Album Review: Kap Kallous – “DECEMBER”
Since releasing his Grandeur album (which I reviewed), the Orlando-native, Los Angeles-based emcee Kap Kallous has been working hard on the next project. One year later, on June 22nd, he released DECEMBER. While he collected beats from some familiar collaborators (such as David Grants, Optiks, ALXNDRBRWN, Klutch, and others), the lyrical content takes a different path than his previous works. Self-proclaimed as his most personal album to date, this 13-track album (14, if you include the bonus track “Pine Box“) finds him shedding all concepts, to share and expose his history, dark thoughts, and a lot of deeply-rooted feelings. It’s unexpected, yet unexpectedly amazing to sit back and get a glimpse at this other side of Kap Kallous.
There are a handful of vocal features from Dude Tunes (which you’ve heard them together on “Paper Cuts“, from the last album), Martin Salazar, Lia Mack, and Jade Lawhon, as well as Wrekonize and Luckyiam on the bonus cut. As usual, I spent a lot of time listening to this album, both as a fan and a reviewer, to fully digest it and interpret each song in length. Keep reading, if you’re interested. Otherwise, check the rating, click the reader rating bar to leave your own, and then scroll to the bottom to find the Bandcamp player and purchase links.
01. COLD AS A MOTHERFUCKER ————— 10/10
For me, the first song of an album is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle, because if the first song I hit play on doesn’t grab me in some way, I’ll get discouraged for what the rest of the album will be like. That said, this song is one of my top favorites on the album (and let’s face it, I have a grip of favorites on here). Produced by David Grants, I’m hypnotized by deep, pulsating kicks, clanking snares, rapid hi-hats, twinkling synths, and rock-inspired singing that stretches out over the beat, in a raw, sensual, and dark way that instantly pulled me into its slow-motion groove. It’s not at all a sexy song in the lyrical sense–quite the opposite, actually–but the production is oddly sexy to me.
Before releasing the album, Kap’s been saying that this is one of his deepest, more personal albums, and it is. In the first verse, Kap says that he’s “Finally dropping a project that ain’t exactly a concept // More like a feeling // I feel like I’m feeling, feeling myself.” A lot of his albums in the past were driven by a particular concept, but this one finds him tossing concepts to the side, and focuses on letting his soul come alive, in the most honest of ways, while still being the same ol’ Kap we know and love–that foul-mouthed, unapologetic, word-slanging, in-your-face lyricism. “Just wanna be remembered // Cold as a motherfucker – so December.”
With all that said, December seems less like a moment of time, and more like a metaphor for being cold / cold-hearted. In the song, he talks about taking pills to alter his mood, doing things to escape reality, and feeling like he’s losing his mind. So, I feel like he wishes he could shut down the emotional side of his brain and stop feeling so much (this album is PACKED with feelings), so he can just be that cold dude that does what’s necessary to get where he needs to be–but, until that day comes, we’re going to get those feelings… those honestly real feelings that are a little bit crazy, a little bit evil, and all the way raw and exposed. That’s what this album is to me.
02. DECEMBER ————— 10/10
Kap Kallous recalls on the past, pulling from unsettling times, to tell stories about being that misbehaved outsider that turned out relatively OK, despite the demons he’s been dealing with (“I take it back to all the classes I would sit in // I would never fit in // Told ’em I would get it – probably thought I was kiddin’ // And look at me I did it, no, look at me I did it // Ask about me now, I be chillin“).
Over a humming bassline, clapping blocks, and thumping drums that you can feel in your chest when the volume is turned up (produced by Optiks), Kap comes in with a cool flow and sets the tone for this personal song with some lines that I enjoy rapping along to: “Now if you ever saw me praying // You would know what I was saying // ‘Cause I probably wasn’t saying shit // And I’ve been kinda evil lately // I am not an angel, baby // But I do not know who’s sayin is // I am not the boy you made me // I been in and out of crazy // I been thinking that I’m made for this.”
