♫♪  Kevin Kazi - “17 (prod. JLOUD)”

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Pour a little more into your cup / The sweeter the juice /
The better your luck

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Pitch manipulation is as integral to hip-hop as the arpeggiated hi-hat or well-mixed 808 kick. If it weren’t for the chipmunked soul samples that echoed through Old Kanye’s production, “Through the Wire” wouldn’t hit with the hyperbolized pain that pumps through its chorus. If DJ Screw hadn’t slowed his records to a languid 33 1/3 RPM, A$AP Mob and Raider Klan wouldn’t have later reshaped Houston’s chopped-and-slopped sound into the gothic horrorcore that defined the early-to-mid 2010s.

As commonplace as squashed or stretched samples are among most avenues of Soundcloud rap, I’d yet to hear an unsigned emcee straight-up spit over nightcore until Kevin Kazi’s 17 Years mixtape slid down my Twitter timeline. The 5-song tape’s opening track, “17”, crept into my earbuds with its source material lade bare: a sped-up flip of “Til’ Death” by singer-songwriter and occasional Beyoncé collaborator Wynter Gordon. Following Kazi’s intro spiel about wanting to cop a Hello Kitty chain post-stardom, JLOUD’s trap kit bodies the beat’s rhythm section, providing a firm, endearingly cheesy platform for the Atlanta-based rapper to construct his verses on.

“17” acts as a birthday present from Kazi to himself: pounding out syllables with conviction, he rattles off trap tropes while lauding the underground’s youthful population. He’s 17; you’re 30. Clout levels are through the roof. Deal with it. The song’s as hype as a Danny L. Harle mix and hard as anything coming out of the South today. If this is how Kevin Kazi’s coming in 2018, expect great things.

Chocolate Grinder

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we’ll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.

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