“bluu & REDD” explore the systematic corruption and racism that defines the United States, as Nicólas Soul & SHiKi prove to be soulful storytellers. A great deal of thought is placed within this journey featuring a great deal of small vignettes on a life wanting to be lived to the absolute fullest. The way they parse the American dream from the American reality offers a bit of insight into how so much awfulness manages to be set in perpetuity. By framing it within framework of the Matrix’s “Red Pill/Blue Pill” dichotomy, they are able to create something highly vivid. Deciding between living in blissful ignorance versus full awareness of the world can be a tricky one, though it really is not a choice but a desire to be completely unaware of historical context.
The influences vary significantly between the two rappers, though both seem to draw heavily from Kendrick Lamar’s incredibly insightful lyricism. Also, like Lamar, they too embrace a smokey jazz-noir style within the whole of the collection. Production goes for a flawlessness for the polished perfection works wonders as they adopt so many hauntingly beautiful melodies into the whole of the tapestry. Beyond Lamar, their personal visions recall the somber assessment of the Notorious B.I.G. at his most self-reflective. Over the course of the collection the duo draws from moments in their life. Parts of the collection are akin to pure poetry for the word choice and clarity of vision is something that stays with the listener long after the music has ended.
“$X$=$$ (feat. GAMii & RK Bottom Line)” starts off Nicólas Soul’s side. The saxophone proves to be a perfect counterpoint to the urgency of the lyricism. With “solange & solána (feat. Shiki Quentrell) a tenderness takes hold, a longing that captures the distance that defines love now. Drug use emerges on the heavy tact of “spiderman (Ft. Bryson Garrett)” for there is the hope to numb oneself. Eerie to its core the mystical “soulSESSION, Pt. 3” lets mental health issues come into the fray as the song churns about. Racism comes to the forefront on the sadness of “bluu (Ft. Bryson Garrett, Skiki Quentrell & Trevone)”, as the tone shifts considerably with “4mysKIN”. By far the highlight “4mysKIN” benefits from the tone established, as a bit of defiance and some optimism enters into the fray. Fully ending things with some joy is the palette cleansing bliss of “useni’s sleigh bell (Ft. Pe’Tehn Raighn Kem)”.
SHiKi’s introduces things on the powerful opener “REDD”. Within this track, SHiKI appears to be completely aware of the harshness of reality. Mortified is how he describes driving past cops, just like how he experienced taking tests. “TrApbrunCH FreEStyLe (feat. Nicólas Soul, Peavy & GAMii)” goes for a considerably heavier vibe, as the darkness of the track shifts from the mental to the literal and physical. Weird, woozy sounds cycle through on the disoriented “move (feat. SICEL)”. References abound on the surreal scope of “KiRBY (feat. GAMii)” incorporating pop culture references that have a tongue-in-cheek quality to them. Cryptic to its very essence is the mysterious “graveyardSHiFT / midnite sAAVior (feat. saint ember, Benji III & Nicólas Soul)” where the track’s duality works wonders, serving as the heart and soul of it all. Glistening keys punctuate the lyricism of “tAbULa rAsA” where a bit of clarity comes through. Neatly bringing it to a close is “fading2PRPL (feat. Matthew Butera)” as the track explores concepts of struggling but also pride.
Nicólas Soul & SHiKi deliver something highly poignant capturing the zeitgeist of the moment with “bluu & REDD”.