If there’s one thing that Milwaukee rapper and producer Klassik seems to strive for, it’s originality; from his very impressive production, to his off kilter rhyme schemes, even down to the fashion in which he releases his music. Pretty much as soon as Klassik’s three-song WINTER EP begins, it’s blatantly clear that the record is a work of a unique talent. The enthralling production is compelling enough on its own that if there were no vocals on the record, it would still be a worthwhile listen.
Possibly the only hip-hop artist who names both Steely Dan and Kanye West as huge influences, Klassik’s music is a rich mélange of sounds that reflect the history of American music, specifically music that has it’s roots in the African American community. It is abundantly clear that Klassik is well versed in jazz, soul and R&B, and the hip-hop filter he uses to guide these influences through makes his production style a unique one. His influences are abundantly clear, but his style remains original and all his own throughout the EP.
Klassik has been garnering praise in his native Wisconsin for a while now, and last year was named a “Top Ten Wisconsin Artist To Watch” by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and was named the state’s top hip hop artist in 2013 by voters in the Wisconsin Area Music Industry. Already no stranger to big stages, Klassik has opened for very heavy hitters like Kendrick Lamar, Ludacris and Talib Kweli. With all this momentum behind him, Klassik seems poised to make a big push for national recognition in 2015, and the jazz, soul and R&B combining WINTER EP is the first step in that direction.
“STRNGRS” begins things and features Klassik’s sparsest production on the album with his Andre 3000-esque vocals receiving a lot of the focus. The song is a groovy little number, but definitely serves as the appetizer for the EP’s centerpiece and lead single “Andromeda”. The song features a solid guest spot from BoneLang, is constructed wonderfully by Klassik and features a instantly memorable hook. The inventive track is one of the most pleasant surprises of the new year, and makes the record worth the price of admission alone.
My main complaint with Klassik is that at times his rhymes are a bit inconsistent, but his ability as a top notch producer never wavers. One of his many obvious talents behind the boards is his gift for making every second of the singing on the record sound fantastic. Album closer “Mind Over Matter” is where this is most apparent, and I can definitely see this track as Klassik’s next intriguing single.
WINTER is the first of four EPs Klassik has planned for this year, one for each of the seasons. The rapper and producer has said that he drew inspiration from “the natural cycles of the planet” and embarked upon he calls his “Seasons Project”.
“Winter can be the harshest, and often least inviting, of all the
seasons. This Winter EP represents a period of the artistic journey that is marked
by depression, isolation, and frustration.” Klassik aims to “encompass those
feelings – but then transform them into hope for the return of joy, of love, and of
brighter, warmer days.”
All in all, WINTER is an intriguing peak into a young talent’s potential, and a very nice way for Klassik to kick off both the year and his ambitious Seasons Project. It will be interesting to see what the Milwaukee upstart comes up with next.
Words – Donovan Farley