Tag Archives: Khalid

Sound ‘Round: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya / Khalid

There’s brains in them there beats

Nnamdi Ogbonnaya – DROOL (Father/Daughter/Sooper)

This son of a preacher man is a musical polymath whose resume is padded by a litany of art-rock gigs picked up in his adoptive Chicago home. Various profiles written by smart musical minds swear by his numerous prior exploits, but a busy bee like me will have to take them at their word. With too little time to sort through such a vast and obscure discography on the internet, I’ll stick by this self-titled debut stuffed with enough goodies for intellectuals, dilettantes and plebeians alike. Nnamdi is foremost a percussionist and keeps the rhythms rolling. His beats are articulate, layered and heady. They eschew hip-hop formalities and R&B’s detachment but nonetheless pack a wallop when he lets them. The music is as versatile as the grooves, too. Rich brass, extraterrestrial synths, burps, blips, beeps and clicks all get their turn on one of the year’s most iconoclastic records. So self-assured is Nnamdi that nearly every song succeeds as he hopscotches across subject matter with glee. The most playful one is about sex (duh) and the darkest one concerns police brutality (of course). He’s not above gloating, either. But while “You could never write shit like this,” is a boast proclaimed to infinity, he certainly makes a good case. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “let gO Of my egO” / “hOney On the lOw” / “sHOULD hAvE kNOwN”

Khalid – American Teen (RCA)

El Paso’s Khalid Robinson, like a lot of American teens, is young enough to mistake hopeless romanticism for brilliance. But, like a lot of other American teens, he’s smart enough to transcend his youthful limitations. In a sluggish and unremarkable mumble that resembles Frank Ocean imitating Elmer Fudd, music’s smartest 19-year-old gives his state of the union on teenage woes. Robinson’s greatest asset is his deft lyricism that resonates with utilitarianism. Each of these songs comes with a first person point of view but tackles dilemmas familiar with youngsters everywhere regardless of class or color.  The title track celebrates a child’s ambition while acknowledging dreams don’t always come true — which is why he winds up young, dumb and broke on the following song. So broke, in fact, he’s stuck at home on “8TEEN” under a strict military mom who makes her disillusioned son pine for “the good old days.” Melodramatic, yes, but what teenager isn’t? Nonetheless, Robinson remains hopeful on the love front. He keeps his ex’s phone number safe should she reconsider and spends the entire second half stating his case. His troubled heart remains unfulfilled by album’s end, but it’s a fitting conclusion to a song cycle about not always getting what you want. He’s wise beyond his years. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “American Teen” / “8TEEN” / “Young Dumb & Broke”