Kweku Collins and I are the same age. We both grew up listening to Weezy and T-Pain, and we both grew up with IPods. That being said, I left Chicago at fourteen and he stayed, and it shows. Nat Love is a synthesis of many wonderful things; hip hop, social consciousness, insecurity, weed, and soul. This album reminds me of being stoned, lying in the grass at the park in high school. This album comes from a man acutely aware of himself, and his environment. His whiny singing sounds childish, but it comes from a very mature mind.
Kanye West and Chance the Rapper are the two big names these days when talking about Chicago hip hop, and Kweku absorbed the best of these guys. There are gospel sensibilities found in songs like “Death of a Salesman” and “Everever (Oasis1)”. Like Chance, he’s in touch with where he comes from and you can hear it in “The Outsiders”.
Can’t you see the sunset real good on the North side?
You can see it on the South side too
Lyrically this album covers a lot of ground, all from the perspective of a highly self-aware nineteen-year-old. In “Stupid Roses” he talks about his love/hate relationship with cannabis; personifying it as though it were a beautiful temptress. His relationship with weed is not unlike that of many high schoolers. It’s a great distraction from the growing up you’re supposed to be doing, but if you let it, it can become a crutch. In more ways than one, it’s a great love song for people of all.
He brazenly criticizes the powers that be in his native Chicago. He talks about being asked to serve a country that thinks he can only be a rapper or a soldier, but he doesn’t get ahead of himself, and doesn’t ask for favors from anyone. Additionally, motifs of fading love and big aspirations pervade this album, all set to a comfortable hip hop/trap instrumental.
Serious subject matter is backed with slow, pulsating instrumentals. The tempo on this album never changes and suggest a contemplative mood. Piano and acoustic guitar color the backdrop of the beats, and remind me of blues and soul records from the ‘50s and ‘60s (a la B.B. King and Etta James). The music doesn’t overpower the lyrics, instead it does a wonderful job of enhancing their effect.
Nat Love is Collins’ sophomore album, and a more developed sound compared to his debut Say it Here, While it’s Safe. And while I’m impressed by the mature sound that this man has cultivated, I still get the feeling that the best is yet to come from Kweku Collins.
By Charlie Hindman