Thursday, April 15, 2010

You Should Know About Kristoff Krane (w/ new video!)

First of all, here's the new video for "Miracle?" from Kristoff Krane. There's a long story behind the making of and eventual release of the video, but I'll just say it's really soul-affirming to see it actually complete and available for people to watch. Big congratulations to Chris.



Also, pay attention to the promos at the end. Yes, me and Big Cats are playing the "Picking Flowers Next to Roadkill" release party on May 15, so you should come to that, but DEFINITELY DO NOT SLEEP ON "Hunting for Father." the OTHER album Kristoff Krane is releasing in May (on the 28th at the Cedar). I got an advance copy, and it's one of the most revelatory listening experiences I've ever had.

Stylistically, Chris mixes rapping, singing, live instrumentation and a kind of "wall of sound" sampling technique. None of those things are new or innovative in and of themselves. But what he DOES with this sonic palette is unlike anything I've ever heard. The songs on "Hunting for Father" are at once completely weird and out-there AND immediately catchy and listenable. His ear for pop hooks and singalongable melodies is out of this world. And somehow, he makes an acoustic-guitar driven folk song next to a monstrous, bass-heavy hip hop track next to a ridiculous mash-up of it all work, and work insanely well.

Honestly, it's like El-P meets Regina Spektor. And that's not a crazy comparison for a crazy comparison's sake-- that's really what this album sounds like. In a good way. MAYBE mix in a little K-OS. Some people might hear some Buck 65 in there, or some Kimya Dawson, but there's a sledgehammer sincerity and earnestness to Chris' vocals, not to mention his technical mastery as a rapper, that makes the prior comparison more apt.

But more than all that, the album is about WHAT Chris is saying. I've made no secret of my personal dislike for impressionistic rap (lots of cool-sounding phrases that don't really mean anything... or maybe they do, but the meaning is buried underneath a million layers of gibberish) and "oh my feelings are so important" rap, and this album traffics in both of those things to some extent, but in a way that really transcends that approach. There are a few songs that make no sense to me, but the warmth and humanism and (for lack of a better term) REALNESS of the writing makes me WANT to come back and figure everything out.

And where a lot of hip hop these days tries to be clever, and some tries to be intelligent, there's a real wisdom in this album, and that's a very different thing. Not in the sense that it's going to solve all your problems for you, but it deals with issues of perspective, love and community in an absolutely enthralling way.

It'd be very easy for Kristoff Krane to relax. He's one of the best freestyle emcees on the planet (again, I don't think I'm exaggerating). He's a brilliant rhyme technician and could make album after album of punch-you-in-the-face underground hip hop if he wanted to. He could ride the coattails of his more famous friends and make a comfortable living in indie-rap land as a really good emcee. But what I love most about Chris is that he doesn't want to be "a really good emcee." He wants to make innovative, original, life-changing, beautiful MUSIC. And with "Hunting for Father," I think he's really succeeded.

This is a very exciting time for Twin Cities hip hop, especially if you can get past Rhymesayers and Doomtree (no disrespect to them, but they get enough love). Chris is releasing two amazing albums. No Bird Sing has one of the best live shows I've ever seen. Call me crazy, but I really like that Guante & Big Cats album that came out in January. The new albums from Big Quarters, See More Perspective, The Tribe, and many more are going to be monsters. I could rattle off the names of everyone I know who is doing big things this year, but that would take too much space. And the two Kristoff Krane shows happening in May should be a perfect entry point for anyone looking to explore what this scene really has to offer. See you there.

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