Son Raw felt compelled to write about this one, even if it took a while
Some releases get reviewed off hype and others claw out a space in my brain until I have to speak on them. K9’s Mad in the Cut is definitely among the latter – I liked it from the jump, but in the months since its release, it’s slowly become one of my most listened-to vocal albums of the year – that’s Rap, Grime or Dancehall. That’s partially a reflection of my mood, shit is grim, but mostly a testament to how rawness and good music can cut through an overcrowded music scene where mixtapes are viewed as 1 week wonders to be discarded as soon as the next one hits.
First, the facts. West London emcee K9 is a former Musical Mobb younger who currently rides with Dark0, a producer who’s made a lot of noise in 2014 through alternately dark and euphoric production. K9’s got a voice like gravel and a worldview I might charitably describe as nihilistic if that term didn’t feel reductive. In an era where emcees worldwide try to impress with voicebox shredding vocal acrobatics and earworm catchphrases, K9 is more likely to spit about banging you on the side of the head, burning piff and about the pain in his life. He’s dexterous on the mic but that never feels like the point, only the tool for him to get his thoughts out on record. In short, he’s Road/Street/Hood or whatever word you want to use to describe an emcee going through real shit.
And make no mistake, real shit is at the core of Mad in the Cut. There’s no Funky House crossover attempts to be found here. Like many listeners, I was drawn to Mad in the Cut by a production roster featuring Mssingno, Plata, Visionist and the aforementioned Dark0, but this isn’t a beat showcase with the emcee playing second fiddle. Instead, K9’s production team gave him their deepest and darkest, creeping, shadowy creations framing crime tales, boasts and above all regrets. Even the now standard Hot Nigga freestyle falls into place, the sirens and choirs sounding more gothic than they’ve ever been. Later, Youngstarr’s classic shottas riddim still feels vital, a nightmarish, psychedelic counterpoint to fan made refixes of classic riddims littering the Internet in 2014.
But it’s the homicide of K9’s best friend and fellow emcee Vager that lies at the heart of the mixtape, with shout outs haunting practically every track, a couple of posthumous appearances hinting at his friend’s talent, and a pair of full on tributes standing out as Mad in the cut’s best tracks. In an era where dead homie anthems have tragically become a stock topic for street emcees however, K9’s bars still bleed very real emotion. Stress, the album centerpiece, is particularly anguished, particularly since K9’s rhetorical questions about life and death aren’t ever answered. It’s a stand out approach in an era where Grime’s mainstream stars are keeping their nose clean – UK emcees don’t often remind me of Boosie Badazz.
There’s still room for growth here, but for now I’m not listening to K9 for his professionalism. I’m listening, quite often, because very few emcees this year were so eloquently pissed off at an unfair world. That’s a sentiment that I suspect will find traction with a lot of people who hear this tape.
MP3: K9 – Mad in the Cut