“December” takes me down the deeper parts of his mind, teetering between sane and crazy, and I like it, because it’s real and relatable. You know that saying that goes something like, “you can be surrounded by a room full of people, and still feel alone”? That comes to mind when I listen to this song. I imagine a person who is confident, self-assured, and proud of themselves for not totally losing it, especially during the times when they are consumed by depression. He’s great at keeping his composure, but some crazy shit is stirring around inside of him. I hear that emotional depth being sung in the first bridge (“These four walls are closing in // I don’t know myself, ain’t got no friends // I got so much time that I could spend on // Got no one that I depend on“) and the first couple of lines of the second verse (“And people are strange, children are cruel // Women have ways, yeah // And all men are fools“).
This song is catchy, I love the overall melody and flow of the song, I like when Kap switches between rapping and singing… and I could just listen to this over, and over, and over again. And I have. I learned all the lyrics pretty quick, and I find this song randomly popping into my head throughout the day. Another instant favorite.
And, still, he’s been thinking about December all day.
03. LEFT FRONTAL LOBE (ft Dude Tunes & Martin Salazar) ————— 9/10
When I listen to a song to review, I click play, scribble down stand-out lyrics, emotions that I feel, thoughts that come to mind, do some research (if necessary), rinse and repeat. Then, I try to wrap it all up in a couple of paragraphs, or less. It took me a little longer than the first two, to wrap my head around this one, and I must admit, I think I over-analyzed this song. Big time, but whatever.
Now bare with me here. The frontal lobes control our emotions, motor functions, problem solving, language, and it’s basically the command center to our personalities. That said, I think the song’s title and the songwriting here is referring to the damage done to some of that when sadness, anxiety, and/or fear cloud the headspace.
“Left Frontal Lobe” finds them questioning life and death, and whether or not they’re doing right by the one life they have, which is something that runs through a lot of minds–crippled by strong emotions, or not. Being that this is my review and my own interpretation, who’s to say that this is right or wrong (other than Kap Kallous, when he reads it)? Haha!
That said, let me start off by saying that I like the format that Kap Kallous and Dude Tunes take, where they sing a little right before they punch throught he walls with heated deliveries and deep, thought-provoking lyrics. Kap Kallous is up to bat first, and when I listen to his verse, I feel like he’s questioning the quality of a life that’s filled with nothing but material items, bad doings, and massive amounts of stress that weighs down on him from all the hard work he puts into his craft. Although a touchy subject, there are a lot of dark, suicidal thoughts weaved throughout his somber, reflective lyrics. For example, there’s disbelief that he’ll go to heaven when all is said and done, based on the fact that he doesn’t feel like he’s living a good life: “And I damn a muhfucka that say I’m going to heaven // Second I heard him say it, I grabbed the hearse and revved it // Soul inside of the engine // Suicide is a sentence // All this work has been killing me // Think that we’re being messaged (?) // Everybody love it when you gonna die from it // Going over budget is never gonna cut it, no // Cutting throats, been watching all of the puddles grow // What’s the point of livin’, when you ain’t livin’ right“.
Throughout the song, there’s some soulful, melancholy singing, to which I assume is Martin Salazar. Before punching through with a heated delivery in his verse, Dude Tunes sings a little haunting bridge: “Sometimes I get afraid of my own shadow // I cannot run away from my own battles // I know that I’m taking my time, but what if my timing is off // I love my friends and my family // Do they still misunderstand me // Now what does it matter to you…?” Then, POW! Fed up, aggressive, with two middle fingers in the air, his honest, angry bars go on to say: “And I do play favorites // Don’t do me no favors, it’s time for hell-raising shit // Fuck your kids, you baby bitch // I be that and maybe this // The maybes made me crazy by the don’t knows // Now I be looking right through the wrong folks…”
I like that they both tap into vulnerability and darker, real-life thoughts, putting it all on display. I commend that bravery, particularly from Kap Kallous, because it’s not expected and I’m sure it’s out of his comfort zone. Although it took me longer than usual to digest this song, I really like it.
