free download: kool ad’s latest mind-expanding ‘word ok’ #soundcheck

April 10, 2014

Since the breakup of Das Racist, Kool AD’s whole thing has been “do whatever the fuck I want.” (Hell, it was the name of a Party Animal song…) It’s led the creatively restless MC down some interesting rabbit holes, but his latest solo record Word O.K. feels like the first time as a solo artist he’s not just experimenting; he’s owning it.

By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

Opening with “Open Letter,” Word O.K. kicks off with some of Kool AD’s densest word play. Seriously, there could be master level classes picking this shit apart. It turns Kool AD’s let’s see what y’all will let me get away with on it’s head, asking why the hell do you guys let me get away with all this shit? “Look how many years I’ve been living without a job, like for real though,” he declares mid-track. On “I’m On A Plane,” Kool AD mutates Nirvana’s “On A Plain” into a cloud rap meditation on success. “Think I might just quit rap and live basic / What’s it all mean? Who cares.”

Kool AD’s been half-sarcastically hyping himself as “Kool AD, best rapper in the world” and the weird gonzo joke pays off on “Naughty By Nature.” “Hey, yo, you ever notice that I’m the best rapper in the world and not you?” he asks before turning it around a few seconds later “Who the best? Pac Nas and Big / Ain’t no best.” Word O.K. is an album length sigh and wry smile. It’s an album that makes fun of you for liking it, while also being totally impossible not to like. The old-school tribute “The Front” rides some brilliantly irresistible Toro Y Moi production while warping 80’s hip-hop into an ouroboros.

The big standout track is “Hickory.” This is probably the first Kool AD song in years to bother with courting mass appeal. A soul loop from frequent Kool AD collaborator Amaze 88 anchors the song, while my personal dream team of rappers, Kool AD, Talib Kweli, and Boots Riley, drop low key verses. It’s like you’ve stumbled onto the 3 hanging out with a drink in their hands, and a song just sort of happened. It’s the charm of Word O.K., for the first time as a solo artist, Kool AD isn’t alternating wildly between overwhelming you with ideas and staring at you with a glazed expression. He’s somehow found a way to do both. This is Kool AD focused, engaged, and passionate, proving you don’t need to be listless to write music about listlessness.