BY MATTHEW HENGEVELD Once upon a time hip-hop’s only requirements for beatmaking were a fresh set of drums, a hypnotic bass line and an original sample. Those days are over. Today, the hip-hop industry is diluted with chain-dangling, sunglasses-wearing, pastel-rocking cocky tight-jeaned amateurs with a bass-fetish bordering on a Napoleonic complex. Everything has become so fake— where have all the beatmakers gone? The answer: Oxnard, California.
Kan Kick, the Oxnard-based beatmaker, lurks in the shadows of fellow Oxnardians Madlib and DJ Babu. Kan Kick splashed into the scene as a late addition to Madlib’s group, Lootpack. He learned beatmaking as a high school sophomore alongside Madlib, and has acquired a similar laid-back style. In the last decade, he released a slew of instrumental collections that have solidified him as part of the hip-hop underground. It’s hard to find an artist that can be experimental yet entirely commonplace, but Kan Kick fits that bill. He uses a standard boom-bap production style that sounds akin to the great ‘90s beatmakers (Pete Rock, Buckshot, Lord Finesse, Large Professor). But Kan Kick is not a “throwback” artist that emulates the greats— he builds along with the music.
Kan Kick’s newest album, Full-Time Work, Part-Time Pay, in which he goes under the moniker “Kanzulu,” is a psychedelic mix of traditional boom-bap that uses a range of eclectic samples— from India to Brazil— as well as limit-pushing repetitious looping techniques. Kan Kick strays far away from complexity, giving the listener time to just chill out and let the beat ride. The head nodding effect of his music hypnotizes, but never bores. It reminds me of a Scientist dub album. The marijuana-tinged tracks seldom last longer than two minutes, providing an always-changing display of honed technique and obscurity. Vocal samples vary from the mindless babbling of a cockney rock-star, an old man’s heavy breathing, anxious ramblings of an acid-head, Busta Rhyme’s kirkin-out “yoyoyahyoyo” and hundreds of other weird vocals that fit well into Kan Kick’s concept. “You Go, Uno” uses a strange chopped-up singing sample that sounds like an otherworldly chant. “Korea” is a bouncing track that reminds me of a twisted jack-in-the-box, with the strange yell of “KOREE” popping out at you randomly throughout. “Mugu Rock Solace” is the best of the bunch, featuring Kan Kick’s characteristic crunchy drums and a dusty soul loop.
Full-Time Work, Part-Time Pay features several great vocal tracks. “Tranquility pt. 3” sees Dex and Kan Kick skillfully trading verses. Kan Kick raps well, despite his voice being a mix of Cee-Lo and Winnie The Pooh. Blunted lyrics from Cornbread on “Pass It” humorously talk about passing a joint to former President Clinton— who subsequently passes out. D. Voo and God’s Gift split a verse on “The Future pt. 3,” which sort of resembles a Clipse song. Perhaps most gratifying is “When Will I Learn” featuring songstress Nonameko… no lie, this sounds like a Kate Bush song. As I said before, Kan Kick lurks in the shadows and is notoriously slept-on, even by the most knowledgeable of hip-hop aficionados. That’s probably because, for Kan Kick, music is not about the dynamics— it’s about the tradition of making bangin-ass beats. This is some bona fide raw shit. Don’t let it pass you up.