Written By:

Hakeem Skipwith

With the group’s latest release since their 3rd project Canvas, rap collective K.L.U.B. (Knowledge Learned Under Birmingham) Monsta find themselves center stage with this album performing over some very ambitious and brilliantly produced beats as they illustrate pictures of all that lies within and surrounding them. 

Track List        

1.       Kangol Sweaters (ft. Brian B Flat Cook) **                                  

2.       Problem Child                                                                           

3.       Know Your Fate (ft. Love Moor)

4.       Vacant Thrones

5.       Thousand Hours (ft. Brian B Flat Cook) **

6.       Pre Season **

7.       DMC 12 (ft. Maesu)

8.       Mugshots **

9.       DEC 15 (Cold)

10.   Ain’t Sanctified (Jenesis Wright) **

11.   Satchmo in the Trapspot (ft. Kevin Carter) **

12.   Days Are Shorter (ft. JazzMine)

** Stand-Out Tracks

Produced by: SWAT Team {…among others}

Available for Streaming on:

https://klubmonsta.bandcamp.com/album/when-gawd-ready

https://listen.tidal.com/album/88573483

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/when-gawd-ready/1381509230

ALBUM REVIEW

         Within the Birmingham music culture and fandom, there has for a while been a stigma on independent artists and the music they are appreciated for and/or even acknowledged for making. The more trap-driven and bass heavy music, that without question has a rightful place within the hip hop genre, has so heavily dictated the music that is propelled beyond the “true hip-hop fan” circuit. Some would argue that the dense population of rappers in the city also hurts the growth of the artists’ rise as well as a lack of high-quality, sonically appeasing music to match the true hip hop sound and lyricism to make the overall music package more easily digestible. Of late, however, there has been a series of breakout projects that have stood as glaring evidence to show that the Birmingham music scene must make way for the thriving hip hop artists and music that is enhancing its frequency to the verge of a violent crescendo on the underground level. With the proper production, time to create, and attention to the craft, these artists are showing us project by project that there is and will forever be room for hip-hop artists, and the other trendier music will have to remold and adapt as time passes. The latest album by K.L.U.B. Monsta “When Gawd Ready” is the latest example of what the city of Birmingham has to offer musically.

As the first track “Kangol Sweaters” begins, you hear the words “I was a living witness” as he eludes to drug sales and later a murder taking place that goes without justice due to the lack of a witness. J Dotta goes on the speak on the looming presence of the Reaper intent to claim the “souls for death position”. A highlight within the verse was the “deep sea” word play he choose to use while trying to stress the depth of words to the listener while also ushering them into the next line if they didn’t catch it or care to listen. The second verse, lead by Joshua, he discusses several different topics from relationship issues, drug use, retirement, to fatigue all in such a short time. First, he addresses a dilemma he has with a certain female which centers around him not being accustomed to the type of love she shows and his aptitude to show his affection in a much more “physical” manner. Later, he paints a picture of her drug use and his fall into them as well. A dichotomy emerges as he proclaims himself a “rap gawd” but is reluctant to receive the praises and adoration for his work which may be a product of his growing disdain for the music culture as a whole and feeling like the game is “rigged”. The exciting and momentum building hook given by B Flat along with the strong production tie in well and help deliver a solid intro to this album.

On another B Flat feature, the song titled “Thousand Hours” provides a definite sound shift in the project and a very introspective set of verses over smooth production and vocals. Joshua leads the song questioning how to make his dreams into reality while dealing with the everyday grind and trying to find true purpose in life with lines like “what do you do when you give your all and get nothing from it”. He does, however, leave on a high note stating that he’s focused on improving by helping people in need and being sure to love more, beginning with his own mother. Kel takes the second verse, breaking down the decision-making process of a man who grew up in harsh circumstances not too distant from his own and asking if selling drugs, teen pregnancies and dropping out of school are merely the result of the cop-outs of those not willing to fight for the proper means to live a more purposeful life. He finishes his verse by challenging them to grind and make something of themselves for their mothers’ sakes if nothing else to show her that her constant sacrifices didn’t go in vain. Dotta closes the song as he provides a view of his current situation, from the need to keep a gun due to trust issues, shifts in luck and favor, his will to persevere despite the misfortune and even death that follows him throughout the area he’s catapulted from. This song is one on trial and triumph that would be a great listen to anybody going through a tough time looking for motivation.

