There was a time when New York City ruled hip-hop. And then rap manifest destiny spread the locus of hip-hop’s power westward, where L.A. assumed the mantle. Years later both coasts would give way to Atlanta and Chicago as hip-hop’s capitals, with Miami coming up strong. Like a royal family, every city is constantly pushing and plotting to grab the crown from the current geographic king, and while dope hip-hop can now be found in every city on the map (I see you Boise) a somewhat unlikely contender is emerging – North Carolina. For years …
DJBooth Album Review
For years the northernmost of the Carolinas had Little Brother and yes, Petey Pablo, as their primary representatives on the national stage, but a new generation, lead in part by founders like 9th Wonder, are emerging, and damn if they don’t sound nice. From J. Cole to Rapsody, Actual Proof to Jones Andrews and hundreds of other I simply don’t have space to list here, the Tar Heel state has suddenly become an epicenter for quality hip-hop (or was it always and we’re just now paying attention?), and out of that stellar pack a standout is emerging – King Mez. A young emcee with a grippingly personal flow, we first heard Mez almost a year ago and in that short time he’s established himself as an artist with a vision, dropping first his Paraplegics project and then quickly re-uping on his King’s Khrysis EP. A collaboration with production from Khrysis - now you get the title - frankly, if you can listen to this EP and tell me it’s wack, we can’t be friends.
There’s no place to start like the intro, and King’s Khrysis opens to a haunting vocal sample and shaking, distorted guitar notes, giving Mez a chance to display his bravely autobiographical rhymes and seemingly ceaseless flow to shine. It’s a hell of a warm-up, but in comparison to what comes next, Nightmare, it’s simple a stretching exercise. Throughout the EP Khrysis shows that he understands how to balance beauty and power, laying hard hitting drums over an elegant harmony that Mez fills with some of his more punchline oriented lines. Still, if I had to only roll with one record, I’m rolling with Something’s Missing. Until Missing I’d heard Mez rhyme on the EP but I hadn’t heard him flow. No longer. Over one of the EP’s most bouncing beats Mezatron dodges and weaves in between the rhymes, creating an instantly hypnotic cut. If you can’t quite put your finger on what’s missing in rap, look no further.
Since I devoted so much of the review’s intro to Mez’ home state it’s only right that I acknowledge the contributions of his fellow Carolinians. Title track King’s Khrysis brings on relative OG Phonte to drop a hell of a verse, and perhaps the line of the entire EP: “Spit it like Yoda, a f**k I do not give.” Even more southern soaked, appropriately, is hometown anthem From the South, which finds Mez recruiting Thee Tom Hardy and Sean Boog for typically entertaining verses. Goddamn this state’s got some real lyrical talent.
So where does all of this leave King Mez? Hip-hop has always been a competitive art form and so the urge is naturally to compare and contrast him to death – is he the dopest emcee in North Carolina? The fifth dopest? Tenth? All of that doesn’t matter. As much time as I’ve obviously spent talking about place, we have to fight the urge to hear King’s Khrysis as “just” a NC album, or Mez as “just” a NC rapper. Only time will (hopefully) give us the full length album we need to truly understand Mez’ talents, but in the meantime this EP has a universality, an appeal that easily transcends state lines. If you’re a real fan of lyrical rap and you’re listening to this project in Atlanta, Topeka or Paris you’ll dig it. And if you’re not…we can’t be friends.
Listen to More: King Mez Written by Nathan S.
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