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Bryce Vine - Carnival Music Album Reviews

The debut full-length from the “Drew Barrymore” singer isn’t designed for conscious, focused listening. This is music for poolsides and basements.
Bryce Vine describes himself as “OutKast and Blink-182 got drunk with the Gorillaz.” Perhaps a more apt comparison is KYLE taking bong hits with Dave Matthews Band, or Jason Mraz sniffing poppers with Doja Cat. At 31, Vine is at an unconventional age for frat-rap prominence. He established a fanbase nearly a decade ago, as a contestant on “The Glee Project,” a reality television show based off the Ryan Murphy high school drama. His real rise came with 2017’s “Drew Barrymore,” a swirl of neon synths that went platinum, possibly by being added to every “Chill Vibes” playlist in existence.

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Big K.R.I.T. - K.R.I.T. IZ HERE Music Album Reviews

The southern rapper’s latest project captures him the same way he always is: perfectly likable, admirably sincere, predictably dependable and dependably predictable.

Big K.R.I.T. has never had much interest in beef or drama, but early on his new record, he drops what could be interpreted as a jab at one of the famous headliners he’s shared shows with over the years. “You on the radio,” he raps, “They came to see me ’cause I did it without a hit.” It’s a brag, of course, but it’s a bit of a self-own, too. Even after nearly a decade on the industry’s radar, K.R.I.T. still doesn’t have anything even close to a hit, and it’s increasingly hard to imagine he ever will. He’s still working at more or less the same ceiling he was nearly a decade ago when his 2010 breakout mixtape K.R.I.T Wuz Here made him a critical favorite and a potential next-big-thing that never quite was.


That’s not to minimize what he has accomplished. Unlike Donnis or Charles Hamilton and the blog-rap era’s other flash-in-the-pans, K.R.I.T. was able to parlay his talent into a sustainable recording career. Has a following, and longevity isn’t anything to scoff at. And yet there’s a sense that he’s underperformed. After 10 full-lengths, K.R.I.T. is beginning to look like rap’s answer to Ty Segall: consistently good, rarely stop-the-presses great. Even when his projects impress on first listen, they can’t help but bleed together in the big picture.

And so K.R.I.T.’s latest project K.R.I.T. Iz Here captures K.R.I.T. the same as he always is: perfectly likable, admirably sincere, predictably dependable and dependably predictable. The album is ostensibly a sequel to his 2010 breakout project, and the title’s nod to the past only underscores how little his core sound has changed since then. He’s still making music seeped in UGK worship, all soulful Southern country grooves, subwoofer-Shiatsuing bass, and Pimp C snarl. There’s literally a song called “Learned From Texas,” about all the moves he learned from DJ Screw and UGK, as if anybody who’s listened to more than 10 minutes of K.R.I.T.’s music could have possibly overlooked Houston’s influence on him.

But unlike 2017’s 4Eva Is a Mighty Long Time, where K.R.I.T. barely even bothered acknowledging current trends, on K.R.I.T. Iz Here he tries branching out a bit, too. “I Been Waitin,” with its posh, nervy production, borrows liberally from Travis Scott’s art-house trap. Opener “K.R.I.T. Here” taps the jazzy joy of Chance the Rapper and Donnie Trumpet. The Rico Love feature “Obvious” rides the same wave of wistful Caribbean music as Drake’s “Controlla,” while the strip-club fantasia “Blue Flame Ballet” mirrors the freak-soul of Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!” There are shades of Migos in the triplet flows of the clubby trap cut “I Made,” and elements of Frank Ocean in the wistful closing stretch twofer of “High Beams” and “Life in the Sun.”

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All those songs are perfectly fine, because K.R.I.T. is almost incapable of making a song that’s anything less than perfectly fine. And yet maybe K.R.I.T. Iz Here might have been better off if K.R.I.T. had availed himself of a few swings and misses. On “Addiction,” a shameless and otherwise only so-so knockoff of Kanye West and Lil Pump’s “I Love It,” K.R.I.T. is joined by Lil Wayne, who drops one of those unexpectedly great verses that, even this far past his peak, he still delivers regularly enough that we should almost start expecting them. It’s funny and surprising, blasé yet vital. Wayne’s career, in many ways, has been the antithesis of K.R.I.T.’s. He’s hit higher heights than K.R.I.T. by a mile, yet he’s also face planted in ways it’s impossible to imagine K.R.I.T. would ever allow himself. Neither rapper’s approach is intrinsically right or wrong. But one sure is a lot more exciting.


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