04. TEN GOLD PLATES ————— 10/10
I shared this music video earlier this month, and it’s just as dope as the song. Kap’s villainous storytelling lyrics follow him in an all-black Cadillac, doing NSFW things with some bad broads and taking part in criminal activities. A fast flow, fun wordplay, and great use of imagery. There’s a short line where he says, “Fuck the world with no condom on,” and I think it sums up the song as a whole–it’s raw, it’s sexual, it’s explicit, and it bangs. It’s a soundtrack for doing dirty, illicit deeds. Parental advisory sticker needed.
05. SORRY I’M NOT SORRY (ft Martin Salazar) ————— 10/10
The melancholy guitars and sweet keys sets the tone for the lyrics about breaking hearts and the repercussions, while the thudding, hard-hitting drums propel Kap Kallous’ passionate flow. This is a brutally honest song about a sour relationship, from the perspective of the cheating, lying, irresponsible man that wasn’t ready for commitment. Yet, on the flip side, there’s minor commentary on the woman who stuck around, despite a loveless, destructive relationship. Damn. “Told you that I loved you, and half the time I pretended // Guess I’m pretty relentless.”
This song kind of stings when I listen to it, because the story he’s telling, about the shit he used to do to the lady he was involved with, has me feeling sympathy for her. It’s shocking and his actions are unfavorable, but it’s real and not sugar-coated. Although Kap penned an unapologetic song about breaking someone’s heart, by the end of it, I feel like there’s something he’s leaving out–like, there’s a motive behind the bad guy that’s being described in Kap’s raps. I just hear some sense of mutual hurt in some of the words in the song. For example, when he says, “Wrote this letter in cursive, and I know that I’ll never send it” (writing in cursive and the hesitance shows some type of caring), or “I told you I loved you and half the time I pretended“, and when Martin Salazar sings “Why would I apologize? // Bet you think I didn’t know“. Stuff like that makes me think that this song was written with more of a meaningful purpose, other than to come off with this “fuck it, I’m not sorry” front. Maybe?
Whatever the case, I commend his storytelling, brutal honesty, and fearlessness to lay it all out there. I also like his ability to make me react (shocked at the lack of remorse expressed and the sympathy I felt) and that he made me curious to know more.
“Yeah, I can keep a secret // Yeah, I can make a song // Yeah, I can make you angry // Yeah, I can right a wrong // Yeah, I know that you hate it // Glad you finally gone // And every time that you hear this, I hope that you sing along // And it hurts.”
06. ATONEMENT (ft Lia Mack) ————— 10/10
“If you hear me say I’m happy, then I’m lying to your face,” Kap spits some heavy lines, weighed down with frustration, stress, anger, and a place of sadness. But his delivery is strong, his wordplay is on point, and he has a lot to say about the music game and himself. Actually, it’s a frequent thing that you’ll hear in this album, him talking about the down side of music and feeling run-down by the stress of it at times.
“Stress is so familiar, I let it open the door // Then walk through it, while most of you just talk foolish // I talk money, it’s funny, these words are well suited // I’m no boss, this music’s a shitty job // I get off by putting my city on // With no prob, I’d send these rappers to God // And that’s the only way I would look up to you slobs // I stopped fuckin’ with all of you // Married to my passion, by this point the condom’s off // […] // I hate that I’m a rapper, I ain’t doin’ this for fun // But I’m tryin’, though // And at the same time I’m dyin, though.”
Towards the last half, there’s a lot of self-realization about the harsh truth of what’s expected from him by people on the outside versus doing what is really best for him. With emotions running high, feelings coming out, and a glimpse of what it’s like to be a rapper / a person with fans, money, and to be looked at as purely entertainment, this is an excellent Klutch-produced song.
“I’d rather keep it real with you, sometimes that’s what it takes // See, good things come to all of those who wait // This weight is getting heavy, I don’t want to see me break // But maybe you do, they just wanna get a taste // Everybody seems to change when they see what’s on your plate // I’m beefin’ with my family, while cuttin’ through this steak // And I thought that having money would’ve been a piece of cake // But wait, what you want isn’t always what you need // And the second that you get it, could be the moment you leave // Everybody got dreams, but now I finally see // Don’t forget be in the moment, remember to just breathe // Then I noticed atonement was so secondary // They don’t love you, they need to see you legendary // […] // I swear December’s a season, the pain’s temporary.”
