Now Hear This: Astro Traveling 2: Albatross Hill - K-Ham CA

Rating: ***1/2

Getting turned on to new music is one of my favorite things about the human experience. A friend sends you a playlist on Spotify or Apple Music or Soundcloud or whatever music streaming app you’re in to and just like that BOOM! you’re taken away to a place you didn’t know existed. Sometimes it really works out. Sometimes it really doesn’t. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. In any event, you really can learn a lot about the person who sent you the playlist by the music they love. That’s the mission of this new column. I want to share with you what’s been shared with me. Stuff that's amazing. Stuff that’s dreadful. Stuff that’s a little of both. One thing is for sure; you’ll listen to some new stuff and if you dig it, you’ll share it. So let’s take the plunge together.

Toronto-based rapper and producer K-Ham CA has a new mixtape out. I didn’t know he had a first one so I went into this with a totally fresh set of ears. My first impression of Astro Traveling 2: Albatross Hill was that he has good influences. The beats and musical structure have a real sci-fi vibe that was reminiscent of Kool Keith’s alter ego Dr. Octagon’s superb 1996 release Dr. Octagonecologyst. The opening track, AT2 is an instrumental piece that leads into the excellent Cartoon Network inspired first single Camp Lazlo. Dude has a really laid back vibe. At times he almost sounds bored, but it works in this context perfectly. He’s cool. Unaffected. He’s got no worries. It’s hipster-hop at it’s finest. It doesn’t work nearly as well on track 3, Ceelo. It’s almost like the song never really gets started and loses some of the momentum of the album’s start. Fortunately, it picks back up at Guillotine which in my opinion is the strongest track on the record. A spooky beat with focused rhyming. Throw in a Rex Ryan reference in there and you can’t lose. Lush is a cool instrumental piece that leads us to No Problems featuring Donknow, TNT, and Stepping Stones featuring Mad Black which are all solid but decidedly downbeat and slower cuts. Mirage featuring Cap’n Morgan picks the pace back up and starts the back end of the mixtape on an excellent note. Checkpoint is a heavily produced slow-motion experience that feels like poetry on quaaludes. I dug it. Paprika featuring Chris Larocca is a dreamy but forgettable cut that leads us to the mix’s final track Deja Vu. An excellent ending that’s one of the most lyrically clever songs on the entire album.

I would strongly suggest giving K-Ham CA a listen. If you’re in to slow beats and a sleepy but confident cadence, he’s gonna hit you right where you want it. It’s not gonna be for everybody, but what's the fun in that?

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