One Year Later, Kojey Radical's 'Cashmere Tears' Blueprints Transcendent Mastery
Evan Dale // Sep 16, 2020
It’s been a hell of year. But between all of the softness and sadness, Cashmere Tears has been a – if not the – staple of consistency, overcoming, and funky, upbeat energy that has made it all somehow bearable. Thank you, Kojey Radical.
The UK transcendentalist, a man known not for his poetry, his style, his unshelled vocalism, or his social statement, but for the gray areas that tether them all to his boundless artistry, is still one of the most underrated, creatively in-tune artists on Planet Earth. His 2019 album, Cashmere Tears, is still one of the most fluid, transcendent, influential compositions of the modern cloth. And to think it was all rooted in Water.
What was really his first audiovisual release towards a refined style brimming with prose, energy, and a post-genre grasp on stylistic non-delineation broke levy for a tidal wave of artistic risks taken and ultimately succeeded through Cashmere Tears. Even though Water wasn’t included in the eventual album lineup, it did provide it substance and direction as its title would suggest. When Cashmere Tears came, the amalgamate collection wasn’t his first, but it was undoubtedly the first of a new chapter, if such things really exist. With Kojey, they seem to. Cashmere Tears didn’t sidestep the heavy spoken-word foundation that he had begun his career with, but instead saw it fluidly evolve into his own corner of the hip-hop spectrum where only someone with a poetic background could survive, let alone thrive, weaving meaning substance, pace, and prose into the entirety of what was to come.
But thrive, Kojey Radical and Cashmere Tears did, and continue to. And in many more realms than that of his poetry rooted hip-hop direction. An adept vocalist with an effervescent affinity for the funky, the soulful, the jazzy, and ultimately, the downright danceable, Kojey spends the half-hour duration of Cashmere Tears curatedly maneuvering what has influenced him, and putting on a clinic of the influence he aims to subsequently hold over music at large. Over the course of the last year, that influence has reigned omnipotent, making Kojey the Nostradamus of music’s futurist headwind.
A blendaline genius of seamless transitioning between spoken word and modern rap; between neo-soul and R&B; between jazz, funk, and timeless instrumentation, all the while speaking his truths on a swath of thematic discourse ranging from love and lust to depression, struggle, and how art cures all, Cashmere Tears is a blueprint for what the future – and the present – of indefinably stylistic music sounds like. And it comes right back to Kojey Radical as an artist and a man by the rangiest meaning of the titles. Even for Kojey who never creates without risks, Cashmere Tears is vibrantly experimental. Very little of his prior canon in any way exhibited Kojey as a vocally driven artist. There were bouts of register on display, but never tracks defined by it. And yet, Cashmere Tears’ titular inclusion and its follow-up, Hours, themselves are funk-heavy anthems with vocally driven hooks, while their predecessing track, Sugar is a soulfully intertwined, electronically nuanced slow jam again driven by Kojey’s willingness to highlight the length of his vocal register. And there, in the middle of the Cashmere Tears lineup, not only exist Kojey’s three most experimental, risky career tracks, but arguably, too, his most musically successful by the standards they belay on an artist whom many would label a rapper.
It feels as though it’s almost a prerequisite – the now teetering on commonplace transcendence of rappers singing, singers producing, and producers rapping – but it’s rare when it all comes together as something not only new, but beautifully influential. With Kojey – and with Cashmere Tears especially – an ability to transcend is what grants the album its position in ranks amongst history’s timeless masterpieces. And in its wake, the same expectation of transcendent musical genius not only hover over the future of Kojey’s own path, but over that of all his hip-hop and poetry rooted compatriots, to do more, confidently stepping out of comfort zones to explore the image of what the words artist and masterpiece ultimately conjure while hand-in-hand with addressing meaning in art and music. One year later, Cashmere Tears is every bit the masterpiece it was in 2019, and many future works – some inevitably masterpieces in their own right – will owe some semblance of their aesthetic to its inception.