07. DAMN SHAME ————— 6/10
This is the first song on the album where it doesn’t do a whole lot for me. It’s alright, but it’s not a favorite. The ALXNDRBRWN beat knocks hard, but some of the lyrical content doesn’t vibe with me. With liquor on his breath and being turned all the way up, Kap Kallous raps about going home with sleazy women / hookers / strippers, getting fucked up, and keeping to himself (“I don’t bother nobody, unless it’s all about dollars // And that’s a damn shame, a damn shame“). While I don’t subscribe to the “bands a make her dance” talk and “yeah, ho!” being chanted in the middle of the song, I do like his conscious commentary on fake adoration and the praise being received, due to the false notion that he might be rich. Now that’s a damn shame.
“I know that it’s probably fake // But at this point, it’s just feeling too great // Breaking the bank, no filling the tank // Then she gon ask me how much do I make // That dream money // That clean money // That green money, she need money // Fiend money, lean money // That I just gotta do me money // And I know you do, but I ain’t rich // Even if I was, ho, I don’t trick // I dress the part, and you couldn’t tell // I’m broke as hell, and you crazy b-”
08. LONG DAYS / LATE NIGHTS (ft Dude Tunes & DJ EPS) ————— 9/10
Loving David Grants on these beats, man. Ughhh, the warm guitar stretching over heavy drums, with the delicate piano keys and twinkling percussion tip-toeing in the background, is so pleasing to my ears. Add in some delicious scratching, handled by DJ EPS, and Kap’s got something melodic to get on.
I like that, throughout this album, we hear Kap Kallous going back and forth between singing and rapping, too. I know I’ve said that a lot. It’s a hit and miss with some people, but he works it well. “Gotta get my mind right, my mind right, my mind right now // So much on my mind right, my mind right, my mind right now.”
This one reaches out to the hard workers and insomniacs, identifying with those whose long days stretch into long nights, and it becoming one giant blur. When you can’t sleep, because your mind are racing, over-analyzing moments and mistakes; all while feeling alone in these kinds of situations. “What’chu know about 3am with your chest tight // It’s been so long since you slept right // Taking all these meds like, thinking that your damn head might…. // Explode, where do I go when I’m feelin’ so alone.”
Dude Tunes has a short part in it, but he lends to the whole ‘getting your mind right’ idea with some words of truth and wisdom. “No life is fair, and that’s the surface // Find your purpose, why you nervous?”
09. THE CLIP ————— 10/10
The bell tolls on this hard-hitting ALXNDRBRWN beat, and Kap Kallous’ wordplay with guitars and a woman is playful, clever, and sexy. “That guitar case body and a face, oh lawdy // I can’t wait til she put it on me, on me // Hit the bass all morning, I can taste that moment // And we never gon’ play it off key // She say she love it when you’re pulling on my strings // No one can hold her, I only molded her for me // She gotta tune it up for me // I only play her in my dreams // But we ain’t never off key…” Whew! The rhythm, the sexual innuendos, the desire that he has for this woman, and the moments that he sings is all so sexy. Of course, it ends with an electric guitar on the fade-out. A-plus! Really diggin’ this one.
“Smoking on this clip, playing that guitar, babe (?) // I don’t even know how // There’s something that you do, in the way that you move // That inspires me… To try something new.”
10. HUGS & DEVILS (ft Jade Lawhon) ————— 10/10
The second that this song came on, I knew I was going to love it. I really like the setup, the beat, the held-back delivery, and the poetic songwriting. Produced by ALXNDRBRWN, the beat is minimal and daunting… dusty, pounding drums, but it really rides tough on synths that roll with a deep hum in the verses and get jagged in the hook. Kap’s vocals and delivery are apathetic, and he comes in with, “Stars, they sure look pretty // I just wanna do drugs // All the sins I live in, they ask me who do I love.” Right after, he and Jade Lawhon sing together: “I love me, and everything about me.”
