Thursday, December 8, 2011

"David Thompson" by Kooley High

David Thompson by Kooley High was released on
Fat Beats on December 6, 2011
North Carolina hip-hop has flourished this year, with Carolina's own J. Cole finding his way to a #1 debut atop the Billboard charts it's been clear that the overwhelming amount of talent in this state is beginning to get the recognition it deserves.  J. Cole is just scraping the surface of this talent pool though, the state is filled with names like 9th Wonder, Phonte, The Beast, King Mez, and arguably one of the fastest rising in the state with Kooley High.  While Kooley has established a name for themselves with their debut full-length, Eastern Standard Time, they're flexing their skills on this new release, David Thompson.  While some of Kooley High has relocated to Brooklyn, it's very clear that their heart still remains in North Carolina and the hip-hop scene that they've flourished in.  Between the stellar production and effortless displays of clever lyricism, Kooley High has placed their feet firmly in the door of national recognition with David Thompson.  Kooley High is celebrating their album release at The Pour House in Raleigh on Saturday, December 10 with King Mez, Actual Proof, and Lazarus

David Thompson feels like a much more cohesive effort than Eastern Standard Time, vocal samples about David Thompson and the 1974 NC State NCAA Basketball Championship are scattered about the album and ties together all of the North Carolina imagery that is brought about on the album.  Kooley makes their roots clear with their music, but they do so in less of a gimmicky way, rather wearing their pride and influences on their sleeves.  The track "Dear Raleigh" is even dedicated entirely to Raleigh shout outs ranging from Hillsborough Street, the Belltower, and even some "Wolfpackin'/Galifianakin'".  North Carolina references aside, Kooley seems to have found a bit steadier of footing on this album even though the group finds themselves stretched across the east coast.  Tab One and Charlie Smarts shine brightly over some excellently crafted beats from producers like DJ Prince, they border between easy flowing, sit back and chill-out beats to those that make you wanna bob your head and start spitting right along.  It's a clear difference in sound though from Foolery and Sinopsis' beats, one that makes me intrigued to hear future Kooley releases now that the group has branched out with other producers who've got a vastly different style.

While this move to New York does represent the group moving forward and being able to reach a whole new group of individuals it does bring some negative aspects to the album as well.  Rapsody's verses on the album seem a bit out-of-touch, possibly because of the distance and possibly because she's been working on solo projects with 9th Wonder.  Either way Kooley brought in a plethora of guest MCs to fill the void like fellow NC standout King Mez.  These guest verses help fill out the album a bit, bringing in different styles and rhythmic differences when it comes to flows.  Kooley's got a knack for chilled-out minimalist rhythms when it comes to spitting, tracks like "Real Shit" boast this to the fullest.  "Incredible bitch, it's Sam Jackson with several hits", the lines aren't stellar but when they so delicately fall from Charlie's mouth it seems as if it all fits into place.  Kooley makes their highest leaps when they let their energy truly flow though, tracks like "Big Headed", "Sky View", and "Unfound" display some of the best work on the album with production and lyrics.  Their slow brooders can pack an equal punch though, "Days Passed Me By" is an introspective track lined with mentions of the typical lonely nights of drinking and thinking, but it's real and that's more evident than the lack of originality in some of the lines.  That seems to be the story for most of the downfalls on this album, while it's not always groundbreaking work it is clear that Kooley High has put their heart into their work.

David Thompson isn't about how ballin' Kooley High is, it isn't about how high they can jump or about how long their hangtime is, it's about the heart and dedication that they've got to the game.  They're an unapologetic group that has proved they've got staying power by blowing away any expectations of a sophomore slump.  David Thompson is much more than Kooley High's big vertical leap because that insinuates that it shows us just how high Kooley can go, the sky is truly the limit with this group.  With group members stretching themselves out with solo projects as well as Charlie and Tab working with producers outside of Foolery and Sinopsis, the next Kooley High release will have championship potential if they can pull the whole gang together for something truly special.

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