Kevin Abstract takes on his latest album, ARIZONA BABY, with an approach to music that is only considered as daring.
The young rapper has what some would consider a controversial past. Abstract ran away from home when he was just a teenager. When he started making music, and his music video “Empty” came out in 2016, it was only then that his Mormon family found out that he is gay.
His sexuality isn’t controversial. It’s 2019 and people should be accepted for who they are. But it is rare to find a male hip hop artist who is openly gay and not afraid to sing about it.
Abstract doesn’t hold back when it comes time to discuss sex, and at times it can come off as crewd and unnecessary in his music. In the track “Use Me”, he raps about having sex with every Mormon. While maybe he was trying to claim dominance over his strict upbringing in a religion that typically crucifies homosexuality, the line comes off empty. There is no context given, no details in the song, to back the line up. There is no way for an artist to have people relate to the story they are trying to tell if there is no imagery to help play out the message.
One of the best songs on the album is his collab with Ryan Beatty, “Baby Boy”. The song is generational and beautiful. Abstract allows us to see a queer, young man try to navigate the pressures and struggles of young love through his eyes.
Similar to other young rap artists we see emerging, Abstract does not fit strictly within the hip hop category. Most of his songs have elements of pop, such as the track “Peach”. The intro to the song is a slow strumming guitar that transitions into what sounds like something Jason Mraz might have produced in the early 2000s.
The vibe fits perfectly with the lyrics on the song, and is completely justified. An artist’s ability to try and create new music is what keeps the industry busy and thriving. But put all this change on one album with a tracklist that feels it was collaged together by two different people and the album starts to sound messy.
Taking apart track by track, it is hard not to appreciate Kevin Abstract’s talent. His openness, humor, and carefree candour allows him to be an artist without boundaries. He is using his voice to talk about queer issues and hopefully continues to grow and produce an album next time that allows us to take a deeper look into the artist’s mind than ARIZONA BABY allowed us to.