Kojey Radical is Funk, Soul & Hip-Hop's Future with Cashmere Tears
Evan Dale // Sep 19, 2019
Lyrical powerhouse. Cinematographic vision. Fashion icon. Experimental transcendentalist.
Kojey Radical would probably just prefer artist.
The young Brit who, it should be mentioned, draws a great deal of creative inspiration from his Ghanaian roots, finds himself at the confluence of a great many rivers of passion. A figure of London’s center stage for the shaping of Neo-Soul and modern jazz; a key player in the west African Cultural Renaissance and its expansive diaspora. A penning force in spoken word’s reintroduction into mainstream hip-hop; a poetic leader of rap’s lyrical pillar. A collaborative explosion helping to bring up a number of fellow UK stars on the rise; a star amongst them, quietly leading the way for those whose names may be more recognizable. A master of cunning, thought-provoking, and risk-taking music videos weaving powerful storylines and exploring social issues; a designer of style bold and futuristic, joining a storied line of hip-hop artists turned eyes of the fashion world. A British answer to A$AP Rocky’s creative spectrum; the world’s answer for an unapologetically brilliant and courageous creative who utilizes his platform for change equal parts social and artistic, aware that the two lay forever intertwined.
Cashmere Tears was always bound for depth.
A lot has happened to Kojey’s creative career since 2017’s In Gods Body. But most of what’s taken place can be summed up in the simple fact that between his effect on the creative world and the world’s growth to absorb the kind of wide-ranging artistry Kojey is defined by, he has become deeply influential on all the cultural spectrums in which he dabbles. The path towards Cashmere Tears can be sourced from If Only – an early 2018 single that exhibited his fiery spoken-word-inspired delivery in juxtaposition with Water – a collaborative single with Mahalia a few months later that showed a different side. Soon thereafter, both tracks were arranged in a moving short film music video, and that path’s pace was rendered rapid. An abundance of singles and feature work followed in its wake, the most recent three of which, Can’t Go Back, 2020, and the album’s titular track all now feature on Cashmere Tears.
But even at 10 tracks, the projectis a sum greater than its individual song work. Kojey Radical is man with a story, conveying a tale through any of his creative lanes whenever he has the opportunity. And that opportunity manifests much more than tenfold across a full-length project. In Cashmere Tears, he explores a dichotomy of storylines: one fantastical take on Kojey’s day-to-day to this point; another inferred through brash stylistic changes and experimentalism on the future of music’s indefinable direction.
There is somehow no lack of congruency from track to track which, when analyzing its song-by-song makeup, is pretty remarkable. No two sound alike in stylistic spectrum, but all of them are unapologetic representations of Kojey Radical, focused on exploring different situations, attitudes, and vibes. And he’s a master of them all. Take the transition between Sugar: an electronically-nuanced production on lust and Cashmere Tears: Kojey’s most funky – maybe most soulful – track to date (along with Hours) that feels as though it came out of George Clinton’s most prolific era. Though the two songs breathe of underplayed orchestral inclusions and fast-paced, introspective rap verses, there is little else that should tie them together so seamlessly. But with a post-genre futurist at the helm, these things aren’t only possible, they’re fluid and unforced.
A lot of that is owed to the idea that those rapid changes of stylistic pace also fall within the boundaries of each song on the album. Per loose formula, Kojey Radical has a tendency to open a track where his music career is rooted: spoken word. A theatrical rapper to say the least, opening a cappella monologues set the stage for him to embark on something musically deeper – thematically parallel. And that’s where not only does each track differ, but the project as a whole differs from Kojey’s pre-Cashmere canon.
Funk and Soul.
Kojey Radical has never lacked either. Vocal bouts have shown his ability to hit notes throughout his young career, and single releases brimming with experimentation – the most notable and recent of which is Can’t Go Back – have displayed his affinity for an instrumentally and vocally driven signature. But until very, very recently, they didn’t play such a key role in his oft-evolving style. And yet with Cashmere Tears, there’s a case to be made that it’s first and foremost a study on modern funk in coalescence with his many other roots. The album’s titular track is a funk anthem à la Gambino’s Redbone exhibiting what most consider to be a rapper in a very, very different light. It’s exploding with a classic funk bassline, dance-evoking synths, and falsettos croons new to Kojey’s bag of tricks altogether, while also showing off his ability to collaborate with himself, seamlessly folding lyrically-endowed bars into the mix. He follows it up with Hours: another anthemic track cut of a similar cloth, and there in the heart of the Cashmere Tearslineup exists its most grabbing identity.
Fans of his long-established position as a dominant rapper have nothing to fear. Where Do I Begin and 2020 open the album on a high-energy, fast-paced stage, showing Kojey in a light of hip-hop braggadocio. And essentially every track on the song shines at some point or another with a vibrant, thought-provoking spell of rap lyricism. Those who appreciate Kojey Radical’s soulful lane certainly find themselves at home in Can’t Go Back where Kojey takes it upon himself to explore the lesser-taken lanes. He dives into depression, acceptance, and overcoming it with art and self-love in a way many modern musicians that can be placed into a hip-hop delineation rarely do.
Through and through, Cashmere Tears is a pure display of Kojey Radical’s adherence to art and meaning. In liquid bliss, it transcends genre and stylistic preference at an even wider range than he’s shown himself capable of before. Sonically, it’s downright listenable and danceable, wavering between funk, soul, and hip-hop in a manner that is better described as Kojey Radical than any assigned variation of the three. And at its deepest, it’s a book of poetry where Kojey radical fills every moment with penmanship as fervently thought-out and evocative as has ever existed.