From journalism to music, hip-hop recording artist and rapper Karl.witaK continues carving his own lane with a new conceptual album entitled "Won't U Be My Neighbor."
Karl.witaK took the music scene by storm in 2019. Behind the scenes, he was a consistent chess piece in the world of journalism with his own show, Civics 101, teaching youth about civil history and politics. Now, he's being recognized for his conscience musical mix on worldly ideas and raw honesty.
In his most recent work, Karl.witaK released a reflective yet energetic and powerhouse 14-track album, 'Won't U Be My Neighbor.'
The record kicks off with the intro and title track, "Won't You Be My Neighbor." A familiar, softspoken voice moves through our speakers, none other than Mr. Rogers in a 90s interview with Charlie Rose.
As they discuss knowing who you are and feeling stability in life, Karl.witaK's ethereal production begins floating through while he transitions into groovy and honest bars. Rapping about what he's learned, who he's left in the past, and how the media brainwashes us, Karl.witaK leads us to track number two.
"Therapeutic Car (feat. John Carpenter)" rings through our speakers through an interlude-type skit. As Karl.witaK calls up John Carpenter, they move through an honest conversation about moving into an odd, new neighborhood. It gets pretty savage and ends with Carpenter playfully letting Karl know that he might be the issue.
Track three, "Karls Neighborhood," opens with another Mr. Rogers interview and moves into a dreamy A$AP Rocky-type verse where Karl.witaK jumps into his bars with dominance. We love the mysterious and heavy beat that accompanies Karl.witaK, especially as he puts a hip-hop spin on Mr. Rogers's theme song. There's a sense of urgency and anger in this track, and Karl.witaK makes clear that pretty neighborhoods aren't always what they seem.
A familiar, iconic introduction floats through our speakers on "Painting the House Blue," none other than Kanye West's "Runaway." We adore this sample; right off the bat, it hits the soul with a heavy dose of bass-like synths. While rapping about karma and why fools fall in love, Karl dances through the depths of reflection while a unique rendition of Ye's legendary track roams the background with heaps of emotion.
Track number five, "Death of a Goldfish," brings some heavy production that blasts us into the heat of modern hip-hop. Karl.witaK takes this track to delve into some personal issues like losing sleep and thinking about the tragedies that have struck his loved ones. While letting those thoughts free, Karl.witaK offers a profound sense of empowerment that any listener will adore.
Keeping the heat and energy alive is track number six, "No Kin (feat. ShoTyme)," which kicks off with a melodic and deep vocal sample alongside poised, mid-tempo drums. Karl.witaK takes the track by the horns and punches through with all-too-real bars that present a heavy serving of reality. ShoTyme hops on the second verse and delivers the same intensity and charisma that's basically repelling the frauds and anyone who tries to bring them down.
Reaching the album's halfway point, "Mouths and Feelings," we're met with another Mr. Rogers interview about the importance of what's inside us. As a sample of Fousheé's "Deep End" lingers in the background, Karl.witaK moves into his verse that discusses what he tries not to let happen. Things like losing himself, letting people get to him, and those that he misses. We appreciate such a personal track; it's truly helped us get to know Karl.witaK that much more.
Jumping into "Motivation," this track keeps the album alive and thriving with a relatable theme and uplifting sonics. As Karl.witaK leaps into his first verse, he discusses a need for motivation to continue carving his path to success. He asks vital questions like why we can't live in a society where we motivate and uplift each other, emphasizing our need for positivity and love.
Moving into the ninth track, "Bible Way," Charlie Rose asks Mr. Rogers what can't we see about him to fully understand him. Mr. Rogers answers that we can't see his spiritual and family life, which leads us into the song's empowering and feel-good production. Karl.witaK blasts us with heavenly bars that touch on his love, praise, and admiration for God and how he leans on the creator when everyone else lets him down.
Karl.witaK welcomes us to "Fatherhood" in the introspective tenth track. The blissful and emotional saxophone sample sonically serenades us while the crispy drums lead us into the first verse. Karl.witaK takes this track to inform listeners about the importance of knowing what you do and say in front of the kids, as they'll process it and think it over more than you think.