The beat coupled with the lyrics have this song sounding like it’s inspired by a drug-induced trip. Drugs and addiction, mixed with love. Or maybe drugs and addiction is a metaphor for how crazy love can get. Through the lyrics, I hear the roller coaster effects of being addicted to drugs (or love)–everything from feeling more alive, being on a happy high, needing answers to big questions, to getting negatively obsessed, destroying one’s body, and only caring about one’s self rather than others involved. “You ever front like I ain’t perfect for your crazy ass // Game plan, maniac // Sickness in your stomach where we should’ve put a baby at // But you love you more than anything, don’t you // So you put you over everything, won’t you // Evil do what evil does, but we in love // I needed to remove the cuffs, she erupts // There’s something in the way of us, it wasn’t lust // Got us feeling like the greatest drug // We addicted.”
Whatever the case, I really like it. The song is heavy, without being over-powering. The end is soooo dope, too. Jade Lawhon’s sweet voice comes in singing, “Told him I was the devil, he just gave me a hug // Mama knows I don’t settle, tell me who you love… I hate me.” The “I hate me / I love you” duality between she and Kap Kallous here is cool. She sings about hate, he sings about love.
Again, I’m not sure if this is a drugs + addiction + doing it all with someone you love scenario, or if this is a loving someone so much that you lose yourself kind of song… but, two thumbs up.
11. CATCH THE DRIP ————— 10/10
“Catch the drip, young world // It’s such a trip, young world // It ain’t a game, just the tip, young girl // Move your hips, young girl // It’s what it is, young girl // Its young boys out for theirs.”
“Catch the Drip” is a song about the condom breaking during sex, but in the moment, all you want to do is have a good, wild time, without worrying about the consequences. He flashes back to a past time of being young, down with depression, and looking for pick-me-ups through sex, pills, liquor, and cocaine. It’s a dangerous cocktail, and his own dance with the devil.
From the second verse: “Me, I be chill mode // Real cold, polar cap // Kallous in the snow // Her tongue on my earlobe // I know I was buggin // She probably got a husband // Somebody’s wife just blew an onion in my hotel // Oh well, we just some grown ass kids // Never giving a fuck about the things we did // And then she slipped me something different // Fucked with my vision, everything wasn’t as vivid // Look how we livin’, bitch // Almost made a kid in this damn hotel // Knowing damn well, we damn near kids ourselves // And hell’s a moment away from heaven // We breaking through protection // Fuck it we living // Let it feel good for couple of seconds // Know that I shouldn’t // Should’ve pulled it, I could’ve // Faded in the moment, now I gotta own it.”
12. ORDINARY VESSEL ————— 10/10
Lia Mack’s vocals start off this song, and her singing has a chilling, “calm before the storm” type vibe. Snapping fingers join in, as does Kap Kallous, before pounding drums march with men chanting in the background. “And I been kinda quiet lately // These little silent victories can always be what make me // Who I am, I been the man // Through all this jeopardy I’m facing // Hopefully you’ll never see how far I actually could take it, damn“.
With a heated delivery, confidence in the air, and powerful lyricism that packs a punch, Kap proves that he doesn’t give a damn about negative opinions, he’s just going to do him, provide for his family, and work towards reigning supreme. All while being a little humble, saying, “I’m nothing special, just your ordinary vessel.”
He kills it in the first verse, straight off the bat. I kept starting the track over, not only to write the lyrics down, but to keep hearing him spit them. “I’m more mature than ever, welcome to December // And all I’ll ever ask of you, is tolerate the weather // I’ve been colder than a muhfucka, crocodile blood brother // Guarantee I got enough evil for the both of us // I’m nothing special, just your ordinary vessel // Of what could actually happen if too many people test you.”
In the second verse, he GOES INNNNNN on an unnamed opponent like it’s his free time, little hobby. Shooting death threats, taking his girl, dissing his music, you name it. He says some sharp shit, too. Just as much as the first verse, you’ll follow along to every word, nodding your head, like, “DAMN, GET IT!”
