Kid Ink

Up & Away

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    7
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Coming out of L.A. with a vocal style that's a mash-up of Drake, Lil B, Lil Wayne, and Chris Brown, Kid Ink squared that very 2012 circle by coating his tunes with productions that were somewhere between cloud rap and Young Money's favorites. Add singalong choruses and clever punch lines (opener "No One Left" offers "These streets are a monster, happy Halloween") and this Kid seems designed by record execs, but his road to this debut album was organic by hip-hop standards, kicking off with mixtapes, partnerships with DJ Ill Will and then Sean Kingston, and a steady climb up Internet music-trending scoreboards as new pop-rap fans got hooked. Up & Away, his official debut, suggests the talented Kid Ink isn't such a calculated hitmaker but a huge fan of what's poppin' in 2012, and that means a bit of emo, a lot of ambition, and productions that hypnotize and swirl, even when they come with G-Unit-styled names like "Walk in the Club" (is that a loop of a nylon guitar or a sequencer in heaven?). Little bits of unique personality sprout up here and there (Ink is connected to the fan base more than the game, plus he's got a rare humbleness between all his boasting and swagger), but the reason to sign on with this exciting yet indistinct debut is a toss-up between "Time of Your Life" (a prime pre-club track for ladies) and "Lost in the Sauce" (with silly, fun lyrics and a bleepy, booming production, it's like new wave heroes Devo meet Deebo from the Friday movie). Good times, fun album, but getting stuck on "Is that Drake?" and not even including the great mixtape hit "Up & Away" on the debut you named it after are both annoyances that newcomers should consider.

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