Review Summary: A boastful debut for a boastful YouTube personality
Oh boy.... KSI making music. I have hate for his YouTube channel, which has greatly declined in quality since late 2013. However, this isn't a review of his YouTube channel, so that rant that no one will care about will be saved for later. I was quite surprised when he began releasing music on bigger labels, and had mixed reactions when this EP was announced.
But yeah, the Keep Up EP exists. No clue as to why Island Records decided to sign this guy. Guaranteed that if KSI never had a YouTube channel, but instead just had friends, connections, etc., his EP wouldn't be in the UK top 20, he wouldn't have his "la-Lamborghini", he'd practically be another Cord. Who" Exactly. Why are they relevant" Somehow they were signed to Island Records.... and still a commercial failure. They were forgotten after a year. Whoever played Madden 07 and was an deep audiophile in 2006 knew Cord. Whoever watches KSI's YouTube channel knows KSI. Cord didn't have any major connections. I'm still confused as to why Island signed them, but since this review isn't centered around them, I'll move on.
The music, now. What to expect from this thing" I expected boastful lyrics that would pretty much come useful to only KSI himself and music any tryhard teenager who blares ***ty trap rap in the cafeteria would enjoy. On spot with the lyrics, not all too much with the music, though. Overall, it's a normal UK-based hip hop EP with pop-influenced grime. Very loose grime. Definitely not on the scale of early Dizzee Rascal or Jme, who is actually one of KSI's actual friends. Too bad Jme's modern grime doesn't rub off much on KSI, though. He does have a guest verse on the title track, which is not the weakest track, but also not the best. The two spoken word verses coming from some typical female English teenager who is confused as all hell as to who KSI, his Ultimate Sidemen "posse"/YouTuber group, and Jme are and as to why they're all on her Twitter feed are downright annoying (she is also confused as to what grime music is). Stupid addition, ruining a rather decent pop rap song. It's way too short, as well. Definitely can be extended.
The next two tracks, however, definitely make up for it. Smoke 'N' Mirrors features a great chorus performance by Tiggs da Author, as well as okay-to-good guest verses from Lunar C and Nick Brewer. It's even got a pop rock guitar riff going in the background of the chorus, which tops it off. KSI's verse, no surprise, is the weakest link of the song. Surprisingly enough, the next track, "Kilimanjaro" (and no, it's not about the mountain), is the best track on the EP. The surprising part" KSI raps on his own. It's all him. For a good amount of time, as well (it's the lengthiest track on the EP, too). The instrumental on its own isn't making up most of the song (see "Keep Up" and "Encore"), minus the intro/outro, and KSI delivers lyrics with quite a good flow. Boastful yet again, but still, good flow, and over a hardcore hip hop and drill-like instrumental which completes said flow, as well. I bet you didn't expect the best song to be the only solo track on this thing. I expected it to be the worst, taking the length and no featured rappers into account.
A redone posse version of KSI's debut solo single "Lamborghini" is next, which is no better than the single version. Featuring KSI's first major collaborator Sway, Youngs Teflon, and Scrufizzer. The instrumental is the exact same, which isn't all that bad. KSI's verse is better than the original, the posse verses are decent, although none really match up to P Money's verse in the original version. The final track leaves a really bad taste in my mouth, though. "Encore" features this awkward instrumental in the hook that is very hard to comprehend and describe. The hook is just KSI repeating "So can I, get a, ***ing, encore"" a few times, with some distorted voice in the background exclaiming "yeeeeaa" and questioning "wut da fuok""". Yeah, it doesn't add up well. KSI's verse doesn't help either. I expected this to be one of the best tracks, honestly, seeing as to how it was the final track, while being titled "Encore", and featuring KSI's first collaborator and long-time friend Randolph. Seeing the two do a song together on KSI's first major-label project intrigued me a lot. But the final product" No. Hell no. It's awful. Randolph's verse is good, but the rest is just awful. Again, a bad taste left in my mouth.
Keep Up is not a good start for KSI, but it does help him. It's a mistake he can learn from. Or at least he hopefully will learn from it. He can go a long way if he takes the right steps. But for his debut project, it's just not a good start. It's got good moments, decent ones, and an awful finisher. My prediction was a decent-to-bad EP, although I was a bit surprised to get a decent one instead of a bad project.