Ageism is a real epidemic in Hip Hop but yet, we as avid listeners should also recognize that newer artists entering their prime have the ability to deliver the best music. Eminem, Scarface, and Jeezy are all dropping this Friday. And yet, the best album of December (not counting Kendrick Lamar’s special release of DAMN.) could end up belonging to Kipp Stone.
If you’re shaking your head and asking “Who?” you’re forgiven. But after listening to Dirty Face Angel, Kipp Stone should relish in the title of most known unknown. The album is a sprawling affair of humorous quips and journal entries that captivates almost unceasingly from cover to cover.
Youngin’s take note: this is how you craft a debut album. Stone, not unlike Amine earlier this year, strips down to his soul through his music. The opening title track allows listeners to shake hands with a complex young man. He’s alternately juvenile and wise, self-deprecating and confident, anxious and chest-thumping. The cut’s swirling strings gracefully underscore his musings, as he jumps from grin-cracking lines like “Pussy makes me wonder if you are what you eat,” to impactful statements such as “You see I love the cash, but I hate what the cash do.” His duality is magnetic and keeps Dirty Face Angel interesting and entertaining throughout.
While other millennial MCs are popping pills like they’re immune to overdosing and tossing money like they’ve never heard of a savings account, Kipp’s humility is endearing. He keeps his chin up on “Celebration,” proclaiming “Life’s shitty but we still litty, I ain’t never been a bitch!” Even more outstanding is the album’s high point, “Millions Billions Thousands.” Backed by stutter-step horns and soulful cries, Stone spits about his aspirations in the face of harsh realities: “Niggas still chasing M’s and chasing B’s, I’m still chasing T’s ain’t that some shit.” While Stone’s personal experience is more “freezing, no blankets” than college debt, the search for purpose is one that young listeners across tax brackets and area codes will be drawn to.
Stone’s stylistic versatility is impressive; he adeptly switches up his flow and delivery to fit a track’s mood, most notably on “Megatron,” where he spits in a choppy, spastic flow to match the grimy bassline and stop-n-go drums. However, there are times where he over-reaches. He slogs his way through the trap-happy “Shoebox,” and gets lost in the lazily downbeat production of “Always Love.” The consecutive cuts provide a speed bump near the end of the album, but Kipp regains his footing with the lamenting “Vacation” and closes out the album strong by pondering the “Small Things.”
It’s hard to tell what kind of impact Kipp Stone will have on Hip Hop. He seems too reserved and self-assured to sell out, and would probably detract from his appeal in doing so. Still, he could go the way of Dizzy Wright or Curren$y, and become a staple of consistency. Whatever happens next, Kipp Stone has already proven himself an exceptional artist with his debut. Dirty Face Angel is a rich collage of raw self-reflection and uncompromising honesty.