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Kirk Knight - IIWII (It Is What It Is) Music Album Reviews

The Pro Era rapper finds the middle of the road on his latest project, chasing hot sounds in lieu of finding his own.

As a rapper and producer, Kirk Knight is serviceable at best. He’s a Swiss Army knife, able to bend his vanilla rap style to any production that supports him. His 2015 debut, Late Night Special was a largely tame affair, side-stepping around the thick ’90s air that continuously threatens to engulf Pro Era’s existence. Three years, a collaboration album, (Nyck @ Knight) and an instrumental project (Black Noise) later, IIWIIarrives limply. The rhymes are cool, the beats are OK, and, taken together, it’s mostly tolerable. Truly, it is what it is.

There’s no electric presence to counterbalance the vanilla spirit of his music. Kirk firmly abides by the unspoken rap subgenre rules, refusing to deviate from well-worn pathways to forge interesting trails of his own. IIWII may be only 12 tracks but it feels like it’s dragging its feet to get to the end. His stabs at a hodgepodge of popular styles are just grasping at straws. The album can try and emulate what’s hot to win over fans of all types, but, at the end of the day, the lack of unique options makes it more boring than captivating.

IIWII, very badly, wants to be larger-than-life. “M.O.,” an inspirational, shit-talking diatribe, kicks things off with gusto. It careens along with a decent amount of pep, but its delivery of hashtag #bars are eye-rolling. The inspirational talk works when it curses you out with intense, spit-fire locution, but stingers like “Fly on the wall, I’ve been buggin’ out” will send fresh waves of Big Sean-level cringe trickling down the shoulders.

To be fair, knocking Kirk for his lack of explosive lyricism would be in bad faith. He revealed to UPROXX that his songwriting approach has evolved from just studying the thesaurus, with him focusing more on making relatable music as opposed to the nostalgic flow-heavy rap of his Pro Era cohorts. But there are plenty of artists that easily inject freshness into simplistic rhymes—hell, J. Cole rapped about folding clothes and found a way to make one of life’s most boring tasks sound tolerable.

Kirk’s problem isn’t the intelligence behind the bars or the flows; it’s the energy that drives the train. He chugs on methodically without any surprise, risk, or invention behind it. Occasionally, he shakes things up with melodies like on “Leverage” and “Downtime” where he supports the chorus with smooth vocals for just long enough to marinate the songs without simmering away some of their flavors. But elsewhere, like on “Full Metal Jacket,” the lack of creativity makes it feel like he’s pulling us through the mud. Kirk Knight’s heart is right there underneath his obsession with traditionalism. But chasing every hot sound doesn’t make up for the fact that he doesn’t have one of his own.

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