Kiev – Manifest

 Kiev – Manifest

Kiev – Manifest – Album Review

I don’t think there’s ever been a time where Kiev’s music has shown up in my inbox where I haven’t felt like it has been way too long since the last time I heard him.  One of my favorite independent rappers out there in the game today, he’s always got something goin’ on and whenever he releases something new, it’s always been completely worthwhile to listen to.  “The only thing I ever wanna be is last place” he says on “What It Is/Palace” as his 2022 record Manifest kicks into gear…no worries homie, you’re first over where without a doubt.  Dude’s making seriously stylistic moves straight outta the gate as he revs his engine on this first track, taking a moment to name-check the legendary Chris Paul in reference as he gets flowing.  “You can’t settle for no jumper, gotta take it to the rack” – it’s awesome to have this guy show up in the heat of ball season…he’s mentioned Shaq, Jordan, Pippen…I’m all about these legends.

Enlisting Kolet Boudreaux for the first of five appearances within this eight-track lineup, bringing you the wisdom on “Spend All My Days” and pointing out how little time we’ve actually got while advising ya to get out there and live that life of yours like Kiev’s been doin’ with his.  It’s an upbeat vibe that’s pretty certain to connect to listeners out there…Pop/Jazz at the core of the music, with those filtered vocals y’all love…”Spend All My Days” is a highly grounded track when it comes right down to it…observational and self-reflective.  It’s one of those tracks where you listen to it, and you’re like, yeah there are clearly hooks in it, but it’s like…you listen to it more for the wisdom and insight in it, you feel me?  I’ve always appreciated how much thought Kiev puts into his material, and it’s tracks like “Spend All My Days” that confirm the recipe he’s been rockin’ with still has the flavor.  Chef Boy-R-Kiev is the master cook in the kitchen as we’ve always known him to be – “Spend All My Days” is low-key in many ways, but uplifting in others…great rhythm in the flow, soulful sound and genuine swagger…this track’s got a bit of everything.

“Never Change” has Kiev spittin’ direct, with confidence and conviction like you hear his words in ALL CAPS.  Dude’s got every right & reason to be confident with the skills he’s got and the material he comes up with – and listen to the details he’s put into the background along the way will ya?  With a solid assist from HTX Kobe in the main hook, “Never Change” stands out for a variety of reasons, one of my favorite being what you hear Kiev do around twenty-seven seconds…he knows exactly how to add personality to his cuts in a way that makes an impact.  While I’d be the first to admit that the title is very much reflective of the way things usually are…with about half a year in between when this was released and now, we can actually hear some good news has taken place.  “Can we get Brittney Griner back?” asks a justifiably frustrated Kiev…and as we all know by now, we actually did thankfully.  Took way too long and I’d never dispute that – but take the W where you can find one…she’s home, she’s safe, she’s already set to be ballin’ out again once she fully recovers.  In a world where things typically “Never Change,” it’s comforting to know every once in a while we can be surprised by an event like that where things work out.  Adding in worldwide events can date material quickly in some ways, but at the same time, art and music was meant to document who we are, what we do, and how we operate…it’s the ultimately open diary of the human race.  Kiev’s flexin’ verbal muscle, valid observations, and undeniable hooks here.

I really dig the production on “Disconnect” and how the distance in the recording supports the theme.  With HTX Kobe appearing on back-to-back tracks and Kolet Boudreaux back in the mix – this ends up being one of my favorite cuts in the set when it comes to the message being beamed out to ya.  If I’m hearing this correctly, it’s very near and dear to the motto I personally live by myself, which is that your art should be what kills you.  As per Kiev’s way of putting it, he’s gonna do it til he “Disconnect” – and I love it…I couldn’t agree more.  The poet is in the finest of forms here – everything about this track stands out as straight-up brilliant, artistically fearless, grippingly personal, and entirely real…this is the soundtrack to what living Kiev’s life sounds like on the inside of his mind and we’re lucky enough to get a glimpse of those thoughts out loud.  I genuinely hope people out there don’t get caught sleepin’ on this song…though I’d acknowledge that’s a possibility – “they don’t ever see the work” – and when it comes to music, they rarely ever hear the songs that have as much depth as this track does in comparison to how easily attention-grabbing hooks tend to get noticed.  That being said…if you’re listening closely…if you’re a real fan of Kiev…I guarantee you’ll find “Disconnect” to be one of his most fascinating and fully captivating tracks to-date.  This is where the artist produces undeniably authentic art y’all…the music is special, the words are incredible, the moment hits home delicately, thoughtfully, and boldly resonates.