The song “Pre Season” another high-octane, momentum-filled bar heavy track that all three artists attack and find their respective lanes and positions to shine. The production for this song provides a tempo and electricity that demands powerful vocal emphasis and strong verses, and the group did their part to deliver in that respect. ‘Hunger Games’ & Charlie Wilson references, ‘rap’ flips and wordplay all lend a hand to give Kel a leading verse that drives into the hook that takes the song to another level sonically. Joshua comes in second and veers away from the tone he has held on earlier songs and goes into a more aggressive and surface-level tone. You can hear a different type of bravado emanating through the speakers and southern drawl to connect the dots on this verse as he dives into a more boastful and arrogant bag while highlighting his exploits with women. Dotta comes in for the last verse, with an energy that was fitting for the last leg of the song. The flow pattern changes and bravado throughout the track tied in well with the well-placed wordplay as the momentum built to the climax of his verse. Strong beat. Solid verses. Good song.

            As we approach the back half of the album, the song “Mugshots” shows that the group is poised to highlight their rap skills and respective repertoires in cinematic fashion. Kel starts off declaring his dominance over his rap peers and hopes its hard for them to stomach. Intent on not being wasteful lyrically, Kel pens and delivers each line with some sort of clever one-liner, sports scheme, and movie reference to ensure that his points and thoughts are well received and understood. “The ill opposed are ill advised, no iller guys” ties in perfectly to the final line of his verse that repeats “we can take out crews the word is genocide” stating that any group isn’t above receiving smoke from this rap collective. Without a hook it runs right into Joshua’s verse where he brings us into his mind as he battles with the memories of lost people from either God’s call, prison, or black on black crime. He doubles down on his issue with prison systems and the mandated minimum sentencing that robs the youth from a lot of the black men in America today. In addition to prison, he highlights drug use and how even the great Michael Jackson couldn’t escape its clutches and “barely made it to fifty”. His verse continues the path of drugs and addiction revealing a story of a woman hiding her things from an addict to avoid theft which would undoubtedly by a vehicle for drug purchases and reminds us listeners to take care of our bodies as the “good book tells us to treat it special”. Dotta finds himself in a familiar place, as he closes the song out in a similar fashion of Pre Season with the multiple flows, wordplay, and hunger-filled vocal presence. This verse, however, has a much more outwardly focused story-telling style. He describes the shooting of his uncle, violence leading to murder, modern-day slave parallels, and his mentality that has been shaped by his environment in that he also carries a weapon and will use if provoked. The slave parallels seem to focus on the house/field slave division as it relates to loyalty and teamwork in the present. He rounds out this strong verse declaring the group’s presence as a force, stating his possible distrust in the preachers of today, and making it known that if you liked their project Canvas then you should love this one as he refers to it as “the Mona Lisa”.

            Satchmo in the Trapspot is an up-tempo bass-heavy banger with a chant-style pro-black chorus with horns complimenting the militant/revolutionary vibe of the song. This song is a strong track that is a good addition to the song sequence on the 4th quarter of the tape. Each artist finds their room to get in where they fit in and leave their stamp on the song and/or chorus. The saxophone solo at the end gives this song a speak-easy jazz club vibe which further cements the vibe of a revolution in that it feels created in a place that is secluded and off the radar from widespread attention.

            Overall, this project offers good content, solid lyricism, great production, and enjoyable tracks that will lend to extended replay value. This album does put artists and producers in the city on notice that there is and has been real talent within the city of Birmingham, that with the proper resources, could really make noise on a larger scale with the proper time, resources, and effort. There were moments, however, when the album didn’t put together the full page of all those components which caused it to suffer in those infrequent but glaring areas throughout the project. This isn’t stated to confuse or distort the fact the artist/producer pairing served well to offer a full spectrum of sonically entertaining material with some rich sounds and artistic expression from the rappers on this album, or that this is one of the better indie Birmingham albums of the year, its just a reminder that the presence of all pieces gives the best chance of completing the puzzle for the listeners.

 

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RATING 

OVERALL 4.0/5

CONTENT 4.0/5

LYRICISM 3.8/5

PRODUCTION 4.6/5

 

 

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