Review Summary: Young artist Kevin Abstract, on his path to self-discovery, releases his sophomore album which takes another step in the right direction toward defining his sound.
Abstract, currently only 20 years old, has already left a mark with his 2013 debut, “MTV 1987.” At the close of the year, it slid its way onto a couple end of the year lists and left anticipation for his next move. Since he was 14 he’s been involved in music and since then he’s clearly made a lot of progress, even earlier this year he was part of a mixtape released as BROCKHAMPTON entitled “All-American Trash.” Now highly ambitious Abstract steps to the plate to dish out his sophomore record and delivers a smash hit which proves to be a much more confident release than anything he’s previously touched.
Unlike his debut, “American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story,” uses short diverse tracks with personal lyrics and also marks a change in direction from alternative hip-hop to alternative R&B. The short runtime of each cut leaves little room for repetition which makes the whole feel fast moving and gives much value to replays. With each spin, you’ll catch details you missed the previous turn, reflecting the ever-changing sound of the album.
The album wastes no time grabbing your attention, serving up “Empty” as the first song which has a dusty sounding piano with a tuba to heighten the beat and give it a classic 90’s feel. Most tracks include some sort of light electronic element, “Empty” includes a popping background beat. Also, featured in many tracks throughout, is a choir which seems to be a heavy theme in 2016 with all the “gospel rap” being put out; but Abstract does so effectively and it pushes many tracks from good to great. One of the best examples of this is “Runner” where the choir sample is chopped and played at different pitches to create the sickest beat the album has to offer.
“American Boyfriend,” like previously mentioned, relies on quick songs heavily contrasting “MTV1987’s” songs which often ran past the 6-minute mark. Tracks such as “Kin,” “Friendship,” or “June 29th” clock in at less than a minute but feel necessary to the album. Juxtaposed tightly together are a buffet of genres. “Blink” is possibly the most hip-hop the album ever gets which is followed by “Friendship,” a 23 second track which sounds like it was recorded live in the back of the bar. “Tattoo” is the next which has a country sounding beat, acoustic guitar, harmonica, and all. If that wasn’t enough, “Yellow” follows that, which could easily be a beat to a Coldplay song (No, I’m not making a “Yellow” joke). But “Miserable America” takes the cake for best track quite easily with its funky bass line, it’s catchy “I Don’t Care!” sample and soaring “Oooh oooh Oooh” choir back ground to carry it all.
Lyrically, Abstract takes on many personal issues that conflict his life. Love is an overall theme, but it gets much deeper than that, although the lyrics never get too poetic to jump over anyone’s heads. One of the most honest and personal lines of the record comes from “Papercut” when Abstract sings “Can’t tell my family I’m bi, can’t tell my mother I’m gay, the hardest part of my day is wishing I was ***ing straight.” One line that stuck with me was “I need you to tell me I’m better than Drake.” Well Kevin, if we’re talking 2016, I think you just might have done it, kid.