Okay… something must be said before anything else about Citizen Kay’s newest album, so, where are we?
That transition from opening track “so, it begins” into “it is what it is” has me instantly hooked. I’m hooked, not just because it’s cool, and I’m totally obsessed with a sexy smooth transition. There are sonic treats around every corner on this album, and it’s freaking beautiful. Ghanaian-Australian artist and producer Kojo ‘Kay’ Ansah created this album on an open field; there’s funk elements, but also soul, r&b, and hip-hop. Under the project name Citizen Kay, he and artists like his brother, Genesis Owusu, as well as Steve Read, Koebi Faumui, and more come together to contribute to this dark velvet album.
Based on his online presence for social media and streaming providers, he’s also super intentional about crediting every artist involved on his projects. Every song has a link to featured artists’ pages, and all posts on social media include detailed credits. Crediting artists and listing features seems universal, but plenty of artists do not. Maybe that’s a personal rant; either way, it’s cool to see how Kay operates in that way.
Kay shares with a music and arts magazine local to his home that the Citizen Kay project birthed from an infatuation with music creation. Citizen Kay is the character who embodies all aspects of Kay’s love of music, for whatever music that is at any given time in his life. I love that for him.
Hybrid hip-hop influences that were more heavily explored in his early days take new form on this record. “run & hide,” the album’s resident hip-hop hit, features artist keo for a fusion of rap, Kay’s more recent funkcore and, of course, angelic, echoing vocals. He layers the vocals over a bubbly riff, and it fits perfectly into the soul-filled album. Sometimes the riff is overstimulating, but at one point it matches the tune with his vocals. Kay’s conveying frustration on this track, and the riff mirrors that. It’s a reminder of the attention to detail Kay has; nothing is accidental.
These 12 tracks exist in a chaotic-good space. Kay — you make me want to dance, cry occasionally, and one time on “been here before” I felt the urge to call my mom… and I did. It was a good convo, too. Contrary to the rest of the songs, the simplicity of this track makes it meaningful, with mostly a soft piano and vocals. It’s familiar in its production, but uniquely Citizen Kay. Kay’s soft, silky vocals are amplified in layers and he makes it a comfortable, warm space to exist.
More to his genius production; Kay has the ability to captivate listeners. The large field of feelings to be felt within this one album speaks to Kay’s production expertise. “clarity. – interlude” scared the fuck out of me. For the first listen, I was frozen for the entire 36 seconds. The title suggests a realization or understanding, but Kay creates an engulfing interlude eliciting dreadful doom and misery. I absolutely love it. so, where are we? displays his executive powers in deliberate production techniques that extract any emotion he wants to conjure.
My personal favorite on the album, “follow, my love” featuring Koebi Faumui, hits in such a sweet spot, ugh! I would fight to the death for this song, it’s simply everything. Ironically (and probably intentionally), it’s also one track before “clarity. – interlude.” Soothing piano notes blend with those buttery vocals to introduce the track, but an electric guitar creeps lightly and slowly in the background, foreshadowing a tune change. When it hits, I ascend. The Steve Lacy-style bedroom pop, layered feminine and masculine vocals, and catchy lyrics have a chokehold on me right now.
The groovy track “it is what it is” puts Kay’s calming vocals into a funk sphere. Track two is goofy and fun, and the music video only amplifies this. The video follows Kay through a carefree day, which starts by him falling out of the sky. This song introduces a concept of ego-war: ‘Nothing could touch me; nothing could hold me down/Believe me, trust me… I let my ego drown.‘ The protagonist’s confidence has peaked, but he’s sure he’s scrapped the selfish nature often coupling self-assuredness. The ups and downs of this inner battle reflect the energy of the album as the character deeply discovers life’s cycles.
I listened to this album on headphones the first time I played it. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t had that isolated listening experience with this record at least once. Every transition, interlude, and sonic detail should be experienced in its totality. Kay and every contributing artist on this project pour heart and soul into the production of so, where are we? Citizen Kay shares with listeners that the album is made to loop back into itself. Please, I urge and beg you to loop that baby back.
Artist photo courtesy of BMA Mag