Bay Area artist, author and rapper KOOL A.D. has been an undeniably fresh, galactic golden child of the rap game for several years now. Though relatively unknown, he’s been putting out consistently lovable mixtapes under his own name since early 2012. The latest album in his contemporary lineup, “O.K.,” clocks in at six and a half hours, with exactly 100 tracks. And indeed, this absurd collection is so marvelously ambitious, so diverse and exciting, it may very well be unique within all hip-hop.
When wandering this purple oceanic titan, countless different styles of instrumental emerge. KOOL A.D.’s long-time producer Amaze 88 is back, with his distinct sampling of jazz music – the bright, classy beats are a familiar canvas for KOOL A.D. Between sporadic interludes of vaporwave, doctored free jazz and even legitimate hardcore-punk, other favorite collaborators return. Trackademics, Toro y Moi, Issue and Steel Tipped Dove provide magnificently fire beats … and the perfect backdrop for Vazquez to, as he says, “freak the Spanglish.”
And, oh, freak it he does. This bearded, bespectacled wizard freaks it beyond our wildest dreams. Through an ingenious combination of silky flow, pop culture, tireless humor, extravagant slang, universal truths, whimsical wordplay, English, Spanish and even self-aware satire, KOOL A.D. makes an intelligent rollercoaster. First heard on track #2, (whose beat is a great big sample of the theme from “Downton Abbey,”) Vazquez makes a lovely entrance, but is barely even getting warmed up. Following that comes the first example of what he can do to a funky, modern beat: murder it. Toro y Moi lays down a hype instrumental for “Santeria” as KOOL A.D. unveils a charming gift of his – the ability to rap seamlessly, alone, with no hook and hardly a break. And his delivery is only a hint of things to come.
Throughout the tape, he switches subject matter and general tone surprisingly often. While Vazquez is liable to seem quite happy as a disciple of cookie-cutter trap, the passage of a few short bars may see him discussing far more whimsical things. Some favorite mentions include the cost of four ice cream sundaes, choosing opera over television, eating pasta in Rome or his similarity to Wayne Shorter. The latter, in particular, is a delight no rapper seems to pull off quite as well as KOOL A.D. the sudden mention of a celebrity as being similar to himself. I’ve humbly coined this vehicle a “name pop.” Vasquez has dropped so many of these name pops throughout the years, each more charmingly irreverent than the last: David Bowie, Sammy Sosa, Justin Bieber, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Keanu Reeves and Pat Benatar are just a small selection.
And yet, this album is made even more exotic by featuring a myriad of guest rappers. KOOL A.D. is joined by longtime associates Lakutis, Kassa Overall and Big Baby Gandhi, alongside newer additions like Killer Mike (of Run the Jewels), Fat Tony and Chaz Van Queen. They all showcase great prowess, with some verses almost rivaling Vazquez’s wit. In the end, however, KOOL A.D. is our warmest guide along such an imaginative journey. One hundred tracks is intimidating, to be sure, but almost every single one is a certified banger. Keep your ears open for “Future Primitive Art School,” “Hypersensitive Jester,” “Thought So” or “Reggae Shmop,” and download “O.K.” for free on his Bandcamp page!
Scan the QR code to listen to a preview of “O.K.” and to purchase the album.