Keelay And Zaire - Ridin' High LP [XYZ]

Mario Dones, The A.V.E, Fortilive, Phonte (Little Brother), Supastition, Saafir, Blu, Cali Agents, Khizman, Surreal, Torae, Tiffany Paige, J.Fish, Emilio Rojas, Jony Fraze and many other artists grace the latest instalment from producer-duo Keelay & Zaire’s Ridin’ High EP.

With artist’s ranging from Hip-Hop to Soul to R’n’B it can be hard to get the right mix of sounds and make sure that it all works well together and, in this case it does.

The Album as a whole is a diverse mix of Soul, Jazz and R’n’B infused Hip-Hop. Sometimes reminiscent of Guru’s Jazzmatazz series, the way that the Jazz and Hip-Hop infused with some R’n’B tones and Soulful hooks all mix together effortlessly and so easily. The album brings a new feel and element to Hip-Hop and it’s good to see that Keelay & Zaire haven’t gone the whole gangster route.

Track one- The Intro ft. Gravedigga Jones sounds like a classic Soul track with a funk guitar hook. As it would suggest it introduces you to the album and gives you a preview of the sort of sound that the listener should expect.

Take A Ride ft. Slo Mo, Mario Dones and A.V (Track two) sounds like a Soul track again filled with that funky feel and, then given a shot of Hip-Hop resulting in a laid back track with some conscious lyricism. The track is different and wasn’t what I was expecting and when I first heard it I did think hold on, what is this and is it going to sound any good… It doesn’t sound good it sounds great the laid-back and conscious lyricism works well with a soulful hook and beat which has a slight jazz feel.

Addicts For Real ft. Tunji which is Track three, starts off with Tunji rhyming and him sounding exactly like Tupac. The track then goes through classic albums starting with Dr. Dre’s The Chronic categorising when the albums were listened to and picked up, progressing onto Nas’s Illmatic. The rhyming again is very laid-back and relaxed. It’s a track that makes you think a little about how Hip-Hop has progressed through the years and how it’s still progressing changing and diversifying with each new artist and each label bringing out something new and raw. This is definitely evident of Ridin’ High and the way it has been structured and put together is amazing.

The beats, hooks, rhymes and sound that the album projects is different, fresh and is what Hip-Hop needs at the moment. There are too many Lil’ Wayne’s and 50 Cent’s at the moment who all rhyme about the same thing over and over again which gets boring.

Track four, Cali 2 NY ft. Hassan Mackey, has that classic West Coast feel to it. It’s got NY lyricism and swag and a West Coast beat and sounds. It also brings in the classic West Coast hip-hop trademark, the synth. This track is not as laid back with the beats and the lyricism is hard and direct.

I Used To Ride which is track five, is kind of out-of-place on the album. The conscious lyricism and “Pete Rock”ish samples are abandoned and the wordplay is simple, kind of heavy-handed, and slow. It doesn’t fit in into the album and it disrupts the calm flow and soulful vibes that are present within the whole album.

Track six, Wake Up ft, Emilio Rojas is a laid back track like the whole album with a cool and relaxed tempo and a piano hook, simple beat and a nice chorus. The track is similar to the other tracks as its relaxed and the lyricism is relaxed and as if no effort is needed and it comes to the artists naturally. It ends with a poem over the piano hook.

One of the things that I noticed is that many of the artists featured on the album are unknown and it shows that new talent is being found constantly and it’s nice to see the duo support new artists.

I’m On Swerv, Track seven starts off with a laid back beat and feel and another West Coast trademark (not sure what the voice is called) and the lyrics are fun, done with ease, and although it does talk about drugs and that purple a bit it still sounds good and it flows and fits in the whole laid back and relaxed feel of the album. This track has a West Coast feel and the feel makes you want to kick back and listen to it with your friends and smoke a little something! (I don’t in any way endorse smoking that kush lol!)

Sole Ides Interlude
ft. Slo Mo which is track eight starts off with that familiar laid back beat which continues throughout the whole track and lyricism sounds similar to Snoop Dogg’s Gin and Juice. Has a West Coast feel to the track again which has been kind of prominent in some tracks. The track is just an interlude which was a bit annoying as I was enjoying the track it sounded good and ended too soon.

Track nine, Alright With Me ft. Dminor and Phonte (Little Brother) and starts off with Dminor singing a soul-filled verse and the track has a funk / soul feel to it which shows the mixture of underground hip-hop / old- school hip-hop / jazz / soul / funk which makes this a unique album.

Now as Keelay & Zaire are producers the tracks are sort-of sample based but bringing in all these artists makes up for the large use of samples. Dminor sings most of the track with Phonte only having one verse which in my view should have been longer to showcase his verbal abilities. Phonte is an amazing MC and should have had the opportunity to show listeners the diversity, style and swag that he carries when he rhymes.

Nurf To The Turf, track ten has a soul / jazz infuses feel to it and also incorporates the mellow and relaxed feel which is incorporated into the whole album. It’s a chilled out song and the lyricism again is not very heavy and hard-hitting so fits in well.

Overall, the album is well constructed. It has a mellow, laid back and relaxed feel to it and is infused with Jazz / Soul / Funk and R’n’B sounds. Getting this many sounds into an album while still having a hip-hop vibe can be hard to get right but Keelay & Zaire did it and got the mix exactly right.

I think the album will appeal to Hip-Hop heads but, I ‘m not too sure if it will appeal to the mainstream, that much as it’s different and I think many mainstream listeners may get confused when listening to it questioning whether it’s a soul, funk, jazz or R’n’B album more than a Hip-hop album.

The album is well put together and has honestly got me wanting more so I urge you to go out, get this album, listen to it and relax, chill and think about whether this is a new age for hip-hop.

By: Nikhil Sharma |

Keelay And Zaire - Ridin' High LP [XYZ]

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