KILLCAM – Muted

KILLCAM – Muted – Album Review

KILLCAM…a new project brought to you by an artist we’ve had in review in the past, known as the infamous Quiet Leader.  Now rebranded and ready to rip the mic with all-new rhymes and direction, KILLCAM has released the album Muted; last time around we found the emcee finding his way and developing his sound…and now after about a half-year later, we have an opportunity to hear how he’s refined his talents and continued to shape his career over the new thirteen tracks on this record.  Always excited to hear the next phase of someone’s music…stoked to hear what KILLCAM is all about.

As the “Intro (Naptime)” begins with a reverb-laden environment, KILLCAM starts out with a low-end infused atmosphere that starts the process of pulling you out of your world and into his for the next 45 minutes or so.  Keeping the music based in a minimalist style and the words coming quickly, KILLCAM begins flexing skills right away and jumps right into the jazzy-beat of “1980” quickly after the “Intro (Naptime)” ends.  Production-wise, “1980” sounds a little dustier than the intro-track did…and overall throughout the record there are still a few peaks & valleys when it comes to the consistency there…but it’s coming along in a solid progression for this homie and as always, what’s most important is that the ideas are there & concrete, which they are.  “1980” benefits from a more lo-fi sound overall anyhow…it fits well with the sound of the record-spinning and distant-sound of the vocals.  I think the pacing of KILLCAM makes “1980” work as well as it does…he still spits an incredible amount of words out, but he’s got the right way of pivoting and bouncing these words off the beat that works really well to start the flows rolling on Muted.

The vocal-sample and bass-line combination of “Bliss” are an absolute knockout pair of elements serving the greater-good of the song overall.  Great rubbery-sound to the bass…like the strings are made of pure elastic – it sounds fantastic.  The chorus hook is sung in a completely different language…and honestly I can’t pinpoint which one it is – but I can tell you it sounds beautiful and absolutely stunning on “Bliss.”  KILLCAM keeps the rhymes coming…and he does well…it’s perhaps a little disjointed at times, like poetry tends to be…but at the end of the day, there’s little to nothing that can be done to the music of “Bliss” that wouldn’t sound like it fit perfectly.  If anything…KILLCAM has outshone his own verse with such an extraordinary assembly, structure and sound-choice on this track…it’s so well done and put together that it’s honestly tough to measure-up to its strengths!  I like the laidback feel and delivery he puts on the rhyme though…I think it matches the hazy, hypnotic atmosphere of “Bliss” really well.

Volume-wise…again…a bit up & down overall…and the beginning of “Bedroom Freestyle” nearly takes it right off the map at the start before it begins to build-up.  After the energy and vibe of “Bliss” – I’d think it might have been better to choose to keep the energy rolling along…I think the placement of “Bedroom Freestyle” is a bit of a risk here this early on in the album.  That being said…considering it’s freestyle…you kinda have to acknowledge this for what it is and the strengths that it has; it might sound a little too rhymey at times, but these words are all coming off the top of the dome and they remain on the beat and deliver strongly.  Overall though…I think this might have made for a terrific ending to the record rather than have it added into the lineup of tracks so early on in Muted.

The man’s got ideas though…there’s no doubt.  I LOVED the main melody in the music of “Game Over” – I mean, KILLCAM has actually pulled out the old-school game cartridges to get some truly authentic sounds on this cut and it sounds excellent.  If anything…I wanted a little bit more of it in this track…it fades away into bright melodies from synth-horns as the track relates the tale of the early-stages of a possible love.  I like that this track shows a more sincere and personal-side to the KILLCAM story…everything said in the lyrics sounds very authentic and genuine…you get the sense that this was written for someone specific…a beautiful opportunity all coming up at the wrong time.  I think that even though it’s quite personal in its narrative…I think the lyrics are certainly relatable to many.  I also dig the performance on this one…it’s mapped out really well to the dynamics of the beat…KILLCAM is sounding great here.

“Sunrays” was a tougher one for me.  This track has got a few issues that prevent it from being as powerful as it’s capable of being.  First off…the rhyme & flow…I’m not going to dispute that it ‘works’ – it does…but I think its stuttered style & delivery miss the opportunity to provide a recognizable hook throughout the verse, and as a result it becomes a little tough to follow.  The chorus hook…is brilliantly written…and with a few more takes in the studio, it’d be perfect; as it stands…it’s right at the extreme threshold of acceptable-tone, just barely remaining onside.  What you CAN hear, is that the capability is there in this singer…to me, this was a confidence thing.  It could be that KILLCAM was looking for the more off-kilter kind of hook, which I think is still a valid approach to making something memorable in hip-hop…but I think shoots just slightly wide of the mark and target its aiming for.  Close…but not quite on “Sunrays” for me as it is right now – but I think there’s still potential in this track for it to become something greater than it is at the moment with a few minor tweaks.  And I mean…survival-wise, homie-to-homie advice here…KILLCAM might want to make one of those tweaks happen in the line that brings up the ladies time of the month…I mean, unless he’s got a thing about pitchforks and torches and taking a beatdown from multiple women out there…  Luckily for him, most of “Sunrays” is actually quite sincere and goes for a romantic/sexy vibe throughout its lyrics…so I think most of the ladies out there will give this moment a pass without wanting to lynch him – but it’s risky homie…just sayin’!

