev…dude’s got a master’s grip on the mic and always delivers on that front, so it’s really hard to complain about the time we do get with him when the quality is always reliable, and I’m not gonna be the guy to hate on a performance just because it’s short.  YES I’ll say I want more of something, because that’s the reality – and Kiev’s at fault for that particular aspect…he’s chosen to take this record in the direction of these short cuts, and I guess my main concern would be that people listening really don’t get enough time with the talent he has.  On the flipside, if you want to put on a whole record you can listen to twice on the way to work in the morning, then Lenses is for YOU homie.  I really dig the title-track…I’d have taken another three minutes of “Lenses” for sure…good music, good twist on the hooks, and as always, solid bars from the main man.

I assume what he’s attempting to communicate in the concept overall and the repetition of the lyrical line “Cartier frames ain’t got no lenses” is that he’s saying most folks don’t have any substance behind the style they’ve got.  It’s just a theory I’m rockin’ with, but I think that’s what he’s going for.  “One Thing” I know for sure, is that if you want folks to be able to decipher the code of any kind of message, give’em some TIME to do that yo!  Kobe Collins makes an appearance to handle the hooks of “One Thing” and I’d put this cut up there as another that is able to establish a memorable moment in this short set.  Lyrically, it’s got grounded ideas that deal with perception and looking at things from the other person’s point of view, in addition to looking back on life in a way that makes you appreciate where you came from, how you saw things, and how you grow up to see things later on as an adult.  It connects…the music is solid…the performances are too…it’s another track I’d love to hear more of.

“See The Other Side” sticks within the theme and lyrically takes us into a track about perception and how important it is to consider things from perspectives outside of our own.  That being said, I’m choosing to read a lot more into it than most people would probably tend to…really, Kiev’s rocking with a hook and repetition on this particular cut, and not a whole lot more.  So yep, you need some ability to use projection and theories and fill in the blanks for yourself, because you’re not gonna get a whole lot of help in that regard this time around.  The hooks and the energy work without a doubt, and there’s no doubt that what we’re hearing is extremely universal in that regard…I don’t know that there’s enough here to get the wheels turning in people’s heads as much as the majority of Kiev’s tunes tend to do, but not every track needs to accomplish that either I suppose.  Sometimes you just want something that’s designed to turn up and cruise to, and “See The Other Side” is more likely to fill that need than others.

Don’t get me wrong though, you CAN make an impact in a short amount of time, it’s just exponentially harder is all, that’s what I’ve been trying to say.  Like for myself personally, “Look Around” is one of my favorite tracks on Lenses, and it’s like, one of the three shortest songs on the record.  Slower, jazzier, a bit more low-key in its demeanor, more self-reflective and melancholy to a degree…it’s not going to be everyone’s favorite, but for those of us looking for more melodic vibes and heavier moods, this track actually hits the spot really well.  When Kiev sparks to life and adds in some bars for the final forty-five seconds or so, you feel that weight shift, and “Look Around” becomes more uplifting to listen to as well.  He uses contrast to his advantage here…it’s still short AF and I want MORE of it, but that doesn’t stop “Look Around” from being one of the best tracks you’ll find on this record.  I dig what I’m hearing here.

I’ll put it to ya this way…it’s RARER than RARE to find an album where a ‘reprise’ is longer than most of the tracks you’ll find in the rest of the set-list.  In fact, this might be the first documented time where it’s ever been done!  Kiev knows I love “Forest (Reprise)” though…too many kickass basketball references and smart name-drops in here for me that it’d be impossible not to love this during the heat of ball season.  It rips by quickly as the rest do, but you’ll probably find you get more out of “Forest (Reprise)” than you do with this whole set-list when it comes to what Kiev adds in through the bars you’ll hear.  I look at it like this…dude’s a wordsmith…so the more time we get with that aspect of what he creates, the better position he puts himself in to make an impact on anyone/everyone that listens in.  From his perspective, to be fair, he’s also a verifiable beat-maker…so in a way, I’d say Lenses as a whole, almost serves more as a showcase on that aspect…in which case, the bars come in as a complementary addition – make sense?  So for me personally, much like how I felt like Manifest made for a better experience in my own opinion, I feel the same towards “Forest (Reprise)” – the more words we get out of Kiev, the better the results become and the more engaging the material is if you ask me.  His beats are stellar too, don’t get me wrong…but yeah…I’m tuning in mainly for what the man has to say when he’s putting the words to work and “Forest (Reprise)” gives us the best taste of that when it comes to this set-list overall.

“Last Song” is another stellar example that highlights what I’ve been saying – it’s all in the words y’all.  If anything in this set-list really spells out what Lenses has been all about from the moment it started until the moment it’s done, it’s right there in the words you’ll find in this “Last Song.”  Quality cuts in these final three…I think Kiev’s got my favorites on this album all lined-up right at the end here when it comes to the substance.  If we’re talkin’ about style, then “Cartier Lenses” is always gonna be right up there for sure…but for me, y’all know it’s much more about what you’re saying than how you’re sounding in many situations.  Kiev’s almost always prioritizing both of those things in his music, but admittedly, Lenses lets the words take a back seat to the music & beats for the most part in comparison to something like what we just experienced on Manifest.  He’s ending on some stunning positive notes & final thoughts though – I love what I’m hearing from Kiev on “Last Song” and how he ties everything together in this last track.  Don’t know if I’d recommend the method of trying to accomplish all that in one cut that’s still less than ninety seconds long when you’ve had seven other tracks to help do that along the way that could have all been longer & a bit clearer in terms of supporting the concept he’s rocking with here…but he’s definitely ended the album on what I’d consider to be its most memorable & meaningful track for sure.

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