Two rapping talents prepare for an exciting Friday night in Gardner. Tonight, February 22, Grinnell’s own Nick Ward ’14 will be joined by the saucy K.Flay and, with no doubt, will get the crowd going.
Ward is a 3rd year Grinnellian from Little Rock, Arkansas who describes himself as “a hip-hop artist with the mindset of a scholar.”He’s been making music since the age of 13, and so far has two album-length mixtapes under his belt.
On his earliest release, “Whim Chasin’,” Ward encompasses a resounding solitude that somehow doesn’t feel that lonely. Far-reaching and harmonic arrangements in the beat stir feelings of both remembering the past and looking to the future.
Positioning himself on the bridge between these two worlds, Ward spits, “I’ll be good with time, just know I handle mines. There’s no need to worry ma, we out here and we doin’ fine. We’s lookin at this life and it’s lookin so appealing and I’m lookin’ at my boys and we plottin’ on making a million.”
His later releases, including the 2012 release track “Fame,” features a gloomier atmosphere with a more jaded voice. Over a wailing trumpet that rings out like a call to a silent response, Ward raps about the failure of reaching one’s dreams.
“Matter of fact, I seen her last week now and she’s off doing lines I never run off with judgment of her life cuz it could’ve been mine.”
The song focuses on an outsider’s view looking in instead of the introspective nature of his earlier work. In an interview, Ward cited this as an artistic choice through which he wanted to tell stories to his audience. Ward attributes this shift in style to a desire to make his music more cinematic in order to embody experiences, which he says has garnered a warm reception.
“When I first started, I would always get comparisons like ‘oh you sound like this, oh you sound like this.’ But with my recent stuff people are saying ‘you’re finding you’re voice; you sound like Nick Ward,’” he said.
Those coming out to see Ward will have no problem connecting with the sharp and open-minded musician.
Next up is K.Flay, a twenty-something Stanford alumna and on-the-rise musician. A song from her upcoming mixtape, “West Coast,” is making its way onto the ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars. The show has a penchant for picking up hip, fresh sounds that appeal to young people, from Lady Gaga minutes before her pre-astronomic rise to international fame, to Icona Pop. If a show wants to keep young audiences entranced, it’s gotta give them a savory pop soundtrack.
“Fvcking Crazy,” is the track picked up from her upcoming mixtape. With its crunching backbeat and eerie pindrop notes in the chorus, it sounds like it could be the music to some dark industrial club. It lurches forward with staccato beats, when the chorus introduces an unapologetic self-indulgence that borders on solipsism. “If you wanna be my baby get ready for some bullshit cuz I’m like fucking crazy-fucking crazy.”
Within this personal focus lies the track’s deeply introspective nature. Featuring raps from Eligh and Grieves, these rappers shred the beat with quick-fire lines like “my mind is a dangerous vine to find yourself intertwined with” that sizzle with bounce and syntactical dexterity. It’s a welcome and interesting foil to K.Flay’s own rap, where she employs a pithy and self-knowing sass that drawls out into a taunt—to herself and to others.
“My friends say the reason I’m alone is that I’m a b-a-a-a-d girl, got a knife in my arm, a disguise in my bones, guess I better deal with th-a-a-a-t first.”
On her “Eyes Shut” EP, K.Flay’s shows off her ability to mix goofy easiness with sinfully stark honesty. The track has the classic “dun dun dun dun” suspense note of Psycho played by piano in the background. Meanwhile, Flaherty spits about bacon and eggs for breakfast and her mom’s encouragement—undercutting her lines expressing life-threatening anxiety with jokes about domesticity and tranquility. Just after mentioning hot dogs on poppy seed buns, Flay goes in:
“Frightened cuz I gotta a lot of people kinda know me and I’m swaggin like an asshole workin’ like a zombie see a heard a bunch of jokes but I couldn’t find them funny and now I’m hanging by the thread of an untied bungee,” all within a ten second frame, finishing off with “Real sunny, well, I’m kinda like the opposite of that I’m always good but it’d be nice to have the option to be bad.” K.Flay delivers Jack Torrance frenzy from The Shining, crazy smile and all.
Not to say that K.Flay is crazy. The crescendos of introspection and mortality just show what a multi-layered musician and person she is. K.Flay commits to her music to give up all she’s got, and if that includes the manic personality running underneath her brilliant sense of humor that leads her to do artistic choices like calling herself “fvcking crazy” and titling tracks “We Hate Everyone,” more power to her.
Catch both these emcees this Friday at Gardner, February 22.