That humble line that I mentioned previously, he uses it again at the end, when rapping about using a woman to hurt someone else (the rapper he’s dissing). “She ain’t nothing special, just an ordinary vessel.” Kap is just an ordinary human that will do what it takes to get what he needs. He’s got that kill or be killed mentality.
“I know there ain’t never nothing promised in this life // So, I’ve been working overtime, just to get my mom and sister right // I’m ready for the ride, muhfuckin’ afterlife // Tryin’ to live like kings and queens, and never die // They got me thinkin…”
13. BLOATED ELVIS (ft Jade Lawhon) ————— 9/10
“Here I go down the same lonely road // I been there before // Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah // They don’t believe us x2 // So we don’t eat up the information they feed us.”
Through quick-witted rhymes, a repetitive hook, and stories about what drives him, Kap Kallous raps about being tuned out from the world (with the help of “a low-carb diet of expensive drugs“), with his mind focused on two things only: women and money (“I’m obsessed with women, money, and mass opinion // Got a hard-on for the cash // Crashing through the ceiling“). This is also packed with political commentary on America, too, especially when he talks about being fed by tv/media lies, being programmed to think, being told who you should and shouldn’t be, and being unconsciously turned into slaves to the government (“But damn we look cool, don’t we?” /end Sarcasm).
“The TV is telling me what I should do, who I should be // If you can’t beat ’em, you should greet ’em with the caliber of freedom // Devil couldn’t walk in my ADIDAS // I can’t see him, hands behind my back with a bottle of tequila // Lord, look in the mirror and I speak to God // He said the chance to be a king was always in your cards // But I don’t listen, no, I don’t listen // Shit, the pussy too good and the money too green // Infatuated with it since the age of 13 // Living out my dreams, dying for the CREAM.”
14. PINE BOX (ft Wrekonize & Luckyiam) *BONUS* ————— 10/10
Produced by David Grants, the beat is driven by heart-beat thumping drums, fast tapping hi-hats, and a trumpet crooning, while Wrekonize, Luckyiam, and Kap Kallous reflect on their lives, sinful pasts, and attempts to make the right moves to avoid laying up in that pine box (coffin). Wrekonize grabs the mic first and with a sharp flow, he raps with a mission to make the best of, and do right by, this one life he’s given (“Have a shot with my people, let me rock with you // Talk to my lady more, if it’s possible // Accolades get cast away // I need a faster way to be the champ today // In this life, there’s one life, no restarts // So, I been runnin’ around this motherfucker everytime the beat starts“).
Second up is Kap Kallous, and his view of death is a little different. There’s a sense of fear for his final day (“Scared to death, I’m so scared of death“), but he accepts that it’s coming and isn’t about slow down on what he’s doing with his life. “Sooner or later, black hearse gonna come around // Every rapper eventually go underground // Don’t stutter now, I’m not lyin’ // I’d probably rather be dying if I ain’t rocking the flyest shit // […] // We still out here sinnin’ // Won’t see mine til another Thanksgiving.”
“Pine box, no, can’t see ’em // Roll around town in a fly two-seater with a bad seniorita // They gonna follow, I’ma lead them // Tryna lead me to the promise land, but I ain’t goin yet // I ain’t done with this, it ain’t over yet,” spits Luckyiam, in the last verse. Fast flow in the beginning and his delivery throughout is cool, as he fights for life and more time making music. “Mama cryin’ front row, me in a suit // I’d rather be in a booth // Lucky stay spittin’ and speakin’ the truth.”
From the hook: “Wanna get my life right // Tryin to figure out where I might go // All the time lost, tryin to stay away from that pine box“.
First, I just want to say sorry if I got any of the lyrics wrong. Also, thank you to Kap Kallous for writing these lyrics and putting out this album. I hope I did right by your work here. To everyone else, do not sleep on DECEMBER. Stream it below, and then pick your purchasing poison. I would recommend buying one of those limited edition, signed CDs that he’s offering up over at Bandcamp. If you do, you might get some stickers, one of which I designed (the red one).