There’s a part of me that’s a little frustrated with the dips in volume…a track like “Lucky You” is one that needs to get turned UP!  Great old-school vibe through the rap verse…and I love the use of jazz here on this cut, reminds me of how A Tribe Called Quest used to do it.  The trumpet sample is perfect alongside the beat and KILLCAM really feels this one; once again it’s a little stuttered at points, but for the most-part, the vibe is a bit more free to roam than the rest of the tracks…so kinda the opposite effect occurs and that same stuttered structure that missed a bit in “Sunrays” works really well with the music in this track.  With the backing vocals following along, KILLCAM is sounding like a full-posse in the chorus hook, and overall the loose-vibe and playful tone of the music has this true hip-hop track sounding like some of the greats in the genre like ATCQ and J5…great uplifting vibe on “Lucky You.”  Real speed and skill are put on display throughout the lyrics, flow & delivery on this cut, and the following “Revolution.”  Doing verbal acrobatics and keeping the words flowing perfectly on “Revolution” – love the added drama to the delivery of the lyrics and how it works with an extremely unique beat in hip-hop.  Again, great ideas from KILLCAM take the spotlight here on “Revolution” – the writing and the punch to the words really works well…but full-props to coming up with a sample & beat that is entirely identifiable as a challenge to work with and pulling it off incredibly well.  I mean…we’re talking like…an old-school opera or stage-performance is what’s happening in the background sample…and truthfully, it sounds completely fantastic.  Excellent breakdowns in “Revolution” as well…great moments where the mic is traded-off between emcees and the transitions are freakin’ brilliant.  There’s a full-on laughter-fest that breaks out about two-thirds in that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face; it definitely put a grin on my own!

That creative combination of classical/opera style beats and innovative samples continues on “GTA (NRG Cypher)” and has some of the best production-values of the entire record right here.  The vocals sound perfect here…right about here is where that combination in the mix is hitting its stride; the music remains powerful, and every emcee to grab the mic sounds confident right in the eye of the storm.  “GTA (NRG Cypher)” is definitely one of the more captivating tracks on Muted…intense lyrics and performed with real commitment you can hear.  Excellent contrast between the angelic sounds of the vocal-sample and the hard-thuggin’ knowledge that’s being dropped on us throughout “GTA (NRG Cypher)” – it’s a real highlight on this record and a really creative cut.

The hook of “C.M.D.” might be a bit of a stretch.  Overall…I know it’s tough to find words that rhyme with each other, and I get that.  But I think there’s also a time where you have to just re-draw the plans and approach it differently if what you end up with ends up being words that just fit the rhyme-scheme but don’t necessarily sound like they’re in the right place at the right time.  For me…I like the roll & flow of the hook, but every time it gets to the ‘lamb’ reference I can’t help but think maybe there’s something else that could have existed here.  It does support the overall idea & concept behind the lyrics…it might just sound like an awkward word to use in a rap-track…I dunno…could just be me.  I gave a hard time to a set of grunge-rockers in Lung Flower for the same reason more or less…they had the whole ‘dove’ and ‘love’ thing going on…and it just kinda sounded obvious and super-awkward at the same time.  I think there’s a bit of that here in the hook of “C.M.D.” for me.  I do like the atmosphere…and for the most part, I think the lyrics work out really well in the verses of “C.M.D.” but I can also hear those moments where the lines are written unevenly, forcing the emcee to consider the words and pause, stutter and move more cautiously into the music with the words than perhaps KILLCAM would want to sound overall.  Like all of these tracks, there’s great moments in “C.M.D.” as well…I think the music once again is outstanding and the switch in direction through the music is a refreshing one at this stage in Muted, even as much as I was enjoying the infusion of jazz, classical and opera just beforehand…still nice to keep us guessing and our ears paying attention to what’s up.

Really dig the mix and production of “Trouble” as well.  Not only are the lyrics some of the best, but the editing and precision of this cut are audibly palpable – you can hear the amount of work it would take to create a track like “Trouble” and mix it like this.  Excellent sound in the tone of the vocals as it roams between the territory of modern-day music and the old-school, back to the jazzy-style beat that works so incredibly well with KILLCAM’s sound & ideas…the lyrics make a ton of social commentary and straight-up sense to the brain on “Trouble” – another extraordinary idea pulled off…killer track.

“Enemy Within” is an example of a great idea that didn’t quite work out…again, close but not quite.  I liked the concept of the battling internal voices on the inside and shout-out to the KILLCAM alter-ego at the end.  Really thought the layered-vocals and trading off between the different personalities worked well…dig the lyrics and the way they make their point in this unique presentation.  That being said…not sure if I was feeling the actual sound of the vocals themselves…I thought the main verse was a little too cracked-up & crackled…and not sure if the tone of the ‘inner-voice’ worked for me either.  I think it represents the ‘inner-child’ and the doubt of the subconscious well-enough…yeah…I dunno – it’s a tough one.  I found at times throughout spinning this record that sometimes I was really in the mood for this one and other times I thought this one was a bit tougher to get through…was a bit of a coin toss.

“1Up” ends the record on pretty solid-ground with a return back to a classical-music sample and beat combination and strong hook in the chorus to give Muted a memorable ending.  I really like the simplicity and repetition of the chorus and how the two sets of vocals trade back & forth.  The violin sounds in the sample add the perfect atmosphere and dynamics to rhyme over, and the drum-sounds have a real boom & subtle-thunder to them that make “1Up” move and flow with charisma.  I dig both the low-down, menacing sound of the one set of vocals, and I dig the more traditional flow’s sound…either of these parts sound confident here at the end on this cut.

I dig how KILLCAM is already out there to provide us with some uniqueness and drama in the beats throughout Muted and bringing a new perspective to the hip-hop scene.  There are some great ideas here on this record…and even at its most uneven moments, usually a quick turn of the volume in one direction or the other resolves the issues instantly.  For the most part, KILLCAM has given you plenty of reasons here to turn this record in the UP direction with truly innovative ideas and creative writing that keeps the knowledge on-point and the twists & turns you want to hear in a record that challenge what you already know in a genre and keep you listening to a brand-new perspective.

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