There are so few interesting things happening in the text of Yung Kayo’s music that it must be intentional. References to fashion labels (constant) and firearms (occasional) rarely create narrative tension, and are instead mere set-up for songs that achieve what is only communicable through sound design or performance. pure. In fact, for someone so theoretically obsessed with the things they can buy and wear, the physical world might seem like an obstacle for Kayo. Take the way he raps on “no sense”, one of the many dreamy songs from his debut album, DFTK“I had to look at my neck/The chain’s so heavy it’s holding me down,” as if that VVS anchor was the only thing keeping it from just floating.
Still a teenager, Kayo (as in KO, as in “knockout”) recently moved to Los Angeles from his native Washington DC, where his father was a go-go DJ. He started rapping around the age of 10 when an older brother bought a microphone. at 15, he was releasing singles and taking part in parades. But where ten years ago this kind of high-low tension – Kayo vogue appearances and Yak Gotti Collaborations Replacing the obsessions of Rick Owens and A$AP Rocky’s Lord Infamous – which led to rampant press campaigns and jaw-dropping record deals, Kayo has spent the last few years honing his array of vocal styles. and his tastes in production, largely out of sight of the adult world and the industries he controls.
Her first creative breakthrough came in 2019, on a song titled “Problem.” Produced by Warpstr – who would become a reliable collaborator and take care of almost all of DFTK– this song feels both busy and stripped to the bone, using ad-libs used as architecture in a way that makes “Glitch” feel like it breathes on its own. This intrigued Young Thug, who took Kayo to Los Angeles and recorded with him for several weeks, eventually signing the young rapper to his YSL imprint. Since “Glitch”, Kayo has obviously gone in search of a style of contemporary rap that he could not master, oscillating between white-hot growls, rounded edgeand exultant song.
DFTK is not an exhaustive survey of everything Kayo can do as a singer. He intelligently excises the flatter, more predictable modes in which he sometimes stumbled upon his previous EPs, finding it rather chaotic, a constant dose of ungovernable energy. Like “Glitch” and his best work of the middle years, it feels like a computer starting from the depths of hell; it has as much in common with PC Music as it does with the Swamp Izzo bands. (His most arresting guest spot comes not from buzzing Portland rapper Yeat, but from producer and experimental vocalist Eartheater, who moans midway through “hear you.”) It’s an uplifting opening salvo by an artist who only occasionally seems in full control of his considerable talent, an impression that makes the already nervous DFTK all the more unpredictable.