Reflections in Real Time is an intensely personal album that attempts to make sense of the arc traced by one’s own life from the point of view of 25 year-old hip hop artist Kilo Kish, and it is excellent. As a half rap, half R&B minimalist hip-hop album, it exists singularly in 2016 and works some nice, while not outstanding downtempo trap beats into a spacey, xx– inspired sonic landscape. But lyrically—and Reflections is absolutely a lyrical album—it succeeds in capturing a stunning snapshot of the post-internet twenty-something existential crisis.
Kilo Kish, aka Lakisha Robinson, is a New York-based artist perhaps best known for her features on a pair of tracks off Vince Staples’ excellent 2015 LP Summertime ‘06. Her work on that album, though serviceable, wasn’t noticeably standout, and although she had released a couple of early EPs and a 2013 mixtape, K+, there wasn’t a enough to suggest that Kish’s first proper full-length would be such a winner. The album feels big as an undertaking while it only probes the smallest of scopes, zeroing in on Kish’s life, all while her speak/sing, unhurried delivery smoothly slides these tracks along like stop motion sketches.
The range of Kish’s probing, however, is admirable. We start with a quick and personal mic check and run straight into the uptempo, brassy standout “Hello, Lakisha”. The track bops along while Kish describes the origins of her own name and how she came upon her artistic moniker, a clear harbinger of the thorough life excavation to come. The record’s opening side is littered with two and three minute exposés on aspects of Kish’s both social and internal life. “Distractions 1” covers sex and longing, “Age + Self Esteem” is the chapter-by-chapter flip through of Kish at various ages, and “Distractions 2” is Kish’s pretty funny take on the well-trodden I-realized-that-I don’t-need-to-be-cool archetype. All of these songs are great and serve to make the album’s opening third the strongest by far. “Age + Self Esteem” does particularly well by including small details that better illustrate each scene while somehow placing the listener more intimately within Kish’s mind. References to the present-day state of social interaction abound, from obsessively checking twitter on “Relief!” to downloading Snapchat on “Collected Views from Dinner” to be better connected, color Reflections‘s Strokes-like romp through New York City’s night life.
Musically, Reflections links its tracks via downtempo trap beats, heavy bass, and clean, empty synths. The mixing is solid and the arrangement puts Kish’s unaffected and occasionally quiet vocals alone front and center, giving her space to stretch from falsetto to a relaxed, low-pitched speech. Occasional songs do, in fact, stand out such as “Hello, Lakisha” for its brass and jazz drumming and “Collected Views” for its noir dance vibe. The latter also takes my vote for best lyrics on the record (“Let’s go c-lubbin’, and by c-lub I mean we’ll take a picture in it”). The spoken word section is also enjoyable enough to avoid self-indulgence.
Extremely inward-looking albums often err on the side of self-indulgent, and although Kish’s tracks are typically interesting enough to remain net positive, the twenty-song-long record could have used a bit of trimming. “Existential Crisis Hour!” is a brief energetic intermission a la Kendrick Lamar’s “For Free!” that consists of Kish asking a series of existential questions while her subconscious answers—a fairly gimmicky move that comes across as a look-how-deep-I-am moment. Its bright, sugary piano track is also an awkward interlude between two slow, particularly synthy tracks. Final track “Outpatient Mentality” puts unnecessary silence between two otherwise solid two-minute tracks. And Reflections probably could have done without a couple of the fine, but not-so-great second half tracks, which may prove serviceable on lesser albums, however serve as unnecessary fillers here (“On the Mend”). But a majority of the songs are brief, well-presented scenes that Kish strings together over the course of the play that is Reflections.
In a lot of ways, Kish sounds like the antithesis of another New York-based female hip hop artist, Nicki Minaj. Where Minaj’s music voraciously consumes large and larger sonic territory in an attempt to constantly be bigger, more fun and more romantic, Kish’s spirals inwards as it burrows deeper and deeper and deeper into itself, dragging the listener along with it on a track of crisp, minimalist production, personal anecdotes, and startlingly insightful moments.
Article by HR Huber-Rodriguez