Monday, May 26, 2014

Notes to Self by Sheff's Kitchen

     The last time Knell Rashad and Kenju released a full length project was last January, and after releasing two singles these two "Sheffs" have cooked up a sixteen track album titled Notes to Self  for everyone's listening enjoyment. If the name Sheff's Kitchen doesn't ring a bell, than you should know that this duo is extremely lyrical. The worked heavily with Substantial on their last project, and Notes to Self is mixed entirely by DJ Jav. This isn't the commercial sounding hip-hop some may be used to, this is conscious lyrical hip-hop that will put your brain to work.

     Sheff's Kitchen is a duo comprised of emcee Knell Rashad, and producer Kenju. While Kenju is a very talented producer, it is the lyricism that separates this group from others. The lyrics aren't cliche' by any means, heck, it takes a minimum of two listens just to get an idea of exactly whats being talked about. A lyric sheet would be extremely helpful while listening to this project. Though the deep lyrics may take time to decipher, it is clearly understood that many of the songs have biblical references and are centered around faith in God. The Christian lyrics aren't necessarily overpowering, rather they are used in subtle thought-provoking lines that point to a higher power. This album, in terms of lyrical content, would definitely be accepted by some of hip-hops older generation, and those younger guys and gals trying to restore the essence of the genre. 

     As stated above. Kenju is a very talented producer. The beats are tailored around Knell's lyrical ability and that chemistry is not overlooked. The simple fact of the matter is, this is a lyrics first group, and Sheff's Kitchen seems to be one of the rare cases where the beats are molded around vocals, rather than the other way around. Whether Kenju and Knell wanted to be noted mostly for the rhymes instead of the beats or not, it is what the duo is noted for, and by that standard, they don't disappoint.

     Just so the lyrics aren't the only thing talked about, here is a little on Kenju's style. Kenju brings a boom-bap 90's style of production. This along with with the addition of keys, and a specific drum kick give the album a somewhat darker feel. This same ambiance can be heard on the albums predecessor and seems to be his continuous style, which is by no means a negative description.

     The album also includes a few instrumentals from the likes of Black Milk, Apollo Brown and a few other notable names.  While Notes to Self is sixteen tracks long, it doesn't seem to drag at all. As stated previously, this release is more for the true fans of lyrical hip-hop, and probably won't catch on with fans of the more modern style of rap music. Not that this is bad, just that this Sheff's Kitchen is doing something unique and it seems that similar artists are largely popular with fans of the older style. 

     While Notes to Self may not be the album for everyone, those who do take to their sound, will really enjoy it. This album also shows the progress the duo has made since last January when they released their debut album. They are making more music that is influenced by what's important in their lives, and that's what it's all about. Kenju takes from various genres in his beats creating a 90's style of funky boom-bap beats. Knell Rashad is an underrated lyricist that has lines that may take time to understand. The duo has a bright future in the indie hip-hop world as long as they keep building off each release, like they showed they did with the previous album. Check out the tape, listen to it, gather your thoughts, and comment what you think.

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