Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange was released four years ago and since then we have been left vacant, waiting for his long overdue return. Bridging the gap is Philadelphia’s own Matthew “Kenji” Evans with the release of his debut EP. I’ll Think of Something Better.
Masterminded from his Pennsylvanian bedroom studio Kenji has released the hardship of his teenage high school years in the form of a seven track mini album. At just 18 years old, he shows signs of maturity far beyond his years, producing a lush collage of sleek hip-hop beats acting as a flawless canvas for his crooning baritone narration.
Heaped bed sheets, scattered clothes and half eaten bowls of cereal. A time when getting one leg out of bed was seen as somewhat of an achievement and Myspace was the go to social hangout, these are the memories that fragment in my mind when I think about my teenage years. Kenji however has spent his time masterfully squeezing out every last drop of talent allowing it to splash all over his soulful production like a split bedside glass of O.J. Refreshing.
Surplus starts your journey into Kenji’s world through the spoken word, each sentence dripping off the track as he shares experiences from his youthful struggle of fitting in “Thoughts wide open and I can’t walk in, somethings holding me back” “Where do I belong?”. Kenji strays from a floating falsetto into flowing rap throughout the track, aiding his storytelling with tone and distortion from start to finish..
Kenji uses personalised skits layered with warped synths to full effect, recounting a late night Pitch Trip home, insomnia at 2am and a conversation about Money Mike the kid who goes around demanding cash. Providing us with only fragments of dialogue that flicker above the dulcet keyboard tones it all seems dreamlike, allowing only the snare to ride through the spine of the record to give us something to latch on to.
Chalk is a flirtatious love song with 80’s RnB influenced rhythms, telling a story about not being able to read the signs and taking the next step. “I may only be your friend” “Is she a girl I should care about?” “I swear that women speak in tongues”. This for me is one of the standout tracks, although only 1:42 long Kenji’s vocals and songwriting ability really shine.
A dream weaving and honest account of a teenager’s journey to adulthood I’ll Think of Something Better is a superbly crafted first instalment that’s bursting with personal accents and musical experimentation. Kenji will go from strength to strength as he hones his production technique and song writing style. He’s definitely one to watch.
I’ll Think of Something Better is out now on Sports Day Records.
Review: Jimmy Hunter