My cell phone rings about 8:30 this past Saturday morning. I’m awake, but nowhere near functioning. I roll over to grab the phone and pull it close to my barely-open eyes, and Kane Mayfield’s smiling face grins back at me. I start to laugh, which is always my response to Kane Mayfield’s face, and to him in general. And it’s not because the things he says or does always make me laugh – he’s said some things that I really didn’t think were funny. But there was always a level of ugly honesty there that always reached out to me and tickled me, even when he was saying mad perverse shit I didn’t like. Even when he was hiding things, he was revealing things. It’s like he can’t help it.
Today I know why he’s calling, so I happily answer. Tonight is the media-only listening party at producer Brandon Lackey’s studio The Lineup Room for Kane’s soon-to-be-released “The Return of Rap”, which is a reference to H. Rap Brown even more than a reference to lyricism – though it can be taken that way. As he chats on and on about his excitement about this project, what strikes me most is his blatant pride in “The Return of Rap”. Kane has always been self-deprecating when speaking about his work; in previous interviews when I asked why he had never charged for a project his response was, “I respect the consumer too much.” (Check out that article here.)Today is different. He proudly proclaims, “this is my best work ever.” I’m definitely looking forward to hearing this project.
I arrive at The Lineup Room to find I am one of the cool kids — folks from DMV music media are gathered there, including Jaye Hunnie, Janae TruDat and Kelly Connelly. Before we listened to the project, Kane did share how 2014 was a supremely difficult year for him. During a very noticeable and prolonged absence from social media, Kane contemplated leaving rap behind. As 2014 continued, Kane found himself facing very low moments from losing best friends, both parents, a job and a girlfriend via text message. But in spite of all that, or because of all that, “The Return of Rap” found the light of day.
While I don’t want to give away too much about “The Return of Rap”, I will share a few things. This is not a case of a hip hop artist wanting to bring the boom bam back into regular rotation in music. It’s also not a rapper waxing poetic about the glory days of the golden age of hip hop, or re-creating the sounds of 90’s rap. This is an already stupidly talented lyricist fully stepping into his verbal power. The project is like a perfectly blended cocktail – its goes down smoothly and refreshingly, it bites, its warms you, it quenches your thirst, you savor it as it makes it way inside you, and you’re really sorry once it’s all gone.
I’ll also share that “The Return of Rap” seamlessly combines the high tempo ‘turn up’ tracks with rapid fire lyrics with more mid-tempo introspection. Yes Kane is still the master of the double/triple/quadruple entendre, but he has also become sharper, and in effect more piercing with his rhymes. “I said a lot of things more directly this time,” he says at the listening party, which featured lots of Flying Dog beers, great Scotch, and Hennessy-infused cupcakes topped with turkey bacon and non-alcoholic chicken and waffle flavored cupcakes.
There are sixteen tracks with no feature artists or special guests. It’s all Kane from beginning to end – “I decided when I was ready to release a project finally that people would pay for, I wanted it to be all me.” You can listen to it from beginning to end and not skip a track. Like the best albums it takes you on a journey to places both familiar and unknown. You listen to it expectantly, and happily, your expectations are fulfilled. I was thoroughly impressed, and I don’t impress easily. Kane calls it his magnum opus, which is Latin for “greatest work”, and I wholeheartedly agree.
I strongly recommend you get ready for next Tuesday March 10th, which is when “The Return of Rap” will be available for purchase. Its not very often quality of this level comes from a hip hop project these days, so be a part of this historical event in music.