For Krizz Kaliko, a rapper and r&b singer born and raised in Kansas City, music is more than his life’s work: it’s his lifeline. A long-time collaborator of Tech N9ne and a signee to the rapper’s Strange Music label, Krizz’ music always reflects his mood. From his playful 2008 debut Vitiligo, to his dark epic Genius (2009), Krizz’ body of work runs the gamut of the human psyche. Krizz Kaliko’s expressive lyrics and emotional honesty have won the rapper a devoted legion of fans who eagerly anticipate his every move. After releasing five studio rap albums, Krizz forsakes his rapidfire bars for smooth singing on Go, a powerful, ambitious pop/r&b effort releasing April 2016.
Mayer Hawthorne’s Man About Town is a refreshing, well-crafted musical journey with a modern take on a vintage sound. As soon as the first track, the titular “Man About Town,” comes on, I instantly feel better, mummified in a daydream about a much better time in life. As a musician, I can’t help but think that Hawthorne’s reason for doing music is just that: to make people feel better. Maybe I’m trippin’, but every song reels me further in.
The album makes me think of Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers, Earth, Wind & Fire and other huge super-musical bands from the ’70s and ’80s. If Mayor Hawthorne isn’t a serious vinyl collector, then no one is. Listening to the album, I feel like I am six years old and listening to something from my mom’s record collection as we clean the house on Saturday morning. I can see where he probably got his influences. Growing up so close to Detroit in Ann Arbor, Michigan, you probably can’t help but be swayed by labels such as Motown and classic releases from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. “Get You Back,” for example, has the feel and sound of several flavors. There’s a bit of a John Legend quality to it, a hint of the Jacksons, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Spinners and DeBarge all in one.
Mayer Hawthorne looks just like his music sounds: simultaneously throwback cool and modern chic. I believe that in this musical climate, people are ready for an artist like him. As my elderly uncle would probably say, “This is a real music.” Real singing and real instruments at a real time when this type of music is needed. After all, music is a universal language that expresses emotions: fear, felicity, suspense, joy, excitement, love and happiness. At a time when our world is experiencing devastation, strife, stress and anxiety, apprehension, terror, negativity, and division, we need a medium that inspires happiness, buoyancy, joviality, dance, goodness and a future of hope and success.
I also love how each tune on the record is so open-ended. When a song ends, you feel like continuing the track, humming until you make it your own. It puts you into melody-creating mode. I actually would’ve loved to extend “Man About Town.” A short track, it radiated with reflections of my own life. Seldom have I experienced an album that I have played over and over again, exulting over every song.
For me, Man About Town takes away from the drudgery of everyday life. As I listened, any problems I had, any sorrows I had, quickly turned into daydreams of growing up in years past — years, far before my time, when love really mattered to the world and music was the soundtrack to our lives.
With such an array of uplifting songs, it’s a bit difficult to say which one or two I like best. Each one is going to be someone’s favorite, and they all inspire good conversation. If I had to choose a favorite, I would pick “Breakfast in Bed.” It evokes wonderfully warm feelings of making love with that special one — the one you not only want to make love to, but you actually want to sleep with, and linger with, and awaken with, and make love to again. The song is sensuous and feverish, yet wholesome — evoking the kind of love jones, brand-new, mmm-good passion that anyone who has ever truly been in love will understand. The beat puts you in a certain mood for dancing, the kind of dancing that has a slightly saucy beat that lets you get creative. It’s reminiscent of a Marvin Gaye flavor, where a dance can lead you to love. “Out of Pocket” is a song that you can get your dance on to as well. Whether it’s just the two of you, a small intimate group of friends or a party, the dancers are going to want this one played again and again.
“Get You Back” seems to be a song about lost love. Anyone who has ever experienced heartbreak will lament as they remember the anguish of needing and wanting that love back. The beat and mood of the music still feels uplifting, though, and evinces a bit of whimsy that echoes hope.
All in all, this record is jazzy, lighthearted, trans-generational, thought-provoking, fun, danceable, fun, lightly funky, harmonious, multi-genre, straight-up feel-good music. Man About Town is a modern classic with something for everybody — if you’re someone who enjoys life.