I really wanted to like this album. Kero One is obviously a nice, genuine human being and he produced the entire album himself. Unfortunately, I just can’t do it. This felt too much like a paint-by-numbers exercise and the content was too repetitive.
On the beats, there’s not a lot of range. Kero One is either dropping some chilled-out, jazz-lite compositions or some awkward electro-sounding bangers. It’s a strange mix for sure, but I have to give him credit for making it work. I might not like a lot of the songs here, but the pacing on this track list is a testament to the fact he’s becoming a veteran.
First of all, Kero One knows that he’s got a laid back flow. That can definitely work for some people, but there’s too many points on Kinetic World where he just sounds bored with his own verses. Then again, when he does open up over the beat, it’s an eye-opening change of pace. Most of the time, though, it just means that his guests are constantly out-shining him on his own tracks. Case in point would be the second track, where Fashawn completely owns the beat and makes Kero One’s meandering contribution uncomfortably forgettable. He also gets shown up badly on “Asian Kids”, especially by Dumbfoundead, who drops a short, powerful history of Asian rappers that was jaw-droppingly tight.
My biggest problem with the album: there are some really, embarrassingly bad songs on here. Few people in hip-hop are capable of making a love song that’s not a syrupy cliche, but “On Bended Knee” is especially painful thanks to his off-kilter flow and just plain boring lyrics. It might be heartfelt but it’s too cheesy to get with.
What makes the bad material so disappointing is the fact that Kero One is completely capable of putting together great music. On “Missing You” he takes a cliched format (story-telling through writing a letter to someone) and makes it all work perfectly, painting a vivid picture with an effortlessly complex verse that hits the laid-back jazzy beat dead-on. The very next track, “Time Moves Slowly”, is a posse cut where everyone delivers the goods. Although the hook on “My Devotion” feels way too close to shitty techno, Kero One brings serious energy to the track with strong, relatable verses and polished story-telling.
When I call Kinetic World a “paint-by-numbers exercise,” it’s because so many of these songs have all been done before. “We Stay Fly” is by far the worst offender, an ode to dressing fresh that wouldn’t have been impressive 10 years ago. This is a subject a lot of people have covered, and Kero’s verse here is, again, flat-out boring. Guest emcee Othello dominates the track with a tight flow and some intricate wordplay, and of course with Dminor on the hook, the music is at least excellent.
What’s funny is that my favorite track on this album is probably the most cliched production on the entire project: “Let’s Ride” is an unapologetic summer jam that’s basically about, well, being an unapologetic summer jam. However, his energy is great, the beat is rock solid, and the hook is awesome. Sure, it’s vocoded West Coast funk on autopilot, but it’s damn tasty.
But by the time the end of the album rolled around, I can’t lie, I just wanted it to be over. “Fast Life” sounded way too much like nearly every other track that came before it, and “Remember All That” is a totally un-necessary “back in the day” track that brings nothing new to the table, over a curiously flat-sounding beat that should be a banger but feels like it wasn’t fully inflated.
At the end of the day, though, Kero One has crafted a very honest, personal, and distinctive album here. I wish the lyrics weren’t so generic. I wish he didn’t get dominated by every guest he brought on board. I wish I’d liked Kinetic World, but I have to be honest, too. And I just don’t see myself playing any of these tracks again.