‘Arizona Baby’ a ground-breaking album from an artist in a category all his own

The album cover of Arizona Baby from Kevin Abstract.

Courtesy of Pitchfork

The album cover of “Arizona Baby” from Kevin Abstract.

“Arizona Baby,” the new album by Kevin Abstract, brings forward a personal collection of songs reminiscing on memories of the past and the prospect of a better future. Kevin Abstract has been around for years as a main member of the hip-hop group Brockhampton along with his own previous solo projects, MTV1987, Death of a Supermodel and American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story. Born Clifford Ian Simpson, Kevin Abstract is not your average rapper and singer. Not only can he shift between different flows and Frank Ocean-esque crooning; he also bravely puts his own emotions and personal life at the forefront of his music and lyrics.

“Big Wheels,” the first track on “Arizona Baby,” is an exuberant burst into the album that exemplifies all of Simpson’s lyrical and vocal talents. The track runs just under two minutes and features an intense beat in the background of Simpson’s quick flow that transitions mid-song to a few bars of singing. The constant transitions from singing to rapping throughout the album bring forward an intriguing contrast that puts an emphasis on the choruses and verses. This allows the listener to get the best of both worlds of Simpson’s talents and also focus on the lyrics, which remain one of the binding factors of this album. Another track that utilizes the contrast of singing and rapping skills is “Corpus Christi”, the city he was born in, where he weaves in and out of a rap about his personal life with a chorus of “if you wake up feeling more lonely than you felt yesterday, the more you gotta let me go then.”

“Arizona Baby” is filled with personal lyrical accounts of the childhood and high school memories of Simpson, who had turbulent experiences in childhood before his music career. In a rap community that is at times filled with homophobic lyrics, Kevin openly raps and sings about who he is and what he has been through. On “American Problem” he reminisces about a previous relationship that didn’t work out and the coping mechanisms he uses to forget the pain. However, he transitions from an off-kilter flow to bars about the struggles of being gay at his high school, where his principal would discriminate against him, ending the song with the lyrics, “I am just another American problem.”

The two songs on the album that stick out as possible fan favorites are “Peach” and “Georgia,” which are filled with catchy choruses and deep introspective bars. “Georgia” is a future summer anthem about finding your people and your home. Simpson ran away from home in Texas at 15 and went to eventually live with his sister in Georgia, and he sings “call my mom and let her know everything is alright.” The next song that will be on repeat for any potential listeners is “Peach,” a song about love and all its complications. The song intertwines a beautiful chorus of “If you left your love I’d be right” followed with bars on the journey that a relationship can be.

The only part of “Arizona Baby” that was difficult to listen to was the last song, “Boyer,” which lacked direction and didn’t satisfy the listener in an otherwise exceptional album. Another criticism of the album is the potential for a more connected narrative that would tie concepts and songs more clearly together into one coherent vision. However, the album overall gives the listener a whirlwind of emotions through thought-provoking lyrics that are all spun on catchy and loveable beats. “Arizona Baby” is a masterful combination of rapping and singing to deliver honest stories about loss, love, discrimination and life as an American teen who doesn’t fit the mold that society projects onto them.