How real is the snuggle? According to Mikal kHill “more real than the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park”.
In my recent interview with Mikal he described his latest album The Snuggle Is REAL as his version of ‘The Chronic’, a precursor to his forthcoming 2015 album Human Disaster. That release will be mostly Mikal standing solo, Snuggle is quite the opposite as kHill get’s as many of his friends to guest on the release as possible, making for a vibrant and thoroughly entertaining ten tracks.
Very much a progression in sound, kHill channels classic 90s hip-hop whilst accompanied by guitarist Andy Weant on each track. Big kick drums, wet snares and wandering bass-lines provide a solid rhythm whilst Weant works his way around the fretboard. Subtle cuts are provided by dj mo niklz in opening track mistakover.
The first of Nerdcore’s big names lends his vocals to outsiders, a track that finds the usually up-beat Mega Ran on subdued form delivering darker vocals than we’re used to. This far I’ve seen more than one person comment that Dr Awkward’s contribution to the album is their standout. devil & the deep is also subdued, but Doc Awk’s input turns a simple whimsical track into something magical with a softly sung chorus and punchy verse.
Fourth track summertime sadness is the first of two unexpected couplings. Whilst kHill is no stranger to working with Adam Warrock, I didn’t expect to find Chokeules of Backburner Crew and Swamp Thing forming the filler in a vocal tryptic. The sound suits the latter perfectly who is right at home on the soulful track.
It may not be immediately obvious which rapper Dopey Zeigler is better known as in the Nerdcore community when listening to grown unkowns, but if you listen to my recent interview with Mikal kHill he lets slip the identity of the usually secretive artist. You get value for money as we hit the second half of the release with no fewer than four guest vocalist contributing to walkdown. Frequent collaborator and fellow member of Thought Criminals (also expected to release new material next year), Sulfur teams up with Nem along with Ghettosocks and Timbuktu under the guise of Teenburger.
In a departure from his usually downbeat persona, challenge your audience is unexpectedly up-beat and provides the second pairing of guest vocalists that made me double take the track listing. And yet MC Frontalot and More Or Les are perfectly balanced. It makes sense really, both are extremely competent, smart and unassuming. This, for me, is my standout of the album.
It’s the turn of kidDEAD and Shane Hall to jump onto the track for madworld. It’s a dry song, low-key and kind of dangerous sounding. It feels odd writing that, but its a sentiment I can’t shake. Meanwhile a piano riff that wouldn’t be out of place on an early Tom Waits album opens a track in which both Mikal kHill and Schaffer The Darklord managed to begin their verses with the same lines, completely independently of each other in the writing process. You’d expect a darker tone for a track with the Darklord on it made by kHill, and sinking ship fulfills that presumption.
The finale is provided with help from Jesse Dangerously, a rapper known to be able to spit syllables at speed with ease. A more minimal track than many on the album light of day relies heavily on prominent drums and a winding violin which finishes with a flurry.
However ‘real‘ the snuggle may be, what is fact is that this album is a huge step in the right direction for Mikal kHill. Yes it contains input from many of my favourite emcees and artists, but there’s more to it than that. The production is executed extremely well. At times in the past I’ve found kHill’s production to sound a little muggy, almost dampened, and while there is still an element of that in this release the move towards a more natural sound – musically – counters this in no small measure. kHill’s vocals are subtly more accomplished too. In the past he’s come across a little forced or abrasive at times. This time around his delivery seems more fluid and relaxed. Whatever changes have been made behind the scenes, I approve, and this makes The Snuggle Is REAL one of my favourite albums of the year this far. More like this please.
The Snuggle Is REAL reached number three in the Bandcamp Hip-Hop chart upon release and is available to download for $8 or on cassette, yes, I said cassette! for $8 plus shipping now.