For rappers like Señor Kaos – guys with enough talent and guile to break away from a 9-5 existence in pursuit of artistic dreams – the real challenge is figuring out whether they actually have something fresh to bring to the table besides raw skill. Señor Kaos doesn’t possess anything near resembling a radical new style, so on The Kaos Effect, he attempts to make the old new again – adopting somewhat of a Hip-Hop renaissance character in the process.
On “New and Improved,” Kaos describes his style as “Atlanta Hip-Hop with a mix,” which comes as a bit of a surprise considering there aren’t a lot of artistic clues on The Kaos Effect which suggest an ATL background. Kaos and producer Illastrate – who is behind the boards for all but one track here – mostly submerge themselves in classicist East Coast rap styles: “It’s Like That” rides an early-90s groove you can bounce to (think: lighthearted Eric B. and Rakim); the chilled-out, ironically-titled “Restless” is downright Soulquarian in its production; and the strings on “You Can’t Relate” are pitched so as to immediately evoke the spirit of RZA.
It helps that Kaos has enough skill as an MC to make some of these songs pop. His raps – delivered with a nimble flow – are technically sound and perpetually clear (comparable to New York underground rap staple Skyzoo), and he also carries an important intangible: a noticeable presence on the mic, which helps breathe extra life into jazzier tracks like “No More”.
It’s hard not to feel good for Señor Kaos as he describes some of the trials he’s overcome in trying to make it as a viable recording artist (on “The Understanding,” he details how he fought for years to make it on his own only to get evicted when he finally did get his own place). But the story of transcending everyman living is a well-worn one, and there isn’t enough thematic meat on The Kaos Effect for it to work as a stand-alone narrative. The lack of conceptual variety is only magnetized by some of Kaos’ lyrics, particularly his claim that he’s “The Most Interesting MC in the World.” Obvious hyperbole aside, Kaos simply fits too many stock characterizations of an “underground rapper.” It’s 2012 and he’s still bemoaning that “Hip-Hop is dead;” he chastises the radio for playing “crap;” and he goes out of his way to make well-meaning but ultimately bland female empowerment songs (“Girls Rock Too”).
Kaos might not be the most intriguing rapper in the game, but The Kaos Effect is a showcase of a rapper who would be well-suited for a role as an early-90s East Coast revivalist. When he isn’t falling into generic backpackerisms, Kaos does an admirable job of trying to recapture a Golden Age spirit.
Label: High Water Music | Producers: Illastrate