Review Summary: Native American hip-hop activist, Komplex Kai, rings true with some extremely hard hitting tunes on “Do Right”.
Komplex Kai brings some extremely hard hitting tunes to the rap roundtable. The tracks on Do Right are as much his personal stories as they are his songs and this Native American hip-hop activist pulls no punches. Unashamed and unapologetic about how he’s lived his life on the Tulalip tribal reservation Kai provides a guided tour to what his life has been like there from beginning to end of his most recently released album. What he reveals is not always politically correct or pretty, but it never fails to feel real. Welcome to his world.
On The Map is the opening song where the man who has been called by some as the Native American Tupac layers lyrical east coast versus and choruses atop thick west coast rhythms. Here he gives props to his Pacific Northwest stomping grounds as well as a tip of the hat to some of his musical influences. The overall effect is like what happens when an eighteen wheeler tractor-trailer drives through a spider web. Whereas the web won’t stop the multi-ton truck its sticky silk strands adhere to its metallic surface. Just like the way this artist’s words stick to the heavy beats he lays down.
A bit more on the R&B side is Warning. Here Kai’s delivery leans more to the old school styles of urban music. In part he achieves this by clever wordplay juxtaposed with some distinctly vintage samples. As in the early days of hip-hop he uses this cut as a way of letting those who sit upon the top of the heap at the major record labels that they’ve been served. What’s going to happen will happen, and they’ve been justly warned.
With tongue placed firmly in cheek I’m Sorry is tossed in to crack us up. Komplex Kai makes no secret of promising the world that he plans to be nothing more than what he is, and what that is, is he’s in your face. Throughout this number he spits at the mic with a swagger that’s a dare. Almost like he’s sticking out his chin and goading someone to take a poke at it. Anyone who would be foolish enough to take him up on his invitation would be sporting stitches in the aftermath. Why? Well that just the way this Komplex kind of guy rolls.
Bag It Up ups the attitude ante and takes the bravado level through the ceiling. Tough talk hurled with razor sharp rhymes are evidently Komplex Kai’s weapons of choice. Go against him he’ll stab you with pointed words, lacerate you with twisted lines, then like a master swordsman he’ll parry back before you can attack in retaliation. Kind of like a MC musketeer, if you will.
The formula for most hip-hop albums is to include at least one track that will get the people up and out on the dance floor of the club. Electro House does this task on Do Right, and it does it very well. As the title implies, head-bobbing, finger-popping, toe-tapping is what it promises and it delivers it to our hungry ears like a piping hot pizza when you’re jonesing with those musical midnight munchies. Yum, yum, eat’em up!
If the first five compositions left you with any doubt of just who Komplex Kai really is then In My Veins should dispel any uncertainty. It is not enough just to open up about what you carry inside if you’re unable to do it in a manner that makes those who are listening want to sincerely know who you are. This not a problem for this artist who has the blood of our country’s Indigenous People flowing through his body. Something I discovered as I dove deeper and deeper into his work it that it only makes you want to know more about the man who made this music.
As with any opera, eventually the fat lady sings, the lights go down, and then the show is over. Typically title tracks on albums are seldom saved to be the last song. But that’s exactly what Kai does on Do Right. That song is such a powerhouse that that was the only logical place for it. It’s a bittersweet anthem about being torn between worlds, between right and wrong, and between going for what we want and what we’re willing to do to get it. Life on the reservation may not have been easy for Komplex Kai, but he knows it’s made him what he is today – and that’s an unquestionably talented and complicated man.