For the past several years, four young emcees from Florida - Isaac Knox, Heir Jordan, Skuba, and Espio - comprised a hip hop group called The King's Offspring. After a couple of releases, and a tour or two with Heath McNease, Skuba and Espio peaceably parted ways with the group to focus on life and other projects. With Jordan and Isaac still in the game, the duo retired the KO name, and with a renewed eagerness and grind, FREE DAPS was born.
In a way, FREE DAPS is a bit of a reinvention of Isaac and Jordan; while it's a continuation of where The King's Offspring may have gone after God, Girls & Glazed Donuts, the two seem to have evolved in their overall style for their first album, FREE DAPS. One big change is that most of the beats are original creations from the respective producers, whereas God, Girls & Glazed Donuts featured multiple tracks with music from other songs (from artists like Adele and OneRepublic, and even from the Inception movie soundtrack). Of course, that process isn't necessarily a bad thing; in fact, FREE DAPS does have a couple of tracks like that as well. They released a single on The King's Offspring's Bandcamp called "Skyfall," where the music was from Adele's song of the same name (this track is also available as a bonus track when you download the full FREE DAPS album from Bandcamp). And on the FREE DAPS album, "Mint Green Tux" uses the music from a song by the band fun. called "One Foot," except Isaac Knox added percussion to it to give it more life (and to make it a hip hop track).
Speaking of producers, there's a wide range of them for this album, and it makes for an eclectic listen. Though the duo's own Isaac Knox is the resident producer (he's responsible for the album's recording and engineering), he only produced the beats for three tracks here: "Mint Green Tux," "Dead in the Water," and "Radio," which features one of my favorite beats of the bunch. It's an upbeat track that uses a mixture of piano, synth, and both electric and acoustic guitar, with a steady beat on top. During the hook, there's an unusual effect that almost makes the percussion sound slow motion, and it complements the somber lyrics and vibe. In addition, Heath McNease provides the song's hook as well as the last verse, and he really brings the song home.
One of the producers you might have heard of prior to looking at this album's credits is Fab da Eclectic, who's responsible for three of the tracks. The first is a fun track that comes early in the tracklist, "Don't Know What To Do With Us." It's a carefree, yet carefully-constructed, beat that allows for Jordan and Isaac to provide a solid back-and-forth style delivery in the verses. The two rap about various things (such as watching Paranorman with Aaron Sorkin, Cougartown with Lex Luger, and Nickelodeon with the Olsen twins...both of them), before the third verse, where they're joined by Manchild, who apparently never spits a bad verse. Fab da Eclectic also did the beat for what might be my favorite FREE DAPS track, "I'm Not Very Good At This." It's a silly track with a hook that borrows from the '90s R&B act Blackstreet (Isaac says "I like the way you work it," which is followed by a sample of Blackstreet's ever-popular "No diggity!"). The sampling fits the beat extremely well, not only in timing and rhythm, but because the beat sounds like it could've been from an R&B song from that era.
Anyone familiar with The King's Offspring will no doubt be familiar with their sense of humor and silliness, which often shines through in their music. And of course, FREE DAPS does the same, with the aforementioned tracks, as well as "Nobody Missed Ya," "1Up," "Mint Green Tux," "Typical Friday Night (No Sleep)" (which actually works as a KO song, as it features verses from Skuba and Espio), and a bonus track called "That's A Chop" (where they threaten you with a chop if you post pictures of your dinner on Instagram or mess up a movie quote). But Isaac and Jordan also leave plenty of room for putting their hearts on display. The first instance from the album (and the album's first official single), is called "Work." While the guys typically have to find "regular jobs" when they aren't on tour, this track is about how their real work is putting on shows and interacting with the listeners on a nightly basis ("You can find me in the pit like it's my cubicle"), and they work for "Just enough fuel to make the drive, just enough food to stay alive, that's what we work for...man is not who we work for, who we work for, it's much more." The track does have a little bit of silliness involved, but it's mostly the two talking about why they do what they do. Later, "Dead in the Water" is a recollection of the heartbreak of a former love, while "JOB" takes the idea of "Work," but goes deeper into the hardship of being a broke, touring, twenty-something rapper ("I would've never called me poor, till the first time I'd fallen short, could not afford my one daily meal from the dollar store, so I'm thinking next week I could starve 'cause I've run out of change in the seats of my car, and I can't sell the ride because we're three thousand miles from home and I'm responsible for five of us"). The guys aren't shy about sharing their frustrations and problems, but you'll never hear them curse God for it; in fact, they do just the opposite in many of these tracks.
FREE DAPS is a duo to be excited about. They're young, energetic, and hard-working musicians who are ready to take the world by storm with their fun and honest hip hop. FREE DAPS is a solid effort from start to finish, with little to nothing to dislike (the only thing I didn't like was the verse from LightningCloud. RedCloud is terrific, but Crystle Lightning is more obnoxious than anything). And just as many independent artists do these days, their album is available through their Bandcamp for absolutely no cost at all. Hit up freedaps.com to pick up your copy (with bonus tracks) and make sure to keep your eye on these handsome guys.
- Review date: 10/11/13, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com