Leven Kali is Stylish and Stylistically Broad with Debut, Low Tide
Evan Dale // May 12, 2019
For the last couple of years, who has been more quietly influential and exciting than Leven Kali?
A staple of smooth and sensual future R&B, of experimental and bold neo-soul, and of their poppy, digestible middle ground, Leven Kali has become a household name across an impossibly wide reach of music’s modernist scope. An undeniable wave of groovy musicality directs the flow of his entire canon, and at last that canon can call home to a proper debut album. Low Tide is a project brimming with whirlwinds of emotion and summertime vibes. It’s production – all of which is done by Leven Kali himself – breathes of warm weather days and beach views. But even through the mire of positivity, Kali is deep, experimental, and bold in ways that rising pop stars in prior eras have almost always failed to be.
The modern music world prizes range and transcendence above predictability and comfort, and so, becoming a pop star of the future requires much more than a good voice and a million-dollar creative team. Kali, born in Holland, raised in California, and a lifelong student of music, has earned his keep by attacking emergent neo-soul with a flavor and a spice all his own. And he’s done it from every angle. Riding the wave of exposure he earned from his debut single, Joy and collaborations with Drake and Playboi Carti in 2017, he set out on a run of solo work including his breakout track, Do U Wrong featuring an impeccably sensual guest spot Syd. From there, along with a solid collection of remixes and features, he went about laying the foundation of what would eventually become Low Tide.
Along with Do U Wrong, 2018 saw the release of an A-Side / B-Side cut – Nunwrong With A Lil Good Lovin’ – and a three track EP – I Get High When I Think About Us – with two of the five tracks – Nunwrong & Mine – finding their respective places on the album’s final track list. Two more singles in 2019 – Sumwrong & Mad At Ualso ended up on Low Tide. But even with the expected accompaniment of Do U Wrong, six new tracks awaited Kali’s expansive fanbase upon Low Tide’s release. And hand in hand with what he had already delivered, his range, bounded only by a bubbly, signature sonic texture, is brash.
Cassandra & ardnassaC which couple together to bring a bouncy, summer dancefloor hit and a short, undertone, instrumental outro cut of the same cloth, alone bookend two very different angles of Kali’s expanse. His knack for putting together timeless, immeasurably favorable pop hits is unparalleled and his ability to turn that same structure into a flex of his instrumental and productive talent while holding true to the track’s balance, is incredible. My Pen – which comes in at under a minute – is an electrofunk display that could realistically be a smash hit at three or so minutes. My Offer is predominantly a jazz instrumental record that, even to the untrained mainstream ear, does a phenomenal job of putting on full display the roots of his influence and how it is he got to where he stylistically lies today. And 1 On 1 is proof that Leven Kali, when he wants, is one of the most impressive crafters of R&B slow jams on the market.
Like any wunderkind of the modern music scene where a collection of global hits defined his pre-LP career, there has been so much buildup towards Low Tide that actually living up to the expectation was never going to be an easy quest. But, with range third, experimental risks second, and truthful signature first, Leven Kali’s debut album proves that he is even more than we thought he was and that the future for him, for neo-soul, for R&B, and for pop music, can be bright, honest, and raw, even when so inescapably sunny.