Bar Exam: Kenneth Townsell – Seems Like Forever (Album)
A One Listen Album Review
We haven’t heard much from Kenneth Townsell since he released “Murder The Rap Game” in spring of 2017. Since then, he’s paired up with Isaac Wheadon, a DJ of mainly house music style, for a 5 track EP entitled “Seems Like Forever.” While the former sounded to me like some good ol’ hip-hop, I’m expecting the latter to be uniquely different. As always I’m excited to hear some new stuff, and see how far these guys expanded their creative boundaries.
I geek out about music, so my first listen has no rules. It’s more fun that way. I may pause to use Google (or to use the restroom.) I may jump the track back to hear a line again. This is how I listen to an album for the first time. What you get is my first thoughts, honest and unfiltered. At the end I’ll let you know if the project is great (above the bar), needs some work (at the bar), or missed the mark (below the bar). Let’s go.
Just Another Day – Begins with some chimes, and a glitchy sample. The beat comes in sounding a bit unorthodox. “Trying to stay calm through the madness/where is the joy and the gladness/where will the good things come and the bad things leave/I need a new tree” Kenny jumps in with a flow that’s a bit out of the box. It feels like he’s trying to stretch some lines so that they fall at the end of the bars perfectly. The instrumental is intricate and it fits well beneath what he’s bringing here. The beat switches up beneath the hook. “Just another day/I’m trying to find my way.” There’s some trippy stuff going on here. The music seems a little scattered and just implements some new sounds just for the sake of it. A lead line comes in with a high keys line, and then we roll straight into the next song.
Moonlight – The music bed here stays similar to the first track. Relying on some keys and an off-kilter beat. I think Kenny just referred to Mo Thugs with this “G double O D Good” line. Just like the first track, the instrumental changes up and progresses, adding layers as it pushes on. Kenny comes at it with an even-keel demeanor, not too aggressive and pretty laid back with the flow. Something here reminds me of Common’s “Finding Forever” album.
Waiting On You Intro – This is an interlude track inviting the listener to chill, think and breathe. The etherial feel of the instrumental around it, paired with the challenge to listen to the holy spirit and sleep is at once calming and imposing. The music calls for you to relax, the words spoken here jolt you into action.
Waiting On You – The instrumental sets up the song here. Once again some ambient vibes that fill the entire space with brilliance. Kenny comes at this flow from the perspective of God explaining the fall of man. “instead of curse the cursed reverse the curse instead of dirt/the dead will arise when the trumpets burst/but I need you to trust me first” The layers peel back to a thoughtful Chorus from Isaac Wheadon “My child I’m waiting on you.” We ride out this track from this spot. I do notice that Kenneth doesn’t return to verses too often on this project, making the songs seem linear. If that’s the direction they chose to go, it’s fine. I feel like with some of these tracks, the production takes over and leaves the emcee behind.
Rise – A lot of samples looping over each other. This has a slow burn to the intro, but once the beat drops in here he comes with the flow. This is probably the most intricate rhyme scheme of the project. “Still I rise like Mya and Tupac/and tube socks in too hot weather/and two cops on trial/I rise like blue collars on Monday, church folks on Sunday/Models on a runway/I rise…” It’s dope, but unlike the last few tracks, the song relies fully on Kenny here. I didn’t feel like the music enhanced the track at all. By the end of the song we evolve into a different feel and a hook-like descant. “You breathe life into me.”
I really appreciate what they did here. The melding of the hip-hop world with the techno/house/trance vibes definitely works. Seems Like Forever for me is just an appetizer calling for a full platter of the real thing though. I feel like my appetite was wetted for some more bars, and some more experimentation on where these soundscapes could go. I applaud Kenneth and Isaac for choosing to take this route and actually arriving at the destination. There’s more to be desired for sure, but it’s not a bad first attempt.