I should start by mentioning that I am not a regular hip-hop listener. I’m not, then, the best person to give a traditional review of this album. I am, however, in the same position as quite a few of the readers of It Djents, purely in virtue of that. So I cannot tell you whether or not this is good hip-hop, whether it breaks the conventions of its genre, or whatever. What I can tell you, though, is whether this is an album that regular listeners of prog may be likely to enjoy, and for this site, that seems fairly relevant.
In short: I think it is.
Sun Kissed Kid is a Chicago-based artist, creating music that draws on his experiences as Latinx, with mental health issues, and with the modern world. Expect influences from hip-hop, Latin, and post- and indie rock, and (as with the majority of hip-hop) to really have to listen to the listen to the lyrics.
Before going into the vocals, though, I want to defend the backing music from a standard criticism of repetitiveness. There’s a bit of that – beats are laid down to rap over, and on the quieter songs where there is inevitably less going on, you’ll want to listen for meaning rather than for shifting and changing backing parts. But this album does by no means subsist on derivative, easy and unimaginative song writing! The chorus to ‘”Scared of You”, for example, excellently blends sampling, alt-rock guitars, and horns into an ironically optimistic backing to the lyrical content. “Rain All Day” does the same thing, whilst managing to take a gorgeous 50s jive and rejuvenate it for the modern day.
Oh, and the bass tone throughout is to die for. In fact, every single thing is produced remarkably well for a self-release. From the aforementioned horns to the reverbed-out guitars on ‘Descanso’, each part not only sounds great, but sounds clear and distinct from the other parts, too. You can hear everything, and everything you hear sounds fantastic.
The vocals, then. Fundamentally, Sun Kissed Kid can rap and sing really well, and interchange between the two to boot. His singing voice is quite soft – originally feeling a little too much aside the percussiveness of rapped vocals. It comes well into its own later on in the album, though. The performance on “Rain All Day” is incredible, and the number of vocal styles performed – from American indie over pop-punk to English folk – makes its quality all the more impressive. Sun Kissed Kid has serious singing chops!
Occasionally, just occasionally, a chorus feels like it was a good gimmick that didn’t have the legs to create an interesting song. I’m referencing ‘Eschatalogical’ and ‘No One Likes Me’ especially, both featuring very few lyrics other than the words in the title. They start to sound a bit twee – almost as though they were from a children’s TV channel. That’s no issue in and of itself, but for me, it pushes the aforementioned ironic juxtaposition of form and content a little too much by being too twee for the darkness of the meaning behind some lyrics.
OCT // XII is relaxed and laid-back, not least because of its habit of touching on melancholy. It will keep you engaged both via the lyrics and the inventive use of styles that Sun Kissed Kid manages to expertly fit together. I have a feeling that, if this album gets out there, lots of people are going to enjoy it.