Recently the focus of our Local Spotlight segment, K-Riz has taken the Edmonton rap scene by storm with his latest release of Fresh Air. Now, if you didn’t make it to his release party at The Needle on August 4th, and/or if you haven’t yet peeped this album, I am here to help ease your brooding FOMO with a quick look into what is Fresh Air.
Writing album reviews is hard – well, let me rephrase that. Starting an album review is hard. You spend your days listening to and analyzing a piece of work, and then have to try to put into words just exactly how that piece of work makes you feel. Now, I can do that quite easily when it comes to something simple like a good grilled cheese sandwich, but it gets more complicated when you are dealing with something that has more substance than you initially expect – something that deserves more credit than you would expect. That’s where I am at with K-Riz’s latest release, Fresh Air; an album I haven’t been able to turn off just yet. An album that I am going to try to put into words right now. So, you ready?
The title of Fresh Air is more than just fitting for the sound of the album; it’s a breath of fresh air for the artist himself, showing that he is refocused, driven, and ready to take on this next chapter of his plunge into the music scene. And we don’t even have to work hard to figure that out – the first track of the album, Here, finds the artist painting a picture for us, a picture of the struggle he faced to come up to this point in his life. “Everybody laughed/ When I said I’d chase rapping/ Kinda like I’m walking forwards/ But faced backwards”. He isn’t here to tell you about girls, parties, or gangs – we’ll leave that for YG. He’s here to tell you about where he’s going and how he’s getting there; who you should be watching out for.
Now, I’ll be honest with you, it took me a few listens to really get into the album, but I think I know why that is – it’s such an easy album to listen to. Each song flows impeccably into the next – most notably from tracks 3 Kings to Levitate – and though you won’t find any “club bangers” on it, you’ll quickly realize that there doesn’t need to be – it wouldn’t make sense. For K-Riz, this album is more than an easy road into the spotlight. He tells a story with each track, one that paints a bigger picture in its entirety. That’s something that should be appreciated on its own as a quality of the album. It takes work to put together lyrics that aren’t just someone yelling “Unlock the Swag” to an over-synthesized beat (though I would like to note that sometimes we really need to just unlock some god damn swag and that’s OK). K-Riz has made sure to leave every stone upturned, every detail out in the open – he wants us to know who he is and he is going to do it his way.
But one thing that I really like about Fresh Air is that it’s more than just one person. It’s features like Sydney Love, J-Mello and Karimah; it’s producers like LordQuest, JDats and Xian; it’s instrumental work by the likes of Nicholas Yee, Ryan Ast and Octavio Santos. I wish I could name every last person who helped make up this album, but you might get bored and I would definitely spell something wrong. Having multiple producers on tracks can be risky – a risk that Nas took when putting together Illmatic, and one that K-Riz took when putting together Fresh Air. Now, I’m not saying that Fresh Air is as good as Illmatic; it can’t be. They are two completely different albums – each telling a similar story but getting there in completely different ways. It’s a team of producers and artists working as one to create something together. So, here is to everyone on The HonourRoll Music Collective who helped make K-Riz, K-Riz, which is something that I know he will be the first to attest to – something that he will be more than happy to admit. And isn’t that to be admired on its own?
Unfortunately though, not everything can be all shining and wonderful. There is one thing that I don’t like about Fresh Air.
I don’t like that it ends.