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St. Kelly – Pandora’s Box [Review]

Vancouver, B.C – Pandora’s Box is the latest release from rapper/producer St.Kelly. The album was almost entirely self produced and recorded at his personal Vancouver studio, The Pyramid. Following this project, Kelly will be adopting the new moniker “Cola” as his sound veers from the soundscapes of Pandora’s Box, which is very well suited for headphones, to heavy, minimal beats that translate well on club and festival systems.

St, Kelly - Pandora's Box [Review]

Kelly is charismatic, there’s no doubt. On the song “Summertime Dreamin” you can literally picture him having a party in the booth when he spits the line “Fresh Mojitos out in Cuba for the weekend/ Hold my phone Im going straight into the deep end!” There’s so much enthusiasm and joy in his voice. He’s fun to listen to. He speaks from the heart, telling of his struggles with addiction and dedication and commitment to his career. You want to root for him. His story is authentic and his verses welcome you into his world.

For the most part the songs here are head-nodable and offer their own unique flavour. Some missteps however come in the form of tracks like “She Can Have It” the dance hall inspired parody that really has no place on the album and just doesn’t fit the rest of the vibe. It’s one thing to be a white rapper and borrow black culture but to go this far is a little offensive. When did Kelly decide he was Jamaican?

Pandora’s Box is very musical. These aren’t just “beats” these are full compositions with thoroughly planned out arrangements incorporating multiple live instruments. Gorgeous flute lines and pianos, live bass and electric guitar are abundant throughout the album and offer rich textures that really bring the production to another level. Kelly is definitely a step above your average “beat maker” and has the vision to be able to flesh out full works of art.

You could easily throw Pandora’s Box on at a party there are a lot of great feel-good tracks to dance to but most of the chorus’ on the clubby songs sound more like skits from Saturday Night Live than original Hip-Hop. That being said, when St. Kelly does tackle his 16’s he definitely has a sound and an approach to his rapping that you don’t hear everyday. Maybe it’s his swagger, maybe it’s his unique voice and the way he pronounces words, either way it’s fresher than most of his competition.

Reviewed by Max Dishaw for HipHop Canada

Twitter: @colakells

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