Tampa Rapper Lil Ken's musicology survives in an area where the struggle was ordinary. For this reason, there's no wasted time between his realism in his retrospective lyrics and his energetic rhetorics—and even then, all of it feels trimmed in the right places.
As the first album of his career, 'Going Global,' — which emerges on the spurs of this rising phenomenon's many singles—he administers some enlightening autobiographical insights that span from his struggles in youth and weaves from being vulnerable to exciting and profound.
While it's true the themes here are tightly bound around overcoming adversity, getting money for the family, love, and avoiding unloyal deceivers—the air-tight focus is always present. His narratives and the abundance of that enamoring vocal processing exposes a rapper capable of detailing his world to his fans with a familiar contemporary flavor.
"Prance" dances in nonchalant like a song engorged with a suave attitude. Sampled horns declare the imminent arrival of something more significant as the energy builds. Many have given focus to the material things, but Lil Ken brings his own self-reliance to the front page with this opening track. This one depicts Lil Ken's introspection on his romantic quarrels of the past. A statement like, "In order to be rich you gotta take a chance" might steer you to believe one type of narrative, but Lil Ken ponders more: "Give me a chance I can't help everybody I ain't got enough hands... I thought she was right, snaked me in the end." He infrequently wanders anywhere beyond the reach of relatable—and there's not much room for fillers here with the length of the song—as Lil Ken's commitment to this confident production is reinvigorating for even the most popular cliches in rap.
The album's first half is stacked with songs directly in your face with some of the pressing issues that Lil Ken has experienced. "Watchin' 4 Me" packs a contemplative hook with "I had to realize everything that hurt me benefited me, I'm destined to be." On "Cost EM," a more swaying feel is embellished with an odyssey about true loyalty. In this effort, Lil Ken uses reflective adlibs to reiterate the lack of co-dependency he experiences when confronted with bandwagoners. He questions his clicks loyalty here, "Gotta pick aside when they crash and burn who's gonna rise?" he continues, "Tables turn and true colors arrive, turned my back and they filled me with knives." At this point, we feel the improving dynamic and breathing atmosphere of Lil Ken's planet as his incredible taste in supporting beats expands his production.
Lil Ken's most potent exhibition yet might well be "Playboy." This song is separated by a set of tightly wound instrumental samples that sprinkle along the edges of this champaign popping anthem. This song features a vibrant upfront vocal, skipping hi-hats, and a vibe level that bears a new gloss and sheen over the proceedings of Lil Ken's dominance. The samples and energy on "Playboy" and engulfing lyrical riffing of "All In" are among the boldest and addictive compositions the Tampa native has ever blessed with his flow. Throughout this album, Lil Ken stays perpetually loose in demeanor, while his multidimensional approach and natural confidence force every beat to bend to his will. On the reflective "Rockit," smoothly delivers reflections about living in the dedication of his dreams are the main anchor. Here he exclaims, "I can't get no sleep, I can't f**king eat, dedicated to this shit, till my fam on flex"—lyrics that resonate loud as his clear commitment to his profession is expressed throughout this complex amalgamation of this young rapper's inner consciousness.
As confident and vigorous as Lil Ken sounds throughout "Going Global," its most pausing moments are his most exposing experiences. The blooming sub-bass and tightly metallic snare cross-stick on "Thought About Dying" help set a darker inflection as Lil Ken admits to the weight of the relationship he has lost. "I was in love with you. I thought that you were mine," his focus aimed at expressing that, "When I lost you, I thought about dying." He knows the suggestions of the raw line he's dished out—and he refuses to implode under the pressure of being vulnerable.
On "Walk Through" he continues with a tangible sense of elusiveness, dusting every bar with a spicy seasoning for the ears: "Watch how I hop in the coop switch lane, Do it for the fans give a fuck bout the fame." It's a fitting length with fourteen tracks—but with most songs barely scraping three minutes, it rushes past us at a pace that leaves some reminiscence to the typhoon of lyricism that was just gifted to us. The next move for this talented budding rapper is to keep elaborating with new textures, even if it is in the form of refined adjustments to his current formula in terms of production. However, by continuing this straight trajectory upwards, the Duke University juvenile is the newest impending threat to his musical competitors in the same genre.
Lil Ken doubles down on his lyrical muscles on Going Global while asserting his dynamic productions as a unique rising star in the urban universe. Lil Ken has been grinding his raps to the point where it feels like he could slice through adversity in front of him through his music. It's remarkable that even amid a childhood that could be described as challenging— as its less volatile descriptor— he manages to refocus his energies into an album for all parties to partake in. As Lil Ken emerges on the industry stage, "Going Global," is hopeful just a taste of what he can extend to rap game for the future.
Listen to "Going Global" here.
Hi, Lil Ken! Welcome to BuzzMusic! We're thrilled to be highlighting your first extended play, "Going Global." Can you elaborate on and maybe pinpoint some of the more significant themes and inspirations in your writing process for this release?
The themes of my album Going Global were inspired by things that happened to me in my past relationships with family and significant others, but while focusing on the past also focusing on the future of what's to come.
You touch on some exposing topics in your music, it must feel challenging sometimes putting it down on paper. How do you find the muscle to be vulnerable about some of the subjects about your past?
Putting down your life struggles is what makes your music real and grabs the attention of most listeners. I choose to talk about my real-life struggles because that’s what made me who I am today.
Some people see music as a method of re-centering themselves and releasing pent up emotions. Is there any sense of relief for you when you are expressing some of the feelings you are rapping about here?
Yes, a lot of relief growing up I wasn’t talkative but I wasn't shy so I was never really comfortable expressing my feelings so I express them through my music.
Thanks for being here with us and sharing your debut album with us here at BuzzMusic! As someone who is making waves so early in their career, there must be certain aspects of your craft you are most excited about developing for your next release. What would that be?
The next skill I'm excited about developing is producing (beat making). Making beats is a good skill to have and the more versatile you are the better off you are in you’re career.
What can fans expect next from you Lil Ken?
Revenge 2, basically a Deluxe EP from my first Revenge EP! Maybe sometime this Summer.