REVIEW: ARIZONA BABY // Kevin Abstract
Review by: Bridget McGuigan
Kevin Abstract has been keeping his fans waiting with bated breath for the past few weeks while he teased the public with snippets of his most recent studio solo album, ARIZONA baby. The BROCKHAMPTON vocalist began the wave of excitement with a post of the album cover on Twitter and Instagram.
The cover reveal was followed up a few days later with a teaser for the album which flashed the phrases “Teach me empathy. Teach me how to feel. Teach me how to trust. Teach me how to change.”
Finally, Abstract feeds his devoted fans a morsel of new music, with another quick video on his Instagram of him stepping up a ladder, performing a snippet of the track that we now know is “Use Me.” And as if this wasn’t enough, Abstract decided to really start a true fan frenzy and post a photo of him peeling an orange, with the numbers 11th, 18th, and 24th, the dates in April in which he dropped parts of the record. He released the album in three parts. On April 11th, when “Big Wheels,” “Joyride” and “Georgia” were available, fans were unsure if he was putting out a full-length album or three separate EPs. However, Abstract put rumors to rest with his brief return to Twitter, saying he was releasing the album in parts. April 18th saw the drop of the songs “Baby Boy,” “Mississippi” and “Corpus Christi” as an EP (which included the previous three tracks) called Ghettobaby. Die hard BROCKHAMPTON fans were taken for a surprise when Abstract took the time to rap about the band’s most recent troubles on “Corpus Christi.” “I wonder if Ameer thinks about me, or what he thinks about me/See when I think about me, I barely think about me/I think about the people that surround me, and how I let 'em down/I’m doin’ that right now by even fuckin' talkin’ 'bout this.”
“Teach me empathy. Teach me how to feel. Teach me how to trust. Teach me how to change.”
He goes on to apologize to bandmate Dom McLennon for airing their dirty laundry, but that doesn’t stop him from continuing on with the track, which features some of his heaviest lines since BROCKHAMPTON tracks like “JUNKY” and “WEIGHT.” The day before every new release, Abstract would upload a music video before they were available for streaming. This tactic is reminiscent of when BROCKHAMPTON released a video for “J’OUVERT” the day before iridescence dropped. Finally, the 24th arrived and ARIZONA baby was ripe for the picking. The much-awaited record opens with the head bopping high hat hits that back Abstact’s impeccable but brief flow in “Big Wheels.” The track could have easily been a cacophony of differing instrumentals, but with producers like the famed Jack Antonoff and BROCKHAMPTON’s very own Romil Hemnani, we received an absolute banger that transitioned perfectly into the quick and unfaltering track, “Joyride.”
Abstract flexed his genre-melding skills when he added mellow, soft rock elements to his slower, more charming tracks. “Peach,” which features Dominic Fike and fellow BROCKHAMPTON vocalists, Joba, and bearface, lulls you into an environment composed of unconditional love and earnest compassion. The gentle, lush guitar with the almost tropical drums almost melt into your heart: “It's all peaches and cream/If you left your love I'll be right.” “Baby Boy” and “Crumble” offer similar euphonic, silvery instrumentals while Abstract’s emotional dam breaks and the waves of his insecurities and hardships crash over you in autotuned excellence. With the number of varying techniques that Abstract and his producers were utilizing in “American Problem,” the track falls a bit flat and messy.
Between the pitch-shift vocals to the droopy drum beats and goofy piano chords, the first half is somewhat sloppy, but still musically solid. However, the beat change is stuttering and a little off-putting. When the dust is settled and the transition is over, the junky, metallic beat that follows is absolutely unprecedented. Abstract’s lines are impactful and heavy, rapping, “I was a flaming f*ggot, that's what the principal called me/Not to my face, but I felt when I was stuck in his office.”
Abstract and his team made the right move releasing the record in pieces. It forces you to really appreciate every song in its own individuality. It allowed listeners to absorb and dissect exactly what they were being presented and understand what he was trying to convey. This kind of listening isn’t really possible when you’re given all eleven tracks at one time. Abstract pours his heart and soul into every lyric. The over the top horns, thumping bass beats, soft guitar strums and catchy high hats wrap themselves around every verse, word, and syllable with care and diligence. The rock and bedroom pop instrumentals in this album mixed perfectly with the other hip hop elements. To put it quite simply, ARIZONA baby is just outright good.