Turning up the heat once again in track number eleven, "El Capital," the hazy production melts through our speakers with samples of breezy Spanish guitars. As Karl.witaK makes his way in, he washes us with the smoothest flow that speaks about the peaks and valleys of living in DC. Letting us know that uptown's where it's at, northeast is a zoo, southeast will kill you, southwest is just like you, and northwest is where the 'whites' move.
Reaching the album's last few songs, we move into track twelve, "Own Your Shit," which kicks off with a lively and groovy hip-hop beat and dark, heavy synths. We love the subtle and modern autotune Karl.witaK uses in this track; it perfectly ups the contemporary vibe while he tackles necessary themes like coming clean, taking accountability, and owning your shit with pride.
On the thirteenth track, "Karl Dream," Karl.witaK playfully opens up about the dreams he's having, like getting busy with iconic female rappers from Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat to Lizzo and Tiera Whack. This song is incredibly anthemic; everything from the bouncy drums to Karl.witaK's energetic and playful flow keeps our heads bopping and our bodies grooving.
Landing on the album's final track, "1-4-3," Mr. Rogers gives his sympathy to those who aren't loved and don't have someone to lean on. As the blissful and smooth guitar picks through our speakers alongside light and airy drums, Karl.witaK graces us with passionate and poetic bars that touch on loving someone the way they are. This was the perfect way to end such a dynamic album, letting listeners know that it's what's inside that truly matters.
Are you new in town? Get to know who your neighbor really is with Karl.witaK's latest album, 'Won't U Be My Neighbor,' now available on all digital streaming platforms.
Welcome to BuzzMusic, Karl.witaK. We really appreciate such an authentic and personal album like 'Won't U Be My Neighbor.' When did you begin feeling inspired to create this album?
Thank you, and I'm humbled for the love and appreciation. The inspiration came from just being an admirer of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood as a kid. His penchant for understanding acceptance is what you'd need to grow in this world. He was ahead of his time and originally being from Philadelphia myself, the inspiration had always been there.
What was the core concept or theme you wanted to get across in 'Won't U Be My Neighbor?' What impact did you want the project to have?
Well, the concept came from my grandmother, who is on the cover of the album, and the general theme is about acceptance of your neighbors, whether they're a good or bad, yellow, green or brown, religious or atheist. My grandmother introduced me to the world of Mr. Rogers. Growing up I watched people disrespect my grandmother but no matter what; she still gave them a hug, and still showed love with no ill will towards her neighbor. So with that being said; In the bible, the book of Matthew says the second greatest commandment is "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself". So would you? The general impact should be a test of morality, ego, lust, betrayal, self-motivation, adultery, etc…all these everyday issues we deal with as people and how heavy they weigh on the choices that drive the decisions we make in regards to all those mental and emotional problems I mentioned.
Did Mr. Rogers play a significant role in your life? Why did you sample him so frequently in your album, 'Won't U Be My Neighbor?'
Mr. Rogers definitely is a significant part of my life. His ideals, the imprint he made during segregation, and some of the most important historical dates known to man. He was there for it and had a lesson to give and I watched it all lol. Even episodes before, I was thought of and it's cool to see he always remained the same. So people could appreciate who he was as a man, father, husband, role model, and really ahead of his time. But most of all who I am as a person and artist. I figured why not have the man who created me in a metaphorical sense, explain why I am the way I am. I wanted listeners to understand why.
Did you run into any personal or physical obstacles when creating the 'Won't U Be My Neighbor' album? What was the most challenging aspect of creating the record?
Physically no, but personally I did because I wanted to make sure I presented him as a human being too. Someone who, like us, suffered through the same physical and emotional tolls we deal with in everyday life. I think just getting everything cleared sample-wise and the fact I finished probably 80% of the album in a two-month span so it could be released on his birthday. So that was fun lol.
Why did you decide to take this album almost entirely solo? Although there are a couple of features on 'Won't U Be My Neighbor,' why did you want to keep this as more of a solo project?
That's an easy answer; I don't have any friends, which is why it's entirely solo lol. No, but seriously it was an album about me, for me, for my listeners. Who I am as a man. How do I manage to function in this world every day? My brother, Shotyme, whom you know at Buzz, produced this album and is my blood, so it only made sense he spoke on my behalf.