Free Kamal

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While 2001's Pyramidi was labeled "American made avant hip-hop," Radioinactive calls Free Kamal, his '04 effort for Mush/Dirty Loop, "art rap." What's the difference? The answer might be in that torrent of syllables and left field rhymes flying sideways from the MC's mouth. He doesn't own his off-kilter style outright; its wordiness and occasional impenetrability can suggest Mr. Lif, and Kool Keith seems like a forebear. But on Kamal, Radio continues to bring the positivity and activism alongside the fantastical lyrical rides. The album features the beats and arranging work of fellow Dirty Loop member AntiMc, who really keeps us guessing. "With Light Within" flows from a tropicalia/funk well, as Radioinactive raps humanistic directives in his clipped, sardonic tone. "Borrow no money," he urges. "Cut up your credit cards/And spend less time on the computer/Call up your mother." Over the bass-heavy, Casio beat-driven vibe of "Movin' Truck," Radioinactive imagines the titular vehicle as a motivator for drastic life change. AntiMc arranges "First World Jusice System" as a detached dub lilt complete with rattling percussion echo, and "Stop Me Equals Death" scrapes the pop fringes with its driving acoustic guitar and Majek Fashek vocal sample. There are a few more traditionally hip-hop moments on Free Kamal. "Citrus," for example, suggests the work of the Bay Area's Solesides crew with its dreamy backgrounds and more rhythmic, Lateef-like approach from Radioinactive (Best line: "Realign your chakras 'cause Chewbacca's at the helm..."), and "Running With Scissors" could be a particularly inventive slice of New York City hip-hop. Later, "Dinosaur Eggs" returns Free Kamal to its funny vibe of busy flows and fluid beats, with Radioinactive rhyming "minimalism" with "animal jism" over a crushed groove of what sounds like samples from old film noir soundtracks, and "Folding Dirty Laundry" is a flurry of effortlessly wacky non sequiturs over an uplifting piano melody. Radioinactive and AntiMc certainly haven't taken the accessible route with Free Kamal. But the album's engaging, intriguing beats and blizzard of odd bird erudite raps makes it inviting all the same.

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