Kayo – S.L.A.V.E. [Review]
Halifax, NS – St. Lucia born, Halifax-based rapper, Kayo Guevarra, has just dropped his highly anticipated EP S.L.A.V.E (Serenity Lives Around Virtuous Energy), via Toronto based indie label Black Box. This 10-track project is jam packed with intricate hooks, choice features, dynamic and textured production, and an overall window into the life of Kayo.
Recorded in Halifax between tours earlier this year, S.L.A.V.E. chronicles the highs and lows of Kayo’s last two years in the music industry – struggling to find his place in the North American hip hop scene, his relationship with Canadian rap icon Classified and his former label team, and more. Ultimately, it tells the story of Kayo – an artist that has stepped out independently to make the next move in his career. The ten song collection that makes up S.L.A.V.E. includes appearances by Quake, Cam Smith, and Kirsten Olivia, with beautiful production throughout from Kayo’s long-time collaborator and fellow St. Lucian, Yogi Da Producer.
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S.L.A.V.E begins with conviction from the start with a track titled, “Don’t Bring Me Down,” featuring Lisa Scinta. It’s clear from the get-go that Kayo has a lot to say. This track allows the listener to better understand him on a personal level, what he’s come through, and his thought processes now as a rapper on the come up. This is a key concept on this project. Other songs like “Rich Already,” “Jaded,” and “Song for Nicole,” bring us further into Kayo’s experiences and struggles with this as well. However, through his sometimes frustrated lyrics, this project possesses an overarching theme of dedication in the face of haters and fake friends, successes and shortcomings. At one point in the beginning of the album, Kayo speaks about a moment of clarity, and it is clear throughout that he is truly dedicated to persevering through the bullshit with no hesitation on his way to the top.
The second and title track, “S.L.A.V.E.,” is one of several personal highlights on this project. With Kirsten Olivia’s emotively soul-grabbing vocals on the hook, this song plays on the concept of being a “slave” in both a literal and metaphorical sense. This theme of being a slave is recurrent throughout the album; a slave to fame, competition, love, money, alcohol, something many of us can relate to. The overall theme of this project can be found in Kirsten Olivia’s vocals on “S.L.A.V.E.”:
“I’ve been through some things.
I’ve survived the times.
Even in my darkest days,
my light still shines.
And still, I carry on.”
“Rich Already,” the lead single for this project, plays on themes of fame and money, as well as Kayo’s frustrations within the rap game. Kayo sings the hook as he takes us through this dynamic track explaining his relationship with the game in the past few years. Another personal favourite that I think will go off great with the ladies sits as the 7th track, “What You Want.” Kayo sings most of this song, with beautiful harmonies, and straight sexuality. This is a slow jam for 2013.
Track 4, “Anybody Out There,” has a music video on the way, and is definitely something to look out for. This song starts off slow with a build to a very well-written chorus that speaks to Kayo’s overall theme of wanting to be heard and find his purpose and place in the industry. He speaks on how he is searching, and needs his work to feel worth it, and explains that he is still learning and needs to know if anyone (the fans) can hear him, and help him discover his purpose.
Halfway through the EP, there is a change of tone with “Jaded,” an introspective and thoughtful track that sheds light on the lifestyle of someone on the come up; the bright lights, alcohol, and overall feeling that although fame is desired, it isn’t always what it seems. “Transitions” then lightens it up and for me, takes its place as the love song of the project. Complete with a sick verse from Cam Smith at the tail end of this track, the hook continues to play on the theme of Kayo’s growth and discovery as an artist, “I hope that you find me. I’m just lost in this transition.”
“Apology Accepted” takes its place as the final track, (unless you purchase the album and score the bonus “Black Suburbans” track), and has been properly placed at the end as a final statement. It summarizes the project with an upbeat and warm piano infused beat. Kayo shouts out his fellow boys on the come up, and reflects back on his progress, forgiving all the haters, as he steps towards the future, reminding us once more that at this point in his career as he continues to go through these transitions and gain momentum as an artist, he doesn’t have time for negativity, and he’s not different, just more significant.
Kayo shows us musical diversity with this new project. A self-proclaimed “Young King in the making,” his self-confidence is clear. But isn’t that one of the essential building blocks of rap? He should be confident. He has developed a style of his own, has a solid team in both music and business behind him, and he is getting closer with each strategic move to the lifestyle he desires in his rhymes. Not only does he spit intelligent rhymes front to back, but he also sings some of his hooks in songs like “What You Want,” and “Rich Already,” adds some killer harmonies, and boasts a roster of songs that fit into a nice package of hip hop, with a side of commercial hooks and instrumentals, and a dash of slow and sexy. You’d probably think he was rich already.
Make sure you get your own copy of S.L.A.V.E. on iTunes today!