After signing to Konvict Muzik, slaying the radios with his smash hits, being picked up by Bystorm Management, and literally becoming “Mr. Kardinal International”, Toronto’s ambassador Kardinal Offishall is ready to release his new album A.M.T.R.I.M. (Allow Me to Re-Introduce Myself). The album is a collaborative effort with Virginia super-producer Nottz Raw, and as Kardi said last night, “It’s kinda like a rebirth for me.”
Fourteen tracks, seventeen days, and a studio in Norfolk, VA, produced this project. One night, fifty people, and an hour later, we had the pleasure of hearing this incredible album. From start to finish, Kardinal’s growth as an artist was exposed. It also became evident this was his most personal and most raw record, dealing with topics from violence and mental weaknesses to abortion and love.
The listening session happened to take place in the dark, heightening senses and allowing us to truly take in this album from start to finish. Accompanied by my Rated Z rum – another venture Kardinal introduced to the group and absolutely no cellphone service, I admired his uncompromising stance towards his music.
The album opens up with “The Invention of Truth” , a towering instrumental that erupted the sonic barriers in the room. On that note, the track introduces us to Kardinal Offishall in 2012; a man who has changed and grown into a multi-dimension artist who has found the truth in living life despite its challenges.
“Over 4”, which features Big Shot Manceen, had an incredibly weighty bass but also carries gospel strings, creating a cathedral-esque sound. Kardi’s lyrics also embody a spiritual power, a concept consistent with the following track “Motivation”, which features Rapper Big Pooh and beautiful vocals from 17-year old May Marquardt. “Motivation” is just as powerful and spiritual as it’s previous counterpart and continues Kardinal’s sacred musical journey. Kardinal spits “Power in words is dangerous, don’t try this at home”, a line that presents an incredible powerful statement and reiterates the fact that words are a double-edge sword in both religion and hip-hop.
While “1st 48” and “Kill Shot”, which have already been released, Kardinal offered a new dimension to the topics of violence and gang activity after the listening. He stated that they were bitter sweet songs to write as unfortunately, everyone knows someone who’s been affected by street violence. He noted how it’s the responsibility of artists to address a city’s violence, but very few will take on that task. On “Over 4″ he spits “in a Malcolm X Pose, I’m supposed to be the Champ,” a prolific line in Kardi’s mission to bring awareness.
Mid-album, Kardi hits us with the already-released “Mr. Parker”, which features the beautiful vocals of Toronto’s own songstress Shi Wisdom, and “Nobody Else” , featuring Peter Jericho. The cohesiveness between these two tracks is unmistakable; both sampling 70′s R&B/Soul. “Mr. Parker” opens up with the Jackson 5′s “All I Need,” while “Nobody Else” stretches a popular 70′s drumline and attached itself to lyrics like “…never leave Common Sense like No I.D.” It’s definitely a creative balance between soul and hip-hop and old and new sounds, almost bridging the dire generational gap.
On top of producing the entire album, Nottz delivered a couple bars on “Take It There” and “Electrik Sexy”. While “Take It There” was a comprehensive song that showcased Nottz’ talent as an artist, the latter was, in my opinion, the weakest track on the album. Perhaps because it was the black sheep of the album – not supported by any other tracks or fitting in with the orchestral sonic landscape. Could it be a commercial club banger? Definitely, but that’s not my cup of hip-hop.
Finally, the last half of the album is steadily slowed down to embrace the incredible vocals of Nikki Grier (Pam Grier’s niece) and tantalizing songstress Yummy Bingham. “Refreshed” starts off as an unbelievably powerful track, literally soaking you into everything great in R&B and slowly becomes a comedic tale, featuring comedian Angus Green. The storyline suddenly denies anything romantic, but rather tells a story about a man trying his best to impress a woman, but fails miserably. (i.e. “Lay on the bed. Feel that right there? That’s leaves from outside – I couldn’t afford roses or nothing, but you gotta give me points for trying!”)
“I Wish I Could Talk to You” and “Reach High”, however, are two amazing songs for different reasons. “I Wish I Could Talk to You” is darker lyrically, speaking of abusive relationships and lost love. It’s a gorgeous song, yet solemn in content, bringing forth another dimension of the ‘new’ Kardinal. On the other hand, “Reach High” which features Yummy Bingham is best described as a superhero anthem. The production is bold, loud and full-bodied, while Yummy’s vocals carry the twist and turns of the instrumental effortlessly.
The album finishes with classic “Ol’ Time Killin”, “Bacardi Slang” Kardi, putting forth Murderah. Nottz finishes off the album incredibly, producing another bold track that carries a heavy-metal/rock, yet twisted and dark feel. Alongside the overlay of eclectic guitar riffs, Kardinal slays the beat with ease. I wouldn’t say this track ties the album together, but it certainly implies Kardi’s intentions for the future.
My biggest gripe about this album, aside from “Electrik Sexy”, is the several artist shoutout-interludes that break the flow of the album. Everyone from Pete Rock to Maestro Fresh Wes, Bun B to Michie Mee and Green Lantern to Boi-1da, is featured on an interlude throughout the album, not only ruining the rhythm of the album, but can also come off as arrogant. While I’m not entirely sure (at this time) whether these interludes are also on the soon-to-be released copy, it should be known that interludes should always be kept to a minimum and related to your content.
With that being said, the overall cohesiveness of this album is exhilarating. The vulnerability Kardinal Offishall puts forth on this album is inspiring. The dynamism between artist and producer is incredible. If this is any indication of what Kardinal’s future work will sound like, he has definitely taken a step in the right direction.
So, why release a free album? “I’m one of those artists who like to rebel,” said Kardi. A.M.T.R.I.M. drops today at 4:16pm (The Toronto area code, for those who don’t know) and parents, there is a clean version to play for the kids.
Take this in, it’s definitely worth it. DOWNLOAD IT AT WWW.DATPIFF.COM AT 4:16PM