Los Angeles-based rapper Kenan Bell has spent the last four years teaching vocabulary to fourth through sixth-graders. On his debut full length, Until the Future, he shows off his own vocabulary with his backpack style.
For ears used to listening to the polished rap stylings of T.I. or Jay-Z, Kenan Bell sounds like a mess. Perhaps that is because his style is much more akin to alternative rapper like Kool Keith and Lupe Fiasco. However Bell has already managed to reach a large audience. The album’s first single, “Like This”, is featured on NBA 2k10. The tracks’ instrumental is a fairly simple drum beat with spaceship synths. But what makes the track is Bell’s disjointed flow and his wacky lyrics. In the track, Bell raps similes like “I must do the max like gluteus” and metaphors like “life is a test and it’s one you can’t make up.”
With lines like those, its no wonder Kenan Bell has made some fans. The major weakness of Until the Future is the beats. Both “Chlo” and “100k” have beats that sound like something Ratatat threw away. While the other tracks’ beats are so dull, they really don’t have a comparison.
For fans of word play, Kenan Bell probably delivers better than most of his contemporaries. Sometimes his lyrics are a little inane or asinine, but for the most part he’s not trying to be super serious. Unfortunately, I still think his lyrics come off as lame to me. And with poor production, I do not find the album to have that many redeeming qualities. I think Kenan Bell has a lot of talent, but I’m just not feeling this album.