“Jasper” is straight-up chilling, and it’s meant to be.  The story of what happened to a black man named James Byrd Jr. when he was brutally murdered by three white men back in 1998, the year that Kiev was born according to the tale he’s fearlessly telling here.  If you’re unfamiliar with the gruesome details, James was dragged behind a pickup truck by these inhumane assholes until he died…and it’s something that still rightfully haunts the spirit of “Jasper,” Texas.  Look…obviously it’s a hard story to stomach – it’s easily one of the worst examples of how human beings have treated each other ever to be on record – and to be completely fair to this situation, it SHOULD make your stomach queasy just to listen to this track…but we need to remember moments like this so that they don’t ever happen again.  I don’t know that we’re all that far removed from the story of James Byrd Jr. and the possibility of something as brutal as this happening again…we all know that people are still dying in the streets due to racial violence each and every day, and despite the protests of the people and the spotlight shining on it all, it’s still happening…and it’s fucking disgraceful.  As a song…”Jasper” is award-worthy stuff, full-stop.  It’s rare that you’ll feel a song as intensely as you do with this one…honestly, it’s scary as music can ever be as a result of the powerful imagery and details Kiev has written into this track.  The reference to Billie Holiday’s cultural revolution in music established through her song “Strange Fruit” is definitely not lost on me here…it’s very much part of the incredibly vivid imagery and gritty details that make this song as haunting as it is.  You factor that in with the news samples, the sounds of thunder in the distance, and the seriousness of Kiev on the mic as he switches up the vibe on Manifest to some of the heaviest work he’s ever done on a conceptual level…I’m convinced I’ve never heard him more engaged, invested, or better than what he hear from him on “Jasper.”  As frightening, horrific, and real as this song is based on the tragic tale of James Byrd Jr. – “Jasper” highlights how effective Kiev’s songwriting truly is too, 100%.  This isn’t just a great song in Kiev’s catalog, it’s literally one of the best I’ve ever heard in my entire life.

The reality is, Kiev’s been in the game for quite a while now…probably longer than I’ve been listening myself, which traces back to 2017.  Hearing how far he’s come…how he’s leveled-up along the way, and how he literally leaves nothing out in his attention to detail now…it’s nothing short of remarkable.  He’s every bit as professional as the best artist on your playlist, and deserves to be recognized as such.  It’s no surprise to me that at this point in his career his music is coming out as flawless as it is.  “Money Problems” with Kolet Boudreaux is another stellar example of the smooth fluidity he’s bringing to his music now…and it’s probably good that he’s brought the mood up a little after experiencing one of the most intensely dramatic cuts you’re ever going to hear in your life with “Jasper” right beforehand.  “Money Problems” is Conscious Hip-Hop that shines bright with insight, outlining what seems like very limited options in terms of how to make that skrilla in the modern-day world.  In a just society, an artist like Kiev would be worth millions and be the household name he damn well should be…but with the way things are today, even when you’re as good as this dude is, you can get lost in the shuffle of the internet.  Kiev explains how the system works against artists and the black community as well, outlining that you’ve pretty much got your choice between Rap or basketball, and c’mon y’all…if this world was run properly, no one out there would feel like those are the only options.  I never pretend to know what the problems of anyone else are like, whether they’re “Money Problems” or otherwise…I recognize the privileged life I’ve been lucky enough to live and work as hard as I can to contribute something of value to everyone I meet.  It doesn’t solve the problems out there, but I’m not making anything worse either as far as I know.  Kiev’s put together an insightful, thought-provoking cut with “Money Problems,” and once again reveals the superstar he was born & destined to become through his lyrics & performance.

Time” ends up relying heavily on the hook and the rhythm you find in Kiev’s words – and there’s no doubt that it works.  Realistically, I’m not entirely sure that “Time” quite reaches the level of accessibility and/or appeal that the majority of this set-list does, but it ain’t all that far off either.  With HTX Kobe and Kolet Boudreaux once again, the collaborative efforts on Manifest have inarguably yielded impressive results, and “Time” is every bit included in that assessment.  Even on this particular record from Kiev, I still wouldn’t go as far as to say this becomes the B-side of this album, but the real A-list material has been completely undeniable.  I think it was probably the filter/effects in the production and on the vocals of this track that threw me a little bit…not really detrimental to the vibe, but maybe not enhancing it as much as you’d hope for either.  Beat/music-wise, there’s a lot less involved on that front too…it’s a more minimalistic version of what Kiev can do when you’re looking at “Time” in context of the rest of the content on this album, but hellz YES I still bumped this track as loud & proud as any other on Manifest every time that it came back around on repeat.  It’s still diverse material at the end of the day, part of “Time” is hopeful, part of it is devastating, part of it is painful, part of it is beautiful too – and I think you really gotta acknowledge how authentically clever it is of Kiev, Kolet, and HTX to get all that in.

Listen to the beginning of “Forward” and the conversation being had, and you’ll have a really good idea about what Manifest is really all about.  “Ain’t no going back, ain’t no sense in living in the past, you gotta move forward” as he says…and believe me, this track is filled with extremely relevant observations and wisdom that applies to each and every one of us.  Smartly pointing out how the past infects the present, and how the most crucial thing we can do is move “Forward” no matter what might try to hold you back, Kiev’s spittin’ facts on this last track as far as I can tell, and I genuinely hope you’re all paying attention.  It’s not easy to go “from depressed to success” – but Kiev’s ultimately proving that it can be done through the work, dedication, commitment, and passion that he’s been bringing to his music over the course of all these years now.  It’s all been leading him somewhere…to this moment we’re in now, to the moments that’ll come afterwards…we don’t all go pro overnight, but it’s imperative that we stay ready for that moment where the work we put in meets the opportunities we’ve earned and deserve.  You listen to Manifest and you realize that Kiev is nothing else BUT ready at this point, and if he keeps on putting as much into everything he does, nothing can stop him from achieving success by any definition he chooses.  He’s already successful in plenty of ways if you ask me!  Dude’s a relentless inspiration, to me, and probably to a hell of a lot more people around the world than he might even realize.  Keep moving “Forward” Kiev – you got this, 100%.  “Manifest your dream that’s what it’s all about.”  Never have truer words been spoken y’all…like I’ve been tellin’ ya, pay real close attention.

Kiev’s already got a new album out this year called Lenses…stay tuned and I’ll post about that too.

For now, stay connected with Kiev at his official page at Twitter:

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