Homegrown Chicago emcee, Neak, is very vulnerable on his newest album, KWESBAAR. So it would only make sense that the definition of the African word translated into English, simply means, vulnerable. The way that Neak is able to dip into all the elements of Hip-Hop, Jazz, Soul, Funk, Retro and live instrumentation as his backdrop to delve into all of his fears, insecurities and trials and tribulations through every phase of life with each of the 13 tracks, is simply quite amazing and masterful.
From the lyrical sharpness, true to life raps and stellar jazzy soulfully standout masterful production on opening track, Elevation Everything, you can tell you’re in for a truly unique and great album. His first all-inclusive self-produced album, you can tell how Neak took every word, note, scratch, thought, to each timely detail and made sure it was pure perfection throughout each one of the 13 tracks. Almost like a conductor the way he’s able to weave in and out of each track with pure perfection and ease like another Chicago-bred musician, producer and great, Quincy Jones.
The features and collaborators he has on the album, which ranges from DJ RTST to fellow Chicago natives GLC, Rita J and Rashid Hadee, as well as such great musicians as trumpeter Sam Trump, pianist Aminata Burton and alto sax player Caroline Davis, really helping bring the best out of Neak. Especially with Rita J on the very standout soulfully jazzy, Do It For Love, which has both Chicago natives having a nice back-and-forth trying to out due the other, as they rap about their love and what they like to do best for that love. The production and concept of back-and-forth emceeing like that very reminiscent of the Golden Era Hip-Hop of, A Tribe Called Quest, who’s hit record, Bonita, Applebum, is even name dropped by Neak on his third verse. Seguing very perfectly into the very upbeat, W.Y.T.A.M., Neak like those greats of the Golden Era, takes a page from their playback by bearing his soul with each line and bar throughout not only that track, but the whole album.
Even the opening lines of “I change the world simply when I bare a little soul, my upbringing through the fire analyzing woes, naive slave to my lineage I can’t control,” on the Rashid Hadee featured standout, War, showing how Neak is able to do so. Also giving that pure rawness and truth in the lyrics needed to be heard, while still giving hope that there will be better though. No track will hit you and have you go through several whirlwind emotions, questions and soul-searching of yourself if you’re a male as much as the very soulfully smooth and emotional, Lost Fathers featuring Erthe St. James. Easily the best record on the whole album, the very inspiring poem and spoken-word performance from Prentice Powell towards the closing of the record, really truly giving such positivity and hope for all of us men to truly do are best when we become fathers to be a “good father.”
Gold, which features a very great soulfully amazing performance from Peter Jericho on the chorus, is yet another soulfully emotional standout, which is pure gold. From the lyrics to the production and performance from Burton on grand piano, really making it the second best track on the album. As the album gets to its latter end, it’s as if track seems to get just as better, if not better than the next one. With the way that Neak is able to switch up his flow midway through such stellar lyrics as, “Recognizing I’ma OG flowing study the penmanship, menacing definitive. Farrakhan in the leadership, following is militant, means by any means to fuel these ghetto dreams we relishing are you listening? Huh, the mentality is mosh pit, pushing with the force, change course, flip the guap quick. Yeah we love cars, clothes, jewelry, and fly s**t. Now it’s time to build a legacy where communities reap the profits, can’t stop it, legend, only option.” On, Kiss the Ring, really showing his mastery of flows too, that’s unlike many.
Closing the album with what’s easily the third best track on the album in his tribute to soul/jazz/funk legend, Kool and The Gang, Dreamer’s Sadness, Neak shows how much he has truly grown with this album. Not only as an emcee, but a producer, musician and artist. Easily a true masterpiece, that’s not only one of the best Hip-Hop albums this year, but across all of music. Neak will give you a positive new perspective of hope, confidence and rawness through this album that will make you vulnerable and open yourself to such great self-love, confidence and rediscovery of your own self to make yourself and others around you better that we all truly need in times like now.